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Design Pickle: Is This A Good Way To Get Board Game Art?

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Jacob's picture
Joined: 03/04/2024

Hello everyone!

As I have been doing some research for artists for my board game, "The Shadow Of The Nokizaru", I found this website called "Design Pickle". It sounds pretty interesting, but I have some hesitation in deciding if I should hire them or not. The concept is that they basically pre-hire artists and then you pay a monthly fee to have them make art for you. Has anybody used a company like this before for their board game(s)? If so, how was your experience compared to the traditional methods of hiring artists?

If you have heard or can think of reason(s) to or not to use these services, let me know as well.

Here is the link:

Let me know your thoughts!

- Jacob Bowers

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." Romans 1:16-17

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Hmm... That's a lot of money!

Their Basic Plan is $1,124.10 per month! That's almost my entire budget for "Crystal Heroes" (in terms of art which lasted 1-Year)!!! I'm assuming it is in USD so that's about $1,500 CAD... PER MONTH! Gulp!

Most of the Game Designers whom I know would not drop that amount of money in a MONTH... Maybe in a YEAR with someone doing the Artwork and some of the Graphic Designing...

Granted I did pay for some Graphic Design work for a pretty penny. But it was very worth it... From @jasongreeno member of and advertiser for PNP Arcade ( He's co-owner of PNP Arcade and probably does a lot of "touch-ups" for their games being submitted and sold on PNP Arcade.

The margins for Board & Card Games are about a 5x Multiplier. That means that you expect to pay 1/5th for Manufacturing... a 50% to store owners and a 40% for distribution. So if you SELL Retail at $50 USD, wholesale is $25 USD, distribution is $20 USD and manufacturing is $10 USD (5x = $50 USD) landed meaning you make 100% or $10 USD... Usually an Art budget per game is about $3,000 USD (that covers illustrations, graphic art, videos, etc.) is taken off that amount leaving you with $7 USD profit (given a $3,000 USD cost for ART).

Now that $7 USD has overhead, prototypes, shipping locally, shipping to distribution (if they reach some kind of minimum order), transaction fees, credit card fees, etc. That can EASILY disappear and leave you with pennies on the dollar. So you have to be VERY careful how you spend money over the $10 USD per game (at 5x = $50 USD retail). So you'll want to work with these numbers and understand every dollar you SQUEEZE OUT is a dollar YOU EARN...

That's pretty much the benchmark for games.

Just so that you are aware and don't price yourself "out-of-the-market" so-to-speak! But I wanted you to be aware of some of the numbers and what you need to worry about.

Wanting to make sure you set your expectations right... Because you do have in mind a Kickstarter (as per your own video) planned and you want to make sure you are competitive in the market.

Hoping that you succeed... Best!

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Let me clarify a bit...

Retail Price = $50 USD.

Now if you sell to a STORE:

50% discount and wholesale = $25 USD ($25 USD they earn)

Now if you sell to a DISTRIBUTOR:

40% discount = $20 USD ($5 USD they earn)

20% Manufacturing = $10 USD ($10 USD they earn)

LEAVING YOU with $10 USD. Now you have to worry about prototypes, cost of shipping to the distributor, gas money (for travelling), etc. All of the overhead going into making the game.

You have to WATCH what you spend of that $10 USD profit...

If you sell via a Kickstarter:

10% Transaction Fees = $45 USD ($5 USD KS fees) based on 1,000 units sold (Backer count).

You take home $35 USD but we have yet to factor in ART. So ART goes somewhere into this budget and you have some "breathing room". It would be probably around $3,000 USD or $3 USD per unit sold... So that makes you profit around $32 USD.

$10 USD Landed must be your manufacturing cost.

You make $35 USD per game LESS whatever overhead and Art required to produce the game. For TradeWorlds, art in TOTAL cost $10,000 CAD (which is about $7,500 USD). We were all still learning and made mistakes too. Or perhaps underpriced the value of the game TBH.

Your total take would be $50 USD x 1,000 units = $50,000 KS take away (gross).

You net take away is $35,000 USD minus the cost of Art, Prototypes and Overhead. You have much more "breathing room" but remember this is all-or-nothing funding. And you need your margins to make proper revenue from all of the manufacturing (economies of scale).

What is important to OBSERVE and BE CAREFUL about...???

That $35 USD in profit from a successful KS... You can offer a discount to maybe "Early Bird" Backers or you can give a general discount because you want to encourage Backers to support you... etc.

But you need to pay ART too...

But the $10 USD Manufacturing costs need to be LANDED. This is a cost you must negotiate with the manufacturer and it needs to be TIGHT. Why???

Let me explain in the next section...

The $10 USD Manufacturing Landed costs (includes shipping) is VERY important when you decide to sell to STORES or DISTRIBUTORS. Since in that model of sales you only have $10 USD Profit...

Sure if you had a Successful KS, the ART is paid and you have some pocket money available to you. That's a good route to go.

The problem in traditional sales (STORES and/or DISTRIBUTORS) is that there is very LITTLE money ($$$) left-over.

You only make $10 USD in profit... A successful KS can help with paying prototypes, Art, offset some overhead, shipping costs, etc. But remember that all of that eats into the $35 USD in profit you get from your KS (minus any discounts you give... Don't forget that!)

So the $10 USD Manufacturing Landed is CRUCIAL to get the right price IF you want to sell your game AFTER a KS.

One more point to drive home...

If you want to sell ONLINE after a KS... You can do this and similarly make more of the money ($$$) because YOU are the "STORE". But you need to charge for shipping and there are again processing fees (which vary per service).

Amazon is very pricey and it is again very hard to make any REAL money with them. They charge you $15 USD in terms of fulfillment using FBA. Plus you need to charge SHIPPING.

If we approximate shipping at $15 USD, this combined with the $10 USD for Manufacturing Landed = $25 USD in profit. Less the cost is takes to send a shipment to Amazon warehouse. So let's say 20 games @ $200 USD = $10 USD for shipping.

So you are left with about $15 USD in profit... A little less tight than distribution and stores but you still need to watch the bottom line.

BUT remember the PRICE of the game is NOW $65 USD because the consumer needs to pay for SHIPPING to his doorstep... That also makes it more difficult to sell although this is all theory, I've never actually SOLD on Amazon just running numbers and it was not feasible for us.

How do I know all this??? I've been doing it for almost 15-Years. I've had one (1) successful KS and learnt a lot of HARD lessons from it. By the numbers I've learned through the years and with help of MENTORS too. And obviously learning by searching the Internet and understanding pain points in various seminars and conferences (Like "The Game Crafter" Crafter Con...)

So it's like the culmination of 15-Years in understanding the challenges and figuring out that for ME (Personally), I need to focus on LOWEST Hanging Fruit. Meaning the products that are the MOST affordable to make and sometimes even offer better margins... To FOCUS on those products/projects and then afterwards invest in other more "challenging" products as they come down the pipeline.

If you have questions or need some kind of clarification, do not hesitate to ask, it would be my pleasure to assist you in any way you need!

Cheers @Jacob.

Jacob's picture
Joined: 03/04/2024

Thanks for the info @questccg!

I'll have to try to keep this in mind while I budget for my game.

I did find a more affordable website, still in the process of checking if they can work on my game.

You could check it out here:

If you think that this one is also too highly priced, please let me know.

Like you said, I would not want to price myself out of the market.

Thanks again for your help!

- Jacob Bowers

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
That website actually seems more affordable... But!

What matters is what they consider as "80+ design services". It includes "Illustrations" as a SEPARATE category too...

For $499 USD per Month ... That could be a real affordable option... But... The question is how fast do they work, what is the quality of output and how many actual pieces can they get done in one (1) Month!

$499 USD sounds impressive. It could be very affordable and reasonable. It says it take 1-2 days to deliver content. You would have to TRY it out and see what the results are.

TBH ... $499 USD per Month sounds better of an offer that I've ever seen in my life... That would be $685 CAD and would be 6 pieces of Art/Illustration. Plus you get Graphic Design services along with Art/Illustration (No website... But that's a low priority) since you already have a website...

I'm a bit confused?!?! You already have Art and Illustration and the tiles and so-forth are already done... Why do you need more Art-related assistance???

Like I said, at $499 USD and if you can (maybe) get it done it 2 Months... Would be GREAT value. Depending on Quality, Quantity and how "nice" the end product looks like. It is AFFORDABLE... But I would confirm what "80+ design services" means?!

Best @Jacob.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Even if it takes 3 Months ... Still REASONABLE!

The thing that I noticed only AFTER my latest comment ... Is the $499 USD is a Startup and SMB option. Which fits into your category: you're a Startup!

This is your first project (Board Game) and because you are a NEW "Small Business", I believe that category should apply.

Like I said $499 USD is a real awesome price-point. If you can get everything done in 3-Months that's ~$1,500 USD ... That's also FANTASTIC.

I'm not saying you should go with a more expensive plan, just figure out what can be done and see if YOUR NEEDS can be addressed in 3-Months or not. That's something that you need to discuss with them FIRST (discuss via e-mail your project and see if it would FIT in their TIMELINE).

I would recommend focusing on "Startup" and "Small Business" and I would plan ahead the workload to see if it can be done in 3-Months. Maybe even 4-Months.

So about ~$2,000 USD. Remember the budget for games is TYPICALLY around $3,000 USD. Keep that in mind when you discuss matters ... But use it as a secret weapon. See how much time they would NEED to help with your project.

And then you'll know if they are HONEST or not. You're not a Marketer nor are you an Agency. So keep that in mind if they recommend another PLAN. Even if you have money to cover a more pricey option... Again focus on "Startup" and NEW "Small Business" and see what they have to say.

This is a LOT more reasonable... Provided you have some Creative Control and can look at sketches and offer alternatives when you don't like a specific piece, etc.

And BTW "Quest Adventure Cards(tm)" cost me $5,000 CAD (about $3,500 USD) to make as my first venture. So it was in the right realm of the budget for Board & Card Games.

Let me know what they say and how pricey this option really is!


questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
I would focus on BRANDING and consult a Copyright Lawyer!

Jacob wrote:
Like you said, I would not want to price myself out of the market.

Just as a side note, because YOUR "Work" is a "Game", all copyright issues to the point of the "Game's Design" are subject to Copyright. Which means NOBODY can create an identical game. Copyrights on imagery which may not hold-up in court, which means that your ART could be used (since the courts refuse to recognize the validity of the process of creating said art... Which by the way is different in Canada) which means that the images may be used for other purposes since they are NOT protected by US Law.

So I THINK (I'm not a LAWYER and I'm not a resident of the USA) what you should maybe do is speak with a "Copyright Lawyer" and discuss Copyrights from the stand point of view that you are MAKING and (future) SELLING a "Board Game". Your DESIGN is subject to Copyright (YOUR OWN WORK), some ASSETS in the Copyrighted game may not be protected.

My advice to you would be to HAVE THE LOGO designed by an ARTIST. That's like $350 to $500 USD right there. So COPYRIGHT BRANDING ... Might be your focus. This was the Game's NAME and LOGO as well as the Game Design ITSELF are ALL COPYRIGHTED. But certain pieces of art in the game ARE NOT Copyrightable and could be used by others in making T-SHIRTS or MUGS, etc. Who cares, right???

Because you don't own the Copyright (given the recent decision in US Courts). And I've seen a couple cases too... What the US Courts are saying is that a Human must generate the art/illustration in order for it to be Copyrightable.

The question is: "Do you want to spend more money on making the game OR do you just want to do ENOUGH to protect it under US Copyright Laws???"

If you want the latter, just have someone Illustrate the LOGO... And Trademark that... So you'll maybe pay for Trademarking (again you would be wise to consult with a Copyright Lawyer) and then your LOGO / BRANDING is protected. Nobody can COPY your game (legally speaking... Except for China - maybe) and everything that you put into your DESIGN is protected too!

Maybe this is a better use of FUNDS than re-making and re-designing everything that you have done ... Which is REALLY IMPRESSIVE TBH!

Again does it really matter if some person can make a T-SHIRT with some of your ART and there is nothing you can do about it??? Or do you want to both waste time and good money at a re-design effort just so you can say the entire work is Copyrighted?!?!

I would think about it BEFORE jumping to the occasion of spending a bunch of money on something which is NOT necessary. And I would advise to create the BRANDING: LOGO and LETTERHEADS (maybe this company can REDO your BRANDING) and marketing materials.

And for good measure you can maybe drop a $200 USD to speak with a Copyright Lawyer for a 30 minute meeting concerning what IS and IS NOT Copyrightable and how that affects YOUR rights...

I honestly LIKE YOUR GAME. And it's appearance is COOL. Try to get by with the minimum and still be SAFE even if you are NOT 100% covered. And if people in China start making MUGS and T-SHIRTS ... Consider that a blessing that they thought so highly of YOUR GAME that the made knock-off merchandise.

Cheers @Jacob.

Note #1: IF that ever happens... I think you should pivot and focus on what is NECESSARY and do with that what is important and keep the rest of your GAME "intact"! China these days are not much into "knock-offs" unless some thing sells millions of units, they can't be bothered. They've got enough foreign and local business and can produce their own GAMES for the Chinese ppl and not translate US or EU Games into Chinese. Like I said, they have their own games...

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
POOR BRANDING is what I see so far...

The Logo is simply a Font and some "writing". If you make it into some Writing over the top of a Samurai Sword like this:

       The Shadow
       of the Nokizaru

The IDEA is "The Shadow" appears above the Samurai Sword and "of the Nokizaru" appears in a Smaller FONT under the Samurai Sword.

Free advice and I even designed you a Adobe Illustrator Logo... All you need is for an ARTIST to DESIGN it and then you've got the COPYRIGHT to the BRANDING, LOGO and GAME.

Cheers @Jacob

Note #1: A variation on this would be the sword PARTIALLY sheathed into the casing revealing only the portion of the blade from the handle to a part of the sword and then have the casing over the rest.

This would be MORE original IMHO!

       The Shadow
       of the Nokizaru

You can even make it BETTER with the "of the Nokizaru" etched into the CASING of the blade... That would definitely look cool and ORIGINAL!

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Other noteworthy thoughts...

You can have the BOX Cover (sides) and Back designed by an Artist and Graphic Designer. This is again with the aim of securing more Copyright ownership over the product. You'll have the LOGO, the BOX and then the inner components using generated art. That could also go a LONG WAY in helping your work being more Copyrightable because the BOX would be, the LOGO would be, the GAME would be...

So you cut some corners with generated art on cards. That's NOT ILLEGAL. And it is commercially viable.

I doubt that people actually decide to take pieces of Card Art and make MUGS & T-SHIRTS... TBH.

I'm just showing you ways where you can BOOST your "credibility" without spending too much and not having to RE-DO the entire thing.

Your game HONESTLY ... LOOKS AMAZING! From the Graphics, it looks great. Of course, I've explained some of the misgivings (LOGO POOR, BOX UNKNOWN, etc.) and these are all things that add to YOUR COPYRIGHT rights.

I wouldn't waste time on TOO MUCH re-designing. Just get a NICE LOGO make sure it's a HIGH RES Adobe Illustrator Logo and ask for the source file so that you can import it (Copy & Paste) into Photoshop...

The BOX Cover & Back ... I haven't seen. This is maybe something missing in terms of the design and if you get it done via a "service" ... That will definitely HELP in terms of COPYRIGHTs. Again made in Photoshop (.PSD) and ask for the source file and Fonts used for the BOX. Or you can do it yourself (Graphic Design) and ask for a HIGH-RESOLUTION Graphic for the BOX Cover...

Don't waste your money on things that are acceptable and good. Focus on what you are MISSING and could SOLIDIFY your ownership.


larienna's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
1000$+ per month!? Wow, that

1000$+ per month!? Wow, that is expensive.

If you are like Fantasy Flight Games, publish a lot of games and need lot of artwork all the time, sure, it's worth it.

But for a single project, you are generally tighter on budget and want to use free lancing if you self publish.

I have heard of "Fivers", but I never used them. There are probably other websites that offer similar services. The advantage of fivers is that you have art examples with a price tag attached to it. Easier to plan a budget.

You could try to find artist by yourself or art sites like Deviant Art, again, there are many more sites available. Knowing a artist "in real life" is always better, but not always possible.

You could need to simplify your artwork requirements in order to save money. For example, multiple monsters sharing the same background is just an example.

For icons, I recommend using free stuff like or free vector art.

Jacob's picture
Joined: 03/04/2024
So I finished the call....

And it went pretty well.

I did ask them about how long it would take to do just my box work + logo for the game, as well as a new company logo, and they said that it would take only a 1 month subscription to their "Starter" plan. They also said that they should be able to do the whole game on the "Starter" plan in 4-5 months, provided that I got back to them in a reasonable timeframe.

The only extra cost would be a one-off charge for a display of the game laid out on the box back for about $120 U.S.

This is because the subscription level did not cover this kind of work.

They did confirm that they would be able to make art on the level/look of "Scythe", but that it would obviously take a bit longer than their usual turnaround time.

That said, I have sent an email to confirm this in writing. I will update when they get back to me.

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Hmm... Something to consider

Hello Jacob,

While I won't be able to get you as competitive of a rate for a bunch of stuff.

I could (maybe) get "Geof Isherwood" to make you the GAME LOGO. But it would probably cost like $500 CAD or $375 USD.

He could produce a "Black & White Inked Logo" and a Digitally colored "Color Logo" for that price. I could coordinate with Geof and you can have a look at what the product/illustration will look like (like the sword & sheath).

If you LIKE the concept, I can picture it in my MIND and it looks very cool.

We could show you a pencil of the GAME LOGO and see what you think. Geof is a former Marvel & D.C. Comics illustrator, he's worked on numerous one-offs and was the illustrator for Conan the Barbarian...

If you want to look at some of Geof's ART... Just Google "Geof Isherwood" and you'll find him. He has a website too with more samples you can take a look at.

Pending your decision, I can discuss with Geof... Like I said I have a good idea about the GAME LOGO I proposed and I can picture it in Black & White and in Color (Digitally).

Let me know how things progress and IF you might be interested.


Jacob's picture
Joined: 03/04/2024
Final Update

So Penji did get back to me and confirmed in writing that a four month plan should be plenty for me and that they had absolutely done such work before. (Meaning my desired style).

@questccg wrote:
Pending your decision, I can discuss with Geof...about the GAME LOGO I proposed.

That is a good logo idea. If you want to see if he is available to do such a project, feel free to ask him what he think he would need to do such a project. PM me his response if he is interested. I may commission him some time before the Kickstarter this Fall.

- Jacob

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