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Subject: What I learned commissioning art rss

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Horizon Games
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I have recently finished commissioning art for the upcoming Traveller Customizable Card Game, and I thought I'd share some thoughts on the experience in case it could be useful to any other designers. From the onset, I should say that as art is highly subjective and artists vary widely, your mileage may vary.

For various reasons, I don't want to be too specific when it comes to numbers, but ultimately I ended up commissioning 189 pieces, spending a grand total in the "mid 5 figures." Overall, I'm very happy with the quality I've received, and reasonably satisfied with the costs.

Here are some lessons I learned. Bear in mind, I came to this project with no experience commissioning art:

1) Know your requirements: Not knowing basic details like the size, aspect ratio, color format, etc cost me time and made me look unprofessional, or at least unprepared.

One of my prospective artists even withdrew during our orientation (landscape/portrait) discussion, and though I felt at the time (and still feel) that this was largely an overreaction on their part, the whole issue could have been resolved if I had been more knowledgeable.

Additionally, and this is very sad to admit, but I actually commissioned more art than I needed, though only by two pieces, because my own internal tracking system was not clear enough.

Finally, make sure you have a freelancer agreement that reflects the terms you need. Most artists don't have one of their own, and some that do will occasionally have terms that aren't going to meet your requirements (such as an additional fee to obtain commercial distribution rights).

2) Know what you want (or at least know how much you care about knowing what you want):

I'm sure there are many successful styles of art direction, but when I started, I just sort of aimlessly threw out vague instructions that often consisted of "feeling" terms, like "cool" or "shady" or "high tech." If you use these abstract terms, be prepared either for disappointment, or be sure you're okay with whatever the artist interprets those to be.

In the event your requirements are more specific, use clear and descriptive language. Sample images are good. Don't be afraid to use MS Paint to draw some hideous example. One of my artists said they found those very useful to get a sense of the perspective I wanted.

Curiously, when communicating my requirements, I found a "Goldilocks Zone." There came a point where being too specific (and I don't mean too detailed, but rather "dictating" what I wanted) tended to produce a backlash, either in hyper-literal translation or sullen under performance, from some (though not all) artists.

If you have specific requirements, do communicate them clearly. But even in those cases, try to phrase your requests in such a way as to leave at least the sense of some artistic discretion. In my experience, you get better results that way.

3) Be clear, be firm: Be clear on deadlines. If you don't have a deadline, make one up. Give the artists space, but communicate expectations regarding quality and timeliness. If you are professional, it makes it harder to be unprofessional back.

Make your requirements clear, and don't be afraid to push back if your standards aren't being met. Especially in the beginning, I was a little hesitant to voice disapproval if I got something that wasn't what I wanted but was something I could "live with."

Later in the process I became better at communicating, so these issues were much less common, but also I was more assertive in requiring revisions where they matched what I had specified or where necessitated by artist error.

If I was at fault, I often offered a slight additional fee.

4) Be better than they think you are: Artists receive a lot of dubious requests, and I think this produces a defensive reflex whereby they suspect everyone of trying to cheat them. Be beyond reproach.

Pay deposits on commissioning. Don't ask for revisions on trivial things (unless the error is due to the artist. Sometimes it is necessary to gently teach an artist you've bulk commissioned the importance of following directions). Pay promptly. Be up front about your financial situation if something happens.

Don't ask for free work (just to be clear, I didn't). Don't ask for anything that can be confused or construed with free work. If you have some kind of partnership to put to them, that's different, but I have no experience with that and so no comment.

As a side issue, be careful before accepting any proposal from an artist that amounts to pay if you like it. In theory this sounds like a win-win. Either you like the result and pay what you would have anyway, or you don't and you walk away. But in practice, there's often an expectation of payment regardless of the arrangement. If you agree to this offer, understand you will most likely end up buying the art.

Make your rights/licensing agreement clear. Don't be overly legalistic (I am a lawyer. Trust me when I say most lay people have a terrible concept of how the law works). Be flexible in all optional matters, clear and firm in all requirements, and understanding when difficulties arise.

5) Get used to disappointment: Artists are not necessarily the most reliable or realistic people. Many of the artists I contacted never even bothered to respond, or did so either in an untimely manner, or in such a way as to make clear they didn't bother reading my requests.

Some artists had astronomical fee expectations, additional levies for commercial distribution, unrealistic demands for free product, etc. Realize when you have to walk away. You may think someone is the only fit, but the reality is you can almost always get 95% of what you want from someone else.

Once you've commissioned someone, even if you've worked with them already, keep in mind they are artists. Keep up friendly and regular (but not overwhelming) contact to make sure deadlines are being met. Make clear you want to see sketches. If they don't send you sketches, mention that fact when revisions are necessary, and that next time early sketches may have saved effort.

6) If you want to save money, accept 90% of what you want: Sometimes if you slightly compromise your vision, you can get 90% of what you want, for 75% of the price. Custom backgrounds can be time consuming. Lots of characters can be expensive. Identify your necessary elements. Be flexible on others. Work with the artist to reduce costs. Solicit opinions on how to make a commission simpler, but still what you want.

7) Commission in bulk, and commission overseas: Another cost saving measure is commissioning in bulk. Artists who charge $X for one card will usually accept $2X for 3 cards. Also, there are a lot of excellent artists in the Philippines, Malaysia, China, Central Asia, etc. But if you go this route, be prepared for language difficulties, different cultural frames of reference, etc.

Sites like DeviantArt, Artstation, Carbonmade, Boardgamegeek and others make it much easier to find freelancers. Don't be scared to take a chance on a promising student. Throw them one simple project, and if they deliver, give them more!

8) Study portfolios: This is something that took me a while to understand. Almost every portfolio will have medium shot female portraits. Why? These are easy to draw! And, if they are what you want, they can be had cheaply. However, if you want an action shot, or body work, or poses, or anything other than a simple, static portrait, make sure you can see examples.

Communicating movement, emotion (other than sexy stare), action, time and other concepts is much more complicated than drawing a pretty girl. Really look at the way the artist does arms, legs, expressions, backgrounds, colors, etc. Comic artists are especially well suited to action shots or anything that needs to imply movement or time.

If you don't see an example of something on an artist's portfolio, feel free to ask if they have other works that show a similar look. I can't emphasize this last point enough. You may have locked in someone you think is great, only to find they can't draw a hand. And that's not an insult. Apparently hands are very complicated to draw. But make sure if you need hands shown, that the artist can do them!

I'm sure there's more, but this is already super long, and since it was just my experience, it may be worthless to anyone else. But, for what it's worth, I thought I'd share some of what I learned.
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Sebastián Koziner
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As a freelance graphic cesigner on board games, I find you guide excelent and useful. You enphasized on how the client should treat the artist, so ething that people think is trivial, but is the core task on getting the beat for your game.

I had and have clients that don't have a big budget, but since they are easy to work with, i charge them as fair as I can just to have them in my client list. I had clients with big pockets that where complete a-holes, and i rejected working with them several times, even when they can pay a lot, just because they got into my nerves. An don't fool yourselves, this is pretty usual.

Creating a game is fun, producing a game not so much, every begginer should know this kind of stuff to have a better experience overall. Thanks a lot for sharing!
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John "Omega" Williams
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An addendum from lots of personal experience.

Do not set absurd deadlines. My base guideline is 5 days to a week per piece of line art, a week if shaded or complex. 1 week per colour piece and upwards of one month per painting level piece. This gives you a buffer zone of time to account for unforeseens and is less stressfull and taxing on the artist.

Also do not accept claims of being able to meet absurd deadlines.

Another one is... scrutinize the art you get. Relatively rare. But there are a few artists who are actually just photoshopping someone elses art. Look at what they have done so far and check comments to see if anyone has called them out.

Have a look at Star Trader art theft thread for a prime example.

But keep in mind that some artists use photos and other art as refferences or still lifes for their art basis. It isnt theft or tracing. But the really good ones can do just short of one for one. This is actually a vital skill in certain media.

Here is a personal example. This piece is all freehand (except the logo). But go ahead and compare it to the original cover.



Lastly. Check comments. If necessary run their name through Artist Beware and simmilar sites and see if they are on the alert list. There are a couple of scam artists with well developed routines now.
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These are great tips for anyone who is looking into doing some art direction.

Fortunately I've had the privilege of dealing with some good artists. For the last project I worked on I went with an artist whose work was maybe 7/10 - but what mattered was that she delivered work I was satisfied with, on time, and without breaking the bank.
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Guilhem Bedos
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Thank you very much for this thread, OP: as a professional myself, I just don't count the number of times where I got involved with someone who didn't know my job at all and made far more trouble than necessary any more.

Everything you said should be kept in mind for anyone wishing to work with an artist: it will save everyone involved a lot of time, energy and money.
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Jeremy Monts

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So much good advice!!!

I wish you'd posted this about 3 months ago.

Aspect Ratio is a huge deal, and one that we forgot about when setting our specs for artists. We have 5-6 different artists with amazing art, but some of the images are 1900x1600, some are 1900x1400 etc.

Not a huge issue, until you start putting art onto cards, and then have to play with the images much more than we should have to get everything looking correct.
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Odysseus Stamoglou
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Well done, thank you for sharing your experience and insights!
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John "Omega" Williams
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Good point. If you need all art to be of a uniform scale/size then try to let the artist know as otherwise you may get pieces that are odd in dimensions.

Though its usually not too hard to crop or resize pieces.

To add to the above though. check the resolution of the art. You dont want grainy art showing.
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Some honest and interesting stuff here. My single tip for budding designers would be 'use as little art as possible'. Some huge games use 1 piece of art across the whole game - Lost cities shuffles a single huge image across all its cards. If your game is rubbish then yes, it will need 187 pieces of art to catch the eye of young MTG fans, but if it's unique and fresh, it can get away with very, very little art.

Look at games like Adventure of D and Nations, two amazing games which without being too harsh have virtually zero art or iconogaphy work. I actually think the boardgame market is unique in that you can make a really great game with very, very little art.

edit: forgot to mention typography. Look at 10-50 game box covers and see how text has been used. Many fantasy games use a similar brushed metal effect across a celtic style font. Most family games use a fat font with a beveled edge and small drop shadow, often bending the text a little and different each letter size. Text can do as much/more than imagery when used well and a few days' research in this area will save cash.

edit: Dominion is another example of how very average art was used on the back of an amazing game. Much of the art in that game has been smudged up from video or old film grabs. Yes there are one or two original pieces in there (from the above and below chap etc) but a trained eye can spot a 'impressionist' effect over a photograph of video grab from 200 yards - then again, it's a good cheap trick when you know how to do it.
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Naomi Ooooooooo

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...and be reasonable. Don't expect something for nothing. Creating art is an underappreciated skill that takes years to master and rarely pays the bills.
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Naomiooooo8 wrote:
...and be reasonable. Don't expect something for nothing. Creating art is an underappreciated skill that takes years to master and rarely pays the bills.


Too true. I've used photoshop and indesign for 25 years and I can't tell you how annoying it is to see folk offering super-cheap services in far off lands. They call it progress I suppose.

One good thing though is much of this generation of artists are addicted to digital art which does have a very samey look to it. My tip for artists wanting to make some decent dough is go for mixed media and get a decent scanner in the mix. Yes, it's more work but it'll get you head and shoulders about the Wacom brigade.
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Quote:
Additionally, and this is very sad to admit, but I actually commissioned more art than I needed, though only by two pieces, because my own internal tracking system was not clear enough.


Two words: PROMO CARDS!!! laugh

Show 'em to the Traveller community and ask 'em for suggestions.

Quote:
Don't be afraid to use MS Paint to draw some hideous example.


Now, *there's* filler for an update!

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Horizon Games
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willsargent wrote:
Some honest and interesting stuff here. My single tip for budding designers would be 'use as little art as possible'. Some huge games use 1 piece of art across the whole game - Lost cities shuffles a single huge image across all its cards. If your game is rubbish then yes, it will need 187 pieces of art to catch the eye of young MTG fans, but if it's unique and fresh, it can get away with very, very little art.

Look at games like Adventure of D and Nations, two amazing games which without being too harsh have virtually zero art or iconogaphy work. I actually think the boardgame market is unique in that you can make a really great game with very, very little art.

edit: forgot to mention typography. Look at 10-50 game box covers and see how text has been used. Many fantasy games use a similar brushed metal effect across a celtic style font. Most family games use a fat font with a beveled edge and small drop shadow, often bending the text a little and different each letter size. Text can do as much/more than imagery when used well and a few days' research in this area will save cash.

edit: Dominion is another example of how very average art was used on the back of an amazing game. Much of the art in that game has been smudged up from video or old film grabs. Yes there are one or two original pieces in there (from the above and below chap etc) but a trained eye can spot a 'impressionist' effect over a photograph of video grab from 200 yards - then again, it's a good cheap trick when you know how to do it.


Different games have different needs. You can't tell whether something is "rubbish" by it having a large (or small) art count.

Most of the games in my particular genre (well, actually, all the games that I can think of) use distinct art for each card.

Every project will have its own individual, distinct requirements. You can and should draw inspiration from games that you think work (though of course, this is subjective too. I think Dominion is a horribly boring game, a sentiment its monotonous art does nothing to counter), but at the end of the day, you have to make decisions you think will most effectively advance your goals.

Eurogames, for instance, with the way they have managed to substitute icons for game text, suggest the exact opposite of your assertion that text is superior or preferable to art and imagery.

If your way works for you, I think that's great. And there will no doubt be situations, titles or even entire genres where your approach is effective or even superior.

But personally, I would avoid attempting to generalize games with higher art requirements as somehow inferior.
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I think you misunderstood my point. There are a ton of first timers out there who think they can make a PvP tactical card/board game using kickstarter as long as they can get 100 pieces of art.

All I'm saying is a great game can be made with very little art, as long as you work on iconography and typography in reasonable amounts, and this is what a first time designer using KS could be well advised to try.

At the end of the day Kickstarter is fantastic as it's rekindled the old bedroom punk scene for music. Everyone can have a go, and many do - I just want to share my experiences of 25 years in publishing and design across print and digital forms. I really hope it saves some ambitious young upstart a load of cash and helps them make a great game.
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Your revision is helpful, and I would agree that more art than you need is, by definition, unnecessary.

I'd also agree that more or better art does not a better game make. And, in fact, the shelves are lined with beautiful looking titles nobody plays. What's more, good art on its own can't save a bad game.

Really being sure of your art requirements is certainly a good idea. And it may be that when you find an artist for your project, they may be able to suggest ways to reduce your art costs while maintaining your vision.
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Another HUGE tip I would give KS designers is to WALK AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER and TALK to local artists / art groups. You will be STAGGERED how helpful people are when you talk to them face-to-face.

For example, I have sourced ALL of my artwork for my next little project from my local oil/watercolour painting group. You wanna know how much it cost me? NOTHING! And it's absolutely gorgeous stuff.

There are so many great artists out there, and you know what - 50% of them if not more hardly ever use a computer or touch screen device. You want to know why - because they have learned to live in a calmer, more satisfying, slower, real, natural world - that's why they are artists!
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willsargent wrote:
I've used photoshop and indesign for 25 years and I can't tell you how annoying it is to see folk offering super-cheap services in far off lands. They call it progress I suppose.


I really have a problem with this statement. If most of games are sold in other countries, KS offer shipping worlwide, whats wrong about hiring people from "far off lands"? Publishers will get worldwide money, why won't you hire worldwide workers?

Most of people like me can't get a decent job in our own country, the industries are basically making games for a client who will get all the cash exploiting you. I've made all the art in a 6 million player best app 2013-2014 nominee. ¿What did i get for that? An under $18,000 anual payment.

If you "get anoyed" by us working for less, what do you think we should do, honestly? Be exploited, quit art, get unemployed? Get stucked in the sad reality around us?

Well, that's not gonna happen. I will keep offering high quality services cheaper than US freelancers, just because i love to provide my kids doing boardgames, and thats the best way for me to be sure I get the jobs I really need. And yes, thats progress for me and my family.

You should't be annoyed by people like me, I'm sure we could understand each other in person, but wealth distribution in the world isn't exactly "fair", we are only a by-product of that.
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willsargent wrote:
Another HUGE tip I would give KS designers is to WALK AWAY FROM YOUR COMPUTER and TALK to local artists / art groups. You will be STAGGERED how helpful people are when you talk to them face-to-face.

For example, I have sourced ALL of my artwork for my next little project from my local oil/watercolour painting group. You wanna know how much it cost me? NOTHING! And it's absolutely gorgeous stuff.

There are so many great artists out there, and you know what - 50% of them if not more hardly ever use a computer or touch screen device. You want to know why - because they have learned to live in a calmer, more satisfying, slower, real, natural world - that's why they are artists!


This is a really good tip. When I was looking for artists, events like the Long Beach Comic Con specifically to visit the artist alley. Amusingly, I even unexpectedly met one of the artists I had been talking to online.

Basically, use every resource you can. There's no reason to leave anything on the table.
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SebasKO wrote:
willsargent wrote:
I've used photoshop and indesign for 25 years and I can't tell you how annoying it is to see folk offering super-cheap services in far off lands. They call it progress I suppose.


I really have a problem with this statement. If most of games are sold in other countries, KS offer shipping worlwide, whats wrong about hiring people from "far off lands"? Publishers will get worldwide money, why won't you hire worldwide workers?

Most of people like me can't get a decent job in our own country, the industries are basically making games for a client who will get all the cash exploiting you. I've made all the art in a 6 million player best app 2013-2014 nominee. ¿What did i get for that? An under $18,000 anual payment.

If you "get anoyed" by us working for less, what do you think we should do, honestly? Be exploited, quit art, get unemployed? Get stucked in the sad reality around us?

Well, that's not gonna happen. I will keep offering high quality services cheaper than US freelancers, just because i love to provide my kids doing boardgames, and thats the best way for me to be sure I get the jobs I really need. And yes, thats progress for me and my family.

You should't be annoyed by people like me, I'm sure we could understand each other in person, but wealth distribution in the world isn't exactly "fair", we are only a by-product of that.


I have to say, I agree with Sebastian. There's nothing wrong with turning to overseas artists to help control costs. I see demonizing hard working people just because they charge less (for a variety of reasons) is unproductive.

In my project, I ultimately commissioned 36 artists, resulting in an average (but not a mode) of just over five pieces. On the 36, about 1/2 were US/UK based, 1/4 EU and the remaining quarter Asian, South American and Australian (no Indian, African or Middle Eastern artists. Where are you guys and gals at?).

In looking for art, my priorities were skill, reliability and cost, in that order. If I encountered an artist who was more expensive, I typically commissioned less art from them, rather than avoid them completely.

As a result, even though roughly 1/2 of my artists were US/UK based, they probably only make up around 1/3 of my total art, with the other 2/3rds coming from artists who could and would work at a rate I could better afford.

To me though, the main takeaway here isn't that overseas is cheaper (though it often is), but rather that art costs are highly variable.

There's no standard industry-wide set scale. Each artist individually sets a valuation of their time. As someone who commissioned art, I sometimes found these estimates curious, but I never challenged their right to set their own prices.

For me, there were two main takeaways from a price standpoint:

1) Art is more expensive than I thought: I didn't go into this blind. I did solicit quotes ahead of time, and I even commissioned some art out of pocket before launching my crowdfunding campaign. Even so, my estimate of art costs, which were reasonable at the time given the information I had, turned out to be low by ~13%.

Part of this discrepancy is that I failed to appreciate the added cost things like specific detailed backgrounds, multiple character shots, revisions, etc would represent. I also used as a baseline the artists I had talked to, which were mostly portrait/single-character with simple backgrounds (abstract colors, blurred our environment, etc) specialists.

Now, the truth is I probably could have held closer to my original estimate if I were willing to compromise my vision, but I decided to pay a little more to get a lot more of what I was looking for. Overall, I think it was the right move.

2) State budgets rather than ask rates: When I first started, I tended to ask for rate information, or send a detailed description and ask for a quote. Later on, I became aware of the ability to simply state a budget for a piece, and I started paying less overall.

I'm not advocating lowballing people. My budgets were an honest reflection of what I could pay. But I found when I left it to the artist to set the terms, those terms were necessarily more advantageous to them. And when I approached with a more finished proposal, I was able to secure favorable outcomes for me.

One important thing for prospective art clients to understand is that, with some exceptions, generally speaking the artist needs you more than you need them. If you can't come to an agreement with an artist, you can usually get someone of similar quality/style. There are a lot more producers of art than paying consumers.

Don't use this power imbalance to be a jerk. In the long run, you won't get good results. But do be sensible to the fact that you do have options. And, if you're a crowdfunder, you have obligations to your backers. You can't let an out-of-control art budget derail a project.
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Naomi Ooooooooo

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willsargent wrote:
For example, I have sourced ALL of my artwork for my next little project from my local oil/watercolour painting group. You wanna know how much it cost me? NOTHING! And it's absolutely gorgeous stuff.


Good for you, but it makes me sad. This is my definition of undervalued.
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travellerccg wrote:

terms that aren't going to meet your requirements (such as an additional fee to obtain commercial distribution rights)
...
Some artists had astronomical fee expectations, additional levies for commercial distribution, unrealistic demands for free product, etc. Realize when you have to walk away.


Bear in mind that the additional fees for commercial distribution are often just a matter of marketing. Think of it this way: would you have anything against an artist offering someone a discount if they only wanted the art for personal use and didn't need an exclusive/commercial license? Do you have anything against cheap Educational versions of software that have no-commercial-use licenses? Same thing.

Fundamentally, when you commission art you're doing one of two things:

a) Buying the copyright of the piece outright, so you completely own it and nobody can do anything with it without your permission
b) Buying a license to use the art for your particular needs, without necessarily preventing other people from doing something else with it.

One of these situations is significantly more valuable to you, and leaves the artist with significantly less that they can commercially exploit in the future, so it stands to reason that it would also be more expensive.

Some artists sell primarily to commercial clients and frame all of their prices assuming that the client wants to buy out the copyright (that they're essentially doing "work for hire") and may offer discounts to clients who just want a non-exclusive non-commercial license, because that means that the artist can legally still put the work in their portfolio, or sell prints or t-shirts or mugs, or in some cases even sell a similar license to other clients in the future.

Other artists sell more-frequently to people who don't need exclusive licenses, or just want art for personal use or whatever, and frame all of their prices assuming that that is what the client wants and if the client wants to buy out the copyright entirely then it's going to cost extra - because the artist can't sell the prints or the t-shirts or whatever on the side and sometimes can't even put the piece in their portfolio.

Other artists still will calculate your quote taking into account things like commercial usage rights and just never tell you, because they've learned the hard way that a lot of clients just don't really understand how buying art works at a legal level and get really pissy when they "get charged more when the artist is doing the same amount of work" or something along those lines.





Now, if the extra fees for commercial usage put the artist out of your budget range, then that's a perfectly good reason to not hire that artist. And if someone goes through the whole quote process with you and then springs the extra charge at the end after you've agreed to the price, that's pretty unprofessional. But if you refuse to work with an artist just because they charge extra for commercial usage then most likely you're effectively refusing to work with them because they're more open and honest about their pricing structures than other artists you talked to were.

(Obviously the best way to avoid any complications here is to be up-front when you first contact the artist about the nature of your project and what exactly you'll want from them license/copyright-wise.)







willsargent wrote:

For example, I have sourced ALL of my artwork for my next little project from my local oil/watercolour painting group. You wanna know how much it cost me? NOTHING! And it's absolutely gorgeous stuff.


I don't know what the situation is like in other countries - I get the impression that it's not the case in the US, for example - but by my layman's understanding of the law here in the UK you should be careful about this kind of thing if you're intending to produce a commercial product instead of just a personal thing that you play with your mates at your kitchen table.

Leaving entirely aside the ethical question: if you want to legally use somebody's artwork in your commercial product, then you need a license from them to do so - otherwise you're infringing their copyright. A license is a contract, and contracts in the UK require "consideration" for all parties - that is, each party to the contract has to gain something from it, or the contract isn't valid. So strictly speaking, you need to give them something in return for their artwork. (It doesn't have to be something of objectively equal value, just something.) If you boast that you got the art for "NOTHING!" then strictly speaking you're boasting that you're committing copyright infringement!

Obviously in a lot of cases it's never going to be a problem, and you'll remain on friendly terms with these people and it'll never come up. But if you want to be careful (and technically correct) you should buy them a drink or make them a cake or something and be clear that you're doing this in exchange for using their artwork.
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travellerccg wrote:

2) State budgets rather than ask rates: When I first started, I tended to ask for rate information, or send a detailed description and ask for a quote. Later on, I became aware of the ability to simply state a budget for a piece, and I started paying less overall.


As it goes: one reason this works is because if you ask an artist "how much will you charge to paint a picture of a giant robot beating a unicorn to death" then they'll naturally think of the most awesome highly-detailed painstaking rendition they could possibly do of a giant robot beating a unicorn to death, at a high enough resolution to print on a huge wall mural, and quote you for that. Because most artists want to make the best art they possibly can and presume that's what their client wants.

If you approach an artist and say "I will pay you $100 to paint a picture of a giant robot beating a unicorn to death" then the artist will stop and say "hey, what are you using this for anyway? Card art? OK, so it only needs to be this big and I don't need to paint it super detailed and I can get it done this quickly... sure, I can do that."

And you end up with a bit of artwork which is good enough for your purposes and cost you what you could afford rather than a more-expensive bit of artwork which the artist spent more time on than necessary for what you need.



Obviously sometimes an artist will feel pressured into doing a job for cheap because they need the exposure or whatever, but generally a commercial illustrator will have an hourly rate in their head as well, even if they don't tell you what it is - so if you pay less, they'll just spend less time on it and still be happy.
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Anyone have ballpark figures for what they would consider reasonable costs for art? That sweet spot where the art is affordable, but you're actually paying someone a respectable amount for their work?
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willsargent wrote:

Leaving entirely aside the ethical question: if you want to legally use somebody's artwork in your commercial product, then you need a license from them to do so - otherwise you're infringing their copyright. A license is a contract, and contracts in the UK require "consideration" for all parties - that is, each party to the contract has to gain something from it, or the contract isn't valid. So strictly speaking, you need to give them something in return for their artwork. (It doesn't have to be something of objectively equal value, just something.) If you boast that you got the art for "NOTHING!" then strictly speaking you're boasting that you're committing copyright infringement!.


Speaking as an attorney, this is not strictly accurate at least as far as U.S. law goes (and because of the Berne Convention, there is significant similarities in copyright law between jurisdictions).

The central flaw in your analysis is the assumption that the only way to convey a license is by contract -- which, it is true, generally requires consideration to be enforceable.

But it is equally possible to assign rights by gift, which does not require consideration. Where there's no documentation, the matter is one of evidence, for the finder of fact, not one of law.

Furthermore, where the IP holder knows of an infringing use and continues to allow it, the illicit user may have an affirmative defense of acquiescence or laches or estoppel, depending on the specific circumstances (which is yet another point when it comes to the law that lay people show poor understanding of. Legal issues are highly dependent on the specific facts of the situation. It's not a "one-size-fits-all" textual analysis).

Generally speaking, if you have a question of copyright or intellectual property law, you should seek the advice of an attorney. DIY websites can provide some good basic information, but it's no substitute for someone with an intimate professional understanding of the subject.

In fact, even though I'm an attorney, I sought out the advice of someone who specializes in IP law when drafting my freelancer agreement, precisely because legal issues can be highly technical.
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In my experience, there is no "one size fits all" estimate. Each project has its own needs, and each artist their own rates.

How detailed are you looking for? Do you need backgrounds? Will there be revisions? How large is it?

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