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Subject: How much does art cost? rss

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Sam TheGameMan
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I must admit I am pretty newb at this. I have been working on two different games this past year (one was designed explicitly to not have the problems the initial idea presented). And I was curious about what sorts of prices people were paying for artwork?

My first idea I found a guy on Craigslist (the whole process was quite fun, I might turn that into a separate post) and we negotiated a price of 1500 for 28 unique images, or 53 and change per image for rights to use in game, promotional materials and as Kickstarter rewards. Due to game issues, I might use as few as 13 of these images in my final product. Accordingly, I think I went from thinking I got a pretty good deal to being just in debt (as I paid in full upon all 28 images being approved). My current game frontrunner has 110-120 unique cards with images and I don't want to be hamstrung by art costs if possible (which may not be possible).

Therefore I really want to source my artwork much more carefully (and affordably) and see what truly (aka outside of Craigslist) market rates are. As of right now, I am 100% doing the artwork on my own at least through the prototype phase and then I plan on taking it to Kickstarter for crowdfunding (another article for me to write right there) to pay for professional art on it as well as actual self-publishing costs.

Thanks!
SamTheGamesMan
 
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Scott Nelson
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Depends style, detail, etc.
But I know Sean S does card art for $25 each picture last I used him.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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That price wasn't bad, actually.
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David Boeren
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Art isn't something that can just have a standard $50 per pound price on it. Size, quality, rights, package discounts, all sorts of things can influence what you're going to pay.
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B C Z
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The continuum of art costs, simplified:

Free: 3 second stick figure

(Your Game Material)

Priceless: Mona Lisa
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Alexis Perez
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I also wonder on this question. I'm new to the whole boardgame design scene. How much should we expect to spend on art in order to get together just a prototype? Is this an investment of say a couple hundred or a couple thousand?

And how important is art to having a viable prototype? If your just using wood pieces and a rough sketch to do testing do you need to add art before you take it to a publisher?

 
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Stefan D
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Prototype with placeholder images and plain chunks of wood.

Dont spend any money on artwork untill you are final on what cards *actually* need art.. you may prototype and playtesting tells you 6 cards are rubbish.... if you paid $25per card you are out money already..

Get everything finalised before you head down the art route.
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Todd Warnken
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Episode 61 of the Paper Money podcast featured a lengthy discussion of art in boardgames. They talked about the costs and technical aspects of art.

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Brook Gentlestream
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alxamp21 wrote:
I also wonder on this question. I'm new to the whole boardgame design scene. How much should we expect to spend on art in order to get together just a prototype? Is this an investment of say a couple hundred or a couple thousand?


According to the responses I got in this thread, about $50 per art pieces is pretty standard for cards and stuff, with more important pieces like box art costing a couple hundred dollars. So I'd say an investment of about $1500 sounds about right. I was also told in that thread that about 70%-80% of the cost will be in art if you are making a card game with lots of different cards. Based on these numbers, $1500 for 28 art pieces is pretty reasonable.

alxamp21 wrote:
And how important is art to having a viable prototype? If your just using wood pieces and a rough sketch to do testing do you need to add art before you take it to a publisher?

This is where the original poster fell into problems. You really shouldn't be getting artwork for prototypes, especially if you don't plan on self-publishing. Not only will you likely run into the problem the OP did (that some of the art won't be used or you'll find you need extra art), but also the publisher may decide to go with their own artists anyway. The act of putting art and graphic design into your product means the whole game is pretty close to its finalized form. If you're not there yet, then you should be using crude symbols and writing "artwork will go here" on your cards. Basically, anything that doesn't go in front of the public/consumer's eyes doesn't need final artwork.

That being said, I'm buying artwork for my game because I'm excited about it and can't wait to see it brought to life, even if only for my own personal benefit. I understand that this is an unnecessary expense, but its a light game so its not a lot of artwork involved. There's no need to do this though, from a business standpoint. The publisher may not use any of the art you buy anyway, and he likely has better contracts with artists than you do. Only publishers and self-publishers need to worry about art contracts.

If you really want to purchase artwork for your "viable prototype" to send to publishers (which I prefer to think of as a "demo copy" instead), I recommend just paying a fraction of the cost and ask for crude sketches -- just barely enough to give the publisher and other testers a hint of how the final product could look.
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Jason D. Kingsley
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Cost is completely relative to quality, and the right person for the right job really is priceless. A decent rule of thumb is to think of what you want to make each month to live on and pay your artist accordingly. You're paying for a professional's expertise and service, as well as the copyright (license) to use the artwork, not the artwork itself.

In other news, I've seen averages float around the forums of 5k-6k for a decent euro (complete with board, cards, rulebook, packaging, etc.) and could imagine a basic card game landing around 50-75% of that. Remember, you're not necessarily gaining anything by getting a "better price", but it's certainly possible.
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Sam TheGameMan
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Thank you all for the intel. I got a few people who contacted me offline and definitely got a range of costs (And qualities) of images.

But a few people brought up some great points, including the most important: You Get What You Pay For (YGWYPF). In other words stick figure freeware (aka crap) which is fine for prototyping and should help play testers really look at the game mechanic (if only to avoid looking at the crap art).

Also correct was that I should have not fronted the art before having more of a solid vision of the game in line. I did however enjoy working with my initial artist (I am happy to refer him to people if they are looking for artists) and sort of sad that I got in over my head on that first project (which is still stalled, but I hope to work more on it this weekend).

One final thought to leave this post on a positive note:
Do. Something. Everyday.
I had a meeting with some folks this weekend and they suggested this simple approach. So I am going to take 30 minutes each night this week to work on Game #2 and hope to block at least hour long blocks for Game #1 this weekend.

Thanks ALL for the helpful words.
-Sam
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Sam TheGameMan
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Thank you, I am definitely going to check this podcast out. I am slowly realizing how important and informative gaming podcasts are. I am truly smitten with the level of support in this community. Thanks!!!
-Sam
 
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Ian O'Toole
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Wow, $50 a card is REALLY low when compared to other industries that an artist might work for (editorial etc.).

You're talking $10 an hour tops, which is terrible. I'm a commercial graphic designer and illustrator with about 15 years' experience, but I have NEVER worked for that little. I'm not saying I'm anything special, but I find it hard to believe that artists can make a living that way when they can earn $80 - $150 per hour elsewhere. Doesn't add up to me.

Again, as an illustrator I'm nothing special but I've been paid $2k – $6k for a SINGLE IMAGE on numerous occasions for packaging jobs (wine labels etc.) Now I understand how that client can afford to pay an artist more than a board game designer can, what I don't understand is why an artist would choose to work for game designers / publishers over pursuing other avenues of work. I've done my fair share of jobs for passion over profit but you can't make a career out of it.

I'd be interested to hear from artists who have worked within the industry about how they find it compared to others.

I love board games and nothing would make me happier than to illustrate them all day long, but these rates are unsustainable.

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Drew Dallas
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Ianotoole wrote:
I'm not saying I'm anything special, but I find it hard to believe that artists can make a living that way when they can earn $80 - $150 per hour elsewhere. Doesn't add up to me.



I think you greatly overestimate the number of jobs there are for artists at $80+ an hour compared to the number of artists that are looking for jobs.
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Ianotoole wrote:

I love board games and nothing would make me happier than to illustrate them all day long, but these rates are unsustainable.



BGG: make friends, not money.


And as Drew says, you can't swing a stick without hitting an artist wannabe who will do it for a portfolio piece. But there are some out here that are in the biz and will pay what you're worth. Just keep an eye out.
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Ianotoole wrote:
I'm not saying I'm anything special, but I find it hard to believe that artists can make a living that way when they can earn $80 - $150 per hour elsewhere. Doesn't add up to me.

Wow, I'm in the wrong business. surprise
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Ian O'Toole
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It makes me a little sad because great design and illustration, where it occurs, are the things that initially attract me to a game, and immensely increase my enjoyment of one. It also makes me realise why so many games suffer from atrocious graphic design and illustration.

I guess the larger publishers will pay a bit better (anyone got any numbers on what FFG or Rio Grande pay, for instance?).
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Jake Staines
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spearjr wrote:
Ianotoole wrote:
$80 - $150 per hour elsewhere.

Wow, I'm in the wrong business. surprise


Bear in mind that unlike your average salaried job, the freelance artist isn't guaranteed 35-40 working hours a week, doesn't get paid holiday/vacation, has to do their own accounts, taxes, sales, marketing and so on, and on top of that they're doing work that has no easily-demonstrable and quantifiable benefit for a lot of their clients. It sounds attractive at first, but the more you dig into it the more downsides you find.
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Bichatse wrote:
Bear in mind that unlike your average salaried job, the freelance artist isn't guaranteed 35-40 working hours a week, doesn't get paid holiday/vacation, has to do their own accounts, taxes, sales, marketing and so on, and on top of that they're doing work that has no easily-demonstrable and quantifiable benefit for a lot of their clients. It sounds attractive at first, but the more you dig into it the more downsides you find.



This is what a lot of the wannabe freelancers don't get. They say, hmmm, I want to make this much per year, divide that by weekly and hourly and hey 25 bucks an hour sounds right... They don't realize til later that they aren't working 40 hours a week, have to pay 20 percent to federal and 15 percent to state, market themselves, and have no insurance. I have been doing this 16 years and I can tell you, tax time is when a lot of them go back to real work.
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Brook Gentlestream
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Like game design, I would recommend it only as a supplementary source of extra income.

Board game production isn't going to be paying anybody's salary unless you somehow hit the big leagues. Even then.
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Ian O'Toole
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Phil of Mars wrote:
Bichatse wrote:
Bear in mind that unlike your average salaried job, the freelance artist isn't guaranteed 35-40 working hours a week, doesn't get paid holiday/vacation, has to do their own accounts, taxes, sales, marketing and so on, and on top of that they're doing work that has no easily-demonstrable and quantifiable benefit for a lot of their clients. It sounds attractive at first, but the more you dig into it the more downsides you find.



This is what a lot of the wannabe freelancers don't get. They say, hmmm, I want to make this much per year, divide that by weekly and hourly and hey 25 bucks an hour sounds right... They don't realize til later that they aren't working 40 hours a week, have to pay 20 percent to federal and 15 percent to state, market themselves, and have no insurance. I have been doing this 16 years and I can tell you, tax time is when a lot of them go back to real work.



Yep, this is exactly why I can't believe people work for these rates . Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that people do (sort of), because I love good art in board games, but it fundamentally devalues their skills, and the skills of their peers in the eyes of a whole industry.

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Ianotoole wrote:

Yep, this is exactly why I can't believe people work for these rates . Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that people do (sort of), because I love good art in board games, but it fundamentally devalues their skills, and the skills of their peers in the eyes of a whole industry.


Anyone who wants to do art, should decide how long it will take them and at LEAST tack minimum wage to it. I mean, it seems like a no-brainer doesn't it? That is of course, if you want to work for minimum wage...

25 for a card art painting? If you can get it done in 3 hours at minimum wage, sure, the jobs yours. If you can do it in 2, then hey you're up to walmart cart pushing wages. Wooo!

I can tell you tho, I have never done a painting in less than 4 hours.

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Joe Mucchiello
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The true answer to this question is "as much as you are willing to spend". You can find an artist at any and all price points, write a contract with them and all parties will feel the contract serves both sides equally.

What varies is quality. And if you can find artwork you like at a rock bottom price, you are a fool not to do so. If what the artist wants is lower than you expect. Pay him extra afterward for his speed, if it bothers your conscience.
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jmucchiello wrote:

What varies is quality. And if you can find artwork you like at a rock bottom price, you are a fool not to do so.


That.

I am at best a hack graphic guy so you will find me charging less then the going rate (No I am not looking for work).

Here are some other reasons I quote lower rate for boardgame work:

1) I like the designer and we worked together before.

2) The art style is something I am comfortable with and I can get the work done fast. (Basically anything that is NOT the ASL style gritty poster oil painting look)

3) I _REALLY_ like the game concept and I want to be part of it

Currently I am busy with IOS Phantom Leader. I will probably end up spending 5x the amount of my quote time on it but the design is really nice and I am very happy to be included.
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Keith Gillis II
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I'm glad to see responses here that take the side of the artist...

It seems to me that there has been such a hit in what people are willing to pay for anything in general, much less for something of quality.

The initial question asked is basically a question I get asked on a daily basis in my line of work.

I am a tattoo artist with an art background and a degree in Graphic and Commercial Art, as well as having gone through a digital art and animation program as well.

People ask "How much does a tattoo cost?" and I counter with "How much does a bag of groceries cost?"
Then people realize there's a little more to their question, and the answer to mine is that it depends on what's IN the bag of groceries.

Also I am a firm believer in "You get what you pay for", and in my line of work there is a saying that "Everyone gets the tattoo they deserve", and I couldn't agree more.

While everyone has there own opinions about certain styles of art, I will admit that when it comes to games, and years ago when buying music was relevant, having eye-catching artwork might've been responsible for pulling me in initially.

Substance would keep me coming back for more.
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