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It can be difficult to find a suitable artist that has the right style you need, but even more important is the artist’s attitude.

I recommend looking on the following websites (some require registration):

When you do find an artist that you like just contact them through the website message button, or contact them through their email address. Some artists list their email in their “about” section. In your email just explain what you need and ask them how much it will cost. Show them the level of detail you need by inserting a link to an illustration from the artists portfolio, one that matches the level and style you want. You can even post your game brief and budget on an artist thread and artists will apply.

If the price is right for your budget you can then ask them some questions:

  • Are you a full-time freelancer or do you have a day job?
  • Do you mind edits/revisions?
  • Have you ever signed a “Work for Hire Agreement” before? If not are you willing to?
  • How many illustrations, created to my specifications, can you do per week?

Art for business needs a contract
If you need art for anything that you will sell then it’s for business. With art for business you need an artist that understands art for business is different than art for their personal life. They need to work with your ideas and you need the rights to the art to use it for your business.

Do a search for “Work for Hire Agreement” and use one as a template for you contract. Change things you want to change in the contract. And remember; you can’t sell your product with the art you paid for unless you have a signed copyright agreement for it. Actually you can, but it’s not standard business practice, for a reason, and you would be opening yourself up to a whole lot of trouble.

Payment vs Royalty (paid work vs free work)
It’s not normal to pay someone for work and give them a royalty. It’s normal to pay someone for their work, or work for free for a percentage share of the revenue. Entrepreneurs, game creator, and publishers work for free for months or years hoping one day (down the road) to make some money for their percentage and hard work. This mentality is rare (work for free and hope). If you find an artist with an entrepreneurial spirit, and that is what you want, then that is a great find and you can give them a royalty for their non-salary entrepreneurial work. Otherwise just pay an artist for their work. If you go the royalty route keep in mind that publishers usually pay a game creator 2% to 15% what they sell the game for. If sold to a distributor the wholesale price is about $20-$25 for a game a customer pays $60 for. Game creators have usually worked 1 to 2 years for free making their game. Unknown game creators get about 2% to 4% for those 2 years of work and only the most amazing game creators, with previous smash hit games, get 15%.

Payment structure
Agree the payment in the contract per illustration. You can pay on completion of each illustration, or any number of ways that both you and the artist are both comfortable with. Get a paypal account, it’s popular with artists.

Full time artist vs hobbyist artist?
If they just do it as a hobby they might give up when the pace picks up or the project gets boring for them. If they have a full-time job they may not be able to finish on time, especially if your game has a lot of art and needs to be ready in 8 to 12 weeks. If you have a tight deadline you can hire a couple of artists. There are many personalities in the world and some hobbyist artists might have a diva attitude when you ask to them to change something small. You defiantly don’t want to work with someone who thinks, “If you aren’t an artist you are ignorant! And I am a true genius sent by god”.

Only hire an artist with a professional attitude that understands they need to sign a Work for Hire Agreement. If they are a diva, or wont sign a contract then simply move on, there will be a wonderful commercial artist waiting for you. You can enjoy the other artist’s non-commercial work at an art museum. Do allow the chosen artist to display their work for your game in their portfolio. Their portfolio is vital in generating more work for them. The livelihood of their family may count on it.

Art Direction
Treat artist with respect and compliment them on areas of their illustration you do like. If you don’t know much about composition, perspective, and color theory, then when the artists makes suggestions you should give good thought to them, that person has probably studied these topics for hundreds of hours. But you do need to provide art direction. For example If your game has a b-budget 1980’s American horror theme then you probably will know more about what makes it this style than an artist born in the 1990’s that doesn’t watch old horror movies. You need to provide information and references for your artist. Ultimately you are paying for the illustration so it should match the mood you have for the game and contain important elements you need.

Do you have any experience or tips working with artists?