How an indie developer can find an artist for their game and save $500

My first “freelance” in my life was painting samovars to order. Then I didn’t know that freelancing is called freelancing, edits are endless, and the customer can throw.

I would like to know how normal people cooperate at the moment when I created sketches with Astana-Baiterek for free and painted the third tray in a row without prepayment.

Here, by the way, samovars, if you are interested (sorry for the quality of the photo)

One of the samovars that I painted:

They usually take a tray and a teapot along with the samovar. I didn’t find a teapot, but here’s the tray:

And my samovar in the process of painting:

Recently I found a samovar, which I painted for space (for myself, the customers are boring, give them Khokhloma). It’s a shame, really, that I didn’t finish it.

I would like those who work freelance / with freelancers to see this post. The translation below is about the collaboration between an indie developer and illustrators, but it has general ethical rules that will work for freelancing in general.

I also created a channel in Telegram: GameDEVils, I will share cool materials there (about game design, development and history of games).

What I Learned After Spending $500 Testing Artists for My Game

Hello everyone! Last month, I began the process of finding an artist who could do some waist-length portraits for my game. I’ve read a couple of posts and articles about what to expect and some general courtesies that I’d like to share with you all, as well as what I’ve learned along the way.

Where to look for an artist?

It’s probably the first thing you think of. There are many places, but I have focused on the following:

Freelance sites:

The only freelance recruiting site I’ve personally tried. I talked with a couple of artists, in the end I was left alone.

Portfolio Websites:


How to negotiate with artists?

I’m incredibly bad at negotiating, but I’ve come to a few conclusions for myself:

  • Ask for sketches (rough sketches).

    Don’t feel like you have to pay for the final product right away. There is a way to cheapen the cost of “testing” art styles, just ask how much an artist charges for a rough sketch. Some artists even made sketches for free, but I don’t think that’s the norm, and don’t ask for it unless they offer it themselves. A sketch usually costs between $10 and $30 apiece. At the beginning, I did not know about it and spent some money on works that did not suit me, although I already understood this at the sketch stage. Plus, if you like a sketch, you can always pay an artist to finish it.

  • Be extremely honest if you intend to use the art for a commercial game and not for personal use.

    Although I wrote about the use of art in my game in every post, people did not include “commercial use” in the prices. I pay someone to create art for me, and he still owns all the rights to this art? It turned out that quite a few of the artists I found worked that way. To be honest, I was put off by the fact that they expect to keep all the rights to the works that I pay for. Which brings me to my next point:

  • Specify everything in the contract

    I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Personally I have used, but you can search for yourself or even hire a lawyer if you are very worried about this issue. The best part about Fivver is that they take care of that part. State that you have commercial rights to the game, and whether you allow them to retain “ownership”. I could see this stage shooting people in the knee who weren’t careful with it.

  • Some contract terms

    Price, due date, number of edits you can make.

What the process looked like

I worked with almost all artists in the same way.

  1. Agree on a price.
    You usually pay half up front and half after the work is completed. I wouldn’t pay the full amount up front, although some artists work that way.
  2. Agree on the terms of the contract.
    Some artists thought this was redundant, but it’s up to you to decide whether to move on without a contract. At a minimum, make sure that you agree on the terms of cooperation in writing by mail, so as not to be mutually disappointed.
  3. Submit a description of what to draw.
    I created a two page google doc for each character. They were mostly short descriptions or pictures to show how to depict certain parts (like hair). I added a “personal section” but didn’t take into account the background, said that if a background was needed, they could request it from me.
  4. The artist returns with a sketch.
    It will be a very rough draft, but you will get an idea of ​​the final product. This is a great time to ask for improvements or changes as at this stage, it is easiest for the artist to make them.
  5. The artist returns with a finished drawing.
    Some finished typesetting and made some changes, some went straight to work in color. It all depends on the artist. Most artists will let you know how many edits their bounty includes, so be careful with that. You say when you’re happy with the result and that’s it.

General courtesy

  • Don’t make an artist run after money. This is a quick way to ruin a relationship. Once you have agreed on a price, send the advance payment, send the balance immediately after completion (if you agreed to split the payment into installments).
  • Reply as quickly as possible. Nobody likes to stay in limbo. This way you will get your art faster.
  • Be direct. This is something I still need to work on because I don’t want to be rude. If you are not satisfied with something, politely tell the artist about it. I could save some money if I followed this point. I let the artists finish the work that didn’t suit me at the sketch stage.
  • Don’t ask to work for free. Just don’t. Some may offer free sketches, but I would never ask for it myself.
  • Don’t offer a percentage of sales. I did this once and it was to avoid paying for “commercial use” my game isn’t for sale yet and I don’t know if I’ll need this “commercial use” at all. I would never suggest paying for the art itself with “future sales”.

Here my post in HungryArtists for the curious.

My Telegram channel with findings about game development, game history and game design:



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