So, you want to find an artist that can perfectly capture your imagination and put it from pen to paper. You may be a game designer like me, whose looking to bring your creation to life. Or maybe you're working on a project that requires art assets in a completely different field. Either way, you've come to the right place!
When I first started designing the card game Runeslingers, I knew one of the core tenets of the game was going to be stunning art. I needed to find someone who was both creative and could follow requirements to a T.
There are a ton of resources available for hiring an artist. Sometimes, you can luck out by simply browsing Artstation. You may also be thinking about contract sites such as Fiverr or Freelancer. While those may seem like good options, I'm going to tell you why they're probably not.
Sites like Fiverr usually take a cut of an artist's pay which is significant (roughly 20%). This 20% cut also includes money you tip (which is especially unfavorable for your contractor). This in turn can inflate prices for skilled artists, and also detract other skilled artists from using the platform altogether. In addition, Fiverr is rife with content stealing, plagiarism and hot-swaps. Hot swaps (self-coined-term) are when an artist uses another artists work in their portfolio.
Picture this; you're staring down a gorgeous scene of a grassy plain. There are a few wild animals roaming the hillside, with a red sunset that cascades across the meadow. You can't wait to hire this artist; her work is AMAZING! You submit your requirements, wait a week and... get back something that looks like it was drawn by a toddler. What gives!? Well, you were hot-swapped!
This happened to me not once but TWICE. The artist didn't even have the same shading style or composition in the final product, nothing matched. To further the burn, the third artist I hired plagiarized his piece from a video game (thank god I check everything reverse-image search on google...).
A long story made short, I'd stay away from Fiverr for "cheaper" art. You ABSOLUTELY get what you pay for there.
So if that's out where do you turn? The answer.... Boardgamegeek.com. Head over to the forums, to Board Game Design --> Board Game Art and Graphic Design. Here you'll find a sea of extremely talented artists who are ready to work TODAY. When I first posted on BGG looking for an artist, I got 17 direct message responses in 48 hours... Now THAT'S service! After spending a few days getting quotes and reviewing profiles, I found my artist, and boy was he talented. Burak Haliloğlu was extremely easy to work with, did amazing art and was instrumental in me getting the theme of Runeslingers nailed down. Check out his Artstation here https://www.artstation.com/burakhaliloglu.
Many of the artists who responded to my post on the forum were highly talented. I will say, the prices were absolutely all over the place, and price for me was important.
As a first time designer looking to self publish, I was on a budget. There was no way I could afford $120 USD per drawing, doing almost 150 drawings, it was a risk I couldn't afford to take (yet). So my advice here is be cautious. Make sure you and the artist are 100% up front about costs, and get an art contract you both sign; this is mandatory. Don't pay up front for work; pay when it's done, one at a time. This keeps you from getting scammed (it's EXTREMELY unlikely, but can happen), and keeps the artist payed as they go (everyone has to eat!).
Some advice I will give is to be detailed in your requirements and provide examples. Artists are naturally creative, and if you tell them to "do whatever" they will; in that case don't be surprised if what comes back isn't what you expected. Each drawing should come with a requirements document explaining its color, theme, composition and assets. This helps the artist work faster, and can actually help you with throughput times.
One last thing about prices; I would HIGHLY recommend not working with an artist that charges an hourly rate. This turns me off instantly. I have no clue how fast you work or whether or not you're working. I had a few artists mention hourly rates, and unless you're an employee, this doesn't fly.
Since Burak, I've worked with other amazing artists, all found on BoardGameGeek.com. All of them have been amazing experiences! One thing I should mention about Fiverr is you can find great artists if the price is right. My logo was done through Fiverr and I'm extremely impressed by the work (artist is i1000artz)
He also did our game logo:
In closing, I can't recommend the artists on BGG enough; you won't be disappointed. As a bonus, here's a contract you can use when hiring an artist!