Pay for art.
It’s as simple as that.
What…want more info that than that? Fiiine.

Okay, so unless you’re playing Cards Against Humanity, your game is probably going to require at least some art.
This creates a certain level of…let’s call it angst for a lot of designers. You have a particular vision in mind for how you want your game to look, you don’t have the artistic talent to bring that to life.
If, like me, basic stick figures are beyond your ability, you have a few options:

  • Design a game that doesn’t require art.
    • Keep in mind, that graphic design is separate to art, and you’re going to need to pay for that.
  • Ask a friend/acquaintance.
  • Roll the dice with Fiverr.
  • Browse for an artist, somewhere like deviantArt, and pay an artist.

Let’s go over a couple of those options.

No Art

Thank you, Google Image Search.

I just participated in the Iron Chef Game Designer 2016 contest – of which I was a part of the winning team (see a write-up here). Our game was What Went Wrong and essentially it plays something like this:
You and your fellow players try and bullshit your mob boss to explain how you royally fscked-up the job.
Because this was an design contest, and we essentially put this together in the last 45 minutes, we only had words written on cards. If we progress it further, even a game this simple would benefit from art.
There are very few circumstances where you can get away with No Art, so you’re likely going to be looking at one of the options below.

Blackmail Your Friends

This was a birthday present, not blackmailed art.

If you have an artist friend, this option is going to stand out like a shiny, shiny option to you. You may have already asked Artist Bob for art in the past. It’s the kind of thing that tends to just…slip out when you’re near someone with talent.
You don’t often take into account how much time/energy this can require from Artist Bob – you just see their art as this magic thing that just happens.
You may also know this phenomenon as “I have a great idea for a book, you should write it for me”.  I’m an author, and thankfully, this hasn’t actually happened to me yet. *suspicious eyes*
Artist Bob may be willing and able to provide art. This then creates the potentially-awkward situation where Artist Bob is your friend, and you think their art is awesome…but it’s just not good enough for a product that’s going to be released to the wider audience.
Art not being good enough can apply to any artist, but the “friend artist” tends to fall prey to this design trope more often than a neutral third-party artist.
Working with friends can seem like a good idea – they’re your friends, after all, but that friendship can compromise the business relationship – you tend to allow more excuses, delays, etc – than you would with a third-party artist.
At the end of the day, you’re creating a product, and you should consider what is best for that product.


Temporary Logo

I’ve had very mixed experiences with Fiverr – in short, it’s a website set up to get people to do jobs for cheap. Need a 30 second voice-over? $5. Need a quick logo? $5.
The site has progressed to the point where you’re unlikely to spend a flat $5 – with addons and whatnot, you’re probably looking at a basic task cost of $10-$20 – with some categories going up now to $100 or more.
It’s very much a case of Do Your Research check examples, look for linked galleries (often artists use the same handle on Fiverr as they do deviantArt if you’re looking for further examples).
I tried a couple of artists when looking for art for Sequence: Start but none were good enough for a commercial product. That led me to…

Paying An Artist

Example from Artist

If all of the options above fail – and in most cases, they will – you’ll come around to what, honestly, seems like the most sensible option.
Pay an artist.
Hire a neutral third-party – deviantArt is a great place to look for artists – just pop a thread into the Job Offers forum, and watch the replies spill in.
Here’s an example thread – with nearly 100 replies – and this doesn’t include the notes (PM) that some artists choose to do instead of a reply.
A good Job Offer post should include the following:

  • Type/style of art
  • Approx budget per piece
  • Usage (as this can change pricing)
  • Timeline/deadline if applicable.

For Sequence: Start, I had a wealth of artists to choose from – everything from $5 sketches, to $500 portraits. In the end, I chose an artist, whose pieces are in the $75-125USD bracket) (an example of their work can be found above).
I have commissioned two portraits (Stef and Screen), as well as a commission for small items (phone, tablet, etc – to be used for item cards).
In the end, I could have trialled a number of $25-55 artists, and although I may have found one that clicked just perfectly, for me, the amount of money that could potentially be spend on that search would feel like money wasted, compared to choosing an artist with an established, high-quality portfolio.
Every game – every creative project – has different requirements, different styles, and finding the right artist may involve a few missteps, but never move ahead with a final choice, until it feels right.
Listen to your gut, it’s where you keep your cookies.