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Game Character Designs

Hi, a friend recently introduced me to the group... my DA archive is http://ogawaburukku.deviantart.com

I live and work in Japan, and recently at a comic event some indies game makers came up to me, looked at my work, and asked if I'd be willing to do character designs for them. I was pretty happy to do them, since it would be an opportunity for me to do a medium I otherwise wouldn't normally get to do. Then they emailed me and asked me how much I usually charge for my services... sweet! I would have done it for free.

But, since I AM trying to go professional, I'd like to offer them reasonable pricing that doesn't sell myself short. In the past I've done designs for very cheap, because I have a habit of underselling myself...

When you all do character designs / commission designs, how much do you charge/buy them for? In the past I've done mascot designs for $50, which I know is cheap, but I feel like charging too much more than that per character would make these game makers run away to someone else. Since I am only just starting to do the event circuit here, this would be a big help to getting my name out there.

What's typical pricing for this sort of thing? I'm not a by-the-hour kind of artist, since I work at a different pace depending on my other workloads. When I've looked online, I mostly get either kids from DA and GaiaOnline selling their abilities for $10 or something cheap, or I see pros charging $300 for turnaround sheets and I'm probably not at that level yet.

For some idea of what sort of designs are required: http://fcmegabu.com/goods/maou/maou_spec/
I think the images are all still images.

Any suggestions or cautionary tales would be appreciated.

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 10th, 2011 03:42 pm (UTC)
For a potentially commercial project like this, a big thing you need to consider is whether or not you'll be selling the copyright/limited usage rights along with whatever image you create. A character turnaround sheet as a personal commission will be used differently to a character turnaround sheet that may end up in the game, in promo art, artbooks, ads etc. when incorporated into a commercial project - I don't personally do commissions but I doubt that people who purchase turnarounds of their OCs buy out the copyright because they only want it for personal viewing.

I couldn't advise as to exact figures, but typically selling the copyright/additional rights means a significantly higher figure than a standalone commission. You need to think about how much the additional rights you'd be losing are worth to you in the longterm, and factor those costs in. Exactly what the group are going to be doing with any artwork you make for them should be hammered out in a contract so you know where you stand, and can be in a better position to price your work accordingly.

And don't forget to iron out your payment plan! I've seen artist friends burned because payment was only promised at the end of a project, and then after working on a multitude of designs for them, the project fell through . . .
Jul. 10th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
Copyright licencing is a headache!

And that last bit, totally! Pay on delivery is far safer than pay when project is completed.
It doesn't just happen to amateur artists. The studio I work for was involved with a new animation series that a book company wanted to create. The studio did all the design work but after a couple of years the book company couldn't get enough funding interest and it was dropped. The poor studio guys never did get the money they were owed.
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
Oh man! That's a sad story ;_;
The company I've worked for that does trade show booth designs and equipment rentals doesn't take ANY payment until after the event. I handled the overseas clients, so sometimes it was a struggle to get them to pay, since once the event was over they'd try to take off.
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
I never accept payment at the end, I'm an up-front kind of girl. OR, like I am doing on something else I'm working on (and only for large orders) I'm getting half up front and half after.

Yeah, and the problem is I can't tell if these guys are going to be taking their work anywhere or just selling at artist alleys. Some people here are pretty much pro level but never think to do it professionally...

I guess I could give them a base price and say "This does not include a royalties contract/buying out, etc"
Jul. 10th, 2011 03:46 pm (UTC)
ahh, the old pain for pricing! I hate the price by hour thing as I'm always hazy on how long things take me but I don't charge less that £10 per hour, normally £15-£20 per hour ^^ As the closest guide I get £60 for a comic cover which has basic shading and simple background and that's very low.

It's difficult to price without exactly knowing what they want (i.e if they just want a character or a character with a background etc) and what copyright agreement there is. Also I heard from one of the guys in my Japanese class that when he lived in Japan he was having to work long hours to earn the same as in the UK so I don't know if Japanese pricing is less?

If you're happy with $50 per character sheet then go with it. It is on the cheap side but you can always use it to sell yourself by saying normally you would charge $XX but you're so keen on the project that you will give them a discounted price? It's common here for haggling so coming in at slightly more than you want and agreeing to a bit less is normal. Again might be different in Japan becuase of their whole dance around the subject thing, esp around things that might make you look greedy like pay...

Jul. 10th, 2011 03:54 pm (UTC)
Just remembered, a friend of mine is getting into the game industry and she was doing character design for a company. I think she was doing it for free as studio experience and to potentially get a job there but I can give her a poke to see if she knows what the usual pricing would be.
Jul. 10th, 2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
I'm from the US originally, and right now the Japanese yen is stronger than the American dollar, but I live in Japan without a whole lot of communication/dealings with the US aside from a few art jobs, so that's not a problem for me.

I kind of like that idea about the $50 being "my enthusiastic bargain price". I might ask them for specifics and say that if they are wanting to commission me for a lot of in-game artwork as well, I can "lower the price to $50" or whatever. If they only want to commission me for designs and no in-game art, I might actually go for $75 (or, well, in yen of course, but on English sites I tend to switch to the dollar equivalent when speaking about money, heh).

I literally have JUST started working this circuit (despite being here for seven years), so I guess I can't really charge something like $100 upfront. I may have to start out low and kind of work my way up through discussions.

Jul. 11th, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
You may want to get a copy of the Graphic Artist Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines

If they ask you to sign a work-for-hire contract, essentially you are giving up all rights to the work, even to having your name associated with it or including it in your own portfolio.
Jul. 11th, 2011 07:21 pm (UTC)
I'm seconding checking the Graphic Artist's Guild Handbook.

Speaking as a senior art student, I've learned that pricing generally has three components: your time, the cost of your materials, and the cost of rights, although I see that you said you don't charge by the hour.

I'd start by asking what the potential client wants to do with your work, to get a better idea of how many rights they want.

Since indie games tend to have fairly small budgets, I'd also suggest seeing about non-monetary forms of payment, such as having them put a nicely visible advertisement for your work on their website (if they have one) or possibly sending them printed material advertising your work (business cards, etc.) and asking them to distribute them at cons, in order to help get your name out there.
Jul. 17th, 2011 02:19 pm (UTC)
Years ago when sprite comics like 8-Bit Theater and Bob&George were just starting to lift off I wanted to try my hand at it, but with sprites that weren't directly lifted from a game.

I contacted a few people and was pointed to one guy who does a lot of sprite-work for games, and he told me that my request was unusual. He usually got paid a percentage of the game's profits, or a lump sum based on the projected sales, or usually a small sum up front and a small percentage of the profits. Since my commission was neither, he asked for several hundred dollars for the work.

Granted, my request was *going* to be a lot of work, and I understood that it'd be pricey, I just hadn't realized it'd be that high.

It was also sprite work and not traditional art like you linked to, but the idea of a small lump sum to start with and a percentage of profits might be something to put on the 'think it over' list.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )


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