Game Design: Our Art Production Process

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Over the course of showing Brass Empire at conventions we have gotten a ton of complements about the art and overall design of the game. I thought it would be helpful for other small publishers and designers to learn about our process of recruiting great artists at an affordable price.

As a small indie game designer and publisher, we don’t have any in-house artists and outsource the art for our games and work with freelancers remotely. The good news is that there are bunch of artists out there looking to add to their portfolio and make money doing what they love.  The first step in recruiting artists to your board game project is to make a job posting.  I suggest writing your post in word or some other program so that you can copy/paste it to all the art boards and freelance sites out there.  Here’s our example post for Maximum Apocalypse:

Please read and include your rates (or a range) in your submissions.


I am an independent board game designer currently seeking an artist to collaborate with on my next game, Maximum Apocalypse. The game is an over the top coop game that will focus on a variety of post-apocalyptic scenarios such as Zombie, Nuclear, etc. The bulk of the artwork needed revolves around the characters and cards needed for the game.  Artwork for the cards will need to be 825px x 1125px.  I am looking to do this entire game in a graphic novel / comic book style.  Here are some links to artwork that I have used for inspiration and fits with the tone of the game:


I plan on paying a 50% deposit upfront for each set of artwork (10-15) and then would pay the remaining 50% upon delivery with another 50% deposit for the next batch.  I strongly prefer paypal for fast, easy and secure payment.


Please respond with a link to your portfolio/website and bid/rate for each card or piece of original art.  It should be noted that after creating a character – you will be reusing that character in subsequent cards (i.e. we will create a Sheriff character and then make action cards featuring the character shooting a revolver).  I estimate that I will need approximately 100 pieces of artwork.

You will notice that I like to include some reference artwork or portfolios so that artists get a sense of the style we are aiming to achieve.  I also like to lay out our preferred payment methods. When working remotely, we always pay per finished art piece because there is no way for us to monitor the artist’s time.  More importantly, an artist may send you a beautiful portfolio and what you don’t realize is that they take 20 hours to complete a piece.  This is one of the ways that we control our budget and set pay expectations.  Once you’re happy with your job posting, you should post it where artists can find it.  I have personally had the most success with but here are a list of places I have found to be worthwhile:

After posting your job, you will get a ton of responses from artists – many of which are form letters from people that barely read your post. Even the folks with template emails are pretty good about linking to their portfolio.  Don’t bother responding to all the emails you get, but I would look at all the portfolios and rates and select 3-5 of your favorites that are in your budget.  Email them back and ask if they are willing to do an Art Test for $50.

After you have artists lined up, be sure to give them all the same task so that you can judge their communication, understanding of your project, timing and their art based on your specifications. For Maximum Apocalypse, we wanted everyone to try drawing the Fireman survivor class.

I have sent the payment via paypal to you and have attached a sample card.  Most of my prototype cards have artwork that I felt fit with the style and tone of the game. For the test, I would like you to draw the Fireman character.


To give you some more information on the game, each player takes on the role of a Survivor archetype (Fireman, Lawman, Hunter, Doctor, etc) and then all the players work together to try and beat the game.  Each player has a unique deck of cards that are a bunch of instant actions and gear that the character has.  The Fireman is the tank of the party with his protective gear (helmet, jacket) and once he gets his axe he can really start chopping down zombies. The game is inspired by a lot of different things but obviously the Walking Dead and Fallout games are big influences:


If you have any other questions, please let me know.

You should repeat the job posting and art test steps until you find an artist that fits your project.  Some of you may be wondering why you should expend $200+ for artwork that you may or may not use.  The reality is that by doing this you will save a lot of money in the long run by grabbing an artist that fits your project’s budget and style.  Here some of the many art tests that we paid for Maximum Apocalypse.

All this hard work led us to the amazing Gustav Rangmar (

Fireman - Arttest2

The final selection process isn’t always the easiest decision to make.  Artist’s rates are rarely the same so you always have to factor everything into your decision. Maybe your favorite artist is double the cost of your second favorite. How does that impact your budget and the overall cost of the project? Do you have strict time constraints? If not, can you negotiate a better rate? I can’t tell you what’s right for your game project, but I will say that finding an artist is a process.  Remember that you can negotiate and be sure to select a person that you want to work with.

I hope these examples and our process is helpful to other game designers outsourcing their artwork. I look forward to playing your games some day!

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