So you found an artist, what’s next?

This post is intended mostly for game developpers but can be transposed for many situations where someone hires a freelance artist. Because the artist may have a very nice portfolio but she’s not going to be able to do what you need her to do without your help.
Yeah I know, she’s the artist, she should know what to do, but here the possibilities are endless, and no one knows your needs like you do.
Ideally, by the time you go out to hire your artist, your game design document should be nice and coherent and you should have done some measure of prototyping to validate your gameplay.
You should know what style you are looking for. Cartoony? Dark? Gore? If you don’t know the words to express what you are looking for, try to find references that you can show your artist. Pictures, movies, comics, other games, everything is fair game. You are not looking to copy, but to better explain. Once you know the style you are going for you will need a detailed list of the assets you need. And I mean detailed.
If you have a naming convention for your files you can explain it to the artist. She should be able to follow it. you will also need to explain the technical details.

For exemple (I’m a 2D artist):

  • Sprite for the main character should be 85 pixels high
  • There is 1 level of transparency
  • The transparent color is 255, 0, 255 (programmer pink)
  • My target frame per second (for the animations) is 15
  • Sprites are in strips (sequence of images all the same size placed one after the other to create a strip.)
  • The walk cycle sprite should be called GameX_Sprite_MainWalk and it should be saved as BMP.

Exemple of programmer pink sprite

If things need to be a specific size, say it. f there is any kind of game mechanics that affects the art, say it.The artist is not you and she doesn’t know the limitations of the gameplay or of the engine if you don’t tell her. If you have a prototype, having the artist play it is a good idea. That will save you some words.

If you have templates, layouts, screenshots or any visual aids, send them her way too.

Once you have a nice detailed list of all the assets you need, what they will be used for, how they will be named and the technical details about them, you need to tell the artist what are your priorities, what you need first, so she can serve your needs, that’s why she’s there. Maybe the backdrops are not much of a hurry but the animations are. Again, she won’t know unless you tell her.

Keeping her posted your your progress and sending demos or screenshots her way is a great way to let her see what works and what doesn’t and it’s always nice.

Get to work step by step, don’t let her get ahead of herself and validate all the art she sends you, if there is a problem, tell it right away to avoid snowballing. Keep track of what’s done and what remains to be done and meet your payment milestones as well as she meets her production milestones. That will go a long way to insure a good relationship. Be open to feedback, game artists love games too and some of them have more experience than you.


Article by David Michael Contracting Art for Your Game same subject, different angle


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