AuthorTopic: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)  (Read 17417 times)

Offline Zizka

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Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

on: January 27, 2014, 06:52:12 pm
Hello guys,

I realize this was discussed before but the thread goes back to 2007 so I figure might as well create a new thread instead of reviving a thread which is 7 years old...

I would like some clear guidelines regarding paid jobs. I'm reading on the net but I can't find anything clear about this. Whenever I apply for a job, the dev' will ask how much I want but since I have no reference point, I end up never knowing what to say and it's a bit frustrating.

I realize it's a case by case basis and it will vary and blah blah blah but surely there are some general guidelines?

For instance, how much do you charge when creating something and animating it? Do you consider the time it took you or the amount of frames or the size of the sprite?

In other words, I'd like to hear from people who do this for a living so that I can get some solid(ish) references whenever I have to negotiate a fee with a customer.

Also, can I upload art done for a game in my gallery (provided I mention that I don't "own" it anymore)? Is there a legal stance about this or is it just something you need to discuss every time with the customer.

Also, how often do you ask to be paid? Every time or after x amount of time or?

So you see, a lot of questions I can't find any answers for. I'm really looking for different answers here so that I can infer some sort of guidelines by comparing what comes back the most often in the various answers and thus know how to handle myself better when it comes to dealing with fees.

Thank you in advance.  ;D

Offline Cyangmou

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #1 on: January 27, 2014, 09:01:47 pm
1.) if you are professional always do a contract
2.) being professional means that you have to pay taxes - taxes are costly (and so you can take away around 35-50% of the hourly wages to get to a real rate) - most probably you also have to come up for your health insurance which also can get expensive (in some countries the company pays it, if you are employed)

Regarding to copyright talk with an lawyer specialized into that topic and he will tell you all the little details.

Since game art is mostly project based, the freelance rates compared to other graphical jobs are lower, however, since jobs can go on easily for hundreds of hours, the risk is smaller than like for web design (where 150-200$/h is a common rate, but yeah, there you don't know when you will get the next job and the briefings are usually more complicated as well).

THe country where you live also plays a big role.

executive field:
0-10$/h working for free, first gig, deviantart offers (unprofessional field)
10-15$/h beginners, students (unprofessional field)
15-30$/h young, talented artists
30-40$/h established experienced artists
40-50$/h world's top class

there aren't really established flatrate values, those always depend.

why is it like that?
-quality/time (experienced artists produce better quality much faster than beginners, beginners will most likely need much more time and the result will be much worse in terms of quality than what an experienced artists produces in the matter of minutes)
-experienced artists will have established workflows and can completely switch between style directions, because they are perfectly able to control what they make - this leads to less revisions
Means in most cases it really pays off in the long run to hire an experienced artist, who knows exactly what he is doing.

design agencies:
up to 200$/h

art direction/art asset planning
40-120$/h (huge responsibility, one wrong decision in the art design process can lead to multiple thousand of dollars budget changes for a whole game project)

art scene/popular artists:
200$/h and higher

G.A.G. Guide
http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=36539.msg963792#msg963792

Old article on gamasutra:
http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AdamSaltsman/20090724/2571/Pixel_Art_Freelance_Best_Practices__Guidelines.php

Game Budgets:
http://blog.mostlytigerproof.com/2010/09/18/game-budgets-a-powers-of-10-overview/

Art direction rates USA
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271011.htm


Freelancing means that you have to do all your stuff on your own, all your bookkeeping, all your mails, all your working times etc. You are self employed, your own boss and you are fully responsible for what you are doing. Nobody will pay you for answering initial e-mails.



If you want to freelance professionally:

first compare your work made by other professionals

Basically:
a) how much do you need to make a living (with all costs included)
b) how much hours do you want to work
calculate hourly rate (and look if you are in your range)

do you get enough jobs?

does anyone pay your hourly rate?
if yes, great
if not, maybe you aren't working enough hours, your quality is to low compared to your concurrence, you lack something, you are working to slow...
« Last Edit: January 27, 2014, 11:14:11 pm by Cyangmou »
"Because the beauty of the human body is that it hasn't a single muscle which doesn't serve its purpose; that there's not a line wasted; that every detail of it fits one idea, the idea of a man and the life of a man."

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Offline Zizka

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #2 on: January 27, 2014, 11:57:15 pm
Wow!

Thanks A LOT Cyangmou. Maybe this could be stickied or something, I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been wondering about this.

Actually, I'd like to do this as a sideline as opposed to a full time job. Thanks a lot again, very insightful.

Offline breakfast

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #3 on: January 28, 2014, 10:35:48 pm
I'm not as experienced as Cyangmou but I like to think I've learned a little bit during my first year getting paid to make art for games!

Starting out doing game art on the side, I asked $16/hr for my first job (I live in the US for reference). I had made art for my own personal game projects previously so I knew a bit about it already and consider myself a pretty decent artist. The client agreed immediately to that price so that's when I knew I probably asked too little. I read afterwards that this is basically as low as you should ever go. If you have a pretty good concept of making art for games I would say ask maybe $18ish/hr for your first job or two.

The rate you ask should depend on a couple things. Feel out the client first and foremost, if they act like they've done this before you can safely ask a little more than from someone who is making their first game. If the job is just a short little project I usually ask less per hour and if the job is going to last for months or even years I make sure to ask more because your cost of living and your skill level will both likely increase during the allotted time period. My rate also varies depending on how badly I need the work at the time, if I already have several jobs lined up I will ask more, if I need the money in a pinch I will settle for less per hour. And this may not be the best to admit, but if I am not really feeling the game concept and the job doesn't get me too excited I will usually ask more per hour because at least $ will keep me interested in the job.

Contracts are very important, but they can't always save you from getting screwed. I have had clients sign contracts only to refuse to pay come the first or second month's delivery of work. The contract is broken but it is just not a large enough loss for me to consider taking them to small claims court. Then I am out several hours of work with these custom made art assets that nobody else will want. I prefer to receive down payments before I start the work, this shows me the client is serious. Sometimes it is hard to get the client to agree to this, but there is usually some way to ensure you don't do massive amounts of work before any payment is received. Also you should send work samples to the client as a .jpg so the work can't be stolen and placed directly in their game.

For new clients I try to receive payment once a week or twice a month, for trusted clients I usually just do down payments and final payments or once at the end of every month. I use Invoicera for all my time tracking and invoicing needs, it looks professional and shows the client as much info about the time I worked as I want them to know.

Do not upload any art you've done for clients without their permission. In my contracts I like to put a clause stating the work can be displayed in my portfolio, so if they sign that they've already agreed to this. I recommend doing some research on copyright laws and looking up example contracts to get an idea of what you need to include in yours.

Best of luck! Hope this helps some.

Offline Zizka

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #4 on: January 29, 2014, 11:52:49 am
Hello Breakfast, :)

Yes, it's very enlightning especially regarding payment, I was wondering about that. Thanks for the input, it's super useful to me (and others too I bet).  :y:

Offline Vagrant

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #5 on: February 05, 2014, 06:34:06 pm
Take my advice with a grain of salt, as it may not work for all of us. For me however, it has yielded extraordinary results and top pay, so I'd actually encourage a listen.



Make sure you and the client get along well and have good genuine communication as often as you can.

The core of this principle usually boils down to the first time you come into contact with each other. When speaking to them, listen to your gut feeling above all else. Feel them out like a Jedi, or a Z Fighter.

Was the exchange uncomfortable, or enjoyable? did the conversation flow well enough, or did you find yourself over-thinking your next reply out of writing something that would sound "wrong"? Take these subtle hints into account; with time, and -specifically- money in between, they have the potential to magnify into things of significance, for the better or worse.



Another suggestion is to immerse yourself with the project, as if it was yours. Contrary to what other people would suggest, to not get emotionally attached to anything, I would advise to instead get "emotionally involved" as opposed to "attached", and for many reasons.

First of all, those who would suggest that are small-witted people who come from a place of fear. They only think on what they would lose if something were to go wrong, and their art is oftentimes sub-par as a result of this dis-association. A product of grey labor that you have to -work- to produce.

Rather, get involved good enough, and you'll start to reflect the "spirit" of the endeavor, as if. It starts to feel more "yours", so you'll naturally and more effortlessly start to produce, seemingly unconsciously, better and more genuine art. Enjoy the project. This is most importantly noticed when you discover how easy it is to get in the "zone", and hours fly as if nothing. And before you, the finished pieces ready to be submitted. All of a sudden it doesn't feel like work anymore, and more as a hobby of your own. This increases motivation ten-fold, as well as fulfillment.


I've been doing this myself as I travel, and it feels enriching for everyone involved. It also saw me go from a normal employee to an actual team member who has a say in many of the areas of the game, but most prominently in the artistic direction. However..

The difference about getting 'emotionally involved' rather than 'attached' is mostly that the former brings no ego into the play. If the project is terminated or you get kicked or something, you'd acknowledge that since you put your all into it and enjoyed the process, that in itself logically gave you a better spent time expressing your art, or doing what you like. There's no complaints, and it's easier to move on. Emotionally attached on the other hand would have you feeling as if after a break-up; because you somehow had a belief that putting your efforts like this in something would mean that you'd be treated in a preferential way than what was agreed in a contract? Perhaps you felt like you had a right to ask for more? Or maybe things didn't take the direction you expected or wished? Ego shit like this should be avoided at all costs.

You are never in any position to demand anything outside of a contract, so keeping an eye on developing attachments within you is key. This clarification had to be done.


Communication, neuro-linguistics, psychology, human interaction, understanding, expression; these go a long way in any scenario. But specifically here in freelance jobs.

Offline Pix3M

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #6 on: March 09, 2014, 06:18:42 pm
For the heck of it... posting this as a personal account.

I made this in fourteen hours around August 2012:



Was originally for a volunteer project mostly composed of guys who don't have things better to do, but we all went our separate ways. Sure, I'm only show you a tree but other assets are more or less, about the same sort of quality of this tree - it's boring and generic. Say that I worked for $10/hr. That's $140 dollars spent for this tree for a mediocre art style from an artist who has only begun to think about art direction. Afterall, this was my first finished attempt at a tree.

I made this in three hours at around October 2013:



Was originally for a milestone environment to show where my skill level is at, though that personal project became abandoned as changing circumstances brought me away from it and I forgot about it. All I needed was this tree to show for it in the end.

Far more thought was put into trying to express something with this tree so it is not the boring generic tree that I made so long ago. Colors better communicate a fantasy setting, and there is a far stronger illusion of being an actual tree as I know tree anatomy much better.

Say I theoretically asked for $40/hr, which is higher than what I'd dare to ask as of now, that's only $120 for this tree and its more focused art direction from an artist who now puts more proper thought into it.

(Sorry if these images disappear in the future... I uploaded these on dropbox)

Offline robmpreston

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #7 on: March 20, 2014, 03:08:00 pm
I am paying between $15-25/hour for most of the work I have had done for my game so far.

The most important thing you can do is communicate with your employer.

I have hired (or attempted to) hire 4 different artists in the past 6 months. One of those is amazing, the other three all had consistent failure to communicate (i.e. going dark for a week or more at a time).

If you can't get something done on time, no big deal, just please send your employer an email letting them know whats going on! One of my artists did an amazing job on the animation for my player sprite but I will NEVER work with him again because of the fact that he couldn't seem to send an email, and lied about why he was delayed.

Communication and talent will get you work and get you paid in the long run. For my case, I have 200+ hours of work left to be done on my game, and nobody to give it to until I find another artist!

Offline nvision

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #8 on: March 25, 2014, 01:49:49 pm
    Excellent summation, Cyangmou!

    I just wanted to stress the importance of trying to negotiate a $/hr rate, versus a fixed fee or $/sprite.  This has a lot to do with communication and the potential for revisions.  If you have an excellent client who has a well defined asset list it might not be such a big deal, but I've found most of those who are offering a flat rate per asset are generally inexperienced  and not entirely certain what they want.  Each time you have to go back and edit or redo a sprite or tile that is money out of your pocket.  I learned this early on, when a client insisted on a flat quote for a project.  I estimated it would take me a month to deliver, and priced it accordingly.  Poor description and constant direction changes ended up drawing that contract out to three months, and as I had signed a contract to complete it I had a legal obligation to complete the job to the client's satisfaction.  At the end, I was essentially working for less than minimum wage, and that was the end of that type of contract for me.

    As a client, I would insist on at least weekly email updates.  Artists are flaky, and that one email can help keep them on track and motivated.

    I'm still pretty crap at insisting on contracts, though.  I'm far too trusting, even after having my fingers burned on a few occasions.  ::)

Offline robmpreston

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Re: Pixel Art Jobs (and salary)

Reply #9 on: March 25, 2014, 04:26:16 pm
    Excellent summation, Cyangmou!

    I just wanted to stress the importance of trying to negotiate a $/hr rate, versus a fixed fee or $/sprite.  This has a lot to do with communication and the potential for revisions.  If you have an excellent client who has a well defined asset list it might not be such a big deal, but I've found most of those who are offering a flat rate per asset are generally inexperienced  and not entirely certain what they want.  Each time you have to go back and edit or redo a sprite or tile that is money out of your pocket.  I learned this early on, when a client insisted on a flat quote for a project.  I estimated it would take me a month to deliver, and priced it accordingly.  Poor description and constant direction changes ended up drawing that contract out to three months, and as I had signed a contract to complete it I had a legal obligation to complete the job to the client's satisfaction.  At the end, I was essentially working for less than minimum wage, and that was the end of that type of contract for me.

    As a client, I would insist on at least weekly email updates.  Artists are flaky, and that one email can help keep them on track and motivated.

    I'm still pretty crap at insisting on contracts, though.  I'm far too trusting, even after having my fingers burned on a few occasions.  ::)

Yeah, I prefer an hourly rate as a client for several reasons.

1) I want an artist who I can have an ongoing relationship with, so I want them to feel fairly compensated for their work

2) I feel like it makes the billing simpler, assuming the artist is honest about the time invested.

3) I don't have to negotiate a rate every time I ask them to do something new, they just bill the hourly rate.

And I can't once again stress how important communication is. I want to expand further on my previous post by giving examples of the 4 artists I have dealt with or attempted to deal with:

Artist #1: Has worked for me on and off since August. Communicates very well, does great work and takes criticism / suggestions well and as a result delivers me something that is both true to his style and also makes me happy. Great guy to deal with and a credit to the entire community.

Artist #2: Bad communication, no money exchanged hands so no big loss, but took months to find out he couldn't/wouldn't do the work. Probably just a fluke and would try him again in the future.

Artist #3: Negotiated a flat rate for a sprite. Payed half as a deposit up front. Told me he had no work on his plate and I would get full priority. Proceeded to drag it out for a week beyond the timeframe he gave me. Asked for revisions. Got them, paid the other half of the deposit. Asked for a few fixes that he failed to put in place that we had discussed originally. Took nearly two weeks. Sent me the final frames, but forgot the idle frames. Took nearly 3 weeks and initiating a paypal dispute to get those 3 idle frames from him. Lied about where he was and why he hadn't responded in the process. I planned to use him for all of my sprites / sprite animations (thousands of dollars of work in the long run) and as a result of his failure to communicate I will never work with him again.

Artist #4: Very high profile / well known artist. Sent him an email asking if he had interest in my project. Received a reply after two weeks or so saying he was interested. Sent back specs, current tilesets, and suggested doing a few tiles so we could make sure we were on the same page. After that he disappeared and hasn't replied to me in nearly a month.

I just don't get the communication issues. How hard is it to send an email? Say you aren't interested, say you are busy, say something came up in life, just make sure to NEVER go MIA. A 10 second email is the best thing you can do to keep business in the future.