What is a fair price to pay for concept art in today’s high tech world where there are many digital resources available to create it? What influences the cost of concept art and how do you find the offer that works best for your project?

Concept art can be underestimated, and vice versa, overestimated. Some people think that concept creation is not as difficult as artists describe, while others pay higher prices to get concept work done according to proper standards and specific requirements. In fact, prices really differ from company to company, from artist to artist, but there are significant factors affecting the final cost of concept art.

What determines the concept art pricing and how to estimate the project budget is described in this article. Keep reading to find answers to all your questions.

Components of Concept Art Pricing

Concept art is an important stage – be it in a game, animation, cartoon, or any other video production project. You need concepts, that is, detailed visualizations of ideas for further steps in design. They are used by designers, modelers, animators to get started and make them workable in every single project. Everything you see in video games or cartoons is initially created by a concept artist. These are characters, their weapons and vehicles, clothes they wear, buildings where they run in, and other elements that make up the big picture of the scenery you are looking at. This work concerns the general style, and stylization of all visual elements, materials, and so on.

This is a blacksmith, a 2D character that our team worked on from scratch for one of the projects. It took about 40 hours to create an overall design for this character with details that fully reveal this personality. You can find more works in our portfolio.

There are specific factors that affect concept art prices:

  • Project complexity. Almost no project in concept art can be considered simple because it is quite difficult to create original ideas for future design. This process takes a lot of effort and creativity to come up with something really valuable before settling on the final design. Some projects come with stringent requirements, specifications, and other demands that may complicate the task of creating concepts. Complex projects take more amount of time, imagination, and skill to complete. For example, creating concepts for 3D models is more difficult than 2D concepts as all of them must be depicted with all elements displayed from all sides. The prices will correspond to each degree of difficulty.
  • The detail level. This is a crucial point when it comes to the time to charge the price of a final product. The logical conclusion that suggests itself – the more details are included, the higher the prices will be. It may happen that modelers or designers need a lot of additional details such as clothing, textures, materials, tones, props and other assets. It is better to create them during the concept phase, which can greatly facilitate their work later in production. In addition, poses also refer to additional detail that concept artists can develop for animation. For example, the character must be in a “combat” position using magic or firing a pistol. It will be a detailed concept creation process that will cost you accordingly.
  • Scope of work. It’s one thing to work on character designs with appropriate references or already created characters in the same style. It’s another matter to develop an entire project with many characters, environments, and other assets from scratch. It is worth noting that concept requirements differ from industry to industry. More work is often done on in-game concepts because the game offers a character, location or weapon view beyond screen time. In films, cartoons or any other animated video, the result of painstaking work by an artist can take no more than a dozen frames.
  • Time frames. Usually, it takes 50-80 hours to create a detailed concept (but again, depending on many conditions – complexity, level of detail, etc.) In theory, all this can be done by one specialist within a reasonable timeframe. You can expect the final product sooner, but be prepared to pay more for urgency. Time is money. During certain phases of work, concept artists need to be quick without being distracted by detail. They need to effectively communicate ideas and moods in as short a time as possible. Since this requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and skills, you can hire the most experienced artists at higher prices than those charged by juniors. So we are approaching the team and its composition.
  • Team and its skill level. There is a widespread belief that artists are endowed with almost divine power, they just need to wave a stylus and then magically create valuable concepts out of nothing, but this is deceiving. Of course, artists must be talented, but at the same time experienced. Although there are geniuses in our world, artists have to work hard to get the most out of CAD experience. As with many industries, art and design experts are also keeping up with the tendency to improve their skills. So, your goal is to find a skilled expert who suits your requirements. Senior specialists with their higher rates are not always involved in projects, except for AAA. That’s right, they can perform most tasks without any supervision. But most projects have an art director who still leads the team based on a single artistic vision. Junior and mid-level professionals also handle most tasks with complete dedication and professional experience.

How to Calculate the Cost of Concept Art?

Typically, to calculate the cost of concept art, you need to figure out the concept artist’s hourly rate and multiply it by the hours it takes to complete the job. When you need a wide range of concepts, you hire more specialists. So don’t forget to multiply the amount of money by the number of specialists required for the project. And of course, don’t neglect some additional factors – complexity, level of detail, style, etc. The more requirements for the concept, the more money you will pay for the final illustration.

Rate x Hours = … $

(Rate x Hours) x Number of Specialists = … $

Concept + Details = … $

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Concept artists’ rates are different. Someone works as a freelance and sets rates they find fair. By the way, if you’re interested in the concept art pricing guide – how to negotiate better rates of pay, click here to get familiar with 15 ways to negotiate better rates of pay.

Basically, concept artist’s rates like the rates of any other specialists depend on years of experience, skill level, qualifications, the reputation of the artist, as well as where he/she is from. Let’s dwell on the main factor of different rates – location. American or Canadian artists set higher rates than in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe. If you look at the table below, you can see the average hourly rates around the world. And knowing these numbers, you can quickly estimate the cost of a project by multiplying the rate by the number of hours required to implement the concept.

Concept Artists’ Rates Around the World

CountryRate, $/hr
USA $100 – $149 / hr
UK $50 – $99 / hr
Germany $50 – $99 / hr
Ukraine $25 – $49 / hr

As you can see, the final cost of the concept art will vary significantly from country to country. This is due to many external factors – economic paradigm, living standards, etc. And this does not mean that concept artists in Ukraine are less qualified than in the UK. For example, Epic Games relied on our team of concept artists to work out new engaging players for the world-famous game – Fortnite. Read more information about this case study in our blog – Character Concepts that Rocked Fortnite Players.

Well, How to Select the Best Concept Artists?

  1. Among all possible selection criteria, pay attention to the reputation of the art studio or artist you are hiring.
  2. Focus on the complexity of the work, the quality, and the time frame you set, and find out if a potential candidate will be able to meet all the requirements.
  3. Study the portfolio in detail – whether the style matches the setting of your game. If you are creating a sci-fi world, and the artist’s portfolio has a noticeable preponderance towards cartoony concepts, it probably does not suit you.

Keep in mind that concept art is a fairly broad branch of CG. Within the gaming industry alone, there are many areas where concept artists are needed, from icons in free-to-play games to characters in big-budget third-person action games. You just need to find a reliable partner in this endeavor. Kevuru Games are at your service to realize projects you plan.