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I ask "how" rather than "where" because there are undoubtedly lots of artists that are just plain lousy or unreliable.

Let's assume both paying and non-paying (mods, free games/open-source) positions.

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6 Answers 6

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One tip I've heard is to build as much of the game as possible before looking for artists. Build the game with placeholder art before you post about the game so that artists can get a feel for the game, its play style and environment, etc before building assets for it. They can also use the prototype to decide if it's a project they'd actually like to work on.

Another tip I've heard is to avoid asking for people to "join your team" as this seems "noobish". Instead post the prototype and say that you need an artist or artists to finish it. If you post at the right communities someone will almost always come along that is interested.

You can, of course, pay an artist per asset, etc from a more "professional" site. This is really a personal choice. Modelers, musicians, voice actors, etc can all be hired from sites that can be found with some quick googling. However keep in mind that you should still provide these people with as much of a game as possible so they can create something that "fits". You can also easily determine if a model will deform properly, light well, etc before accepting the asset if you have build as much of the game as possible beforehand.

One final note, if you are building any artist tools: be sure to have them rock solid and well documented before sending them to an artist, or you will waste time and money sending them revised versions of the tool or having them rebuild assets.

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For a hobby project, this is a good advise. But if Your project matures, I would consider to have an artist from the beginning on: A good artist can express the great ideas You have for Your game with (hopefully great) graphics (not just assets, I'm talking about story lines, main characters...). He's able to set the right mindset for the whole development team so it has a clear goal/vision. –  Dave O. Jul 19 '10 at 19:47
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@Dave is spot on. Having that artistic direction from the get-go is extremely valuable. –  David McGraw Jul 20 '10 at 7:32
    
Another benefit to having an artist from the get go is that you're less likely to be waiting on them to finish for you to release). –  BarrettJ Jul 21 '10 at 20:02
    
I've yet to be hired on a game project where the demo was there and ready for me to play. Usually I'm contacted when the GDD is completed, or almost completed. If you're a programmer I can see how maybe you'd get your thoughts across better that way, but art assets can take a long time, especially if it's just one artist working part time since the gig is unpaid. –  daestwen Oct 20 '10 at 5:11
    
I've tried the place-holder approach and it sounds good in theory but in reality game mechanics goes hand in hand with theme/artistic vision. That vision is hard to create all in your head - you need to get it "on paper" to see what works or not. –  Pking Jun 2 at 19:42
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I find it very difficult to randomly jump on a project with a random individual for free.

You may find someone willing to join your project for free but they will likely have little to no experience and there is no promise they'll stick around.

My single, biggest piece of advice to find artist's (or programmers, or audio guys, or ... :

Network
Have you ever been to the Game Developers Conference? You'll meet some amazing independents there and you don't have to fork out the money to get the top tier pass to meet them (scout events, meet-ups, etc). But if you do pay for a good pass, you might be inclined to jump in an art session to network. ;)

GDC isn't in everyone's bag-o-tricks so I'd be on the look-out for any game development related events around you.

If you're in school you can try to put together a meet-up on your campus to bring people out.

Get yourself out on the web and abuse the forums around you. If you've seen an artist's work send them a message and say hi. They might not be available but they may know a few artists that are.

While you're developing, thing about starting a development journal on gamedev.net or blog. My dev journal was what led me to join an independent team from a friendship that sparked.

Help Wanted Forums
tigsource.com and gamedev.net have some pretty friendly help wanted areas. I posted on tigsource for some artistic help and I received a couple of responses.

Contract Work
If you don't put in the time to network, you're flat out going to pay for your artwork on freelance websites like odesk, guru, craigslist, or others.

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Artists are generally as lousy and unreliable as the client is, so the answer is to be professional and to look for professionals.

I second a lot of things David said in his post about Networking - this is the only way you will find reliable artists to work on your game for little to no money. But I will add some tips as well:

  1. Never, never promise 'payments once we've made a profit'. This is a red flag to artists. It means we're never going to get paid. No matter how good you think your game is, promising profits is a really bad idea, and will scare away professional artists.

  2. If you want us to be reliable, we need the same thing from you. On a non-paid game, this means: getting all the info from you that we need for each asset, not having a ton of arbitrary revisions (as this is a lot of extra work), a reasonable deadline (if we're doing it for free, we can't do it fast - we need to work, too), and timely communication (don't leave us hanging for weeks). For a paid project, make sure you pay on time. I can speak from experience when I say that promises left unkept will halt all art production in the meantime. In the end, a non-paying gig is only going to hold us so far, as we need to eat and pay rent too. If you really want an artist to stick with you for a while without pay, you have to find someone really invested in both the game, and their partnership with you.

  3. Budget Negotiations. If you have a really tight budget, tell the artist! Many professional artists can be willing to dip their fees if the project is something they really believe in. If you can only afford $XXX to go toward art assets, tell them what the budget is upfront, and ask them to tell you how many assets/how much work that your budget can afford you. A good artist should be able to bring up an estimate, and as long as you're both reasonable, even if you can't work out a deal immediately, you can leave a good impression on each other and leave open the possibility of working together in the future.

  4. Find an artist who's work you love and that you think will fit the project. You're much more likely to find a good fit if you find them, rather than them replying to a job ad. A good idea is to maybe find 20 artists that you like, and contact them. Even better if you can find the common thread that you liked about their work - because then even if you get negative replies to your first batch, you have the vocabulary to tell other artists exactly what you want.

  5. Check out art forums. Some good ones: www.conceptart.org , www.cghub.com , www.cgsociety.org . There is also deviantart.com, but I would stay wary - the general population of artists there are in the amateur category, and while they may be really enthusiastic, they probably don't have a lot of experience and will therefore be more unreliable.

  6. Ask for a resume, portfolio, list of references. Just like any other job! Follow up on the references, and if they have published titles, look at the titles! Someone with published work under their belt is much more likely to follow the game through - they've done it already!

Hope this helps!

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For modelers/texturers. There is no better place than polycount. Check out the Work Opportunity forums. A lot of people there and you can ask to see examples.

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This answers the "where" that the asker specifically did not want rather than the "how" that was requested. –  Toby Jul 19 '10 at 18:48
    
I was simply emphasizing the "how". –  Brian Ortiz Jul 19 '10 at 22:13
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The answer depends on exactly your intention. The more control you want to have, the more you have to be bringing to the table. For example, you could build the game using placeholder art and then try to find a talented artist to polish all the graphics. Similarly, if you pay them (up-front cash, not a percentage of future profits) then by definition you are bringing money to the table.

If however you want to recruit an artist from the beginning then don't expect to direct everything. They will want and rightly expect a lot of creative control; after all, the project is as much a speculative venture for them as it is for you.

It is simply impossible to know with 100% certainty how well someone will work out until you work with them on something, so the way around this Catch-22 is find people to do small projects and only do big projects with people you've already done small projects with. Doing a small project it's okay if things go south and you have to lick your wounds to start over with someone else.

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Attend demoparties (like Breakpoint, Revision, Assembly and so forth - or other creative computer festivals like indie game conferences) to meet skilled creators like good artists.

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