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View Full Version : How does pricing for maps differ from other forms of art?



Jalyha
01-26-2014, 09:34 PM
Title says it all...

On another thread I was talking about commission contracts, and realized that digital artists don't have the same costs as, say, landscape painters, or sculptors, or even sidewalk sketch artists.

I was wondering, how much, if any, that affects the pricing?


For landscapes, I take the cost of my time, and the costs of my supplies, and I don't factor in rights, USUALLY, in the same way.... except the right to exhibit/display the work in my portfolio... because, well, you sell a *painting*... it's an object.. they're probably going to sell it someday, or give it away, or something.

And for the privilege of displaying my work in a gallery, I'll practically *give* it away... well, not really, but I don't make much actual profit.

Now I know digital artists don't have the same supply costs, and there are different ways to worry about copyrights, and I don't really get the whole digital thing.

And cartography is a whole different art form. So I'm wondering... how does that affect pricing?

Anyone want to throw out some industry standards for me to compare?

Gamerprinter
01-26-2014, 11:53 PM
You probably won't make as much money creating maps as doing other kinds of illustration work. I have been paid well for a few maps, but mostly create maps for $50 each, less for publishers purchasing at least 3 maps. Paizo paid me the most, but they have the money. RPG game publishers usually have limited budgets to create products from. I've done a job where I did both the cover design and a map, and I was paid twice as much for the cover art - with the same level of work involved in both. I do less and less commissions, however, mostly creating maps for my own publishing projects and may eventually only work for myself.

Jalyha
01-27-2014, 12:03 AM
Is that pretty standard for cartography, then? More of a flat rate sort of thing? :)

Gamerprinter
01-27-2014, 12:12 AM
I charge an hourly rate, but pricing for maps is fairly standard - whatever the publisher will pay. In competition situations where my price and work is being compared to others, I have gotten the job even if I was the highest bidder, but it was still reasonably priced.

Jalyha
01-27-2014, 12:17 AM
:) Cool, thank you. I probably won't ever be good enough at maps to charge commissions, but I was uber curious :P

Just seems like it would be a whole different... world. :D

Bogie
01-27-2014, 01:03 AM
My experience is similar to GP's. Most of the time I charge about $50 for a full sized battlemap ( about 30" x 40" ), less per map if I am doing several maps. At the same time I have done a number of freebies for startup companies or for the opportunity to work with someone well known in the industry. Keep in mind that I am not a professional artist and do this mostly for fun. I am sure that some of the better cartographers here deserve much more.

Jalyha
01-27-2014, 01:46 AM
I guess that part is the same in every industry :P

arsheesh
01-27-2014, 03:35 AM
I think you'll find that rates for cartography commissions will vary considerably by artist, skill level and the nature of the project. While I don't consider myself a professional I have done several commissions over the years, some of which have been for independent RPGs, and the lowest rate I've ever charged for a commission was $100 USD (and that's only because I was friend's with the client). What I do is start with a base hourly rate, calculate it by the amount of hours I think a project will take, and then modify this by other factors such as how soon the commission needs to be completed (I charge extra for commissions that need to be completed quickly and less for those with flexible deadlines), and whether or not the client is seeking to license the piece or wants the copyright to it.

Cheers,
-Arsheesh

Jalyha
01-27-2014, 11:16 AM
I see :) That's more like what I'm used to. Out of curiousity - does it matter what style of map it is? I mean... do you guys charge more for certain styles of map, even if they are smaller and won't take as long? (photorealistic as opposed to hand-sketched, I guess, is an example?)

- Max -
01-27-2014, 11:19 AM
Yes. Some styles may obviously require more work than others so since you're going with an base hourly rate, that may impact the price.

Gamerprinter
01-27-2014, 11:53 AM
My hand-drawn/digital hybrid style takes more time to do, so my prices for that style is generally almost twice as much as my digital only style. Larger and older publishers tend to prefer the hand-drawn style, while the smaller and younger publishers prefer the photo-realistic style.

Jalyha
01-27-2014, 11:57 AM
See, I would have assumed photo-realistic would take longer >.<

It's a good thing I'm so awful at mapping that I can't sell anything, or I'd be over and under charging for everything!! :P

Gamerprinter
01-27-2014, 12:06 PM
Essentially, using photo mapping, all your textures are photographs - you only need to find them, not create them. When I do hand-drawn maps, I have to hand-draw all the line work, scan it, then digitally trace it to fill the interiors of shapes, which is rather time-consuming. Then even though my coloring is done digitally, I am choosing and mixing colors with fractal cloud filters, while optimizing its look. It easily takes twice as long to do the work by hand and finished digitally, as any other kind of cartography. All maps I create I do remarkably fast, but digital only maps - I am extremely fast at creating.

Jalyha
01-27-2014, 12:34 PM
Essentially, using photo mapping, all your textures are photographs - you only need to find them, not create them. When I do hand-drawn maps, I have to hand-draw all the line work, scan it, then digitally trace it to fill the interiors of shapes, which is rather time-consuming. Then even though my coloring is done digitally, I am choosing and mixing colors with fractal cloud filters, while optimizing its look. It easily takes twice as long to do the work by hand and finished digitally, as any other kind of cartography. All maps I create I do remarkably fast, but digital only maps - I am extremely fast at creating.

Oh, well now I feel silly. I've been trying to *draw/paint* a photo-realistic map :blush:

Okay, that makes a lot more sense :)

So basically, it's mostly a matter of time (and pressure to finish) and copyrights ? :)

- Max -
01-27-2014, 12:38 PM
Basically, yes (though a few other things can impact the price, like a short deadline for instance)

Jalyha
01-27-2014, 12:39 PM
Not so different then (except for supply costs! :( )


Thank you all for such great information! :)

Midgardsormr
01-28-2014, 08:42 PM
The end use of the map and who's buying it matter, too. I imagine that Torstan's map for A Song of Ice and Fire paid better than any RPG commission would. Likewise, I'm sure Elissa Mitchell's map painting for The Wheel of Time was worth quite a bit, and may earn her royalties.

As has been mentioned, roleplaying game publishers don't have a lot of money to throw around, but not all fantasy maps are for tabletop gaming.

RobA
01-28-2014, 10:16 PM
Like arsheesh, I charge based on time expected time, plus any extras like fonts I don't own already.

Here is an example of my standard blurb when asked to quote on a commission:



Regarding pricing, I set my price (roughly) on the expected to effort to create a map, based on my experience.

For a single monochrome/greyscale novel style regional map in trade size at 300DPI, ready for print I would typically ask around $XXX. I would retain copyright of the image and retain the right to display it in my portfolio (printed or online). You would have a limited license to use the map in any version of the novel/series or for any related promotional purposes. (This really means that if you wanted to use it in some other form, say for example selling posters of the map, or in a board game, additional terms would be required.) This price also includes one significant client initiated re-work.

As I said, this estimate is based on my expected effort, and can vary up or down depending on a number of factors:

The amount of geographic detail in the map
The number of labeled places in the map
Detail of place icons (i.e. dots vs. little pictures for city markers)
Whether the mountains are all hand drawn or can be "stamped" from a limited set
If you have any specific fonts in mind that would require I purchase a font for which I do not already have a license
The number of maps in the style (I do bulk discounts as artwork can often be re-used)
The amount of "chrome" (details such as flourishes, iconography, special fancy graphic borders, etc.)

In general, the more details you can provide the easier it is for me to construct the map. Ideally, a rough sketch of the geography, all of the place labels desired, information on the theme desired, and any other details. (Often I get provided snippets from the novelist where they are describing locations to understand the atmosphere).


-Rob A>

Jalyha
01-29-2014, 01:21 AM
The end use of the map and who's buying it matter, too. I imagine that Torstan's map for A Song of Ice and Fire paid better than any RPG commission would. Likewise, I'm sure Elissa Mitchell's map painting for The Wheel of Time was worth quite a bit, and may earn her royalties.

As has been mentioned, roleplaying game publishers don't have a lot of money to throw around, but not all fantasy maps are for tabletop gaming.

I'd imagine. ...WAIT, You mean he mapped for the series or for the map book. (Sorry, GoT addict here :blush: )

That makes sense. It's the sort of clientele issue that tends to fade away when you open a shop or gallery. ("If you have to ask, you can't afford it" places don't attract a lot of people giving low-ball offers.) (Not that I would know :( )


Like arsheesh, I charge based on time expected time, plus any extras like fonts I don't own already.

Here is an example of my standard blurb when asked to quote on a commission:-Rob A>

Okay, that's a lot of ifs and ands! :o It really is a whole different world. :)

Cunning Cartographer
01-29-2014, 05:23 AM
I too charge by the hour because right now this isn't my full time job, so every hour counts and I want to make sure I'm getting paid for it. The majority of my work right now is work I've made for myself for my own D&D group that I will then release to the public and self-publish (it does mean spending more time designing maps for my players as they need to be of a sellable quality afterwards). My style is hand drawn old-skool line drawing for battle maps (Mike Schley-esq) so they can take quite a while in comparison to say the digital stuff I used to do (but never sold). Knocking up digital work with pre-made items from the likes of RPGMapShare.com (http://www.rpgmapshare.com) is really easy; drop shadow, blending and some lighting effects. The problem is that most people can do this to some degree using Dunjinni and such programs, so it's not really worth it for me, plus I want to establish my style and offer something different.

As for Torstan's SOIAF maps, there was an offical atlas book released with maps from Westeros and beyond, The Official Map of Westeros (http://www.fantasticmaps.com/2013/03/the-official-map-of-westeros/) with region and city maps. Pretty awesome (I'd like to look at them in more detail but I fear the spoilers!).

Jalyha
01-29-2014, 11:31 AM
I too charge by the hour because right now this isn't my full time job, so every hour counts and I want to make sure I'm getting paid for it. The majority of my work right now is work I've made for myself for my own D&D group that I will then release to the public and self-publish (it does mean spending more time designing maps for my players as they need to be of a sellable quality afterwards). My style is hand drawn old-skool line drawing for battle maps (Mike Schley-esq) so they can take quite a while in comparison to say the digital stuff I used to do (but never sold). Knocking up digital work with pre-made items from the likes of RPGMapShare.com (http://www.rpgmapshare.com) is really easy; drop shadow, blending and some lighting effects. The problem is that most people can do this to some degree using Dunjinni and such programs, so it's not really worth it for me, plus I want to establish my style and offer something different.


I see. I've never used any premade stuff in my artwork (I'd be eaten alive). I can imagine that would affect both the time involved, and the pricing!


As for Torstan's SOIAF maps, there was an offical atlas book released with maps from Westeros and beyond, The Official Map of Westeros (http://www.fantasticmaps.com/2013/03/the-official-map-of-westeros/) with region and city maps. Pretty awesome (I'd like to look at them in more detail but I fear the spoilers!).

I bought that book. Lands of Ice and Fire, right? :D It was one of the things that made me decide to start mapping my world. I guess I just didn't pay attention to know that someone here made it. I guess I assumed GRRM did it, at first, but now that I think about it I should have known better :P That's fabulous. (Omg those cities must have taken absolute AGES!)

Okay I'm done fangirl-ing.


So there's a lot of variation in how the pricing is done! :)

Gamerprinter
01-29-2014, 11:46 AM
Yeah, I never use map objects or other map elements not created by me, in my work. Although I often reuse map objects I've created for other maps. I create everything except for the chosen font for labels (I am no fontographer). For photo-realistic maps I use image fills mostly from CGTextures.com, but other sources (some that no longer exist) as well. I absolutely detest painting - in traditional media, as well as digitally (I don't prefer image editors), so I use color mixes (mostly watercolor schemes) applicable in my chosen vector drawing application for color fills, when I'm not using photo textures. So aside from fonts and photo-textures, everything I create is done by me only.

And of course, I do lots of hand-drawing. While I do have a drawing tablet - I still prefer to hand-draw with micropoint ink pen, and tend to only do traditional hand-drawing for my hand-drawn style, which I digitally scan with a large format scanner (from my daytime graphics shop), then import to my vector app to finish.

While I use to agressively seek out publishers to get mapping commissions, my first 3 years that's what I did. Several great commissions fell out of the sky - the publishers found me, without me even know they were looking - including Paizo Publishing. My problem is that I am too creative. Once I start to generate a map, I get ideas of stuff I want or think should be included that the publisher never asked for. Although it often worked for the client, more and more, I did not want to limit my maps to what publisher's want in their maps. I wanted more of a free hand to do as I please, so I started game development and setting design using Pathfinder RPG (since it's currently very popular, and open to OGL 3PP creations) - so I could create my own products and create maps I wanted, as well as including more maps than most RPG publishers can afford. Now I have my tutorials guides project. I have plans for other map rich products in the future.

So I am at the point that I no longer seek commission work, though I don't refuse if someone asks and if its a project interests me.

While I think its really cool that Torstan (Jonathan Roberts) got the Fire and Ice gig, as well as an upcoming movie map (that is totally secret at this time...), I would never seek commission work like that, as that is not the direction I want to go (though I wouldn't turn it down). Again, I only really want to do work that I create - not just the map, but the rest of the publication as well.

Jalyha
01-29-2014, 11:54 AM
Yeah, I edited a picture that bogie had edited and I ASKED him if I could use it, and he said yes, and I credited him for it, and it looks way different and I feel guilty anyway :( I don't think I can do that without making my own :D


How do you create "color mixes" ? Is that something I can do in free software? :o I'd love that. (And I didn't know fontography was a thing LOL)

Gamerprinter
01-29-2014, 01:41 PM
In Xara, I'm using a fractal cloud filter for color mixing. In standard fractal cloud, one color is black the other white. I can change these colors to whatever I want, then rescale and rotate them. When the scale is too small, it has a repeating pattern effect, so I avoid that. I can also blur or increase contrast in the difference of colors. The end results look like a soft mixture of water color tones - very natural media looking. I know that many programs have a fractal cloud for transparency (as does Xara), but I haven't found that most software has fractal cloud color. So I don't really know what free software offers that option. You could have a layer in one color, then duplicate that layer, apply a different color then apply a fractal cloud transparency to basically get the same effect, though this means an extra step must be taken to accomplish it.

I know that Inkscape can do a lot of what Xara does, since it too is a vector drawing application (and free like GIMP). But I am finding from doing research for my tutorials guides series, that Inkscape is missing lots of the capability that Xara has, so I don't consider Inkscape a good substitute for Xara. While Xara is inexpensive compared to Photoshop and lots of other software, it isn't free, however, many of its capabilities including diverse options for transparency and beveling, is better than any other program on the market. Hence why PC Pro Magazine gave Xara Designer Pro 9 the award for best software of the year 2013.

For me 'free software' does nothing for me - I don't find it particularly attractive. I like to save money, yes, but I want capability, speed and ease of use more than no cost.

Jalyha
01-29-2014, 01:57 PM
Ah, but I'm a starving artist, and I need "free" like fish need water. :)

BUT! Hooraay! Thanks to your description, I was able to render some clouds in GIMP and colorize then "smudge" them enough to create something much closer to what I want than I would have ever been able to do otherwise :) So thanks.


If someone ever offers to give me some software, for like, say, Christmas, though, I'll probably request your XARA thingy :P

Midgardsormr
02-02-2014, 02:03 AM
I guess I assumed GRRM did it, at first, but now that I think about it I should have known better

Well, he did try to take credit for it…



I did some napkin-back calculations on a recent film project I worked on, and my efforts to roughly model most of the downtown and warehouse districts of New Orleans cost my client roughly $2400. It wasn't actually cartography, really, but the shot required a lot of the same kinds of skills and techniques. A few weeks earlier, I did a very bare-bones deckplan for a space station for $35.

And for some slightly different perspective, since you're a landscape artist and might appreciate this, I had a matte painter* as one of my mentors during my internship. He said he was paid $40,000 by a feature film for a background that took him about two weeks to create.

So yeah, a lot of variation.


*For those who don't know the term, a matte painting is a background inserted into a shot in order to make it look as though the actors are somewhere they are not, or could never be. The foreground may be real, but it's not uncommon for everything from about twenty feet behind the principle action to be replaced by a painting. This used to be done on huge glass panels, but these days it's usually Photoshop work. For examples, here's a reel that illustrates it: Stargate Studios Virtual Backlot Reel 2012 on Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/35769675)

Jalyha
02-02-2014, 02:12 AM
Wow lol where do I sign up for that one? D:

Yeahhhhh.... I've never gotten that well paid, unfortunately... probably a couple years salary there :P

But I hadn't considered how much it could vary for the same artist... at this point my stuff mostly depends on the size of the painting, and not a lot else...


So, really... it's like anything else... it can be very profitable, or not at all, depending on skill, talent and pure luck, eh? :P

Jaxilon
02-02-2014, 02:26 AM
Just to toss in 2 more cents worth..and to offer another point of view.

Artwork does not provide my main income although I would love for it to do more than it is currently. Unfortunately for my Artist persona, I work as a software consultant. My time is billable hours and to take away from that pool for art means I bill fewer hours as a consultant. While I'm willing to loose out on some income to make the art I enjoy creating I can't forget what my time is worth. This makes it a bit challenging when it comes time to price out a comission. At the end of the day I have to realize that art doesn't pay as much for me as writing software....or do I?

I think about how many software developers, managers, and people I see around me every day and how few can paint a picture or make a map and it seems unfair how poorly artists are paid (until they make it big or die of course). There just aren't that many folks around able to do it and still it is a notoriously poorly compensated career. ("Starving artist" and all that)

I think part of this comes from artistic persons being sort of "born with the talent" (that's not to say some don't work hard to build awesome skills or just want it so badly they keep at it until they do) and the fact that most artists really love making art and are willing to sacrifice in order to do it. Additionally, it seems like a lot of artsists live in the portion of their brain that doesn't care much about business. From what I hear art schools don't do a fantastic job of preparing new artists for the world of big business either. This can make things tough for them on the way up. If they can stick with it and hone their craft things can turn out.

While you don't want to price yourself out of the the market you should be fairly compensated. For me the answer was forced because right now in life, I need to turn in billable hours. If I'm going to do a commission, I have to make it worth my time. I figure out how many hours I think it's going to take and I charge my going rate, that's it. I wish I was running a charity but for now, I'm not.

The flip side of this is I'm working to simplify my life in order to afford spending more time creating art, even if it doesn't turn out as lucritive. I like writing code so it's not horrible for me but I do want to spend more time drawing and painting. If you are skilled and continue doing what you love I think it is likely you will follow your art where it leads you and the money will follow...if you can hold out long enough :)