Art Resources for RPG Publishers

Featured art by Jeremy Hart

Recently I’ve been out some new products on the DMs Guild as part of the DMs Guild Adepts program and folks have been asking me where I got my art for these adventures and supplements. Good art is hard to find and hiring an artist to make something from scratch is expensive. If you’re not careful, you won’t make back the money you spend on art if you’re self-publishing your products just by going custom with a few pieces of art!

On the other hand, a product without art can feel amateur or incomplete. What’s a creator to do? There are options out there and I’m here to share them with you.

Places to Get Art

Where can you find great art for your RPG products? Take a look below.

Public Domain

There’s a lot of public domain art on the internet. Many of my early Pay What You Want products on the DMs Guild use the British Library’s collection of public domain images. These images are great because in general they cost you nothing and you usually don’t have to credit anyone when you share them. The problem with these images is that they’re often dated and never exactly what you want. People can often tell when you use public domain art. It’s just one step above having no art at all.

For a great list of sites offering public domain art, check out this blog post from The Art League.

Creative Commons

If you have no money to spend, search Creative Commons. When you search, you can filter to make sure the images you find are available for commercial use and that you’re allowed to modify or change the image. Their various licenses are easy to understand and there’s a lot of great artists sharing their work through Creative Commons. You may still have a difficult time finding exactly what you want (especially if what you want is a specific fantasy or science fiction image), but if you’ve got plenty of free time to search in place of spending any money, this is a great way to go. Several of the dinosaur images in Beasts of the Jungle Rot came from searching Wikimedia via Creative Commons.

Blogs and Sites

There are some great creators out there who offer commercial use of the art for free, like the awesome cartographer Dyson Logos. One of his maps actually appears in my adventure Cellar of DeathThe folks who make these things and give them out for free are incredible individuals. While not everyone’s collective is as extensive as Dyson’s, definitely see if you can find others offering art for commercial use for free. Be sure to support these creators by crediting them, linking to their site, and buying some of their products or contributing to them on Patreon if you can. The Game Crafter has a great list of places to find art like this.

DriveThruRPG and the DMs Guild

DriveThruRPG is filled with publisher resources that include illustrations, maps, and more. The art ranges from free to beautiful full covers and stock art packs for more than $100. Be sure to check the rights before you spend money on art to make sure you can use it for your project.

The DMs Guild has free creator resource art and map packs provided by Wizards of the Coast. This art can only be used for commercial products released on the DMs Guild, not other places. You can see a lot it in Encounters in Port Nyanzaru.

Stock Sites

Sites like Shutterstock, Getty Images, Pond5, and iStock actually have an impressive array of illustrations you can pay to use in commercial products. They look great, but are quite costly (though still usually less than a custom piece of art). Several Shutterstock images appear in Beasts of the Jungle Rot.

Rights and Credits

Let’s talk about rights. Before you invest any money in art, make sure you can use what you’re buying. Here are a few questions to ask before purchasing stock are or making a deal with an artist.

  • Can I use this image for commercial purposes? Make sure the answer is yes before you put any piece of art in a product you plan to sell. The words “commercial use” should appear in the license.
  • Is this image royalty free? Make sure the answer to this is yes as well, unless you are comfortable giving the artist a percentage of your sales. “Royalty free” should appear somewhere on the license.
  • In what types of products can the art be used? Some art can only be used in PDFs and not in print, or can be used in print for an extra fee. Make sure the license matches what you want to do with the image.
  • Can it be modified? If you plan on changing the art (maybe by resizing it, cropping it, or removing the background) make sure the license allows for that.
  • How many times can I use this art? Sometimes when you purchase a piece of art you can only use it in one product once. If you want to use it in other products you have to buy it again. Check the license to see if this is the case.
  • How do I credit the artist? The license should specify how to credit the artist in your product. Make sure you give credit where credit is due! Even art you get for free often requires you credit the artist, so be sure to do that!

Tell Me Your Favorites

Where do you go to get great art for RPG products? Tell me your favorites in the comments!

If you like what you’re reading please follow me on Twitter, like World Builder Blog on Facebook, check out my podcasts, find my products on the DMs Guild, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!