Ten Tips for Stock Artists

If you produce fantasy stock art for sale to the roleplay industry then read this because I'm going to help you sell more.

Let me be clear, I write this from the perspective of a consumer... a purchaser of stock art that I then use to illustrate my publications.

I think that gives me a very practical perspective of fantasy stock art. To demonstrate, here is a screenshot of my Stock Art folder taken a few minutes ago:

And bear in mind that I spent about two hours this morning filing, moving and deleting some files, so this is the slimmed down version ;) It's taken hundreds of hours of searching and downloading to acquire that number of images and I've been collecting them in earnest for four years now I think - maybe five.

I go through fits and starts, in the last two weeks I added a thousand new images. They are all free to use commercially now they have been downloaded by me.

If it seems excessive bear in mind that since April this year I have produced 800 pages of written and illustrated content under The Grinning Frog logo. I hope you can see why I need such a large pool of images resources!

My last big project - Abracadabra has over 450 illustrations in it. (Mind you, it's a 316 page art-styled guide to being a magical GM so it deserved that much art!)

PDF version available to pre-order here

The monthly RPG magazine that I produce has around 35-45 illustrations in each issue.

Kickstarter is live for the new rebranded magazine - click here (ends 25 Nov 2020)

So I have needs...

And you wonderful artists and stock art producers service that need. But, and it's a big but, not all of you do it quite as well as you could. And the thing is for you, that the harder you make it for me to use your work, the less likely I am to buy it again.

You see, I look for really good art, and then I look for fair licence agreements and only then do I purchase your art.

And that's a single sale... you really want me to come back for more don't you, right? Well, something that will encourage me to do so is art that is quick to file, easy to find and looks like I expected it to look.

Let's work through some key points of advice that will help you sell more:


  1. Let me see a preview of your art - by all means, have 'sample' or 'preview' stamped all over it so I can't rip you off and steal it but if I can't clearly see what I'm buying you are very unlikely to get a sale from me

  2. Let me see the full licence agreement prior to purchase - a really easy way to do this is to have a link to a downloadable pdf or on some sites, such as DrivethruRPG literally have the licence as a free document I can read (bonus tip - why not have a page of thumbnails at the back of the licence - hyperlinked of course - so I can be tempted to go shopping after reading the licence)

  3. Tell me how big the image is in pixels - I produce my work in landscape and the printer I use has fixed bleed requirements. I know exactly the size I need for a full page image - let me know what I'm getting with your image


  1. Put your art and your licence in a zip folder - let me download everything together because that means I have it all to hand and can file things as I need to. It also means I only need to click to download a single file rather than individual images.

  2. Put your name in the art file name - because then I know who to bloody well credit later on!! Do you know how few people do this?! And, if you've put your name in your licence file (see below) when I search my folders it will come up nice and quickly. For example - Blink Dog_Fat Goblin Games. That would be marvellous, because I'm going to file the blink dog in the dog subfolder in my file system. I'm NOT going to file it under Fat Goblin Games because that doesn't help me find the blink dog later on... see how that works?

Let's have real example shall we...

The above image is the Sketchbook Creatures collection by Fat Goblin Games and available here on DrivethruRPG

That product, which I did purchase, commits a number of sins... Name not in the file names - I'm going to have to rename all the files to include a reference to Fat Goblin Games, because in a month or two, after I've purchased and acquired a few hundred more images, I won't remember exactly. And if in doubt, I won't use them. In fact, I will delete them most likely. Now, yes, you can batch rename in windows - but it won't preserve the original name. So, if I want to file the creatures with their names intact, but add Fat Goblin Games to the file name, I have to do it individually! I've got real work to do - this doesn't help me.

No preview - this product went to a 50% sale three times before I purchased it. Why? Because only three images were shown, and at a very small scale. Why not show a group shot like the above? It makes no sense not too, it doesn't loss them anything or risk people stealing them. They are far too small like that. Bear in mind that the style of the images was perfect for a specific, ongoing article in my monthly magazine so I was very interested in this art but didn't purchase for months because of the lack of a preview.

What they got right was their stock art licence was available to download separately (although it wasn't linked from this products listing) and a copy was included in the download although it didn't have their name on it - see below for licence tips.


These are a necessary evil but these tips will help me and your other customers use your work more easily...

  1. Ensure your licence is easily readable - I have a law qualification but I don't want to have to twist my head around legal jargon. Please keep it simple. What can I do, what can't I do and what credit would you like? (Which brings me to my next point)

  2. Make it clear and easy to see how to credit you - I bought it, I want to credit you, please make it obvious how I do this. Especially if you are a company representing more than one artist. I have literally had to work this out with some people's licences.

  3. Please make it clear if we can edit the images in anyway - I don't expect to be able to photomanipulate stock art but can I crop?

  4. Let me use your art more than once - my favourite stock artist Grim Press allows for 10 uses of the image - this fact alone helps them move up my list of favourite artists. Consider that if I release something through Kickstarter (my go to publishing outlet) then I will have three versions very likely - pdf, softcover and hardcover. And that's not even getting into the debate over whether they count as the same product or not. Once I've bought it, ideally let me just use it as and whenever or cap it at 10 or thereabouts. If we've bought the art we are serious about trying to be fair - otherwise we'd have just stolen something from somewhere!

  5. Put your name in the licence file title - then I can file is away and find it when I want to use your image (Grim Press - if you're reading this then ... please do this!)

So, those are ten tips for you which would make my life, a potential customer of yours, easier. I have a few other things that are more preferences but I will talk about those in a different article.

Remember - make your art look good and easy to use and I, and your other customers, are more likely to purchase. Which means you make more money!

Until next time, stay safe and keep gaming.

Stephen Hart

P.S. This beautiful and fun little item is coming to Kickstarter for this Christmas and for only £1 for 25 pieces of RPG content!


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