Vivid and engaging story and memorable characters are the most important parts of any Visual Novel, but the graphics is also vital for a successful game. After all, the genre is called “Visual” not without the reason. Memorable pictures of characters and detailed backgrounds will make the game feel more refined and professional. This is especially important and often overlooked for people that are writing their game-novel as a sole developers, writers and artists. After all, a game with lame graphics won’t be considered decent and no one will want to play it, even if you’re poured all your heart into the story. The game might be actually great, but it won’t get the recognition it deserves, if graphics quality isn’t there.
Don’t know where to get sprites (big character images or models), backgrounds or other graphical media files? Here are my personal picks to get the stuff you need for your games, both for free and as a paid resources. I’ve worked on a commercial project for some time and I’m now making my own VN (slowly but steadily) and I’ve used these resources in the process successfully.
1. DLsite: Japanese Indie Game Developers Paradise
DLSite is best known as a huge and highly popular Japanese marketplace with doujin (or fan) games, many of them are adult, but also music albums, CGs and various other quirky content made by Circles (which are Japanese word denoting a group of indie makers). It’s really an anime indie stuff paradise, unfortunately many of these wonderful creations are untranslated (or badly translated – though this seem to change recently!).
DLSite search filters are really… something.
Putting doujins aside, most importantly there are a lot of resources for VN developers that can be used freely, even in commercial projects. Among some interesting graphics resources to use in your VNs I recommend checking following users:
Minikle: Fantastic collection of backgrounds, gathered in thematic sets, like Daily Life, Leisure, Mansion or Medieval, that should fill your needs in different settings.
Minikle has about 50 sets of different backgrounds, available for personal and commercial use in your VN, with day/night variants and various resolutions.
Blue Forest is the biggest character sprites maker, offering about 30 sets of various CGs (some of them quite lewd). You can pick from old men, working women, highschoolers, fantasy characters and more. All files are intended to use in VNs, so are provided as .png files with transparent background and each character is available in full array of emotions.
Another quality and inexpensive background seller is Murakumo, a circle of makers offering tons of copyright free CGs (and currently on 50% sale).
BUBU-K is another circle, offering more pose materiales for Visual Novels, no attribution required and can be fully modified and altered even for commercial purposes. It’s art style is more mature manhwa than typical kawaii artwork with big eyes.
Interested in yet another character packs? Try Sugar Content 70% – a maker that offers moe girls CGs, with “crediting and report of use are not required”. Really high quality and cute stuff, albeit of different style than Blue Forest.
DLsite also hold sales very frequently, and it’s worth checking their newsletter as you can get fantastic deals on assets, with prices reduced up to 90%. Once bought, items remain in your account, and most files have demos, so you can placehold them in your game.
2. Lemmasoft Forum: Number One Source of All Things Ren’Py
Lemmasoft is the Ren’Py maker and its forum is number one source when it comes to all topics related this game engine. You can find answer to your every Ren’Py question there and there are entire subforum called Creator’s Corner dedicated to graphics, with free sprites to download and use. Additional, it has really big base of artists that you can commission to make you any artwork. Many of them are experienced Visual Novel graphics makers and they know exactly how to work with these kind of media, which is a big plus as you won’t need to explain anything to the artist.
3. Reddit: Your Friendly (and Smarter than Facebook) Online Community
Reddit is really good pick when it comes to looking resources for basically any hobby or activity, as it’s numerous subreddits contain professionals and enthusiasts from around the world in many niches, industries and fetishes (just don’t look at /r/cummingonfigurines/, okay?). If you don’t have an account on Reddit yet, create one and start using is as it’s fun and engaging. Here are the most interesting places (subreddits) for VN developer that you can find there:
- r/VisualNovels: Community for discussing visual novels, their development, and the medium itself, focused mostly on playing the games, but you should follow it for industry news and deals on games.
- r/Game Dev: Huge subreddit for aspiring game creators. Needless to say, there are plenty of tutorials and advice there, not limited to VNs. Resources are regularly posted there and you can filter it out to find interesting graphics and audio files.
- r/Indiedev: 30k strong group for indie developers and gamers that also frequently share resources, ideas and motivational tricks (very important for every maker, as creating your own game can be a very draining process!).
- r/RenPy: A subreddit dedicated to best and free Visual Novel game engine, Ren’Py.
- r/VNDevs: Small group of Visual Novel creators.
- r/ForHire: Looking to hire artist (or maybe even writer)? Post your gig here. There are 155k members either looking for freelance job or hiring. Be sure to read the rules before posting any offers.
- r/Hungry Artists: Similar groups as above, counting 45k members. There is some fantastic (and not cheap) talent there and also beginner artists, so you would be able to find a fit to your budget. Again, read the rules before posting. Highly recommended.
4, Deviantart: THE Original Social Media Portal for Artists
Deviantart is another wonderful, very friendly and most importantly huge community for artists showcasing their work with now millions (!) of users from around the world. Many of them do commissions for Visual Novels. But where to find such people? There are boards dedicated to commision artists such as:
Many people even provide illustrated guides with pricing and rules.
Scroll to comments section on each of these boards and browse artists. Then create a free account and you can then start sending your offers (through “notes”, which acts as a messaging system or by posting comments on their profiles).
A few important things to consider about copyright on Visual Novel assets
- When commissioning an artwork, be sure to write a contract. This can be actually really simple message, a few sentences sent via an e-mail, describing your right to use the artwork for commercial purposes (ie. when you want to export your game into Android .apk file and sell it on Google Play store, which is actually very easy to do in Ren’Py). Some artists demand higher rates for games that aren’t used
- While you can find many more assets on the web, be aware that not all of them are actually free and many media files are just ripped off of other titles, sometimes even high budget games. Ren’Py by default doesn’t encode graphics and they’re just stored in game folder so they might be easily ripped. Some graphics might also be free, but are to be used only in personal, non-commercial projects. Check carefuly if there is some kind of license for the file you find, and if you can’t find any, just pass it. You can learn about all kinds of Creative Common licensing (often attributed to many files) at creativecommons.org.
As you can see, there are plenty of options available for VN creators that want to outsource graphics in any way, either by picking up resources or commissioning entirely new artwork. Have fun with your game and wishing you lots of success!