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How to Sell Art Online: The Ultimate Guide

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When I graduated from artwork college 15 years in the past, I had mastered color concept and watercolour strategies, however didn’t know the very first thing about enterprise. As a year-end venture, we realized to create a really fundamental portfolio web site. No ecommerce—simply samples of our work and a contact web page.

My very first week as a correct grownup and dealing artist, I realized a tough lesson: to reach artwork, you have to additionally reach enterprise. And my unhappy little Flash web site wasn’t going to reduce it.

I realized a tough lesson: to reach artwork, you have to additionally reach enterprise.

Ecommerce wasn’t as accessible 15 years in the past, and social media was primarily non-existent. For unknown artists like me, the cash was in company and promoting commissions.

The capability to easily sell your own art online fully modified the sport.

In 2017, the ravenous artist is a dying breed. Ecommerce and social promoting have change into more and more efficient means for impartial artists to self-sufficiently fund their craft, and most significantly, to achieve the independence to promote the work they need to create instantly to their area of interest audiences.

For galleries, the shift within the final twenty years has allowed curators to signify extra artists and increase into reasonably priced prints to attain bigger audiences worldwide.

How to Sell Art Online

Since my very own profession as an illustrator lasted mere months, I consulted two Shopify merchants—an artist and a gallerist—actively making their residing by promoting artwork.

Maria Qamar, the artist also called Hatecopy, give up her promoting profession to deal with portray when her pop artwork Aunty work started to catch hearth on Instagram.

photograph: Maria Qamar through Instagram

Ken Harman is the gallerist answerable for the Spoke Art empire—three galleries on two coasts, three ecommerce shops, a print store and manufacturing facility.

photograph: Ken Harman, through Artistaday

Through Maria and Ken’s private experiences, we’ll stroll by the ins and outs of the enterprise of being an artist, sharing their tips to assist you to promote artwork on-line. 

Side Hustle vs Full Time

Many new artists get their break on social, growing a devout following by sharing their work constantly and fascinating in on-line artist communities.

Maria pursued her dream of changing into a working artist after being laid off from her promoting job, however the success didn’t occur in a single day, and he or she supplemented her revenue to start with, whereas growing her fan base on Instagram.

Hatecopy Instagram


“I did contract work right here and there, clearly, as a result of once you’re beginning out, you are incomes zero {dollars} and 0 cents.â€� – Maria

Her full-time job, nevertheless, taught her enterprise expertise that have been vital in getting her store off the bottom and advertising and marketing herself as an artist.

💡 TIP: Tap into employer sources and studying alternatives whereas you’re nonetheless working, rising your artwork enterprise on the aspect. What knowledge or experience can you glean from your day job?

There’s one thing to be stated additionally for taking the plunge. When Ken, unable to safe a brief pop-up house, signed a two-year lease on an area, the dangerous moved helped him give up his job ready tables inside a couple of months.

“In 2010, I curated an exhibition with an Australian artist. He mailed me a bunch of labor. I rented a venue. He purchased his aircraft tickets, received his resort, and about two weeks earlier than his present was set to open, the pop-up venue went out of enterprise and was now not obtainable. This was earlier than pop-ups turned kind of a cultural factor. I could not discover a gallery that might let me borrow their house for a brief period of time. Eventually I got here throughout an empty resale house that was the right match for the exhibition. However, the owner wished a two yr lease. I actually did not have some other choices. I simply pulled the set off.â€� – Ken

How to Sell Art Online

photograph: Rob Williamson for Spoke

Selling Your Own Work vs Selling Art by Other Artists

If you’re not personally an artist, you possibly can nonetheless get into the sport of promoting artwork as a curator. Artists disinterested within the enterprise side of their craft depend on brokers, galleries, and different retailers to do it for them.

There are a number of methods to work with artists, from promoting originals or prints, to licensing works to be printed on merchandise. Generally the artist would make a set fee on bought works.

“Most galleries provide an business normal fifty p.c consignment break up for unique artwork. The artist gives the art work, we do our greatest to promote it, after which we break up the proceeds fifty p.c. For prints, we really run our personal print shop in Berkeley, California. We do all of our personal printing in home. Typically we provide a fifty p.c break up after the price of manufacturing.â€� – Ken

While Maria runs her own shop, the place she sells prints and merchandise, eliminating the center man and maintaining her prices low, she leans on relationships with skilled galleries to exhibit and promote her unique artwork.

Galleries can expose your work to new audiences, and have entry to sources and professionals to assist promote, deal with, and ship art work.

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What to Sell: Original vs Reproduction

Some mediums like sculpture are harder to reproduce or use for merchandise purposes (however contemplate 3D printing or collaborations with toy producers). Most 2D mediums, nevertheless, have a number of choices for producing limitless gross sales on a single work.

Consider the next:

  • Original advantageous artwork
  • Limited or open version prints – giclee (framed or unframed) or canvas
  • Digital downloads – desktop wallpaper, inventory pictures, inspirational quote prints, and so forth.
  • Custom/commissions – unique works in conventional or digital mediums
  • Merchandise – hats, mugs, t-shirts, enamel pins, and so forth.
  • Repeat prints on fabric or wallpaper
  • Licensing work to different ecommerce retailers
  • Collaborations with retailers and creators

In addition to promoting prints and different merch on her web site, Maria collaborated with Shopify service provider Nuvango to reproduce a few of her works and prints on clothes.

How to Sell Art Online

photograph: Nuvango

Your Online Store

First, take a couple of minutes to create your store. Go forward, I’ll wait. We’ll allow you to mess around for 14 days earlier than committing to a plan.


When establishing your on-line artwork store, select a theme that lets your artwork breathe–giant photos and many white/unfavourable house. Add on apps that assist you to run your store extra effortlessly, permitting you to deal with the artistic elements of the enterprise.

How to Sell Art Online

Hashimoto Comtemporary

Theme options for artwork shops:

Apps to assist run your on-line artwork enterprise:

If you promote your art work through prints and merch, apps like Kite, Gooten, or Printful can sync together with your store, taking the burden of transport and achievement out of the equation.

How to Sell Art Online

Printful catalog of merchandise

“I use an app to do the printing and delivering. All I’ve to do is add and let it do the work for me. Now I can deal with really creating the art work quite than printing, packaging, transport each single day, spending no less than three, 4 hours simply doing that. I can now use that point to brainstorm and give you higher issues and join with individuals.” – Maria

Now I can deal with really creating the art work quite than printing, packaging, transport each single day.

Maria Qamar

Try apps like Lookbook or Photo Gallery to function previous or out-of-stock works—they will function a portfolio for galleries for different retailers wanting to work with you, and requiring a full illustration of your catalog.

💡 TIP:  Use variants in Shopify to present prospects not solely with measurement choices, however end and framing choices as nicely. Variants may be edited to replicate distinctive/tiered costs.

How to Sell Art Online

Spoke Art

Photographing and Scanning Art

Photographing and representing your products clearly and precisely is necessary throughout the board in ecommerce, no matter business. Without the flexibility to really feel a product, prospects want to get one of the best sense of what they’re shopping for by clear and detailed photos.

“Ultimately once you’re promoting works on-line, it is all concerning the picture. If you’ve gotten a nasty picture of your work, the picture that you’ve got would not signify the work precisely, you are going to have a more durable time promoting it.â€� – Ken

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Photographing art is a bit of trickier than taking pictures different merchandise, and a basic light setup should still trigger glare or color irregularities. Consider hiring knowledgeable to shoot bigger works or artwork with any three-dimensional components.

For 2D works, nevertheless, Ken recommends scanning as an reasonably priced and efficient various to pictures:

“We have a pictures setup at our manufacturing facility. However, the artists present the scans of their very own work, as a result of scans are one thing they want for their very own archives. The most value efficient approach to do that’s to get a desktop scanner and scan the work in parts and sew it collectively in Photoshop. If you’ve got received a chunk that is received a excessive gloss coating or a resin, that is a bit of tricker, however for almost all of works on canvas or paper, it is fairly simple.â€�

Helice Wen, through Spoke Art

Open vs Limited Edition

Reproducing work on t-shirts or mugs signifies that a single work can bear fruit indefinitely. However, some galleries like Spoke, go for a restricted version mannequin on most of the works they signify.

The impact is very like that of a restricted time offer—creating a sense of scarcity and urgency is a superb advertising and marketing tactic. For Ken, nevertheless, the choice to restrict print runs goes deeper:

“We work actually laborious to discover issues which might be very particular to promote. Things which might be particular must be handled like they’re particular. While we might find a way to make more cash promoting issues as an open version and promoting as many as we presumably can, I believe that by providing our works as restricted editions actually helps add to the worth of the artwork.â€�

Offering our works as restricted editions actually helps add to the worth of the artwork.

Ken Harman

Limited version has its drawbacks, nevertheless.

“A lot of the issues that we promote have secondary market values. You can go onto a web site like Ebay and discover these works promoting for in some circumstances, exponentially greater than the unique worth, as a result of the demand is so excessive. It’s definitely a bit of little bit of a bummer, as a result of we will not give all of our artwork to everybody who needs it.� – Ken

To assist reduce reselling, Spoke will restrict portions of sure prints per buyer. They’ve additionally constructed a blacklist of recognized resellers.

“Making certain that the true followers are literally those who’re ready to get the issues that we promote is all the time a precedence.â€� – Ken

How to Sell Art Online

The People’s Print Shop

Printers and Printing

It’s doable to create high quality prints your self with the right paper, ink, and printer. You may provide your prospects framed choices, and DIY the framing. As a brand new artist, this methodology can preserve prices low, however it’s not sustainable or scalable.

“In the start, I’d print, bundle, and ship by hand each single poster that was ordered. I did this for about 1,000 orders. Every morning, I’d stand up, go to the print store, bundle all of the prints, go to the Canada submit workplace. At some level the quantity turned a lot that I could not make time to draw or to be an artist. I used to be simply spending all of my days delivering, and in transit.â€� – Maria

An area or on-line print firm can reproduce your work en masse at wholesale costs, should you plan to do your individual transport or need to promote your prints offline, too.


💡 TIP: For a very hands-off method, search for a print-on-demand and dropship firm. Maria now makes use of Printful for her on-line store.

Hatecopy Prints

Gallery Shows, Pop-Ups, and Offline Events

Because Maria works ceaselessly in conventional mediums, a lot of the affect of the feel and scale of her work will get misplaced digitally.

“It’s precise bodily work, so after we do reveals, you possibly can stroll right into a gallery and see that I’m an actual individual that has technical expertise that may do work and enormous scale installations.â€� – Maria

Artists may join with followers and discover new audiences by taking work offline. Use in-person experiences to drive individuals again to your on-line store.

Consider the next:

  • Partner with a gallery to exhibit work
  • Look into native art markets and events, arrange a one-time or semi-permanent sales space
  • Consign work by present or life-style shops, or arrange a small pop-up inside an current store
  • Open your studio to the general public once you launch your web site, or preserve constant weekly open-studio hours
  • Run a pop-up shop (accomplice with different artists to scale back prices)

How to Sell Art Online

photograph: Spoke Art

💡 TIP: Sync your on-line and offline gross sales through the use of Shopify POS for in-person promoting.

Before Ken opened his everlasting gallery, he dabbled in pop-ups as a way to construct his popularity as a gallerist and validate the concept, however has by no means let go of the bodily a part of the enterprise.

“It’s very uncommon to discover a profitable artwork gallery that capabilities solely on-line. That actually would not occur a lot and I believe that plenty of the reason being individuals do need to see it in particular person. People additionally need to know that it has been seen in particular person as nicely.â€� – Ken

Working with Galleries

If you’re enthusiastic about having your artwork represented by a gallery as well as to promoting prints by yourself web site, do your homework and be skilled, says Ken:

  • DO take a look at the gallery’s social media accounts: “If you’ve gotten extra followers than that gallery does or that gallery would not have plenty of followers, that will provide you with pause.â€�
  • DON’T method a gallery through social media: “You’d be amazed at how many individuals strive to submit to us through Facebook Messenger or tag us in a submit on Instagram and ask us to have a look at their work. While social media is a serious focus for us, that is simply not a really skilled approach to come throughout should you’re an artist.â€�
  • DO your analysis and get in touch with solely these galleries who signify work in step with your individual model: “You cannot promote road artwork to someone who collects impressionism.â€�

You cannot promote road artwork to someone who collects impressionism.

Ken Harman
  • DON’T spray and pray: “What’s actually irritating is usually we’ll get tagged in a submit on Instagram and an artist who’s hoping to catch our consideration tags us after which tags twenty different galleries all in the identical submit.â€�
  • DO ship a customized message in knowledgeable e-mail: “If you’ll find out the identify of the director of the gallery or the curator for that gallery, having the ability to personalize an e-mail is a superb first step in that course of.â€�

photograph: Joe Russo for Spoke

Packing and Shipping Art

If you’re transport unique artwork, or elect to ship prints and canvases your self, quite than by a print and fulfil firm, take additional precaution together with your packing.

Prints and posters are finest shipped in cardboard mailing tubes, and smaller prints in inflexible cardboard mailing envelopes. Use glassine (a water and grease-resistant paper) or clear cellophane sleeves to defend prints throughout the packaging.

Framed works and canvases require further precautions. The UPS Store and packaging provide outlets like Uline and The Packaging Group provide packing and shipping materials like cardboard corners and specialty field sizes designed particularly for artwork.

How to Sell Art Online

photograph: The Shopify Stockroom


“There are plenty of little tips and tips that may assist preserve transport decrease for artwork collectors. For instance, the price to ship a big portray that is stretched on a canvas may be fairly substantial, particularly should you’re stepping into outsized dimensions. Sometimes what we do is unstretch a canvas, roll it in a tube, and ship it that approach, which dramatically lowers the freight prices for the purchasers. Then they will have the canvas stretched domestically.â€� – Ken

Shipping Insurance

Insurance is necessary when transport unique works, as a misplaced or broken bundle can’t be merely changed.

Many normal carriers like FedEx and USPS provide pretty fundamental insurance coverage on most packages, and retailers ought to look into the specific extra coverage costs and limitations of every carrier’s insurance coverage choices. For larger worth items, Ken takes further measures to guarantee the protection of the work.

“Shipping something greater than a thousand {dollars} is unquestionably difficult. You’re taking a look at one thing that is fairly beneficial and going by a non-public freight firm or artwork dealing with firm financially is smart.� – Ken

Plagiarism Issues and Copyright Protection

Artist Tuesday Bassen waged war on copycats—giant chain shops who ripped off her unique designs–by hiring a lawyer and taking her story to the media.

For each Maria and Ken, nevertheless, copycats and plagiarism, they are saying, are simply an unlucky actuality of doing enterprise. Maria took authorized motion solely as soon as, earlier than shifting her perspective:

“At the tip of the day, it took me my complete life to learn the way to do that. It took years and years of follow and self-discipline and a profession in promoting, then unemployment to form me into who I’m. The technical talent that’s required to do what I’m doing cannot be realized in a single day. If someone is copying me, they are going to have to sit down and finally study for themselves as a result of eventually you are going to run out of concepts. If I do not put out something, what’s there to copy?â€� 

How to Sell Art Online


Maria takes Hatecopy’s copycats as a sign that she’s on to one thing.

“It’s an indication that I’m inspiring others and that what I’m doing is correct as a result of they would not copy me in any other case. I’m not offended or bothered by it anymore.â€� – Maria

It’s an indication that I’m inspiring others and that what I’m doing is correct as a result of they would not copy me in any other case.

Maria Qamar

For galleries like Spoke that signify a number of artists and promote artwork on-line, copycat web sites are a constant drawback.

“We do have a problem with numerous on-line websites simply bootlegging what we do. It’s really actually change into miserable, particularly in the previous few months. It occurs in any business, whether or not it’s iPhones or attire or live performance tickets, so it is a part of the best way the world works sadly. We do do our greatest, nevertheless it occurs.â€� – Ken

💡 TIP: Artists do have legal recourse, and may search the recommendation of a copyright lawyer to assist defend mental property earlier than the infringement occurs.

The Artist as an Entrepreneur

Growing what you are promoting as an artist means consistently creating new work to preserve your followers as repeat prospects. To try this, says Maria, you’ve gotten to keep impressed:

“It’s good to see the world from different views. It helps you type your individual opinions as to what you want, what you do not like. One of the issues I all the time like to do is take an individual to an artwork gallery that would not usually really feel snug occurring their very own. Everybody seems to be at artwork in a different way. Always be going to new reveals, simply to open your thoughts and go searching and see how someone else seems to be on the world. It could make you suppose a bit of bit in a different way about your individual viewpoint.â€�

photograph: Vice

Ultimately, artists are entrepreneurs by default, and embracing the non-creative elements of the enterprise is important to success and development.

“You may know all the pieces about enterprise and you may know all the pieces about artwork, however finally it is the mix of each that actually makes a profitable store, makes a profitable model. That’s what I’m obsessive about creating, is that steadiness, that concord between creativity and enterprise.â€� – Maria

That’s what I’m obsessive about creating, is that steadiness, that concord between creativity and enterprise.


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