How To Sell Art Online in 2022: A Complete Guide

Illustration representing selling art online: a woman paints canvases in her studio but the canvases are new tabs opening from her computer

Many artists graduate from formal art programs adept in color theory, brush techniques, and composition—but don’t know the first thing about business.

How can artists sell art and paintings online? How will they market themselves? Making a living as a career artist means understanding how to build an audience, how to price art products, and the unique requirements for shipping art. It means thinking like an entrepreneur.

Before ecommerce platforms, artists relied on third party gallerists, agents, and retailers to distribute work. The creator tools and sales channels of today were nonexistent. Now, independent artists can own their distribution streams, creating and selling their art online—and on their own terms.

For gallerists and curators, the shift in how we buy and sell in the past two decades has allowed these businesses to represent more artists and expand into selling affordable art prints online to reach larger audiences worldwide.

How to sell art online 

An artist creates work on a canvas while sitting at a desk
Unsplash

Whether you’re a creator or a curator looking to make money online selling art such as painting, this step-by-step guide is for you. No matter what type of art you’re into—original acrylic paintings, digital art prints, sculpture—this resource has actionable advice for every artist. 

In the following sections, we’ll cover the basics of selling art online for beginners and seasoned artists alike. Explore topics for every level including working with printers and dealing with plagiarism.

Meet the artist experts

We consulted successful artists, curators, and gallerists for their advice on everything you need to know to sell your art online. In this guide to selling your own artwork, their anecdotes will be woven into practical and actionable advice for any creative entrepreneur. Let’s meet our experts.

Cat Seto, owner and artist, Ferme à Papier

Cat Seto sits in the window of her reatil store
Ferme à Papier

Cat Seto is an artist and author, and founder of Ferme à Papier, a San Francisco–based boutique representing unique goods from independent designers. Her stationery has appeared in multiple publications and landed her partnerships with brands like Anthropologie and Gap.

Maria Qamar, artist, Hatecopy

Portrait of artist Maria Qamar in her studio
Hatecopy

Best known by her artist moniker Hatecopy, Maria Qamar quit her advertising career to focus on art when her pop art paintings began to catch fire on Instagram. Now she works full time on her art, selling her own paintings in multiple formats, from art prints to books to printed merch. 

Ken Harman, curator and gallerist

Portrait of Ken Harman
Artistaday/Spoke Art

Ken Harman is the man behind the art empire that includes Spoke Art, Hashimoto Contemporary, and publishing company Paragon Books. Together, these businesses represent many global artists through physical galleries, online shops, and pop-up exhibitions. 

What’s right for you: selling your own art or selling works by other artists?

There are two ways to sell art online: create or curate. Cat built her career on both by creating and selling her own work and representing the work of others in her boutique. Which one is right for you? 

Create and sell your own art

Portrait of artist Kelsey Becketts for Spoke Art
Artist Kelsey Beckett in her studio. Spoke Art

As an artist, you are the creator, producing original art and/or reproductions of originals and selling directly to your customers or indirectly through a gallery, retail partner, or agent. 

It’s never been easier for artists to sell directly, with emerging creator tools popping up seemingly every day. Depending on your style and medium, choose a sales channel where your desired audience hangs out. This is arguably the easiest way to sell art online for many. 

Maria runs her own online shop, where she sells art prints and merchandise, eliminating the middleman and keeping her costs low. But she also leans on relationships with experienced galleries for exhibiting and selling original artwork. 

If you’re learning how to sell your art, note that galleries can expose your work to new audiences. They may also have access to resources and professionals to help promote, exhibit, handle, and ship artwork.

Curate the works of other artists

Spoke Art gallery space
Galleries can expose your work to new audiences and expand your reach. Spoke Art

If you’re not personally an artist but you have a great eye and a love of the art world, you can still get into the game of selling art as a curator. Some artists may be disinterested in marketing or figuring out the best way to sell art online and instead rely on gallerists, curators, and retail partners to handle this aspect of the business. As a partner to artists, you make a percentage of the selling price in exchange for your business knowledge and service.

There are several ways to work with artists to sell their art online—be it selling originals or prints to licensing works to be printed on merchandise or used in publication. “Most galleries offer an industry standard 50% consignment split for original art,” says Ken. “The artist provides the artwork, we do our best to sell it.” 

What to sell: original art versus reproductions

The best way to sell your art online will depend on the nature of your art and your chosen medium. You may choose to sell your art, reproductions of that work, or both. 

Fine artists using classic mediums and selling at high price points may choose to only sell originals, for example, while digital art, which can be reproduced without loss of quality, is great for prints and merch. However, most art created in 2D mediums have multiple options for generating unlimited sales on a single work.

Consider the following formats:

  • Original art such as paintings, drawings, illustrations (Note: you can sell both the original art as well as prints of the same work)
  • Limited- or open-edition prints (framed, unframed, or prints on canvas)
  • Digital downloads (desktop wallpaper, templates, print-at-home art, etc.)
  • Custom art made to order from a customer request or commissioned by a business (Note: Generally, this art would be one of a kind and not sold again as a reproduction)
  • Merchandise (your art printed on hats, iPhone cases, mugs, t-shirts, enamel pins, greeting cards, stationery, etc.)
  • Repeat prints on fabric, wrapping paper, or wallpaper
  • Licensing work to other brands or publications (great for illustrators and photographers)
  • Collaborations with brands (limited collection sold through the partner brand’s store)
An illustrated greeting card
Stationery and greeting cards are just some of the products you can sell featuring your art. Ferme à Papier

Some mediums, like sculpture, are more difficult to reproduce or use for merchandise applications. But for those impossible to scan and print, there are still ways to generate additional income from a single design. For example, clay works may use the same mold to generate similar pieces, and 3D designs can be created over and over with a 3D printer.

Reproductions of art: open edition versus limited edition

Hatecopy website screengrab featuring product images
Hatecopy art adorns merch, apparel, and other goods on Maria’s own website. Hatecopy

Reproducing art on t-shirts or mugs, or as art prints means that a single work can bear fruit indefinitely—or for a limited time. There are two ways to approach selling your art as prints: open edition or limited edition.

What is open edition? 

Open edition means printing and selling an unlimited number of products (reproductions or prints of an original work).

Benefits

  • You can continue to profit from a single piece of art indefinitely while there is still demand for it. 
  • Your art can spread far and wide through the hands of happy customers who are never met with an “out of stock” warning.

Downsides

  • The unlimited availability of your pieces may devalue your work overall

What is limited edition?

Limited edition means printing only a certain number of prints before they are gone. These are often numbered and signed by the artist to add value and authenticity.

Benefits

  • The effect is much like that of a limited time offer: creating a sense of scarcity and urgency is an excellent marketing strategy
  • The limited availability adds value to the art, meaning you can sell prints at higher price points

Downsides

  • Because the demand is higher than supply, this creates a secondary market where buyers resell the pieces at inflated prices.
A screengrab of a product page on Spoke Art's website
This print by Mike Davis has a limited run of 50 prints available on Spoke’s website, each of which is signed and numbered by the artist. Spoke Art

Spoke often opts for the limited edition strategy. “We work really hard to find things that are very special to sell. Things that are special should be treated like they’re special,” Ken says. 

To help minimize reselling, Spoke will limit quantities of certain prints per customer. “Making sure that the real fans are actually the ones who are able to get the things that we sell is always a priority,” Ken says.

Printing art and choosing printers

An illustrated card sits on a desk with a plant
Choosing the right printing materials, technology, or partner for your art is an important step in the process. Ferme à Papier

Understanding how to sell your prints of your artwork comes down to getting very friendly with a printer, whether that’s your at-home inkjet or a company that handles the task for you. There are multiple options, from DIY to completely hands off, to help you sell art prints and other merchandise to your audience.

DIY printing

It’s possible to start selling your own artwork by creating quality prints yourself with high-quality paper, ink, and an at-home office printer. As a new artist, this method can keep costs low, but may be unsustainable as you scale over time. 

“In the beginning, I would print, package, and deliver by hand every single poster that was ordered,” says Maria. “At some point the volume became so much that I couldn’t make time to draw. I was spending all of my days delivering and in transit.” 

This method is usually limited to selling art prints on paper, but some specialty home printers may allow you to print on canvas paper or fabric designed specifically for this purpose.

Using a printing company

A local or online printing company can reproduce your work en masse and can even offer bulk discounts if you are printing many of the same piece. This can be the best way to sell art online if you have a small catalog and high sales volume of those pieces. 

With this method, you’ll still be responsible for packaging and shipping the prints you sell online. These companies can often produce high-quality prints due to more advanced printers.

It’s important that we are the last sets of eyes inspecting, packaging, and shipping the product to our customers.

Cat Seto, Ferme à Papier

Cat often prints large batches for collection releases. While she does use print-on-demand services, the prints arrive at her studio first, rather than shipping directly to the customer. “It’s important that we are the last sets of eyes inspecting, packaging, and shipping the product to our customers,” she says.

A mockup of a Hatecopy design as a printed poster
Working with a trusted printer and requesting samples can ensure that your work is reproduced in a way that respects the original. Hatecopy

Print on demand

Print on demand is the most hands-off and versatile option and the easiest way to sell art online—especially if you plan to sell your work printed on merch like t-shirts or caps. 

Print-on-demand services generally integrate with your online store. When an order is placed, the integration triggers that piece to be printed and shipped directly to the customer. This is a great option for selling art on a budget, as there is no need to invest in equipment or inventory. 

When the number of orders exceeded her capacity to print and ship work herself, Maria upgraded to using a print-on-demand company. “All I have to do is upload and let it do the work for me,” she says. “Now I can focus on actually creating the artwork and connecting with people.”

Print-on-demand products don’t just stop at paper prints. Your art can be printed on a number of items from phone cases to stickers to sell.

💡 Tip: Before you start selling your own artwork this way, request samples from the printer so you can inspect the colors and quality of the print. This is especially important if printed items will be sent directly to your customers.

Photographing and scanning art

A person points a camera out of frame while standing against a street art mural
Unsplash

Photographing and representing your products clearly and accurately is important for any online small business. Without the ability to feel a product, potential customers need to get the best sense of what they’re buying through clear and detailed images. 

If you have a bad image of your work or the image doesn’t represent the work accurately, you’re going to have a harder time selling it.

Ken Harman, Spoke Art

Selling art online is no exception. “If you have a bad image of your work or the image doesn’t represent the work accurately, you’re going to have a harder time selling it,” says Ken. Or, you’ll be stuck dealing with unhappy customers and processing returns.

Photographing art to sell

Product photography for art is a little trickier than other products, and a basic light setup may still cause glare or color irregularities. Consider hiring a professional to shoot larger works or art with any three-dimensional or glossy elements.

Two greeting cards featuring tigers are propped up on a desk among other lifestyle objects
Lifestyle photos that feature your products or art in a space or scene help to inspire your customers and show scale. Ferme à Papier

If you’re selling merch or other products that feature your art, the general rules of product photography apply. Take clear shots from multiple angles as well as zoomed-in shots to show texture and detail. Lifestyle photos (your product in a scene) are great for your homepage and social media and help to show scale. 

Print-on-demand companies often provide mockup images you can use on your product pages in lieu of or in addition to photography. 

Scanning art to sell

For 2D works, Ken recommends scanning as an affordable and effective alternative to photography. “The most cost effective way to do that is to get a desktop scanner and scan the work in parts and stitch it together digitally,” he says. 

“If you’ve got a piece with a high-gloss coating or a resin, that’s a little tricker, but for the majority of works on canvas or paper, it’s pretty easy.” 

In the case of more challenging scans, galleries and other printing services can help.

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Building your brand as an artist

The side of a building is painted orange and covered in large type that reads "subversive, mysterious, brilliant, BANKSY"
Unsplash

As an artist learning how to sell your artwork, your brand may evolve as a natural extension of your art. Your chosen style and medium will define you as an artist and you will naturally attract fans and buyers based on this alone. However, there are many decisions you will need to consciously make when you start to think of yourself as a business as well as an artist.

Because art is a personal and sometimes emotional purchase, your brand story as an artist could factor into someone’s decision to buy. And other business assets like packaging and site design should mirror or complement the visual aesthetic of the work itself.

Your branding exercise should answer the following:

  • Do you create and sell art under your own name, a pseudonym, or a brand name?
  • How will you approach brand storytelling? How much of your personal story will you tell?
  • Do you have a mission, values, or a cause that you want to communicate through your brand?
  • Outside of the art itself, what is the visual direction of your brand identity? What’s the tone of your communication?
  • What branding assets do you need? Even without design skills or the budget to hire a graphic designer, you can generate a logo and execute branding design with free and simple tools.

The answer to these questions will help you build a set of brand guidelines that will form the foundation for website design, marketing materials, etc. If you eventually scale your business, these guidelines will help you maintain brand consistency as you delegate tasks to staff or other partners.

Many artists build fan bases based on their online personas or personal brands that are closely tied to their art. Tatiana Cardona, also known as Female Alchemy, has chosen to put her face at the center of her social media strategy:

Screengrab of an artist's Instagram feed featuring ceramic art and self portraits
Tatiana Cardona/Female Alchemy on Instagram

In collaborating, I think it’s important to not only stay true to your brand, but to be able to listen and be proactive to whomever you are collaborating with.

Cat Seto, Ferme à Papier

For Cat, the causes closest to her heart are central to her brand. While she recently refocused to work on AAPI themes, this isn’t the first time she’s made a statement with her work. Ferme à Papier launched a Saving Faces collection highlighting the stories of women and underrepresented groups.

A person hold up a large poster with Black Lives Matter slogans
Causes close to Cat's heart are central to her brand. Ferme à Papier

Cat’s brand values influence the types of projects she takes on with brands and clients. “In collaborating, I think it’s important to not only stay true to your brand,” she says, “but to be able to listen and be proactive to whomever you are collaborating with.”

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Setting retail prices for your art

Illustrated stationery sits on a desk
When setting retail price for art, consider more subjective aspects like value, demand, and popularity of the art or artist. Ferme à Papier

How do you sell art online—and actually make money doing it? Making a living as a working artist is possible if you know how to value and price your work. Pricing art is challenging because it doesn’t necessarily fit neatly into typical pricing strategies

Pricing original art

Running any business that will be sustainable in the long term involves being profitable at some point. To achieve this, you will need to price your art accordingly. If you’re just beginning to experiment with how to sell your art and don’t have a widely known name, you can start with a simple formula to price your original art: 

Your cost to sell and market the piece + material costs + other expenses + your markup (profit) = retail price

For this method, it’s helpful to factor in the time you spent creating the art. It is typical for artists to undervalue their time and work, especially at the beginning.

Knowing what your products stand for and what you aren’t willing to compromise are key components in driving decisions about pricing.

Cat Seto, Ferme à Papier

Where the formula above fails is that the value of art is subjective and not necessarily dependent on concrete details like material cost or labor hours. Famous artists can fetch exponentially more for a piece that has roughly the same creation costs as that of a new artist. Check the market to compare your pricing to similar artists at similar levels and adjust accordingly. 

💡 Tip: If you are selling through a physical or online gallery, the gallery will usually take half of the final selling price. You can usually work with gallerists, who are experts at valuing and pricing art, to set a price that makes sense for you, the gallery, and the market.

Pricing art prints

Selling art prints or other types of reproduction can follow a more simple pricing formula: 

The cost of printing + your cost to sell and market the print + other expenses + your markup (profit) = retail price

Your markup may be on a scale depending on whether you sell open- or limited-edition prints. Other expenses may include office supplies, software or app fees, professional services, studio rent, and more.

“Knowing what your products stand for and what you aren’t willing to compromise are key components in driving decisions about pricing,” says Cat. For her, printing on sustainable paper was a must-have, even though it would drive up material costs and ultimately the retail price. Communicating these decisions to the customer is important, especially if your prices are higher than average.

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Where to sell art online: Your own ecommerce store

Top view of a desk where hands are sketching a website wireframe
Unsplash

The best way to sell your art online is through your own ecommerce store. First, take a few minutes to create your store. At this point, you can set it up as a trial and tinker with it for two weeks before committing. You’ve already done a lot of the work if you’ve established brand guidelines, pricing, and business model (originals, prints, or merch)—this part is simply assembly.



Store design and themes

When setting up your online art store, choose a Shopify theme that lets your art breathe—large images and lots of white/negative space. Themes are like templates that you build upon, layering in your own images and copy, and tweaking colors and layout to suit your business.

Some of our theme picks for selling art online:

  • Studio (free) is a theme that puts artwork first, framing it with bold blocks. It’s best for artists who produce in collections.
  • Craft (free) is a simple theme that allows the detail of fine artwork shine.
  • Editions ($) is an airy theme that gives bold artwork the breathing room it deserves.
  • Highlight ($$) is a bold theme with slideshow and parallax scrolling features that are great for visual storytellers.
  • Artisan ($$) is an ideal theme for artists who sell custom work and commissions.
  • Capital ($$$) is best for visual storytellers with a strong brand, large collection, and a need for flexible layouts.

Demo of a website theme on desktop and mobileShopify is the easiest way to sell art online. It’s designed so anyone can set up a custom online store with no coding or design skills necessary. However, if you’re interested in customizing your theme even further to suit your business, consider hiring a Shopify Expert to help you with design or development work.

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Apps for art stores

The Shopify App Store is packed with apps that plug directly into your online store to solve specific pain points, add unique features, and help you run your store more effortlessly—allowing you to focus on the creative aspects of the business.

App suggestions to help sell your art online:

  • Print-on-demand apps. If you sell your artwork via prints and merch, apps like Creativehub, Printful, or Printify can sync with your store, taking the burden of shipping and fulfillment out of the equation.
  • Gallery apps. An app like POWRful Photo Gallery can feature past or out-of-stock works, serving as a portfolio or full catalog of your work for galleries or brands looking to partner with you.
  • Social marketing apps. As a creator, you may lean toward visual social media platforms like Instagram to help market your products and build an audience. Keep site content fresh with an app like Instafeed that pulls Instagram images into a gallery on your site.
  • Product page apps. If you’re offering a specific piece of artwork with overlapping options (size, frame or no frame, paper type, etc.), use an app like Bold Product Options to layer item variants.
Screengrab of Spoke Art's homepage
Spoke Art’s website uses a simple theme that prioritizes big images and lets the art be the star.

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Where to sell art online: More channels for selling

Etsy marketplace curated art page
Etsy

What’s the best place to sell art online? Aside from your own online store, it’s where your ideal customer is already hanging out. If you have amassed a following on a particular social channel, for example, that might be a great place to start.

Having an omnichannel strategy is important for protecting your independence as a creator. A standalone site allows you to own the look and feel of your space as well as the audience you build. But layering on other channels can help you access additional markets and build your personal brand as an artist.

Where to sell your art online:

  • A standalone ecommerce site using an ecommerce platform like Shopify is a great place to start.
  • Online marketplaces like Etsy, Amazon, or eBay can plug directly into your online store, allowing you to sync sales and reach wider audiences.
  • Other art-specific marketplaces help you show up where art lovers congregate (Society 6, Artfinder, Saatchi Art, Fine Art America, etc.).
  • Social selling channels let you sell directly to fans who are already following you on their preferred platforms. Create customizable storefronts on Facebook and Instagram that integrate with your Shopify store. Use your TikTok content to “drop” new works and drive fans to your online store, or create TikTok ads.
  • Wholesale or consign to other online boutiques and galleries. You can browse wholesale markets like Handshake to find compatible retailers that want to sell your art.
  • Collaborations with other artists who sell art online. Get exposure to their audiences by producing collab work to sell and promote on both your site and theirs.

Cat now sells her work through multiple channels, but she cautions to start slow if you’re just learning ​​how to sell artwork. “Having multiple avenues came as an evolution to what first began as a wholesale business,” she says. 

While her retail channel is on pause for the moment, Cat now sells direct to customers and works on custom projects for clients and brands, in addition to her wholesale business. “If I had tried to balance all of these from the onset,” she says. “I believe I would have been overwhelmed.” 

Gallery exhibitions, pop-ups, and offline events for selling art

A woman looks at art in a gallery
Burst

Selling your artwork isn’t limited to online—you can sell via physical retail too. Because Maria works frequently in traditional mediums, much of the impact of the texture and scale of her work gets lost digitally. “It’s actual physical work, so when we do exhibits, you can walk into a gallery and see that I’m a real person who has technical skills and can do paintings and large scale installations,” she says. 

Artists can also connect with fans and find new audiences by taking work offline. You can use in-person experiences to drive people back to your online store.

Consider the following when selling your own artwork IRL:

  • Partner with a gallery to exhibit work and generate buzz.
  • Look into local art markets, art fairs, and events, and set up a one-time or semi-permanent booth.
  • Consign or wholesale with art, gift, or lifestyle retail stores, or set up a small pop-up within an existing store.
  • Open your studio to the public when you launch your website, or keep consistent weekly open-studio hours to invite fans into your process.
  • Run a pop-up shop (partner with other artists to reduce costs).
  • “Lend” or consign work for décor to emerging retail businesses like cafés in exchange for the exposure.

Before Ken opened his permanent gallery, he dabbled in pop-ups as a means to build his reputation and validate the business idea. For those selling original works, some element of in-person experience is critical, says Ken. “It’s very rare to find a successful art gallery that functions entirely online.”

However, advances in technology like 3D and AR for online stores and the trend toward digital experiences may mark big changes for the art world in the future. It’s important to follow consumer trends while you learn how to sell your art and grow your business.

Working with galleries to sell your art

Wide view of a spacious gallery featuring a modern art exhibit
Unsplash

You can work with galleries to sell your art on your behalf if you are not interested in handling the business side of art, or as an additional channel to complement your own efforts. This partnership can give you access to new audiences, including serious art buyers and art collectors.

Here are a few dos and don’ts when working with galleries:

DO check out the gallery’s social media accounts. “If you have more followers than that gallery does or that gallery doesn’t have a lot of followers, that may give you pause,” says Ken. A gallery should be able to give you a wider exposure than you can get yourself.

DON’T approach a gallery via social media. “You’d be amazed at how many people try to submit to us via Facebook Messenger or tag us in a post on Instagram and ask us to look at their work,” says Ken. “While social media is a major focus for us, that’s just not a very professional way to come across if you’re an artist.”

DO your research and contact only those galleries who represent work in line with your own style. “You can’t sell street art to somebody who collects impressionism,” says Ken.

DON’T sacrifice quality for quantity. “It’s frustrating when an artist who's hoping to catch our attention tags us and 20 other galleries all in the same post.” Select the top few galleries that you want to work with most and send individual outreach to each.

DO your homework. “Find the name of the director or the curator for the gallery,” says Ken. “Being able to personalize an email is a great first step in that process.”

Marketing for art brands

Many artists like Maria started on social media, growing a following first before launching a store and monetizing their work. The channel where you’ve gained the most traction in the beginning is a natural place to spend your energy and marketing dollars first.

There are several ways to market your art and drive traffic to your sales channels. 

  • Run paid ad campaigns on platforms like Google or Facebook.
  • Invest in organic social by producing consistent content and engaging with fans and art communities frequently. While algorithms make it increasingly challenging to do so, emerging or niche platforms are often the best places to find success.
  • Run contests or offer exclusive discounts to social followers (bonus: use these to help build your email list).
  • Reach out to influencers and press when you launch your site or a new collection. As you scale, you may opt to outsource to a PR firm.
  • Use content marketing to drive organic traffic. Leverage your expertise to create content around art, tutorials, behind the scenes sneak peeks, etc., either through a blog, TikTok account, YouTube channel, or podcast.
  • Learn about SEO to help improve your store’s discoverability on search engines.
  • Drive exposure with offline marketing. Participate in art shows and markets or work with a gallery to expand your reach to new, larger audiences.
  • Leverage marketing tools built into platforms like Shopify.

Ultimately, you will need to balance how much time you have for marketing with your skill level and willingness to create content. Often artists like to focus on what they do best and leave the rest to experts. Working with retail or gallery partners may result in smaller margins, but will take the onus of marketing off your plate.

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Packaging and shipping art

As art is visual, you should pay attention to the smallest details, down to how your art is packaged and shipped. Art that arrives undamaged is the bare minimum—give your customers an experience that matches the quality and care you put into your work. 

As art can be fragile, follow these guidelines for ensuring your work arrives safe and sound.

DIY shipping for art

A person holds a long cardboard mailing tube with a rolled art print inside
The Paper Tube Co. sells stock and custom tubes that you can brand to ship your oversized art prints professionally. The Paper Tube Co.

If you are shipping original art, or elect to ship prints and canvases yourself, rather than through a print and fulfillment company, take extra precaution with your packing. Larger prints and posters are best shipped in cardboard mailing tubes, and smaller prints in rigid cardboard mailing envelopes. 

Use glassine (a water and grease-resistant paper) or clear cellophane sleeves to protect prints within the packaging. Custom branded packaging like tissue paper or poly envelopes that feature your branding or art can spark delight with customers and improve their experience with your brand.

Many ecommerce platforms integrate with shipping providers and shipping apps to help you find the best shipping rates for each market and package. Determine if you will offer free shipping and roll the shipping cost into the retail price or charge a flat fee to keep shipping transparent.

Shipping expensive and oversized original artwork

Framed works and canvases require additional precautions. Packaging supply shops offer packing and shipping materials like cardboard corners and specialty box sizes designed specifically for art.

If you’re shipping original work to a gallery or art collector, there are ways to cut costs. “The cost to ship an oversized painting that’s stretched on a canvas can be pretty substantial,” says Ken. “Sometimes what we do is unstretch a canvas, roll it in a tube, and ship it that way, which dramatically lowers the freight costs. Then we can have the canvas stretched locally.”

Shipping art direct with print on demand

The easiest way to sell art online is to outsource all of the printing, fulfillment, and shipping to a print-on-demand partner. They are able to access great shipping rates due to volume and partnerships with carriers.

Shipping insurance for fine art

Insurance is important when shipping original works, as a lost or damaged package can’t be replaced. Many standard carriers offer fairly basic insurance on most packages, and if you sell your art you should look into the specific extra coverage costs and limitations of each carrier’s insurance offerings. 

If you’re selling your own artwork at high price points, Ken takes additional measures to ensure the safety of the work. “Shipping anything worth more than a thousand dollars is definitely tricky,” he says, suggesting that artists look into using a private freight company or a carrier that specializes in art handling, despite the higher costs.

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Plagiarism issues and copyright protection when selling art

Artist Tuesday Bassen waged war on copycats—large chain stores who ripped off her original designs—by hiring a lawyer and taking her story to the media. However, both Maria and Ken say copycats and plagiarism are just an unfortunate reality of doing business. Maria took legal action only once, before shifting her perspective. 

“At the end of the day, it took me my whole life to learn how to do this,” Maria says. “If somebody is copying me, they’re going to have to sit down and eventually learn for themselves, because sooner or later they’re going to run out of ideas.”

It’s a sign that I’m inspiring others and that what I’m doing is right because they wouldn’t copy me otherwise.

Maria Qamar, Hatecopy

Maria takes Hatecopy’s copycats as an indication that she’s onto something.“It’s a sign that I’m inspiring others and that what I’m doing is right because they wouldn’t copy me otherwise,” she says, “I’m not offended or bothered by it anymore.”

For galleries that represent multiple artists and sell art online, copycat websites are a consistent problem. “We do have an issue with various online sites just bootlegging what we do,” says Ken. “It’s part of the way the world works, unfortunately. We do our best, but it happens.”

While copycats may be a reality, artists and businesses have legal recourse and should seek the advice of a copyright lawyer to help protect intellectual property before infringement happens.

The artist as entrepreneur

An artist works at a large wooden table against a wall of warehouse style windows
Unsplash

For many emerging artists, the best way to sell art online is to just get started with what you have at your disposal. Cat started her art business from a spare bedroom. Whether it’s a basement or a kitchen table, it can work as your launch pad. 

In this stage of your business, you’ll wear all the hats: creator, marketer, packer, shipper, web designer, and customer service rep. Cat describes this time in her own journey as lean and humbling. “It gave me assurance of knowing every aspect of my business inside and out,” she says, “including its strengths and weaknesses.” 

You could know everything about business and you could know everything about art, but it’s the combination of both that really makes a successful brand.

Maria Qamar, Hatecopy

Thinking of yourself as an entrepreneur right from the get-go will be crucial to your success. You may stumble as a creative to learn the business aspects, but they will ultimately help you grow and scale. Eventually, you can delegate and automate, allowing you to focus on what you do best: making beautiful things.

“You could know everything about business and you could know everything about art,” says Maria, “but it’s the combination of both that really makes a successful brand.” 

Selling art online FAQ

What is the best way to sell art online?

The best way to sell art online is by building your own branded ecommerce site with a platform like Shopify. You can also sell your work on a crafts and art marketplace like Etsy or on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook Shops. Understand where your target customers like to shop to find out the best place to sell your art online.

What steps do I need to take to sell my art online?

If you are an artist looking to learn how to sell art online, you can get up and running in a few simple steps:

  1. Choose your format: originals or reproductions.
  2. Find a printer (for reproductions).
  3. Build your artist brand.
  4. Set up an online store.
  5. Expand your reach by selling through marketplaces or galleries.
  6. Market your art business.

Is selling art online profitable?

Yes, selling art online can be profitable if you’re intentional about your pricing and marketing strategies. Understanding your costs, including art materials, ecommerce or marketplace selling fees, marketing costs, and other overhead will help you set retail prices that include a profit margin. Selling on marketplaces will help you reach bigger audiences and make more sales, but be wary of fees that can cut into profits.

How can I sell my original art online?

Selling original art online is still possible through your own branded website. Price point for original art will be much higher, so it’s important that you build a strong, loyal audience for your work. Diversifying your sales channels, like also working with a gallery, will help you broaden your exposure as an artist.

What type of art sells the most?

This is a tricky question because art is very broad and subjective. Selling prints of your work can be very profitable because you can continue to generate income from a single piece. Lower price points (versus original art) mean you likely can sell more volume. Curators should follow trends in art and design to help understand what art collectors and potential buyers are buying, then work with artists that have high success potential. As a creator, you should lean into the style that you do best and build a following from there.

Can you work with galleries to sell your art?

Yes, you can work with galleries to sell your art. Both online and physical galleries are always looking for new talent to represent. Reach out with a personalized and professional email with links to your portfolio. Each gallery may have different processes for submissions, so do your homework!

Feature illustration by Pete Ryan

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