Get Started
Printful Blog logo
Creative services
Photography services

Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Digitize Artwork and Sell Your Art Online

Beginner's handbook

Printful Blog

Master the art of ecommerce

Launch your own print-on-demand business

Sign up with Printful

No upfront fees • No order minimums • 345 premium products

Printful Blog

Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Digitize Artwork and Sell Your Art Online

Beginner's handbook

How to Digitize Artwork and Sell Your Art Online

How to Digitize Artwork and Sell Your Art Online

Want to sell your hand-made art on a wide range of products? First, you need digital versions of your artwork. With the right methods, you can easily create high-quality digital versions of your physical artwork. Then, you’ll be able to monetize your work in various ways. 

For example, you can use a print-on-demand (POD) service like Printful to sell your artwork on 345 products online. Place your art on white-label products like t-shirts, water bottles, pillowcases, tote bags, and more. And then it’s a matter of selling your artwork!

Discover how to sell art online and make money. Learn more about how print-on-demand dropshipping works.

In this complete guide, you’ll learn how to digitize artwork by scanning or photographing it. We’ve included the pros and cons of each method and tips to achieve the best results.

Scanning original artwork

a black rectangular device with a picture on itSource: Epson

Flatbed scanners are a fantastic tool for digitizing artwork into high-quality images. Of course, you’ll need to invest in a good scanner.

Pros of scanning

  • High-resolution files. A good scanner can capture your artwork in great detail every time.

  • Less time-consuming process. Unlike photographing, there’s no need to ensure proper lighting or angle. So scanning miniature artwork is not that time-consuming.

  • Color accuracy for artworks. Modern scanners have excellent color accuracy, meaning your digital art will closely match the original.

Cons of scanning

  • Artwork size limitations. Standard scanners are usually no longer or wider than 11 inches. But you can still scan larger artwork in several parts and merge the files in Photoshop (more on that later).

  • Artwork type limitations. The artwork must be in close contact with the scanner bed which is why it’s difficult to scan textured or delicate pieces.

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

Tips for scanning artwork

a screenshot of a social media postSource: @garethlucasart

For the best image quality:

  • Choose the right DPI. DPI, or dots per inch, measures the resolution of a scanned image. The higher the number of dots, the better your print’s quality (more sharpness and detail). While the right DPI depends on the product you’re printing on, it should be at least 150 DPI and no higher than 300. Going beyond 300 DPI won’t improve the print quality; it will just increase the file size.

  • Choose the correct file type. To print your artwork on trending products with Printful, save your digital file as a PNG or JPEG.

  • Select the correct color mode. Save your scanned print file in the sRGB color profile sRGB IEC61966-2.1. You can set the color mode (along with image format and resolution) in your scanner settings.

Why sRGB and not CMYK? sRGB has a broader, more vibrant color range/gamut than the CMYK color profile. 

  • Clean the artwork and scanner. Before scanning, remove any dust or smudges from your artwork and the scanner bed. Use a soft brush or lint-free cloth to gently clean the surfaces. This step is crucial to avoid unwanted marks in your digital file and then later on your printed/embroidered designs.

  • Merge two scans of one artwork. If your artwork is large, you can scan it twice. Align the paper with the edge of the scanner bed. This will make it easier to merge scans in Photoshop later.

Pro tip! To merge scans in Photoshop, open each scan as a separate layer in a new document. Use the Move Tool, Auto-Align Layers, and layer masks to align and blend them. After that, merge the layers and save the final image in a high-resolution format.

Photographing original artwork

a group of people taking pictures of a painting Source: Unsplash

To digitize your artwork by photographing it, you’ll need a smartphone from 2021 or newer, or a digital camera. Good lighting and photographing skills will also come in handy.

Pros of photographing

  • No size limitations. With a camera, you won’t need to capture your artwork in many takes.

  • Portability. You can set up a photo session anywhere. You only need a smartphone, a neutral background, and good lighting.

  • Depth and texture. A photograph captures the depth and texture of your artwork in more detail than a flatbed scanner, making your artwork look more 3D.

Cons of photographing

  • Lighting challenges. Getting the lighting right can be tricky, but the photography tips below will help.

  • Consistency issues. Without a studio set-up, it can be challenging to get consistent quality for each time you digitize your artwork.

  • Distorted images. Incorrect angles or camera settings can lead to distorted images.

Tips for photographing artwork

a screenshot of a social media postSource: @djjojung

Follow the tips below to overcome the abovementioned challenges and achieve industry-standard images.

  • Good lighting. You don’t have to invest in expensive lighting equipment. Natural light is often the best option. Natural sunlight provides a broad light spectrum and reduces harsh shadows. It’s best if the light is indirect, like through a window or in the shade.

Pro tip! If you’re using artificial lighting, it may be worth investing in softbox lights to diffuse and distribute the light. Ensure there are no reflections or glares on the artwork.

  • Use a tripod or an overhead camera mount system. This will help get the right angle and keep the camera steady.

    • If your paintings hang on a wall, use a tripod to position your camera parallel to the artwork for optimal alignment and to avoid distortion. Level the camera to ensure it’s straight and at the right height.

    • If your paintings are on a flat surface, use a top-down camera mount system to get the right angle. Place the camera above your artwork, starting at a distance of 30 inches. Experiment based on the artwork’s size and your camera lens. Use a 50 mm lens to keep lines straight and prevent distortion for best results.

a woman sitting at a table with a camera over her faceSource: Amazon

  • Focus on the center of your artwork. If you’re using a smartphone, tap on the screen before capturing the photo. This will improve the quality.

  • Leave enough empty space around your artwork. You might need to edit your digitized artwork photos to get all the details of your work. So, when capturing a photo, give yourself room to crop and edit it later.

  • Choose a neutral color background. When digitizing artwork with a camera, consider the background. Choose neutral colors and minimal texture to make your artwork pop. A paper background works well, or you can hang a white tablecloth on your backdrop.

More tips for digitizing artwork to sell online

Now you know the pros and cons of scanning vs. photographing art and how to achieve the best results. But what happens after digitizing your artwork? Let’s dive deeper into tips for editing, saving, and printing your digital files.

Editing your digitized artwork

a screenshot of a computerSource: Shotkit

Whether you use a scanner or a camera, the digitized art will unlikely come out perfectly. Every professional artist edits their photos before selling artwork online. You can use software like Adobe Photoshop (or a free alternative like Photopea or Krita) to crop the image, adjust the colors, and remove any imperfections. Follow these editing tips:

  • Crop and straighten. Use tools in your image editing software to crop and straighten your digital art files. This helps remove any unwanted borders and backgrounds and ensures your files are ready for printing on products.

  • Correct colors. Adjust the color balance, brightness, and contrast to ensure that your digital artwork matches the original as best as possible.

  • Remove imperfections. Use an eraser tool or a healing brush to remove scratches, dust spots, or any imperfections. This tends to happen more often during the scanning process.

Saving and archiving your digital files

a screenshot of a computerSource: Gadget Hacks

Saving and archiving your digitized art will make your life much easier. Below are a few tips for success.

  • File naming. Have you ever struggled to find a specific image because all your file names look like IMG_9627? Save yourself future headaches by creating a consistent and descriptive file naming system. Include details like the art piece title, date, and version number.

  • Back up your work. Save your files on external hard drives and cloud storage services. You’ll not only keep your work safe, but you’ll also keep your peace of mind.

  • File formats. Save your files in PNG format to preserve their original high-resolution. PNGs are also best for creating high-quality prints. If you plan to share your art online, you can save a copy of the original file as a JPEG.

Printful logo
man with jacket
Printful logo
Create and sell custom products online
Let’s go

Printing your digitized art

a picture of a parrot on a shelfSource: Printful

If you want to create canvas prints of your artwork, check out our article on how to make prints of your art. If you’re digitizing art to print it on premium products to sell online, follow the tips below.

  • Print resolution. Go for a DPI of at least 150 and no higher than 300 for the best print results.

  • Color profiles. To follow Printful’s print file guidelines, save your file in the sRGB color profile. You can set the color profile in your image editing software.

  • Choose your printing partner wisely. To turn your digitized art into prints, you need a reliable printing partner. That‘s why, at Printful, we value quality above all. So, you can rest assured your art will shine in all its glory. 

Looking for product ideas for your creative business? Check out these best-selling print-on-demand products to add to your online store.

Make the most of your art

Make sure your artwork isn’t forgotten—immortalize it and transform it. By digitizing your art and selling prints on various trending products, you can turn your passion into a sustainable income. And conserve your artwork for future generations. 

Whether you scan or photograph your original artwork, follow our tips for the best results. Don’t forget to edit your photos, save your files, and consider color, format, and print resolution.

The key to digitizing art is attention to detail and patience. Even if you lack experience with art digitization, it’s a skill worth learning. And not too tricky to pick up!



By Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa on Jul 11, 2024

Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa

Guest author

Zoe is a creative writer, multilingual translator, and certified yoga instructor with a passion for learning, traveling, and global cuisine. When she's not typing away at her PC, you can find her teaching yoga in the park, reading on the couch with her cat, or plunging in the Mediterranean.

Zoe is a creative writer, multilingual translator, and certified yoga instructor with a passion for learning, traveling, and global cuisine. When she's not typing away at her PC, you can find her teaching yoga in the park, reading on the couch with her cat, or plunging in the Mediterranean.