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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Sell Art Online and Make Money as an Artist | Printful

Beginner's handbook

How to Sell Art Online and Make Money: Passive Income for Artists

How to Sell Art Online and Make Money: Passive Income for Artists
Una Berzina-Pudule

By Una Berzina-Pudule

12 min read

Let’s brush aside the starving artist stereotype for good. Ecommerce now provides a vast canvas for talented and visionary artists to thrive. Right this moment, an art enthusiast is browsing online galleries and marketplaces for wall art, t-shirts, and other pieces with original artwork like yours. Meet them halfway and offer them your art online.

In this article, I’ll paint a clear picture of how to sell art online and make money. Keep on reading to give yourself and your masterpieces the recognition you deserve!

1. Decide what to sell—pick your canvas

Before you can sell art online, start by picking the artistic medium that fits your art the most. In this step, I’ll walk you through the basics of the most common art product types and why they work.

Wall decor

a photo of multiple custom art prints

Source: AllModern

The wall decor market made US$ 60.15 billion in 2023 and will likely hit US$ 85 billion by 2033. What makes wall art so highly demanded is that it’s a real treat for both art collectors and anyone decorating their living space. A quality print can be both a luxurious collectible and an affordable home decor.

When selling wall decor, you can change the look and feel of your product by adjusting several features. First, what’s the product your art is printed on? Go with photo paper prints for a simple poster-like feel or opt for giclée printing on fine art paper for a more sophisticated and high-end product. Second, you can dress the wall decor up with frames for a more classic look.

Then there’s the wall decor staple—canvas prints. This is a great option if your tools of choice are the old brush and paint. Printing painted artwork on a canvas will give it that authentic paintbrush stroke look.

a photo of a canvas art print

Source: Printful

Learn More:

Find out more about print-on-demand wall art that you can sell online—choose a product to put your artwork on from a selection of wall prints.

Art merch

art prints on t shirts

Source: AtelierduScaraB

Bold statement artwork works great on everyday merch like t-shirts and hoodies. If large-scale art pieces or patterns are your playing field, your art will look stunning on all-over print clothing like leggings, hoodies, and dresses. Your design becomes a message your customers can wear and that way share it with others.

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The best way to sell reproductions like wall art or merch like t-shirts, is using print-on-demand services. Selling art online through print-on-demand saves you:

  • Time spent on preparing and sending out orders

  • Money by avoiding bulk orders

  • Space because you don’t need to store your inventory at home

Use the time and resources you’ve got to build your art brand and let your printing company take care of the products and shipping.

Find out more about how to create custom products with your artwork.

Digital art

Screenshot of digital art on Shutterstock creative market
Source: Shutterstock

Art can generate profit without being a tangible product. Digital files of artwork are traded by the second on online stock photo websites and ecommerce marketplaces like Etsy. Your artwork could become one of these digital products—whether that’s a photo, sketch, or painting. Here are a few ideas:

  • Photography
  • Pattern design
  • Illustrations
  • Customizable prints (calendars, invitations, greeting cards, etc.)

Selling downloadable files of your art will cut down a lot of otherwise unavoidable expenses like shipping and production. Digital art files can be downloaded just like any image online, which grants your customers instant delivery.

To keep your art safe, make sure to inform your customers that, while they can use your art for personal use, they can’t resell or reproduce it.

If you’re looking to sell your art on stock photo websites and marketplaces, I suggest constantly expanding your work. People turn to stock photo websites like Shutterstock with various needs—some are looking for a generic group shot for a marketing poster, some are scouting for an inspiring cityscape to feature on their newest blog post.

Practice taking on new challenges to match customers’ needs—try new color schemes, layouts, and themes regularly and broaden your portfolio’s horizons.

Original art

Photo of a linocut art prints

Source: SuzanneKruisdijk

You’ve finished your painting, sketch, linocut, or other artwork. You’ve used it to create print-on-demand and digital art products. Where does the original art piece go?

You sell it! Once you develop a loyal customer base and some regulars, put your original painting or sketch up for sale as a collectible on your online art store.

Of course, the original is exactly that—one of a kind. That means you’ll have to create a new piece of art for every original art sale. While not a passive income, it’s a great way to add extra value to your store and solidify your artist status in the market.

 

photo of physical art painting by artist Hugo Berzins

Source: Hugo Berzins, Behance

2. Prepare your art for selling

Before your art can drape people’s wardrobes or light up living spaces, it needs to be primed for the spotlight. Follow these essential steps to prepare your art for sale.

1. Digitize your masterpieces

The first step is to digitize your art, transforming it from canvas to clickable. Scanning or photographing your work with high-resolution equipment is like capturing its soul, ensuring every stroke and shade is preserved in its digital form.

If your art doesn’t have a standard geometrical shape like circle, oval, or rectangle, pay close attention to the edges. Refine the digital image and use transparent elements outside the bounds of your artwork. This will take extra time, but it’ll be worth it. Transparent elements and refined edges will make your digital art look good on any product, in any color.

For crisp results that do your art justice, make sure your digital art file has at least 300 DPI (dots per inch) resolution.

2. Place your art on products

Next, let’s palette swap—from traditional art media to merchandise. Using print-on-demand services, your digital art can be transposed onto a myriad of products. This step is where your art meets utility, transforming viewers into carriers of your creativity.

Whether it’s adorning apparel, becoming a centerpiece on wall decor, or enhancing everyday items like phone cases and notebooks, each product becomes a gallery on the go.

phone case with original art print

Source: Mimochai

Using Printful’s Design Maker, you can upload your art and experiment with its placement on over 300 products. The intuitive interface allows you to resize, reposition, and rotate your artwork, ensuring it aligns perfectly with each item. Whether you’re designing apparel, accessories, or home decor, this tool lets you see your creations come to life on screen.

For artists, this process is akin to fitting a masterpiece into a new frame; it requires a keen eye for detail and composition. Pay attention to how your art interacts with the product’s shape and texture:

  • Does it wrap smoothly around a mug?

  • Does it sit boldly on a t-shirt?

  • Does negative space look good on the product?

preparing art products in print on demand Design Maker

Source: Printful Design Maker

Use the mockup feature to preview your product, offering a glimpse into how your art will look in real life. This step is crucial for ensuring your artistic vision translates well onto different mediums.

3. Get samples

Securing samples of your products is a critical step in the art-to-market journey. In this step, you’ll assess the quality of the print, the material, and the overall presentation of your artwork on the products. This hands-on review ensures that the colors shine true to your original design, the placement is precise, and the product meets your standards of craftsmanship.

3. Choose your sales channels

Now that you figured out your product, it’s time to sell it on a platform where people are most likely to find it. Let’s look into some of the best places for your artwork.

A storefront on ecommerce marketplaces

Screenshot of an online art store on an online marketplace

Source: LinnWarmeShop

A budget-friendly option for beginners is an online marketplace. Etsy is a winning choice for many artists. Not only that—it’s also a favorite among shoppers looking to find their next art piece. Etsy’s 2nd worldwide bestselling category is Art & Collectibles.

Besides tangible art pieces like photography prints, Etsy shoppers often purchase downloadable art files as well. You can sell both physical products and digital art files on your storefront. Customizable templates for invitations, home decor, and stationery, are popular among digital products on Etsy.

Learn more:

Another artist-favorite marketplace is Storenvy. It’s known to be an easy to manage and affordable starting point for many upcoming artists looking to try their hand in ecommerce. 

Usually being an established name, marketplaces are a good place to start selling your art and gather a loyal customer base.

Your own online store or website

A website can be one of artist’s best tools to build and maintain their public image and story. But, aside from showcasing your portfolio and sharing your personal journey, it’s also a good place to keep a storefront.

Having your own online store gives you a lot more control and creative freedom than you would have if selling on a marketplace, from technical features to visual appearance. There are plenty of ecommerce platforms you can design, build, and have your own website and store up and running all in the same day.

Most ecommerce platform services will charge subscription fees, varying from $15 to $250 a month. That money goes into customer support team and keeping up servers, so your store doesn’t break down, and more.

Some ecommerce platforms, like Ecwid, offer a free plan. But free plans come with limitations like fewer promotional options or marketing and analytics tools.

If you’re looking to sell prints of your art using print-on-demand services, look into some of the best ecommerce platforms and marketplaces. After creating your store, you can easily connect it to your Printful account.

4. Determine pricing

Setting the right price for your art is a delicate balance between valuing your creativity and understanding the market. Start by considering the cost of materials, the time invested in each piece, and any fees associated with selling art on your chosen platform. This baseline ensures you’re not undervaluing your work or operating at a loss.

Next, research the pricing of similar artworks within your niche. This comparison doesn’t mean you should undercut yourself but rather find a sweet spot where your art’s value is recognized, and your pricing is competitive. Remember, your art’s originality adds value beyond just materials and time.

Finally, factor in the perceived value of your art, which can be influenced by your reputation, the story behind each piece, and the exclusivity of the product (original piece, copy, or limited edition prints).

Pricing can always be adjusted as you grow your audience and gain a clearer insight into what they’re willing to invest in. Transparently sharing the story and process behind your creations can often justify a higher price point, turning your art into an investment rather than a mere purchase.

Tune in to our crash course on product pricing to help you along the way:

preview play-button

5. Market your art store

So you know what you want to sell and where. You’ve set up your store and added products with your artwork. Now what? Time to get noticed! There are a lot of other artists and creators out there, so you’ll have competition.To help your customers find and fall in love with your art—get to marketing.

Market your art on social media

Start off by creating social media profiles to showcase your store and artwork, and to connect with your fans. Use social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram to show the behind-the-scenes of your art. Share the creative process, sneak peeks of upcoming masterpieces, and all the effort that goes into creating your artwork.

successful artists on tiktok

Source: TikTok

Use YouTube for detailed videos of the process or Instagram to share short snippets and sneak peeks. Showing your customers just how much it takes to create each artwork and product can create a stronger bond between you and your customers.

To attract new customers, post photos of your finished work in everyday settings—a canvas print on a living room wall, a person wearing a hoodie with your art—and show people what beautiful art prints and other products they’re missing out on! Your go-to channels for beautiful visuals of your artwork should be Instagram and Pinterest.

artist doing social media marketing

Source: Instagram

To give your social media marketing an extra boost, use paid ads. Facebook is known for its intricate Ads Manager. Facebook Ads Manager also allows you to run paid ad campaigns on Instagram. Another way to gain new followers that doesn’t necessarily require paid ads is hosting giveaways of your artwork.

Plan your marketing activities wisely—the best time to launch your art product promos is from January through March. During the beginning of a new year, many people act on the new year, new me resolution. This often leads these people to completely reinvent their own style and redecorate their homes. Your art piece could become a part of their new me!

Another important time to market your art products is—ecommerce holidays. These are spending events when online shoppers get extra busy making purchases. You’re already familiar with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas shopping. But did you know there’s more to ecommerce holidays than the end of the year? Check out our ecommerce holiday marketing calendar and start planning your marketing activities.

Share your artist story on a blog

A blog is a great way to further connect with your customer base when selling art online. To make sure your blog generates traffic of incoming art lovers some SEO efforts like keyword research are a must.

Use your blog to share your journey as an artist—what artists inspire you, what are your biggest struggles and wins as an artist, tips for others to overcome a creative block, and more. Read our guide and see how you can make sure to always have a good topic idea for your blog content.

If keeping up your own art blog seems too time-consuming, try writing for other art blogs like Canva, Juxtapoz, or Daily Art Fixx. These blogs have an already established following and will help you get discovered by potential customers. Find out more about how to get featured in well-known industry blogs.

Stay connected with your customers

Once you’ve set up your marketing channels, be sure that every newcomer feels welcome in your community.

Stay connected with your customers and reach out through email newsletters. Keep your customers in the loop about what’s new with your store, upcoming sales, and other art updates. To make sure you nail your email marketing campaign, use some of these email marketing strategies.

Build social proof to sell more art

People trust other people and do their research based on previous reviews before making a purchase. That’s why product reviews, both on and off your store, are a crucial way to boost your sales.

Connect with customers who recently bought your art via email or social media and encourage them to leave a review. You can also offer little gifts like discounts for their next purchase as extra encouragement.

Gogh sell some art!

To recap, here are the main things you need to do:

  • Pick your art niche and products

  • Turn physical art pieces into digital files

  • Design products using your art

  • Test products with samples

  • Choose the platform or online marketplace you’ll sell your art on

  • Price your art

  • Market your artwork on various marketing channels

  • Connect with your customers and build social proof

It’s time to be brave and have faith in your talent—put your art on the market and start making money with it. Someone is currently scavenging through the internet to find an original art piece, digital art, wall decor, and other products that you could be selling. It’s up to you to get on their radar!

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By Una Berzina-Pudule on Feb 28, 2024

Una Berzina-Pudule

Content Marketing Specialist

Una’s a Senior SEO Content Writer with a knack for SEO-friendly copywriting and building stunning landing pages. In her spare time, she's an avid reader and keeps close tabs on all things social media and mental health.

Una’s a Senior SEO Content Writer with a knack for SEO-friendly copywriting and building stunning landing pages. In her spare time, she's an avid reader and keeps close tabs on all things social media and mental health.