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Blog / Beginner's handbook / Print-on-Demand for Artists: 10 Tips for Turning Artwork into Profit

Beginner's handbook

Print-on-Demand for Artists: 10 Tips for Turning Artwork into Profit

Print-on-Demand for Artists: 10 Tips for Turning Artwork into Profit
Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa

By Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa

16 min read

What’s awesome about being an artist is that everything you create is, by definition, unique. This aspect alone gives independent artists an advantage when selling their art online.

But, if you limit yourself to selling original artwork, you may struggle with finding buyers willing to pay what you deserve, and you’ll also be limiting your scalability. So, how do you turn your art into a lucrative business that generates passive income?

The key to turning your artwork into profit is to explore the world of print-on-demand for artists first, where you can place your art on products that connect with your audience and make unlimited profits.

In this article, we’re sharing the best tips to make your art prints reach more people and help you succeed as an artist. Make sure to check out our article on How to Sell Art Online and Make Money to get started.

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10 tips for turning artwork into profit with your print-on-demand company

One of the best ways to start selling art online is with print-on-demand. Print-on-demand is a dropshipping business model where products with your designs are only created as orders come in. With this business model, you save both time and money that you could invest in creating new art and developing new skills.

Learn more: What Is Dropshipping 

How do you sell art prints on demand? Let’s explore the top tips for artists looking to open a print-on-demand company.

While interior design is driving significant sales in wall art, custom apparel, and merchandise continue to flourish. But you don’t have to limit yourself to these categories. Since there are so many unique products, it’s worth considering whether your art lends itself to other media besides posters, canvases, and framed prints.

With over 340 items in our product catalog, you can choose ones that fit your particular art style. Below is a quick guide to picking the right products for your artwork.

Paintings

Wall decor is the most foolproof choice for art prints as it mimics the way an original painting would be displayed. Canvas framed prints are the most high-quality prints, allowing customers to appreciate the original painting’s brush strokes, while posters offer a more affordable option. You can also experiment with metal prints for a glossy finish.

Learn more: Canvas vs. Metal Prints

Besides timeless wall art, paintings look amazing on tote bags, a currently trending fashion item that shows no signs of stopping. Totes have evolved from flimsy cotton bags into long-lasting fashion essentials as more and more people value quality and style over price. 

Another creative idea for selling your paintings is to turn them into puzzles. Nearly half of adults in the US enjoy solving jigsaw puzzles at least once a year, and this is especially true for adults with children at home. Puzzles can be a great birthday or Christmas gift for kids or the whole family to share.

a puzzle with a red fish and a flower

Source: Printful

Patterns, abstract art, doodles, and monochromatic paintings

These types of artwork are great for all-over print clothing where you can showcase your design from seam to seam. Experiment with multiple all-over print products like t-shirts, hoodies, leggings, yoga mats, phone cases, and more.

a man and woman standing together

Source: Printful

Monochromatic paintings have gained popularity ever since the Korean Dansaekhwa movement in the 1970s, and are now a popular choice in interior design. Turn your monochromatic and abstract paintings into wall art to inspire minimalistic or modern interiors.

a painting of waves on a blue background

Source: Artsper

Cute drawings and illustrations

Cute drawings and illustrations make for adorable t-shirts, tote bags, baby products, or greeting cards. Just like tote bags, greeting card sales are rising thanks to the increasing popularity of festive celebrations and occasions. I mean, who doesn’t love receiving a personalized greeting card with a cute illustration? 

a screenshot of a website

Source: Etsy

As for baby products, more and more parents shop for baby clothing online, and they prefer sustainable and fashionable pieces. For example, this personalized loved and protected by dogs baby suit is seeing booming sales at the moment. 

a screen shot of a baby bodysuitCute drawings and illustrations are also a popular option as stickers to put on notebooks, laptops, or mason jars—just look at how many sales these sticker packs have made on Etsy.

a collage of stickersSource: Etsy

Of course, framed art prints are always a solid option. Turn your cute drawings and illustrations into wall art to lighten up someone’s office space or living area.

a picture frame with a frog on it

Source: Etsy

Caricatures and cartoons

Whimsical and playful drawings look fantastic on custom t-shirts, hoodies, posters, phone cases, tote bags, mugs, and stickers. They’re popular options for personalized merchandise and gifts, adding a dash of humor and creativity to everyday items.

a man wearing a white shirt

Source: Etsy

What to consider when choosing products

Think of your target audience and who would potentially want to buy your artwork. Let’s explore the different types of art lovers and what kind of art they’re interested in.

Those who love art for art’s sakea painting on the wall

Source: Etsy

These art buyers are looking for artwork that speaks to their soul. They don’t care about the style, dimension, or name behind the art. They appreciate an art piece for the beauty and feelings it evokes. This art lover type would be most interested in framed prints, canvases, and metal prints.

Illustrations and cartoon fans

People who are into illustrations, graphic novels, or manga would surely appreciate prints of their favorite comic book characters, manga art, or custom illustrations. You can place your prints on everyday items people can carry around with them or put them in their living space, like totes, notebooks, stickers, posters, etc.

People who are passionate about interior design and decor

a framed picture of a city

Source: Etsy

With the global wall art market expected to reach $97.79 billion by 2030, now’s the best time to enter the scene. Since working from home is now more common, people have started to pay more attention to their home decor, including wall art. Sell your artwork as wall decor, canvas prints, or framed posters to appeal to amateur home decorators and professional interior designers alike. 

Niche art lovers

a woman holding a scarf with a bird on it

Source: Etsy

Some people may be into contemporary art, while others are all about traditional pieces. Other popular art enthusiasts categories include nature and wildlife lovers or those nostalgically attracted to vintage and retro art. Nature and wildlife art looks great on custom apparel, canvas prints, or mugs. Vintage and retro prints work well with t-shirts, posters, and wall art.

Gift seekers

a group of mugs with animals on them

Source: Etsy

Most successful artists typically make 50%+ of their annual income in October, November, and December. This shows that many people love buying artwork as a holiday gift. Think about holiday-themed prints, blankets, puzzles, mugs, or other beloved gift items.

Friends, family, and artist supporters

a hand holding cards with flowers and leaves

Source: Etsy

Let’s not forget about friends and family who wish to support your art and artist advocates in general. In a survey conducted by the Americans For The Arts Association, 4 out of 5 Americans claimed that art makes our lives better. Make it easy for friends, family, and art lovers to spread the word about your artwork by offering postcards, stickers, pins, and other items they can display.

For more ideas, here’s a list of trending products to sell in 2023. You’ll also want to check out our best-selling print-on-demand products so you can add them to your own store too.

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With so many artists selling art online, how do you stand out from the crowd? SEO, or search engine optimization, is a surefire way to get noticed. SEO is a set of tools and techniques that help you rank at the top of search results. 

For example, SEO-optimized websites appear higher in search engine result pages like Google, while items for sale with relevant titles and descriptions will show up first in marketplaces like Etsy. In other words, good SEO practices make sure your target audience sees your products. 

One key component of SEO is using the right keywords. If your products pop up when customers search for a particular keyword, you’re more likely to attract them. A good place to start is to research keyword popularity to find out what art niches and trends are currently in high demand. 

You can use free keyword research tools like Google Trends or Ahrefs to research multiple keywords and come up with trending ideas for your print-on-demand online store. Once you’ve found some popular keywords, add your own signature twist to make sure your art stands out.

At Printful, we have a free keyword research tool Keyword Scout. It offers built-in tips and suggestions for the Etsy marketplace so that you can rank at the top of Etsy’s search results. 

a screenshot of a computer

Source: Printful

How to choose effective keywords

In the saturated ecommerce market, it’s best to focus on keywords with a high search volume and low difficulty. In other words, keywords or phrases that many people are typing in the search bar.

For example, if you’re selling vintage t-shirts, you can see that keyword phrases like vintage t-shirts or vintage clothing store are quite popular, while very few people are Googling the keyword phrase vintage retro t-shirt designs.a graph on a computer screen

Source: Google Trends

But how do you know which keywords and phrases you should be searching for? First off, you need to establish your niche. The better you know your audience, the easier it’ll be to create organic traffic using viral keywords and phrases. Check out our article on trending print-on-demand niches in 2023 to get inspired.

a screenshot of a cartoon

Source: Instagram

Pro tip: Nadia the artist finds that there are five elements that’ll make an artwork go viral. For her, it should be cute, colorful, seasonal, something to do with romantic love, or a relatable/inspirational text. Choose 2–3 of these elements, and your artwork is bound to go viral.

One way to encourage customers to buy more of your print-on-demand products is to create collections. For example, create a home decor collection with the same pattern so that people can redecorate their home or office with a consistent theme.

You could create a collection of beachwear, streetwear, or sportswear so that your customers can flaunt your artwork with style. Having people wear your artwork in public is a great way to attract attention to your brand and gain recognition. 

Another way to launch collections is by specific holidays. Create a Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or other holiday collection with themed artwork to match the season. Holidays gather a lot of gift-seekers looking to splurge for their loved ones.  

Or, create themed collections like products for writers, new moms, nature lovers, pet owners, minimalists, or foodies. It’s a good idea to stick to your unique style, but you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment as well. As long as you enjoy the creative process and you’re staying true to your heart, go for it.

For example, successful print-on-demand store owner and artist Kikiandim offers seasonal collections like her Halloween Wall Art or Vintage Halloween Prints.

a collage of pictures of insects and spidersSource: Etsy

Aside from picking products that suit your artwork best, don’t be afraid to experiment with adding new products to your print-on-demand store. Check out Printful’s newest items to get inspired.

One of the coolest things about the print-on-demand business model is that you can test unlimited products and designs for free, without investing in inventory. So, if you notice that one product isn’t selling, just remove it from your store and try a different item.

Test different products with your artwork and see which get the most love from your customers. Maybe you create doodles or cartoons that’d look amazing on our can-shaped glass. Or maybe you create abstract art and patterns that’d look groovy on this all-over-print recycled string bikini or these unisex mesh shorts.

You can even add this cool travel mug to your own store with cute drawings or illustrations for all the travel bugs. Or place your designs on pet bowls for all the art and dog lovers out there.

How long does Printful take to ship?

The fulfillment time is 2–5 business days for any production technique. Fulfillment time doesn’t include shipping. You can find out more about delivery estimates here.

If you want to earn a living with your art, you must price the work right to reflect the effort, time, and resources that went into it. Is print-on-demand profitable? Absolutely, as long as you set a good profit margin.

Determine a profit margin that can turn your passion into a full-fledged business, and then calculate how to achieve it. It wouldn’t make sense to spend days creating a detailed illustration, and then sell it for $10. Look at Nadia the Artist, for example. She sells her prints for around $20, while her original drawings go for thousands of dollars.

a collage of pictures on a wall

Source: Etsy

So, is print-on-demand good for artists? Print-on-demand can help you sell your artwork on products by allowing you to make as many copies as you wish. This means you can set lower prices as long as the profit margin makes sense. All you have to do is transform your artwork into a digital file. Learn how to prepare the perfect print file here.

When calculating profit margins, take into account Etsy or other platform fees. If you’re using a print-on-demand service linked to an ecommerce store, consider the monthly subscription costs, payment processing fees, and any other ecommerce marketing tools you’re using.

Check out this guide to learn How to Price Your Print-on-Demand Products. We’ve also compiled all the info you need to set a lucrative profit margin in our pricing guide.

a man and woman posing for a picture

Source: Printful

The sooner you start selling on multiple platforms, the sooner you’ll maximize your reach and increase your revenue. Listing your products on multiple platforms helps you connect with a larger audience and allows you to redirect customers in case one site is down.

There are two types of platforms you can use to sell your products—ecommerce platforms where you can build your own online store or online marketplaces where you can sell to an existing audience. Let’s recap the benefits of each.

The benefit of ecommerce platforms like Shopify or Squarespace is that they allow you to build your own stand-alone website, which gives you freedom of personalization, fewer restrictions in terms of what products you can list, and other free tools and features. Ecommerce platforms are ideal for artists looking to build their own store or brand.

On the flip side, you’ll need to rely on your own marketing efforts to attract customers, while an online marketplace like Etsy or Amazon already has an established customer base. This makes online marketplaces an excellent way to start selling your art, especially when you’re a small business looking to spread its wings.

Check out our video for an in-depth comparison of e-commerce platforms vs. online marketplaces for print-on-demand. A lot of artists find Etsy to be the best online marketplace for selling art because the customer base is people looking for homemade items, crafts, and artwork. Find out how to sell art on Etsy here.

a collage of pictures of various houses and buildings

Source: Etsy

How to find the right platform to sell your art?

Browse our integrations to see which platforms work with Printful’s print-on-demand services. I recommend taking a 1-minute quiz to find out which platform suits your print-on-demand store’s needs best. But remember, you don’t have to choose just one platform.

Key benefits of selling on multiple platforms

Here’s why you should use multiple platforms to sell your art products:

  • Increased customer reach: The more platforms you list your products on, the more organic traffic you’ll generate.

  • Back-up plan: In case one site is down, you can redirect your customers to another site.

  • Convenience: Some customers may be used to shopping solely on Amazon or Etsy, for example. By offering your products on multiple platforms, you allow customers to choose the site that’s most convenient for them.

  • Audience research: Selling on multiple platforms allows you to conduct wider audience research and understand who loves your products. This is helpful when creating your marketing strategy.

  • Multiplied sales: An increased customer reach also means an increased number of sales.

Some possible downsides to consider are increased costs and more work in general, as you’ll have to stay on top of orders from multiple sites.

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Once you’ve listed your products online, it’s time to spread the word and create a buzz around your art prints. Examine your social media audience—find out where they hang out, whether that’s Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, and get involved in the community.

a game of scrabble with letters on it

Source: alexandraceambur.com

Be social on social media. Like Melanie Greenwood said on The Art Business Podcast, “Think of social media as a party.” Don’t just promote your artwork and spam everyone with messages or comments about your art. Think of your online interactions as in-person conversations.

Connect with other artists and customers or potential customers, comment on their posts, and start a conversation. Then, maybe you can slide into their DMs, refer to an earlier discussion, and mention your artwork. For example, “I remember you said you love cats, and I’m releasing a new collection of cute cat illustrations I thought you’d be interested in. Here’s the link, I’d love to hear your input as a fellow artist!”

Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Marketing to learn about social media best practices and marketing basics for ecommerce stores.

8. Make sure you’re satisfied with the product and printing quality

One of the most important factors for anyone starting a print-on-demand business is to choose a good print-on-demand partner. Don’t forget to order product samples before listing your products online to make sure you’re satisfied with the print quality and the product itself.

Price isn’t the only variable when choosing your print-on-demand partner. Printful may not be the cheapest, but we offer the best quality, and our low order return rate of 0.26% speaks for itself.

With a completely in-house partner, you’ll save time on excess communication, money on multi-item shipments, and headaches on inconsistent results. You’ll be able to build your own brand, with one partner, by one team, under one roof.

a red line drawing of a phone

Source: Oberlo

A sense of urgency around your print-on-demand products encourages people to buy right away. Although your first thought may be to run a sales campaign, stop for a moment and consider your status.

As an artist, you’re not selling simple dropshipping products without any personality—you’re selling your art on products. This means you have to value your artwork as much as you value yourself, the creator. Running sales campaigns can devalue your art, which doesn’t benefit your image.

There are some exceptions when it comes to sales campaigns. You can offer a discount code for an email sign-up, or, if you’re also selling your original artwork, do a studio clearance sale once a year to clean out any back-stock.

Here’s a good tactic for creating urgency: When you release new art, announce that this item has a lower price for a limited time only.

a rainbow colored clay with a paint palette and a paintbrush

Source: josielewis.com

Artist, author, and TEDx speaker Josie Lewis recommends selling your work for a limited time. For example, do a shop update every 4–6 weeks with a new collection or theme of products. Remember that seasonal, cute, colorful, romantic, and inspirational art will most likely go viral. 

Take advantage of the holiday seasons when people are willing to spend more and boost your profit margins. Plus, online spending has increased over the years, accounting for 60% of holiday shopping.

On her podcast The Josie Lewis Show, Josie says that she makes 30% to 50% of her entire yearly revenue during the Christmas season. It takes a lot of planning and preparation, but the efforts definitely pay off.

Remember to theme your products according to the season. For Christmas, you can offer greeting cards, stockings, beanies, sweatshirts, hoodies, phone cases, and holiday mugs.

a collage of pictures of christmas decorations

Source: Etsy

An effective way to prepare for the holiday season is to have a good content marketing strategy, and our free Ecommerce Holiday Marketing Calendar can help you create one. You won’t miss any date and might even find inspiration for holidays you didn’t know existed.

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Make your artistic dreams come true

In our digital age, artists no longer have to struggle to get by selling a few paintings or drawings at art galleries or pop-up shops. With print-on-demand, turning your artwork into profit has never been easier. Simply convert your art into digital images and put it on any product you desire.

If all the successful artists you admire on social media can make a living selling art, so can you. With print-on-demand, you don’t have to invest a fortune to get started. You can avoid the artist struggle and scale your business on your own terms.

Make sure to bookmark this article and come back to these tips whenever you need some ideas for boosting your profits. We’re super excited to see what you create!

Read next: How to Sell Art on eBay: the Artist’s Handbook

author

By Zoe Amora Iranzo-Lauriņa on Oct 4, 2023

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.