I speak with at least one artist per day that needs a little help deciding how to get started selling their artwork online. Some artists opt to create their own website but need help choosing an e-commerce platform. Others are not sure what print sizes to start with. Hopefully, we can help you start selling your prints online by touching on the main obstacles and decisions. Today, you will learn how to sell prints of your artwork online
Before selling your artwork, make sure your prints are high quality.
The first hurdle you must overcome is converting physical artwork into printable digital files. You should also check out how to get started selling prints of your paintings. If your art is already digital, then you are a little further along. When creating digital masterpieces or photographing your watercolor painting, you must make sure your digital files are at least 300dpi at the size you wish to print (or larger).
In graphics programs like Procreate and Photoshop, make sure your resolution setting is 300dpi. Procreate’s default seems to be 132dpi which is not suitable enough for printing. Photoshop may have you stuck at 72dpi, which is terrible and intended for web pages – not printing. Change the DPI setting before you get started. Also, if you are thinking about printing many sizes of your art, work in the largest size. For instance, if you intend to publish 8×10’s and 11×14’s, make sure your canvas is 11×14 at 300dpi. This one file will be good enough for both print sizes.
Now that we know your art files and final prints are high quality, we can start thinking about how to sell that artwork as retail prints ONLINE. What kind of website solution will you select?
Now you need a website solution. How involved will you be with the processing of your orders?
There are so many great e-commerce options out there, but you must narrow it down by deciding whether you will ship your own orders or not. DIY shipping does require more organization and storage on your end, but the reward is greater profit. Review these three main options you have for getting started:
- Easy but less profitable – The e-commerce plaform prints and ships your art. You are only required to set up your store and upload your art. Companies like Zazzle and Society6 will place your art onto an assortment of merchandise. You sit back and enjoy the sales. You may need to increase prices to make meaningful profit.
- More involved and more profitable – Destinations like Etsy and Amazon are fantastic places to sell your art. I prefer Etsy. Etsy is a relatively inexpensive and quick way to start selling. The downfall, you must ship the art yourself or find a print partner that dropships. Once you understand which work your own inventory.
- Most involved and most profitable – Now you are setting up your own store using companies like Shopify and BigCommerce. You pay fees for the ecommerce services but without commissions. You are in full control of how your customers interact with your brand, your inventory, price structures, and shipping. If you are new to selling your art, I really think it is best to select options 1 or 2.
Option 1 – Easy is not always better, but easy serves a purpose.
Many artists choose the easy, but less profitable, way to sell prints online. Website marketplaces like Zazzle, Fine Art America, and Society6 offer so many cool ways to add your artwork to a huge assortment of merchandise and print types. Unfortunately, this usually requires you to sell at high prices or accept small profits.
The advantage of using one of those print-on-demand companies is you gain access to merchandise and products your customers may enjoy. For instance, you may focus on posters in your home shop, but you still want to offer mousepads, wood prints, mugs, etc. These companies can help you serve an online customer base that would otherwise be unreachable to you.
Option 2 – Etsy is a great way to get started selling prints online.
If you have read our blog at all, it is fairly obvious that we’re huge Etsy supporters. Creating your own store on Etsy is easy, secure, and inexpensive. I personally sell a small assortment of vector art on the platform. Sometimes, I am so surprised by how much I sell with zero advertising from me. Here are a few things I love about Etsy.
- Customers are already there. Millions of people visit Etsy each day looking for unique merchandise and prints from artists.
- It is easy to get started. Your store can be active the same day you start.
- It may be controversal to say, but Etsy is an inexpensive way to succesfully start selling art online. The fees they charge are minimal as compared to doing everything for yourself.
- You can sell digital and physical art. Adding “printables” to your store can add an easy way to make money without lifting a finger.
BUT, if you decide to harness Etsy as your website solution,, you now must figure out the printing part of your business. You can turn to places like Printkeg, Uprinting, Moo, CatPrints, etc. You can also buy your own equipment and handle the printing and shipping on your own. There are advantages to both methods.
Option 3 – Create your own website for the most control
If you want to control your brand, then you need to select an e-commerce solution. This is a preferable approach, but it is also the most difficult. Solutions include Shopify, BigCommerce, Square, and maybe Wix. These companies are only a handful of possibilities, but I recommend reviewing them all. My personal favorite is Shopify.
Once you select an e-commerce provider, you must spend time setting up products, polishing the design, configuring shipping, and so much more. These providers also give you access to thousands of third-party apps to help enhance customer experience, backend controls, marketing campaigns, and SEO. I think the main disadvantage of this scenario is the need for marketing and advertising afterward. If you are a new artist, I recommend waiting on option three and starting with option two.
Shopify does offer print-on-demand apps that can be implemented onto your website. The art you sell from your website is automatically fulfilled by a third party. I think those companies are great for selling t-shirts and merchandise but not fine art. For fine art, you want to harness archival media and giclee print methods which many commercial print companies do not offer. The cost-effectiveness of using third-party POD companies is questionable and similar to the disadvantages of option one.
Eventually you may want to mix it up
Sure, this is not something to start out with, but eventually, you may consider multiple websites and marketplaces. Take advantage of places like Etsy and Zazzle while you develop your own website. Let yourself use those third-party companies to expand and serve you not the other way around.
Keeping Inventory and Managing Shipping
This is the central pain point for options one and two. You will need to decide how you plan to keep inventory and prepare shipments. My best advice is to try to keep this stupid simple at first. Don’t feel like you need to carry everything at first. You don’t.
- First, you should decide on your prints sizes. Many artists go with three (5×7, 8×10, 11×14 as examples), but you should start with one. Eventually, you will learn what other size your customers are asking for. For now, let’s say we go with 8×10. This dimension is a reasonably easy size to store and ship safely. If you think your customers prefer 11×17 posters, go with that instead.
- Make the plunge and order a batch of prints featuring the art you think will be most popular. At Printkeg, you can divide any quantity by up to five different artworks. For instance, if you order 25 8×10’s, you can receive 5 prints of 5 unique art files. This policy allows you to make a relatively small initial investment into a decent inventory.
- If you add artwork onto your website that you do not want to keep on hand, you can dropship single prints. This allows you to sell less popular artwork without the hassle of inventory and shipping. Remember, keeping your initial inventory low will keep overhead down.
- As you learn what sells and what doesn’t, you can adapt and increase profit.
- As far as shipping goes, you are going to want to create a USPS account. Etsy and Shopify offer automated and discounted ways to generate and pay for shipping labels. UPS Ground will not be a profitable way to ship lightweight items. By opening a USPS account, you gain access to free packaging and boxes online. You will need to research which packaging makes the most sense for your prints.
- On Etsy, you can sell digital files or “printables” which can be lucrative. You just need to decide how comfortable you are knowing digital copies of your art exists outside your control. I would stick with small sizes.
- As your print inventory evolves, you can consider adding new sizes. Additionally, you can start experimenting with places like Zazzle and Cafepress to compliment your own products. For instance, you may want to start selling shirts, but you do not want to dig into DTG or screenprinting. If you notice that you are selling tons of product, then you can consider printing your own stuff to increase profit.
My #1 Tip – Descriptions are important
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is an all-encompassing term that covers A LOT. The intent of SEO is to make sure people searching for your product find your web page. Some people feel like SEO is dead and unnecessary. I can tell you this is false. In my opinion, the single most important element to focus on is content:
If you are using Shopify, I suggest you read my article about making great product pages. This is pertinent no matter what platform you are using. Whether you are using WooCommerce, Shopify, or Etsy, good content matters and will improve your long-term goals of selling artwork online.
My #2 Tip – Don’t Stop Advertising
You should always advertise your artwork or brand. Never stop. Many of our clients grow their customer base through participation at conventions. They are consistent with that method. If you are not participating at conventions, find yourself a consistent way to engage better than simply posting on Facebook or Instagram. Consider these options for marketing and advertising your brand.
- Social networks will attract buyers. Youtube, Snapchat, TikTok, and social networks are great. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are excellent, almost necessity. However, they are long-term ways to market your brand. Consider paid advertising through Facebook ads or Google Ads.
- Participation at conventions, festivals, and expos. They will help you sell products, drum up online sales, and grow your brand. You will learn so much from your first few conventions.
- Find galleries. Galleries are great ways to get your name out there. I would try focusing on busier galleries to optimize your sales conversions. I really think focusing on busier physical marketplaces is critical.
All the above items require small investments. You need to decide if you can spend $100 or $1000 (or more) per month and stick to that budget. Many artists eventually work to a point they feel advertising is not necessary. I disagree. I think there is always room for steady paid marketing efforts. Treat your online business like what it is: a business. Businesses require marketing budgets. It will be up to you to figure out what platform and budget that works best for you. Here are more tips and ideas to advertise your online business.
Now you know how to sell prints of your artwork online.
In this article, we cover the basics of getting started selling your prints online. If you have any further questions, please reach out to us. We are happy to discuss your new venture and help you move forward.