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How to Sell Art Prints

Selling your illustrations or hand lettering as art prints seems simple as a concept, but as many artists and designers have discovered after digging into the process, there are a plethora of decisions to make along the way that stop us from ever getting to that “art for sale in a shop” stage.  What size should I use for my art? Where should I sell it?  Do I need frames?  What kind of paper is best?

I’ve heard from so many artists who get stuck on one or more of these questions and thus end up never opening a new canvas, let alone starting a whole art print shop.

If you are one of those people who has dreamed of designing art prints but keeps getting stuck at the “details phase”, read on!

Your Print Source

Deciding where and how to print your art is possibly one of the most common causes of creative block.  The trap goes like this: 

  • I don’t know how to print my work
  • I can’t start drawing until I figure it out
  • I can’t figure it out so I won’t draw

When you Google “how to sell your art prints” you’ll be inundated with lists of the top 20 printers to buy or the top 10 printing companies.  Of course there is no easy answer to where you should print your work, but I can tell you my experience: printing at home is hard and requires lots of maintenance and upkeep.  Personally I hate printing at home and have sworn never to print my own work again after spending way too much time fighting with ink cartridges and printers that don’t get the color just right.

Side note here: I worked at Spoonflower for several years and learned all about the intricacies of getting color right and found that it literally takes a team of people to keep up with printing things well and consistently.  This, my friends, is not how I want to spend my time.  I want to make art, sell art, and make more art, not try to tweak a printer’s settings to get my cyan more cyan-ey.

So for me, this choice is an easy one because 1) I don’t want to print my own work and 2) I know I want to use a dropshipping company (read this post if you’re not sure why) and 3) only one or two dropshipping companies offer the kind of paper and frames I like.  In the end, Gelato was an easy choice as my printing source because they offer frames and paper I like, and offer what I think is the most professional packaging compared to the other dropshippers I’ve tested for this product. ✅ decision made

Where to Sell

Here we are at the second barrier to getting your art prints out into the world — where in the world do you sell them?

I’m going to go against the grain here and say that you don’t have to look online for this answer!  You would likely have a much higher success rate if you looked locally.  Are there local coffee shops, galleries, or shops that would love to feature the art of a local artist?  What if you created some art prints about local places and themes, thus locking in your local market?  This is where I sold my first art prints AND where I developed the confidence to sell my work online.  All that to say, don’t forget all those eager art lovers around you who already want to buy local art!

If local sales aren’t an option for you and/or you just want to branch out online, I would consider which sites would be best for the kind of art you want to make.  Here is an example: Society6 tends to be used by an audience of teenagers to early 20’s (although some buyers are older, this is the main market) so if your art doesn’t cater to that group, there is no point in using Society6!

Personally, I love Etsy because crafty nerds are my people, and they hang out there.  I focus my listings on the hand-drawn, artist-designed aspects of my work, and find it does well with that market.

Market and Pricing

Like we talked about in the last point, you have to know WHO your art is for.  That is how you figure out where to sell it, how to price it (how much do your buyers make annually?), and what kind of themes and topics they like.

To get started, write out some themes that you want to draw/paint and try to develop a “personality” that might buy it.  Take my Lisbon print to the left for example: I think that a woman in her 30s or 40s who likes to travel to unusual destinations and likes cats would probably buy this.

I’m going to research the income of that person, and figure out what kind of other similar topics she would be interested in.  The deeper you go into your customers mind, the more art prints you will sell!

Size Decisions

Yet again we face an impasse when it comes to deciding what sizes to sell.  This is an especially dangerous place to get stuck because not knowing this point prevents you from drawing at all since you don’t even know what canvas size to start with!

That is why I recommend you start by choosing your print source, even if you have no intention of printing your artwork anytime soon.  That way you have some limits to work with based on the sizes that your printer offers.

Personally I love Gelato’s wide range of size options, BUT I don’t want to sell anything larger than 18 x 25, so once I made that choice, I could easily use a ruler up against the wall to decide on a medium and small size.  Note that you don’t have to have three sizes like me!  One or two is plenty to start with.

Another consideration for the sizing of your prints is the level of detail in your art.  Of course high-detail art won’t look good on a tiny piece of paper, so make sure you are creating artwork that is appropriate for the sizing you chose!

To Frame or Not to Frame

There is no right answer when it comes to whether or not you should sell your art in frames.  It’s definitely easier to ship paper compared to entire frames, but then the customer has the added work of finding a frame that works for your sizing.

Personally I love to sell artwork inside frames because 1) I’ve had customers in the past complain about bent paper and problems with unrolling rolled up prints and 2) As a consumer I hate trying to search for a perfectly sized frame every time I want to order a new art print, so selling my art in frames makes the most sense for me (and my target market which is busy women who don’t want to worry about framing!).

When it comes to your target market and their preferences, there is no better way to figure out what they want than to test, test, test.  Why not offer a framed and an unframed option to see what customers prefer?  You could do this process for local or online sales, and will get some great intel from the people who buy your work.

Ready to dive deeper into art prints with me?  Check out my class below where I share my whole process from start to finish.

Designing and selling art prints class

  • See how I design and list my art prints from sketch to finished listing
  • Learn how to define your market and choose an art print niche