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How to Sell Art Online - A Comprehensive Guide

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Intro

Throughout the history of the art, there was always an invisible barrier between artist and the potential buyer: if you were an ordinary citizen and if you wanted to buy the artwork, either you would not have the money (in the earlier art history periods, when the idea of collecting the art pieces emerged and when having the artwork was a luxury) or you would need to be a part of the art community and occasionally visit the galleries and the museums (in the most recent times, from the 19thcentury).

Nowadays, that barrier is erased: possessing the artwork has become accessible to the ordinary individual and discovered daily, through the usage of the global network worldwide. It has become easier for an artist to find a way to the potential clients, and the only requirement is having the access to the Internet.

However, if you want to increase your chance of getting your artworks sold and be paid for your creativity, you should inform yourself about the various art-selling platforms online, and accommodate the presentation of your artwork to the existing competition. Before you focus on making your online portfolio stand-out from the crowd (and you should definitely do so), you must research the market and investigate all of the demands and the necessities that the art-selling market places upon the artists.

In this article you will find the information on numerous avenues that can help you to sell you art, alongside with the practical advices on how to prepare your artwork and transform it into the needed digital form, and how to try to protect your now-online art from being a subject of theft.

Article Sections:

How to Photograph or Scan Artwork for Digital Presentation

Before we dive into exploring different ways of selling your artworks online, we should take a look on the two methods of the image preparation for their digital presentation: photographing and scanning. Out of these two, using scanner is a far more superior method, since it leaves you with less hard work after uploading image on the computer, but if you have a camera instead, there are a few tips on how to fully utilize your equipment. We suggest some of them.

Keep your artwork in a brightly area.

You need to have a solid amount of even lighting: you can be next to a window or even outside. If you want to invest more into the appearance of your work and to make sure that it’s illuminated nicely, you could buy a light bulb. Avoid warm colors that have orange or yellowish glow and choose the ones which are cold colored – white or medium.

Equal distance between the camera and the artwork.

It is important to put your work on a flat plane, so that you do not have an angle. Also, you can avoid casting a shadow by keeping your artwork either titled or upright.

Keep the camera still.

You could try to have a steady hand and to photograph the image with the quick shutter speed, but it could be less stressful to just get yourself a tripod. Either way, you need to avoid blurry images, so make sure that your camera isn’t moving.

When it comes to scanning the artwork, this method is an easier and faster one. You can use it to transform the artwork from the three-dimensional physical to the two-dimensional digital plane in no time; you put your artwork facedown and stick it in the scanner - flat and straight against the edges - and close the lid. See a preview scan and choose the settings that work best for your piece of art. If you want to have the finest quality, choose a high-resolution for detail. Also, if you have an artwork whose dimensions are large, scan it in the multiple pieces and weave them together afterwards using a photo editing program.

Whether you choose to photograph or scan your work, it is important to know how to treat the image after uploading it onto your computer. There are many photo editing programs that you could find useful, but there are three that we will recommend:

  1. Photoshop - the widely used program, which is the standard in the industry. It has a monthly licensing gimp image editor
  2. Pixelmator - which is a program very similar to Photoshop, though it is an one-off purchase
  3. Gimp – it’s free and it’s the easiest one, out of all three. Recommended for the beginners.

    Pixelmator image editor

How you use photo editing programs, after successfully uploading the digital version of your pieces of art to the computer, mainly depends on the reason for making your artwork digital in the first place. Nevertheless, if you aim to sell your artwork online, you must try your best to present your artworks’ highest qualities. After managing that, you should proceed with exploring the various website platforms and decide which ones meet your needs the most. This article can assist you by introducing you to some of the most respectable online-selling platforms, and give you a few ideas on how to use the Internet for your own benefit, through the art.

How to Sell Artwork on Your Own Website

Making your own portfolio website, which displays your art online, is the most effective way to market your work: it makes you look professional and it gives an impression that you take your work seriously. It is of a crucial importance to have this type of an online presence, if you want to find a way to the prospective clients.

There are two commonly-used ways to make a website portfolio: one is to make your original website and the other to use platforms that offer customizable websites for users. Rather than choosing between these two, we would suggest using the power of both: make them complement each other. Take the time to invest in your own website, and then, from there, use the other social websites as a marketing outpost.

Creating your own website is a smart investment, since it gives you a chance to stand-out from the crowd. Various website builders are an easy way to quickly display your artwork, but they could restrain your creativity and individuality by offering their designs and templates: some artists want to have a total control over the appearance and the aesthetics of their online portfolio. This could be achieved with a little more effort, but it will pay off in the end. Also, if you are someone who is serious about investing in marketing and selling your art, you should never let other website platforms be a substitute for your own website portfolio: rather use them based on your individual needs.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most popular website platforms available on the market:

Shopify

This is an ecommerce software that offers you selling your art either online or in-person. You can also use it to sell on social media. It has a monthly licensing, which depends on the monthly plan you choose – Basic Shopify, Shopify or Advanced Shopify. If you want to start a new business, we suggest to try the cheapest one - Basic Shopify for $29, although the first 14 days are free.

Shopify will fit your needs if you plan on selling a lot of the artworks – often. It is designed for volume-selling and that’s why the pricing is a little bit higher compared to other platforms. If you are planning to sell at a slower pace, you might be interested in online stores with lower-costing.

Shopify sell art online

Square

If you want to sell up-to fifty items and get a really good service – Square should be your choice. Its costs are minimal and it gives you an opportunity to have a free online store. On the other hand, even though you can use it to sell online or in-person, you cannot use it for blogging and it doesn’t offer the order support for customized goods. Nevertheless, it’s a very popular ecommerce website that does its selling job exceptionally well.

Woo-commerce

a plugin created by the developers from WooThemes, Woo-commerce gives you the liberty to completely design theme for your online store. Since it cooperates with many themes on the market, you can find the one that is suitable for you and make it work with Woo-commerce.

Tricky part with Woo-commerce is that, officially, it is a free plug-in, but it isn’t clear about the additional costs. In other words, even though the software is free, hosting, additional extensions, an SSL certificate, and so on – are not: you could end up paying for it as much as you would pay for Shopify.

We would definitely recommend it if you want to do everything on your own and to have a total control over your ecommerce store. Moreover, it’s the best choice if you have a minimal budget to start with.

WordPress

wordpress woo commerce sell artworkWordPress pricing can be exceptionally low, with less than three dollars per month. Started as the most popular blogging platform, it became a widely used tool for online selling. Since it continued to use its blogging features, it’s the best choice for artists who like to post about their activities, share their interests, and who want to have a blog-persona, through which they can also sell their art. It gives you the freedom to fully express your individuality and creativity.

Whichever website platform you choose based on your individual needs, keep in mind that this should not replace your original website, rather lead them to it: use them as avenues through which your art can gain admirers, fans and, of course, potential buyers.

Sell Art Online through the Artist-run Website Platforms

Another great option that you can consider is having an online store on the artist-run website platform. This can be an awesome idea, since these platforms understand the art industry and its demands, due to the fact that they are run by artists. If you decide to showcase your work using these platforms, we will suggest some of the most successful ones.

EZZL.art

This is a complete feature that can promote and sell your art online, thus attract and manage buyers. When someone buys your work, EZZL.art keeps their information and always checks up on them when you have a new items to offer. Since it is fully integrated within the ArtCall.org, you can get a 50% off for the first year of using this platform if you use ArtCall.org also.

Ezzl artists platform

FASO

With FASO, you must choose if you want to pay monthly or annually. They have Intro, Silver, Gold (most popular) and Platinum Plan. Intro starts at $8 dollars, but the more money you give, the better service you get – more collections, event and workshop listings, you can add more images to the site, have more subscribers, send more emails, have more free contest entries, etc. Every plan has a free trial for 30 days, so you should check out it and see if it meets your selling needs.

Faso

Artist Run Website

Another amazing artist-run website. It has a PRO paid plan, which starts at $12,79. It has a 30 days free trial. With this payment, you will have the right to unlimited images, galleries, pages, videos, etc. Website hosting and built-in blog are included. You can also customize your own design, and when finished, they will do their best to manage the buying and selling of your artwork.

The artist-run website platforms are specifically focused on selling the artworks, which can be an advantage in comparison to the other platforms that sell everything. Even though the marketing features are similar to the ones used by other mass-selling platforms, the artist-run websites are organized by smaller groups and that’s why they can give all of their attention to you.

Selling Artwork through the Artwork Marketplaces

Displaying your art using the artwork marketplaces provides you with a big chance to sell it. The reason behind this statement is that many art collectors and art dealers usually visit these sites, when they are interested in buying. A lot of galleries, museums and independent artists make an online stores using the artwork marketplaces, thus you should definitely try to present your portfolio there. Some art marketplaces are very picky when choosing the artists’ portfolios and some like to give a chance to everyone interested. Firstly, we will recommend a few art-focused sites that you should explore if you create traditional, tangible artworks – paintings, sculptures, etc. Secondly, we will suggest sites that sell digital art, as well.

Artplode

is an extremely respectable online art gallery with no commission charged. It’s one of the leading sites in art business and it offers high-priced works, so it’s the best choice if you have the original items that you want to sell. Having said that, there are only two things that require your payment – and one of them is optional. You must pay the listing fee $60 whether or not your piece of art sells – that’s the obligatory one. The other thing is a service they offer called Artplode Assistant, which can help you to price your work realistically, thus making it more likely to find buyers.

Artfinder

Unlike the Artplode, Artfinder does not charge a listing fee, but it has a 30% commission. If you are comfortable with that, you should try working with them – having a commission that high, you can be sure that they will do everything in their power to sell your work, since they have a profit from it also. Furthermore, it’s a famous art marketplace, so it is often visited by the potential clients.

Artfinder artwork selling

On the other hand, if your art is digital - including graphic designs, website themes, illustrations and other two-dimensional artworks – you should be informed about these three sites:

DeviantArt

DevianArt has different categories and it’s not focused only on the digital art, but it has 35 million registered members – which is quite a lot. On this site you will have your own page and a place for people to leave comments. You have the option to use social media to promote your art through this site, also. It even gives the liberty of one member to officially follow the page of another, so that he is always notified when that member uploads a new item in his portfolio. You should definitely consider this site and see if it works for you.

deviant art online artwork

Big Stock

On this site you can sell a high-quality stock photography and stock videos. It’s easy-to-use and at the moment it has more than 30 million already uploaded images, so a lot of artists found a way to utilize this site for their own benefit, and you should try that for yourself, too, and see if you are a match.

Envato

Envato is a digital art marketplace - ideal for web designers. It sells graphics, themes, video, audio, photography, and so on. It has over a 1.5 million active buyers and it operates in more than 200 countries. It is one of the most visited digital art selling sites and you should explore it more if this is the type-of-artwork that you create.

Whether you want to sell traditional or digital artworks, you should absolutely engage in business with the art marketplaces, since they’ve already established selling with the art audience that you are aiming for.

Selling Artwork through Large-scale Ecommerce

Commonly-used way to sell different items of value are larger online marketplaces. Usually, you will pay for the listing of the item, the shipping taxes, and there is also a commission fee, though these costs vary according to a marketplace. Three most popular large-scale ecommerce marketplaces are:

Amazon

When it comes to selling your artwork, Amazon has millions of potential customers, due to the fact that people from the whole world are using this marketplace. Since Amazon is looking to sell to the masses, it has various categories on the site, and you, as an artist, should use either Independent Design and Handmade Itemor Home Décor.Deciding between these two, you should have in mind that the commission fee is not the same: if you choose the first category, you will pay 40%, and if you choose the other one – it will cost you 15%. The second one is usually employed if you have illustrations, prints, and other pieces that are not “traditional” artworks, as perceived by the non-art audience.

amazon

ETSY

Even though very similar to Amazon, ETSY has a lower fees – you will pay for the monthly listing fee plus 3.5% commission. If you are not comfortable with paying 15% - 40% commission, this marketplace is a more suitable option for you. Moreover, unlike Amazon, where you can sell thousands of the same mass-produced item, ETSY is visited if a buyer looks for something more unique.

eBay

When it comes to fees, eBay is like the mix of these two above; monthly listing fee is free for the first 50 items and commission is 10% on all sales. After the 50 items, you will pay about $0.30 for a listing. Besides, on eBay you can sell a single item or volume-sell the same one, so it’s like blending the options of Amazon and ETSY together.

eBay artists listings

In comparison to the art-focused marketplaces, all taxes of the large-scale ecommerce websites calculated together can be lower than what art-focused marketplaces have to offer, but you should have in mind that these are not websites that target the art audience

Selling Artwork through Stock Listings

stock listings for artists

If you are a graphic designer, illustrator or a photographer, you should inform yourself about the stock houses, the marketplaces that sell downloadable artworks online. Your artwork will be used in commercial, advertisement, marketing purposes. With the stock houses, buyers need to sign numerous licensing agreements, which are used by the stock houses for determining how many times were your images used by people and you will make money according to the usage.

One stock house we’ve mentioned above (Envato), but there are many more websites, with good payouts, used for stock listings. Some of them are BigStock, Alamy, 123rf, Shutterstock, Can Stock Photo, Dreamstime, iStockphoto, Veer, and so on. As an artist that aims to sell digital, downloadable art, you should dive into exploring the stock houses websites that look appealing to you, and see if they are also appealing moneywise.

Print-on-demand (POD) Services for Artwork Selling

Similarly to the stock houses, print-on-demand services are often utilized by the graphic designers, illustrators and photographers. These services use your artworks by adding their images onto a numerous marketable goods, thus making custom printed and embroidered products. The way this works is as following: you upload the image, someone buys it and then the print-on-demand service ships it - printed on the specific goods. They will normally charge you for the printing and the shipping, so it’s not a bad idea to consider to do this by yourself, if it leaves you with more money afterwards. That is, of course, if you want to make an additional effort and invest some time in it, but, if not, let them do it for you. prihtful artwork printing services

If you, by any case, want to find a print-on-demand service that will print your images on the goods for you – for free, you could, amongst the others, use Fine Art Americaand Printful, since they can be a good payout. Namely, the both print-on-demand services will do the printing on the products for you, plus handle the sale and customer service.

fine art america

On the other hand, both of these POD vendors can be connected with other selling platforms, like Shopify, so you can promote and sell your printed and embroidered products there, too. In this case, you will handle the costs of the sale and the shipping yourself.

Utilizing Social Media to Sell Artwork Online

After you make a portfolio that displays your artwork online, you could connect your profile with various social media, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest, to promote your work and increase your chance to find art dealers, collectors and other customers. Most online selling platforms support interconnecting with social media, so that you can sell directly to social media followers.

pinterest

Furthermore, these selling features on social media pages are usually already included in your monthly or annually chosen plan, so you do not have to pay for that, additionally. For example, Shopify includes in all its paid plans a connection with a Facebook page, and it also supports selling art on Pinterest. If you do not have your own art displayed online, and you did not create the page on other selling websites, then you could use Spreesy, which has no monthly fees, though it takes 3% of every transcation. Spreesy will give you the opportunity to promote your art on all social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest), even if there is no official website portfolio of yours.

spreesy

Combined with your art profiles on chosen selling platforms, utilizing social media could help you immensely with getting your artworks out-there and selling them using the Internet. You should use every way in which you can to get to the customers, and utilizing social media will make a way for your art to be daily present in the eyes of many. That is not something that you should easily dismiss, if you are serious about selling your artwork online.

Protecting Your Images from Theft and Copyright Infringement

When an artist displays his art online, one of the biggest concerns of his is how to protect his work from theft and copyright infringement. Publishing a portfolio online undoubtedly makes the images available to anyone who has the access to the Internet, thus making the artist uncertain if his pieces of art are safe. Even though there are no guarantees, you can still try to prevent someone from downloading and stealing your work. Take a look on these ideas, which most artists use:

Put a watermark on the image.

Using a photo editor program, you can easily place a watermark on your artwork. It is always better to make it a medium-size, since making it smaller serves no real purpose, and making it too big may impact the aesthetics of your art. There are also online art platforms that offer the watermarking services on their site and can do it for you.

watermark

Use right-click protection.

You can disable the option to right-click on your image, which makes it impossible to copy and paste. Of course, people could always use the print-screen option and then cut the image on their computer offline, but still, this is a way of protection that a lot of the artists utilize.

Divide your image into smaller pieces.

You can do this by yourself, using any editing software. Before employing this option, be sure that it doesn’t affect your work negatively, making it look less presentable. Hopefully, this will prevent someone from taking the trouble to put those pieces together.

copyright noticeAdd copyright notice.

You cannot stop someone from stealing your art, but you can remind them with a copyright notice that doing it is illegal. Also, this can help you if legal action becomes necessary.

Keep your image small or medium-size, with a low-resolution.

This is so far the best advice on how to try to protect your artwork from being stolen online. Smaller, lower-resolution images (from 72 to 96 dpi), print poorly when downloaded and are basically useless if someone wants to profit from them.

Protecting your art online is a valid concern and you should do everything you can to keep your work safe. Explore all the options mentioned above and, hopefully, some of them will help you and prevent your art pieces from being a subject of theft.

Conclusion

With the emergence of the power of the Internet, the art world has altered forever. It has never been easier to gain admirers, fans and prospective clients, through the usage of online resources. When it comes to numerous online art-selling platforms, and different ways in which you can get your art pieces into the right-buyers’ hands – the world is your oyster. Make a strategy, and then according to that plan decide which art-selling platforms fits you the best. Explore your individual needs when it comes to selling artworks online and get paid for your creativity.

About the Author: Katarina Petric is an art historian MA, curator and art dealer. She writes about modern and contemporary art and ideology, but her main interest is the art where the artwork is in a form of a data – digital art, since this new media has given the potential to reform art theory and practice as we know it.

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