Generating Extra Income As An Artist: A Guide On How To Make And Sell Art Prints
In the hyperconnected globalized world of today it has never been easier to make a living as an artist. With websites, social media and email, any artist can reach out and begin to build a following to support themselves and their creative work. It is still difficult, however, to move beyond the starting stages of being an artist who occasionally sells a piece into one who makes a full-time income from their work.
Creating and selling prints of your art is an effective means to bridging this gap in income and, most importantly, it easy to get started. As I see it there are a number of ways that you, as an artist, can benefit from producing your own art prints for sale.
- Avoid Selling Originals: Often when we create works of art we grow attached to them, which can sometimes make it difficult to sell them as it feels like we are giving away a bit of ourselves. Since you still need to pay bills, however, creating prints of your work allows for you to make some profit of each without necessarily feeling like you have to give up your creations.
- Sell Your Art For A Lower Price: Sometimes people examining your work become really taken with a piece, but hesitate to buy it because of the price point an original often carries with it. Creating prints allows you to sell the same work at a lower price, which may encourage others who are interested to make a purchase.
- Exposing More People To Your Work: Creating and only selling originals of your work can be profitable if you have a large enough audience, but often only those who directly buy your work will end up seeing it. By creating prints, especially of your more popular pieces, opens up the possibility for more people to buy your work, which in turn gets it in front of more people thereby potentially increasing demand.
What Are Fine Art Prints?
At this point you are probably asking “What exactly is a fine art print?” Generally speaking, your best bet is to pursue creating Giclée (“zhee-clay”) prints which ensures the print is of high quality and longevity for any collector. Moreover, and just as importantly, prints in this style are very close in detail to the original artwork. To create prints in this style you will need a modern, large format inkjet printer that uses ink of sufficient high quality to be considered “archival.” For maximum quality, the finished print itself needs to be of a minimum of 300 dpi in quality (which can be altered with a photo editing program like Photoshop).
What You Need to Begin Producing Art Prints to Sell
Camera: The only thing more necessary than a printer set up in the creation of prints of your art is a camera. Though any camera will work (up to and including your phone’s camera), the more megapixels the camera has the better your print will likely be. Here are some of the recommendations I have been given, as well as the setup I actually use:
- Pentax K-70 Weather-Sealed DSLR Camera Bundle and Photo Software Kit: 24.2 Megapixels at $799.95 including everything to get started and photo editing software to make the best prints.
- Canon PowerShot SX70 HS Digital Camera Bundle: 20.3 Megapixels at $549.00 including everything to get started, as well as travel.
- Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera Bundle: 24.1 Megapixels at $449.00 including everything you need to get started. (This is the setup I use).
Photo Editing Program: Though this is not necessary, it can help depending on the pictures you take of your work. Using something like Photoshop in the creation process cuts the curve a bit in making prints as close to the original as possible.
Printer: Again, much like the camera, its all in the resolution and quality. Much like cameras, there is a wide range of options but no matter your choice make sure that it puts out at least 300 dpi, and that it can handle paper the size of the prints you wish to make. Here are a few options that have been recommended to me:
- Epson Expression Premium ET-7750 Ecotank Wireless Wide-format 5 Color All-in-One Supertank Printer with Scanner, Copier, and Ethernet: Wow, what a mouthful. Still a quality printer, though a bit more expensive at $549.99.
- Canon Pixma Pro-100 Wireless Color Professional Inkjet Printer with Airprint and Mobile Device Printing: $499.99, though there are sometimes discounts down to ~$360.00.
Quality Ink: This is a bit easier, as once you have selected your printer, the box and owners manual will tell you exactly what kind of inks you need to purchase.
Quality Paper: There are a range of print ready papers out there at various sizes. An example is the Strathmore texture paper for pastels or watercolor prints, but at the end of the day I recommend you shop around before you make a decision on what you wish to purchase.
If you are purchasing this equipment for the first time this can really take a bite out of your wallet. That being said, having this equipment can open up another revenue source for you, allowing you to continue to profit off of previous works you have created, even if the originals have been sold. Moreover, apart from the relatively cheaper costs of ink and paper, once you purchase the equipment you should be good for a while. I hope this have proven insightful and helpful to those interested in additional income as an artist. Below you will find a few options on how to go about selling your art prints once you have made them, as well as a couple book recommendations for those among you still struggling with the myth of “the starving artist.” Good luck with all your art and I wish you every bit of success!
Selling Your New Prints
- Sell Them Online On Your Personal Website: The best option if you can generate enough traffic to view/purchase your work, it not only allows you creative freedom in designing how your site looks to visitors but also allows you to post things beyond the art you are selling, such as articles about your artistic process or life. Don’t underestimate the power of these extra tidbits of information about yourself. Many have argued that creating good art is only half the equation for sales, and that being able to sell yourself is just as important. I use Wordpress though I have also heard good things about Weebly.
- Sell Your Art Through A Site Like Etsy: You might also consider creating an account on a ecommerce site like Etsy which makes it easier for you to build your brand, generate traffic, and provides access to trusted, secure shopping. The main downside is that there is a small fee to list your artwork ($0.20) and that they take a combined total of 8% + $0.25 to cover the transaction fee and payment processing. That being said, it is nice that the service comes pre-built with no additional monthly fees, automatic deposits, secure transactions, and seller protection. I have not yet used this service, but I likely will once I have a bit more of a stockpile of work.
- Sell Them In Person At Art Shows: Lastly, there is always the option of working the art show circuit, especially if you like traveling around and interacting with those interested in purchasing your work. Again, I haven’t done this yet, but there are some sites out there like ArtFairCalendar that make it easier to find out when art shows are happening and where. When in doubt, you can also just google “Art Fair + Your area” to see when ones are upcoming.
I hope you enjoyed this article on art prints, how to get started making them, and how to get them in front of prospective buyers. So go, shed the mantle of a starving artist. What are you waiting for?
Bonus: Additional Books On Making Money As An Artist
- Death To The Starving Artist: Art Marketing Strategies for a Killer Creative Career: contains an approach to a comprehensive marketing model for ambitious artists who are ready to reach a wider audience of art lovers, and to turn their art hobby into an art career.
- Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age: In this book the author debunks the myth of the starving artist by unveiling the ideas that have created it, and by replacing it with 14 rules that (if followed) will allow any artist to thrive.
- “Starving” to Successful: The Fine Artist’s Guide to Getting Into Galleries and Selling More Art: A source of pragmatic advice and concrete, actionable steps you can begin immediately to become more successful in marketing your work to galleries. In addition, devotes significant time into explaining why common strategies to hey your work into galleries is ineffective.
This article contains affiliate links to books, cameras, paper, and printers that I recommend as starting points for creating your own art prints to sell. If you choose to purchase these products via my affiliate links, you will help support my writing and research at no additional cost to you.