How to Sell Art – A Complete Tutorial on Selling Art
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I’m sure you know the situation: You have created many paintings, some of them are already hanging on the wall, others you have given away to friends and acquaintances. Now the next logical step would be to sell unneeded paintings in order to finance new works with the income. And who knows, maybe it is also your goal to build up a small sideline business with your art? Below we have given you plenty of ideas on how to sell artworks, how to calculate the price, and how to build up your brand. You can also use our art calculators to calculate the price of your art.
Table of Contents
- 1 Selling Art? Some Key Facts
- 2 The First Step – Building the Brand and Visibility
- 3 How to Price Your Art
- 4 Pricing According to the Sales Model
- 5 Selling Art Online – The Best Online Sales Opportunities
- 6 Last But Not Least: Professional Photos of Your Art
- 7 Conclusion: Infinite Possibilities, Focus is Important
Selling Art? Some Key Facts
If you are toying with the idea of selling art, you should first think about the following.
- How do I build up a brand – namely your stage name as a brand
- How do I calculate the prices for my art – what is the price structure?
- Which distribution channels do I want to use?
When building your artist brand, one thing is important: Your works should be unique and have a certain recognition value. If you paint an extremely wide range of paintings and they all differ extremely in style, you will have a hard time defining yourself.
You can certainly cultivate different styles and create a stylistically coherent series of paintings or sculptures, as many famous painters and artists before you have done. However, for exhibitions, it is advisable to limit yourself to a few styles and to create a harmonious overall painting in which the signature is recognizable. If you want to know how to sell paintings, creating your artist’s brand is the first important step.
The First Step – Building the Brand and Visibility
The most important first step is visibility. If you and your works are not visible, you have no reach and accordingly, it will be very difficult to sell your paintings.
The very classical artist career before the triumph of the internet ran through art galleries. If you managed to get signed by one or more art galleries, the course was set for a career as an artist and sales were generally good – depending on the quality and reach of the art gallery. In recent years, the art market has changed dramatically and art galleries are closing rapidly. Only the very big galleries and highly specialized niche galleries will survive in the long run.
Selling Art Online – Increase Online Visibility
What’s so great about building your visibility on the internet? You need little or no financial resources to build multiple channels. What you do need, however, is a lot of time, as setting up profiles/pages on the different sites takes a lot of time. Also, maintenance and updating should not be underestimated. If you create your own website and maintain it regularly, this also takes time. But these are all important steps to sell your art online.
Wondering about how to sell art online? There are many advantages to this. The scale of the internet opens up a wide range of possibilities. You can become visible in many different ways:
The Most Important “Business Card”: Your Own Artist Website
When you create your own website, you have full control over the design, what content you want to publish, and what you link to. It is also the most sustainable channel, as you can be removed or a site can be shut down at any time on all other platforms. A website is an important step to take on how to sell art online.
You can also install your own shop relatively easily today without in-depth IT knowledge and thus have control over the entire process. This includes the search query on Google, the presentation of your products to the buyer, and of course beyond that with customer loyalty via newsletter, etc.
Sell Your Own Art With the Help of Online Galleries and Shops
Another possibility, and not a bad alternative if you do not want to create your own website, are online galleries and shops like Singulart or Etsy. Here you can create your own page and present your works individually with a description and price.
On some online platforms you have to give up control, so make sure you know in advance what the conditions of the online gallery are. At Singulart you have to apply, but once you have been accepted you have total control over the works you exhibit, what price you want to offer, and what works are for sale. This can be changed at any time on your own initiative. Singular also has no claim to exclusivity, which is very important for many artists – because this way you can exhibit the paintings at other places at the same time.
Depending on the provider, you pay either a monthly fee, a fee per offered work of art, or very seldom you are charged on a commission basis. This already highlights the problem: If sales via these platforms were going well, the commission model, i.e. the participation per sold artwork, would be more common. However, the provider prefers to remove the risk and charge a fixed amount, which the artist has to pay.
This, of course, without knowing whether they will ever sell anything at all. Singulart is one of the platforms that work on a commission basis. This means that costs are only incurred once a work of art has been sold – the commission. In return, they take over all of the shipping costs and logistics for you.
The price also plays a role here, because more expensive works of art are rarely bought over the internet without the possibility of physical inspection.
Social Media (Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Deviantart, etc.)
Why is social media only coming at the end? Of course, personal profiles on the most important social media platforms are important. However, we find that many artists are very highly regarded, but their social media pages are completely irrelevant to sales.
In the end, it’s all about seeing and being seen – but this is mostly only among artists and painters. One is hungry for likes and followers, but the whole thing is neither sustainable nor do you as an artist get too much out of it. This is because effective customers are probably rather rare among your followers. If you advertise an exhibition on social media, your artist colleagues might come along, but they are not the clientele that buys your art.
Nevertheless, social media as a supporting channel is not bad, as it brings some visitors to your website and helps to increase your reputation. It’s different if you want to offer your own courses in digital or physical form for artists, but that’s another matter.
Selling Art Offline/ Increasing Physical Visibility
Selling art online is important, but ask yourself the question: Would you buy a painting by an artist you haven’t seen before on the internet? Most artists would probably rather deny this. What is missing on the internet is direct contact with the artist as well as an effective impression of the artwork in-person. Because size and color can only be conveyed in a limited way on digital images. Depending on the work of art, the feel and texture also play an important role.
Efficient and Affordable: Markets
If you have no experience with exhibitions, an art market can be a great step towards your first sales. The fees are usually very low so that you can get a stand for a weekend and exhibit your work pretty easily. But be aware that the clientele here are not primarily interested in art, but “just to come and look” and are probably more interested in the food stalls.
The financial limits are also very low: lower-priced artworks can usually still be sold, but anything of significant value becomes difficult. The ambiance here is simply not suitable for high-quality and higher-priced art.
If the markets take place outside, you should pay attention to the weather, because rain is never good for your objects and paintings.
Arts and Crafts Exhibitions
There are probably arts and crafts exhibitions in your area. Here, a committee or an individual organizes an exhibition, often lasting two to three days, where several artists rent an exhibition space together and exhibit their works. The costs involved differ, but they are usually fairly low for a weekend. This money must first be recovered by selling the artworks.
The visitors are a sum of the contacts of all participating artists and additionally reached interested parties via advertising and other channels. This is a good opportunity for you to showcase your art and also to make some sales. Pay attention here to the quality of the co-artists. It is usually of little use to you if low-quality self-made items are offered for several a lot of money next to your high-quality artworks.
Do you have a studio yourself? Then invite your circle of friends to a studio exhibition and invite another artist who will also invite their customers and friends. This way you can show your art to new people and expand your network. People are inspired by a creative environment, which can also have a positive effect on your sales.
For more expensive paintings and works of art, art galleries are a good option. But here you have to distinguish between three types of galleries:
- Unknown, small regional art galleries without a large customer base and without walk-in customers
- Established regional/national art galleries with a good customer base
- Renowned international galleries
Art galleries initially sound exciting as a distribution channel. The works are not only shown there over a weekend but are sometimes exhibited for several months as part of an exhibition. The artist is usually present during the opening of the exhibition (often a cocktail party with a possible supporting program) and the closing. The gallery owner represents the artist and sells the works for the artist. This also still sounds great.
In summary, the art gallery assumes the following tasks:
- Provides infrastructure
- Designs invitation cards and posters
- Prints posters and places them
- Takes over the dispatch of invitations to the customer base
- Informs people electronically as well, via newsletter/reminder
- Informs the press and media
- Takes over the organization of drinks, appetizers, and more for the opening and closing
- Takes over attendance responsibilities
Sounds like the all-inclusive package. But what’s the catch? Very simple: First of all, a gallery has to take you in, which is not so easy with serious galleries. Secondly, the whole thing is usually very expensive.
Unknown Regional Art Galleries Without a Large Customer Base
The easiest way for you as an unknown artist to find a place in a gallery would be through a relatively unknown one. However, we recommend that you inform yourself about the conditions in advance. This type of gallery is rarely financed by sales, but by an exhibition fee which has to be paid by the artist. The costs then look something like this:
For an exhibition of 3 months, you as an artist pay, for example, a $500 to $1000 exhibition fee – depending on the location and the available space. In addition, you give away 30% of the sales proceeds. Here is a sample calculation for 4 paintings sold at an exhibition for an average of $500.
$1200 sales proceeds
$500 exhibition fee
$360 sales commissionhttps://craft-art.com/wp-admin/update-core.php
You see, these kinds of galleries are financially only moderately interesting for you as an unknown artist. This is where visibility and networking could be seen as the best advantage. But in the worst case, you bear the full risk of not selling any of your artworks and being stuck with the usually high basic exhibition fee. In the end, you often end up paying a lot more for this type of gallery – not very appealing.
Such galleries unfortunately make their turnover only rarely by many art sales, but enrich themselves rather through the artists which have them under contract.
Established Regional/National Art Galleries With a Good Customer Base
These are the galleries you should be checking out. Because here, you have a good chance to sell some of your works of art due to the strong customer base and not to be stuck with the exhibition fee. The handling is usually even more professional than with the unknown, small galleries. However, it is of course much more difficult to get a contract with such a gallery. Such exhibition places are very sought-after and not every artist is accepted.
Well-Known Internationally Active Galleries
The really well-known and internationally active art galleries have mainly internationally known artists in their portfolio. So you will hardly ever be able to exhibit here. But who knows? If you do get accepted, this could offer a major boost for your artistic career.
How to Price Your Art
When it comes to pricing, the question arises whether you simply want to recoup the cost of materials, or whether you want to get a fair payment for your artistic work. And who knows, maybe you can even earn a little extra money with your artistic skills?
But how to price your art? That’s a rather complex question to which there is no right or wrong answer. In addition to the cost of materials, any rental costs for the studio, time used, and other factors must also be included in the calculation. The calculation types below offer good templates to follow.
Tip: Gain experience with moderate prices at art exhibitions first. Be sure to orientate yourself on prices from your environment. Depending on your location, the prices can also be quite different. Just visit some exhibitions and orientate yourself by these prices.
Pricing Option 1: Labour Hours + Materials + Other Costs
The idea behind this easy-to-understand calculation formula is your workload in hours plus your material costs. But the crux of the matter is that you have to define an hourly rate to calculate a monetary amount. But how high should it be? Especially if you are just starting to sell your art, you have no experience in setting prices. Here, you can use the prices of your fellow artists as a guide and calculate backward to arrive at an easily applicable hourly rate.
(Hourly rate per hour x number of hours spent) + Material costs
$30 Hourly rate
x 3 Hours
+ $30 Material costs
= $120 Sales price
What is my painting worth – Calculate the price of your art
[Calculator will follow]
Pricing Option 2: Size of the Painting/Artwork
Another popular way to calculate the price of your art is by the size of the canvas, painting surface, or sculpture. The prospective buyer often unconsciously assumes a relationship between size and price, which is understandable. For a small painting with dimensions of 20cm x 20cm, a lower price is assumed than for one with the dimensions 120cm x 80cm. Of course, the material costs, such as the size of the canvas, as well as the amount of paint, play a role here unconsciously.
In addition, an “artist factor” is used in this type of calculation, which is based on the artist’s reputation. Values from 5-10 are the standard values here.
The pure consideration of the price in relation to the size does not go far enough in our opinion. Depending on the technique used, the time required is completely disregarded. The sales prices here are much higher than in the first calculation variant.
(Length of canvas in cm + width of canvas in cm) x “artist factor”
80cm Screen height
+ 50cm Screen width
x 5 Artist factor
= $650 Sales price
How much is my painting worth? Calculator for determining the value by size
[Calculator will follow]
Conclusion of Pricing Calculations
In any case, we recommend that you use pricing variant 1. Here you have a more holistic overview:
- Time factor
- Factoring material costs (including color medium)
- Factoring additional costs such as rent and taxes
If you only use the size of the painting as a basis for calculation, you do not necessarily take the material costs into account. Because depending on the painting media used, such as acrylic paint, watercolor, pastel chalk, oil paint, or others, the material value used differs considerably. Therefore it is worthwhile to take material costs into consideration.
Pricing According to the Sales Model
The pricing of your works is one thing, but the other is the commission you have to pay depending on the sales model:
- No commission payments for private or direct sales
- A few cents to a few dollars for sales via online shops like Etsy
- Fixed exhibition costs for art markets or art exhibitions
- Up to 50% for sales via art galleries
Depending on the type of sale, you will only get half of the price you want for your artwork. If you are selling through art galleries, you should now simply add 50% to the price?
Tip: Make sure that your prices stay within a certain limit, regardless of the sales channel. If your potential customers see one of your paintings on the internet and then see the same painting later in an art gallery for twice the price, it leaves a rather dubious impression.
Selling Art Online – The Best Online Sales Opportunities
You can start selling your art online almost immediately. We have gathered the best platforms to sell your art online.
- Your own website is the best way to present yourself as a brand and sell your art. If you don’t want the effort of a completely self-designed website, you can also use offers like WordPress online or homepage construction kits like Wix.com. Even with such construction kits, it is not to be underestimated how much time it takes to create and maintain your own artist website. But nowadays every ambitious artist has their own website, even if it just operates as a business card.
- Facebook sales groups and your own Facebook artist page are also a way to bring your art to the public. Especially in the sales groups, there is a tendency for artists to be spread out, so you won’t reach your desired clientele here.
- There are several well-known platforms for selling your own artwork. You have to find out for yourself whether these work. It also depends on where you are based. For example, it is more difficult to sell your works of art from some areas where customs duties and higher postage costs are incurred for shipping.
- Online galleries like Artsy.net are especially suitable if you want to sell higher quality and of course higher priced art.
- General sales platforms like eBay are also possibilities to offer your artwork. Here too, you have to find out for yourself whether your art can be sold there or not.
- Amazon also offers the possibility to sell your artwork, but not so much for unique pieces, but rather reproductions or prints of your artworks.
Tip: Have you ever thought about having photos of your artwork printed on different products? Here are countless possibilities to sell t-shirts, mugs, calendars and all other possible products made from your designs.
Last But Not Least: Professional Photos of Your Art
Since your internet visitors cannot see your art live and may even want to touch or hold your art, it is extremely important that you take professional photos of your artwork. These should have the following characteristics:
- The size should be as recognizable as possible (e.g. by putting images in context)
- The photos should be sharp and of good quality
- The colors should be reproduced as realistically as possible (neutral lighting)
- Art with depth like sculptures should show several perspectives
- For smaller works of art such as jewelry, it is worthwhile to spend some time in the composition of the painting (e.g. some decoration, autumn leaves, or similar)
Take Great Photos at Home at Little Extra Cost
You probably already have a camera at home, even if it is only your mobile phone camera. With these, you can usually already take relatively high-quality photos. Be sure to use the settings options, for example, to perform a manual light balance. You need this to make sure that your artwork does not differ too much from the original. You can also avoid this by investing in a set of daylight lamps
Shooting your art in normal daylight may work, but depending on the time of day, season, and direction, you still have an unattractive color cast in your photos. Therefore it is recommended to invest in inexpensive daylight lamps. These can be stored in a space-saving way and at the push of a button, they provide exactly the neutral light in sufficient quantity that you need for art photography. With two of these cheap lamps, you can achieve a very good illumination on the left and right side of your painting or sculpture, resulting in professional-quality photos.
Another problem is the environment. No matter if you want to photograph paintings or sculptures, a neutral background makes the focus on the art itself. The best way to do this is with a photography backdrop system. This consists of two tripods, which are connected with a rod. On this rod, you hang a roll of background cardboard in white or black and you have a professional groove, which makes the background appear as a monochrome area. You also have a neutral background without the background color distorting the colors.
Tip: Place a table between this background system and two daylight lamps and you have a perfect basis to take professional photos as well as perfect videos for Youtube, Instagram or Facebook.
An even cheaper alternative is a light cube, which is recommended if you want to photograph rather small paintings or sculptures up to a maximum length of 60cm. You cannot use this system for video recordings.
Summary: Equipment Required for Professional Photos
We have compiled our recommendation for a cheap setup of your photo and video space. These are things that we also use, and they always offer good performance for little money.
- Tripod for the camera
- Photography lights
- Photography backdrop
- White background
Conclusion: Infinite Possibilities, Focus is Important
The sheer number of possibilities on the Internet alone is overwhelming, isn’t it? Therefore our top tip: Concentrate on a few channels that work well and learn how to best utilize them. Then add new channels until you have found the best ways to sell your art.
However, selling your own art is not an easy task – you will have to spend a lot of time to make a name for yourself and make your first sales outside your circle of friends.
We hope that our detailed article on how to sell paintings has given you a good insight into the topic of art sales. We wish you good luck with your first steps!
We would be very happy if you share this article with your artist friends. We are also always grateful for additional ideas and experiences on how to sell artwork.