How to Sell Your Art Online

There is now a multitude of options for selling your art, many more than existed a few decades ago thanks to the Internet.

Mia Rozear

You have to troubleshoot which venue is most appropriate for you and your work, as different venues will provide different results.

Experiment with different venues and platforms, and see what works and what doesn’t.

So much of selling your art online is doing the research to see what is the best fit for you, and then troubleshooting until you find a good work flow.

Mia workshop pricing your art

This video explains how visual artists can effectively sell their artwork online.

Selling Art: Tattoos, Deepti Menon
Deepti Menon

However, with so many options out there for selling artwork online, how can you know what is the best one for you?

packaging & Shipping

Find out in this video all of the essential logistics for setting up to sell your artwork online.

Topics covered include the various platforms for selling, how to set up your shop, shipping details, marketing strategies, presenting your artwork to maximize visibility, and more.

Artist Website, Mia Rozear
Mia Rozear

Discussion led by Art Prof Clara Lieu.

90 min. video., Nevada Arts Council lecture

Video Walkthrough

  • Setting up
  • P.O. boxes
  • Payment options
  • Shop & website
  • Separating sections
  • Artist website video
  • Choosing a platform
  • Shop statistics
  • Invoices
  • Keywords
  • Artwork sizes
  • Signing your art
  • Archival materials
  • Descriptions
  • Tough sells
  • Stock as many items
  • Where to print
  • Considering other formats
  • Pricing art video
  • Photographing your work
  • What’s likely to sell
  • Accurate photographs
  • Framing
  • Showing sizes accurately
  • Consistency with style
  • Branding
  • Shop policies
  • Save all receipts
  • Shipping supplies
  • Postage prices
  • Shipping profiles
  • Printing shipping labels
  • Tracking numbers
  • Customer service
  • Damaged items
  • Social media for artists video
  • Shop reviews
  • Negative comments
Deepti Menon, banner
Deepti Menon

A large factor of selling art is marketing and promotion, so keep in mind that creating work to sell is just half of the process.  I’ve seen artists with mediocre work doing extremely well because their work was aggressively promoted the right way.  

Prof Lieu’s Tips

Clara cartoon

Often people will buy things simply because they have a personal connection with a place. If someone is from Utah, and let’s say Cottonwood Canyon is where they got engaged, it’s almost like the painting technique doesn’t matter to the customer.

Soft Pastel Drawing: Landscapes, banner

An artist told me someone bought one of their cat paintings at an art fair, the person said the painting looked exactly like her cat, so that’s why she bought it.

Often we assume that people buy artwork because it’s really well done, but more often than not, it’s for another reason. I’ve had people buy artwork because it was a specific color that matched their living room couch!

China marker drawing Clara banner
Drawing in China: Brush Pens & Collage

I’ve also seen some really wonderful artists who haven’t done as well because their work wasn’t marketed appropriately.

Below I list the main venues and opportunities for selling your work. Some of the venues below have a highly selective screening process, while others are open to anyone.

Selling Your Art: Clar Angkasa
Clar Angkasa

1. Selling online

Now with sites like Etsy and Ebay, selling artwork online is more popular than ever. When you sell online, you have 100% control over every facet of the selling process, in terms of setting prices, what you sell, etc.

This can be great to have so much control over the process, but it also creates a lot of work for you.

Lauryn Welch, banner
Lauryn Welch

I’ve had an online shop for my fine arts work for several years now and enjoy having the additional income.

I’m not about to quit my day job any time soon, but I’ve had the chance to sell a lot of artwork that would otherwise be sitting in a closet collecting dust. 

I sell drawings, hand-pulled prints, digital prints, and sculpture, with the drawings and hand-pulled prints being the most popular items.

Selling Your Art: Mia Rozear
Mia Rozear

The majority of my work that I’ve sold on my online shop has been in the $30-$200 range.  I’m able to make a profit based on selling high volumes of relatively inexpensive pieces.

This seems to work well online as most people shopping online aren’t ready or prepared to plunk down several thousand dollars for a piece of art.

Deepti Menon, Selling at Art Fairs
Deepti Menon

The most challenging part of selling online is that most shop platforms are so saturated with artists that it’s very, very hard to get noticed.  You have to do a lot of marketing and promotion for people to even know that you exist, much less make sales.

The amount of time that I spend maintaining my online shop pales in comparison to the amount of time that I spend marketing and promoting it.

printmaking woodcut banner
Woodcut: Relief Printmaking

2. Open studios events

Every major city will generally have annual open studios events for local artists to participate in.  Generally you pay a fee to participate and then everything else is up to you.

When I was just starting out as an artist, I used to live in Jamaica Plain in Boston.  

Lotus fold artist bookbinding banner
Artist Books: Lotus & Meandering Folds

I participated every year in open studios. I didn’t have a studio in Jamaica Plain, so I opted to show my work at one of the group sites that they had for artists.  

It was definitely a lot of hard work and schlepping: packaging the art, presenting everything in bins that were easy to browse through, pricing everything, etc.

Selling Your Art: Lauryn Welch
Lauryn Welch

Open studio events usually get a lot of traffic, and it’s wonderful to get to talk to people and other artists in person about my work -something that you miss out on when you sell online.  

I priced my prints, drawings, and paintings in the $20-$90 price range and usually made about $1000 over the course of two days.

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I even got two major portrait commissions later from people who saw my work at open studios.  The audience is casual, mostly local people who are just browsing and making impulse purchases.  

All in all, it’s a great event to do if you’re just getting started.  

Like selling online, you get to control every part of the selling process at an open studios event.

Selling Your Art: Lauryn Welch
Lauryn Welch

3. Non-commercial art galleries

There are a lot of different kinds of non-commercial art galleries out there. There are galleries at academic institutions, artist co-op galleries, galleries at non-profit arts organizations, etc.

Banner rubber stamps
Rubber Stamps

Generally artwork is for sale at all of these different kinds of galleries, but in most selling the work is not the main priority of these types of galleries.

Non-commercial galleries will take a smaller percentage of commission, they usually take about 30% commission whereas a commercial gallery will take a 50% commission.

Prof Lieu

As far as how much you control, at each gallery you’ll likely be working with a curator and/or gallery director who will select the work to be shown.  

Prices are usually set by the artist. Non-commercial art galleries are usually (but not all the time) easier to break into for artists. Most artists get exhibitions by having connections with other artists, curators, and gallery directors.

That’s certainly the quickest and most direct way to securing an exhibition, and curators and gallery directors like to work with people who they trust and know.

Prof Lieu

However, I’ve gotten shows at non-commercial galleries just by contacting the gallery director and submitting my work to them. I once got a solo show at an artists’ co-op gallery just because I had entered one of their competitions.  

I didn’t win the competition, but they liked my work and asked me to apply for a guest artist solo show.

Lauryn Painting MFA banner
Lauryn Welch

Many artist co-op galleries require membership, in which you pay a monthly fee and are guaranteed a solo show at the gallery every two years or so.

4. Commercial art galleries

There are commercial art galleries at all different levels.  There is everything from the small, local gallery to high end galleries that are at the top of the food chain in terms of selling art.  

Gallery Exhibition, Clara Lieu
Prof Lieu

At these different kinds of galleries, clients can range from people who want a painting that will match the color of the sofa in their living room all the way to powerful clients who purchase art for their personal art collections or for the sole purpose of donating the art to a museum.

Lauryn Welch, banner
Lauryn Welch

The major advantage is that a commercial gallery’s primary objective is to sell the art.

Commercial galleries have an established audience and clientele, and they will do the marketing and promotion for you, which can be an enormous advantage.

Selling Art: Gallery Exhibition, Clara Lieu
Prof Lieu

One of the drawbacks of commercial galleries is that you will probably not have much control over the kind of work that you’re showing and the prices.

At the beginning of my career before I knew better, I once got into a heated argument with a commercial gallery director over the pricing of one of my oil paintings.

Banner colored pencil drawing Bread Fairy

Remember that commercial galleries are focused on selling, so they will sometimes exert pressure on artists to show certain kinds of work.

One of my colleagues once told me that when he wanted to switch from making his popular city paintings to something else, his dealer “had a heart attack.”

Selling Your Art: Lauryn Welch
Lauryn Welch

The more prestigious the gallery, the more difficult it can be to get into as an artist, and even more challenging is to get representation with a gallery.

In general, most artists get into commercial galleries (especially the high end ones) by having an artist who is represented by the gallery recommend them.  Most galleries refuse to even consider unsolicited artist submissions.