I recently had prints created for a handful of my paintings. It was a tricky process, but I'm pleased with the outcome. The prints are near-perfect representations of the originals. I'm sharing my experience in case you are interested in having prints created for your own artworks.
Prints are not a substitute for the original artwork, but they can extend their value and reach. Here are some of the key benefits:
- They provide your fans with a more affordable alternative to originals.
- They are flexible, with many different types, materials, and sizes.
- They are scalable. The more you sell, the more profitable it becomes. With an original, once it's gone, it's gone. They also leverage your time and effort. Every new artwork you create is a new print you can sell over and over again. Artists are time-poor. So any leverage is worth exploring.
The downsides are:
- They may diminish the perceived value of your originals.
- There's little benefit at low volumes. The cost of getting everything set up might not be worth the effort for a few extra sales a year.
The dream for most artists is to have a catalog of prints that sell on autopilot day-in-day-out. But this is a rare case. For most, prints form more of a supporting role in an artist's career. They allow you to expand your reach, get into the hands of a larger audience, create upsell opportunities for your originals, and bring in a little more income. They are also a fantastic gift for friends and family.
There is some interesting discussion on prints versus originals in this Wetcanvas forum post.
The first step is to find a local printer. Talk to any photographer or artist friends about who they use and recommend. I was referred to my printing company, Streets Imaging, by a local photography workshop.
Otherwise, Google around. Look for (legitimate) reviews.
Note: An alternative is to use one of the many print-on-demand companies to create and send your prints. I'll cover that option in a separate post.
Prints require HIGH-quality photos of your art. The more pixels, the better.
If you are good with a camera and editing software, then you could do this yourself (refer to this article on photographing your art). Otherwise, I would look for a printing company that can handle it for you. That's what I did. I took my paintings to Streets Imaging and they did all the photographing and post-processing for a small fee. And that freed up time for me to do what I like doing—painting.
You have many options regarding the print type. Fine art paper, canvas, smooth, glossy, textured, torn edge, border, etc. I used fine art paper (rag photographique) with a 1-inch border. It has a lovely texture and the border gives room to sign at the bottom.
The main things to consider when deciding what print type to go with are:
- Is it archival? Be careful of cheap materials.
- It is faithful to the original? A smooth, glossy print might not be suitable for a rough, textured landscape.
If in doubt, ask the print company. They should be able to guide your decision. You could also explore what similar artists are doing. Look on their website. Are they selling prints? What type of prints are they selling? Canvas or paper? Framed or unframed?
You have two options:
- Ship it yourself.
- Leave it up to a third party.
I went with the latter. Streets Imaging can ship the prints directly to the customer. All we need to do is give them the shipping details.
If you go this route, make sure you vet the company. Ask about shipping times, processes, and packaging. It is your brand on the line. You don't want it compromised by a third party's poor business practices.
Shipping the prints yourself gives you full control over the process. You can decide the packaging, timing, and branding. You could even add a nice "thank-you" letter to customers. But it is time-consuming and costly. If you go this route, be careful not to get wrapped up in the day-to-day processes. You should spend most of your time creating art, not making trips to the post office.
I received my prints rolled up in a tube. This is standard practice. To flatten the prints, here's what you need to do:
Step 1. Wash your hands.
Step 2. Find a clean, flat surface. Careful of any intends or cracks in the surface. Glass is ideal.
Step 3. Carefully unroll the print face down on the flat surface.
Step 4. Grab five of your art books and place them at the corners and middle.
Step 5. Wait a few hours.
Step 6. You now have flat prints ready to be framed.
If you are shipping tubed prints to customers, feel free to share the above process with them.
It's ok to sell prints unframed. It keeps shipping costs down and allows the customer to pick a frame of their choosing.
To get a print framed, simply take it to your local framer and sort it out with them. Framing is a craft and there's much more to it than meets the eye. With that being said, you can do it yourself. There are many affordable do-it-yourself framing options hitting the market.
Now for the hard part: selling your prints.
I won't go into the marketing and sales part of it (I cover this topic in more detail in my Marketing for Artists email course). I'll just run over the logistics.
You have two options:
- You can sell prints on your own website. This gives you the most control, but you have to do all the marketing; or
- You can list your prints for sale on online marketplaces, like fineartamerica.com. You give up control for the benefit of getting your work in front of a built-in audience.
For most artists, the latter option (online marketplaces) is unlikely to yield more than a few odd sales. There's simply too much competition.
To stand out, you need something that cuts through the noise. Erin Hanson's work comes to mind. She paints stunning landscapes in a distinct, van Gogh-like style. It's eye-catching and plays well in the commercial market.
The better option for most artists is to retain control and handle the marketing yourself. Focus on building your name and brand. Remember, competition doesn't exist if you are the product.
- Sell small prints with zero or low margins to reach more people.
- Put your art onto merchandise. Bags, hats, postcards, etc. Just make sure this fits with your overall brand and image. If you are going for portrait commissions, then having your art on a mug or postcard may detract from your brand.
- Gets prints done up of your favorite paintings that you previously sold or no longer have.
- Use prints as gifts for friends and family.
- Sell limited edition prints.
- Buy prints from your favorite artists if the originals are out of your price range.
I'll be doing a limited print run later this year with a few paintings that are of particular importance to me. If you would like to pick up a signed print, please register your interest here. The proceeds will be used to create more posts like this and other art education resources for you.
Thanks for Reading!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.
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