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1. How to sell digital art online

How to sell digital art: A comprehensive guide for artists [2023]

In the past, the only way for artists to find an audience for their work was by displaying and selling it at galleries, festivals, and auctions. Digital art has opened a whole new world of exposure, with online galleries, ecommerce platforms, and social media permanently changing the approach to art sales. In 2021, the online art market, which includes digital prints, crypto art, and other digital assets, was worth approximately $13.3 billion, underscoring the demand for both digital files and online sales of physical art.

Selling digital art for the first time can be intimidating, so we've put together a guide that will take you through the entire process so that you can start making sales as quickly as possible. We've also included step-by-step instructions for selling physical art through online marketplaces and websites, which is a lucrative strategy to get your work in the hands of customers around the world.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • To sell digital art online, take photos or scans of your work and upload them to your preferred platform

  • Use copyrights or watermarks to protect your digital art from theft

  • Print on demand suppliers make it easy to add your art to physical products

  • Choose the right sales platform and use marketing strategies to increase sales

How to sell digital art online

Selling digital products is easier than you might think. By following these steps, you can begin to sell digital art and earn passive income in no time.

1. Digitize your art

digitizing art

Creating a digital file of your art doesn't require expensive technology. To transform your physical art into a digital file, simply take a photo of your work with a high-resolution camera or place it on a scanner.

Both scanning and photographing your artwork will generally yield similar results, but the quality of the digital images will depend on the resolution. The higher the resolution, the better the digital art will be. Check the specifications for your device, whether it's a digital camera, phone, or scanner, to ensure that it is capable of fully capturing the details of your art style.

Other important factors to consider when digitizing your art include:

  • Shadows: A shadow can detract from the beauty of your design. When taking a photo, ensure that you are holding the camera flat over the artwork to prevent shadows.

  • Lighting: When photographing your artwork, use side cameras or natural light. Avoid harsh overhead lights as they can wash out the image.

  • Type of artwork: Scanners and cameras are ideal for different artistic styles and techniques. The textures of an oil painting are more distinct in a photograph, while a flat ink drawing will look crisp and clear using a scanner.

  • Artwork size: Scanners can only capture artwork in limited sizes. For larger pieces, opt for a camera, particularly one with adjustable lenses or settings.

When done well, your digital artwork will reflect the colors, textures, and lines of the original piece.

2. Decide where to sell your digital art

selling digital art

Once you've converted your art into digital files, the next step is to decide where you want to sell it. One of the advantages of selling digital art is that you don't have to ship products to customers. All you need is a platform with a payment gateway that allows customers to click a download link and access the digital art file that they've purchased.

Many artists use social media platforms for marketing and selling digital files. If you want to develop a more established online business, an online platform or marketplace allows for greater customization of your storefront. We'll dig deeper into the pros and cons of different types of online stores further down.

3. Protect your digital art

protecting digital art

Creating art is a deeply personal process, and the last thing any artist wants is to have their work stolen. To protect your online art from theft or plagiarism, it's essential to employ strategies that prove your ownership. Possible options include:

  • Copyrighting: A copyright certifies that a work of digital art belongs to you. Submit an application to the U.S. Copyright Office and include a copyright notice on each digital image.

  • Watermarks and signatures: Add a semi-transparent business logo or signature to every digital download on your site. When customers buy your digital products, they will receive a copy of the file without the watermark.

  • Low-resolution previews: Including all of the high-resolution files for your digital art on your online store makes it easy for people to steal them and slows down your page loading times. Instead, use low-resolution files online and offer high-resolution versions for purchase.

If you discover that someone is attempting to sell your original artwork in spite of these steps, file a complaint and ask to have it removed.

Selling physical art prints using print on demand

selling using print on demand

In addition to selling digital downloads of your art, you can also make significant profits by selling physical art prints using a print on demand supplier. Print on demand services allow you to start selling prints and physical products, such as tote bags and phone cases, that are customized with your digital art.

1. Find a print on demand supplier

finding supplier

Working with a reliable and reputable print on demand partner is critical to the success of your art business. When researching your options, consider these key points:

  • Pricing: To improve your profit margins, look for a print on demand service that offers affordable products. Overpriced items are less appealing to potential customers.

  • Product selection: Consider what types of physical products you want to sell and ensure that the supplier offers them. You may want to start with only a few items, such as canvas prints and acrylic prints, before branching out to products like ready-to-hang posters, wood prints, and mugs.

  • Product quality: Adding your graphic design to a custom T-shirt offers no benefit if it falls apart in a few days. Order test samples of different products from potential suppliers so that you can personally check for quality issues.

  • Shipping rates and locations: To reach customers in multiple markets, look for a partner that ships to a wide range of locations at a reasonable fee. Excessive shipping costs deter customers from making purchases and can cut into your profit margins.

  • Speed: Customers don't want to wait weeks between making their purchases and receiving them. Determine how quickly on-demand print shops produce and ship products.

  • Platform integrations: If you're using an ecommerce platform for online sales, it's important to choose a printing company with seamless integration. Likewise, if you make sales through your own website, investigate how you can connect it to a supplier.

There are many print on demand services available for online shop owners, but many of them offer subpar products and have unreasonable fees. Fortunately, there are superior alternatives available, like Gelato, which offers high-quality art prints and a variety of physical products. Gelato's fast shipping and affordable prices save your customers time and money, which ultimately translates to greater trust and loyalty for your business.

2. Add your art to print on demand products

adding art to products

After you've settled on a supplier, it's time to add your art to the products you'd like to sell. Only use high-quality digital files of each piece so that the images don't appear grainy, unclear, or faded. When choosing which types of products you want to sell online, consider factors like your artistic style and what's currently trending, keeping in mind that some of your art might lend itself better to certain products. Apply your art to each product and get ready to make money online.

3. Choose a selling platform

choosing a platform

You can sell art products through a number of different platforms, and the right choice often depends on how much time, money, and skill you have to invest. Each selling platform offers distinct benefits and drawbacks, and it's important to carefully consider which is the best fit for your online store.

Ecommerce marketplaces like Etsy and Redbubble have a built-in customer base that allows you to reach a wider audience more quickly. Because these marketplaces are well-known, they also encourage a certain level of customer trust. A customer might feel more comfortable entering their credit card information on an Etsy shop rather than an unknown website. However, marketplaces offer limited customization, and your products will be listed with many competitors, making it more difficult to stand out.

If you're a digital artist who wants to run your own store, an ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce is a better option. These sites offer customization and prevent the on-site competition that artists experience when they use marketplaces. They also allow for data collection that you can use to improve future product campaigns. On the other hand, ecommerce platforms require a larger initial financial investment and take longer to get up and running.

Selling art online through our own website offers the greatest level of control and customization over your product pages, website structure, and branding. Unlike an ecommerce marketplace or platform, a website is also multipurpose. You can sell art, add videos, describe your background, and add a daily blog post in one place. Running your own website requires much more time and technical knowledge than making use of an existing art market.

4. Set up your online store

setting up online store

Setting up your online store might take a few moments or several weeks, depending on which platform you've chosen. Regardless of your choice, you'll need to follow these steps to start selling your work online:

  • Create an online store account on your preferred sales channel or build your custom website

  • Integrate any necessary ecommerce plugins

  • Use a relevant, memorable name to personalize your store and make it distinct from your competitors

  • Hire a graphic designer or create your own sleek logo that reflects your style

With all of these pieces in place, you can begin pricing your products and adding them to your store. When determining price points, consider the amount of time you spent creating each piece, the cost of ordering and shipping each product through your print on demand supplier, and your desired profit margin. If you're struggling to determine a reasonable price, try researching product listings from your competitors. This helps you strike a balance between undervaluing your work and charging prices that are so high that customers are unwilling to pay them.

Finally, upload high-resolution photos as product images and write engaging product descriptions to attract customer interest. Make sure that your product descriptions and photos both accurately represent the size, material, and features of each product, and use keyword-targeted product titles so that your listings appear when customers search for items online.

5. Promote your art

promoting art

Setting up a storefront to sell art online is a remarkable achievement, but your work isn't quite done yet. Promoting your art business allows returning customers to find you and draws in new customers who aren't yet familiar with your work. There are many paid and free marketing tools available to help you reach a broader audience:

  • Social media: Take advantage of social media marketing by posting images of your art on platforms like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. Increase customer engagement by interacting directly with your followers.

  • Email list: Give customers on your social media pages and website the opportunity to sign up for an email list. Keep them updated with newsletters featuring new art, promotions, discounts, and news from your business.

  • Paid ads: In addition to free advertising, run paid ads on social media platforms or search engines like Google. Create attractive, informative advertisements that invite customers to visit your store and discover your products.

  • Online communities: The best art customers and supporters are often other artists. Join virtual communities like DeviantArt, where you can share your work with your peers and connect with art enthusiasts.

To effectively sell your art online, it's best to combine several different promotional strategies that drive traffic to your ecommerce store.

Sell art online and make passive income

Evolving technology has made it easier than ever to sell digital art prints, and ecommerce has empowered digital artists to simultaneously sell online artwork and physical art prints from a single convenient location, maximizing profits and sales. If you want to add your one-of-a-kind designs to prints, wall art, apparel, and more, Gelato is an ideal partner. With local, on-demand production in 32 countries, Gelato empowers you to scale your business and quickly reach customers around the globe. Sign up for Gelato to start selling your artwork today.


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