Hobbyist to Professional: How to Put Your Digital Art for Sale Online

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“Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Before March 2021, the artist Beeple had never sold a piece of his for more than $100. Then, at a digital art auction held by Christie’s, he had a piece go for $69 million. He’s now one of the top three most valuable living artists in the world.

I’ll bet he smiled all the way to the bank. And is probably still smiling to this day.

Maybe that got you thinking that you could make some money putting your digital art up for sale online. Maybe not for millions and millions like Beeple, but enough to be that “happy man” Shaw mentions.

All you need is the art and the know-how necessary to turn your creative hobby into a professional business.

By the time you finish reading this, you should have the beginnings of a budding business in digital artwork. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Before You Start: What Types of Art Sell Well Online?

While it’s true that artists of all kinds are finding success on the internet, certain types of art sell better than others.

selling watercolor art online

Here’s a short, but not exhaustive, list of what’s selling right now:

  • Works suitable for printing on T-shirts, iPhone cases, laptop skins, coffee mugs, and home textiles like shower curtains and throw pillows
  • Art to be printed as a poster or other frameable “wall art” piece
  • Stationery/paper products – wedding invitations and business cards to colouring books and planners
  • Logos and avatars – businesses on a budget and serious gamers are both looking for ready-made identifiers
  • NFTs – non-fungible tokens are hot, hot, HOT right now

What does this mean for you and your art? Here are some ideas, based on the type of art you might create.

Watercolor Artists

It’s easy to imagine your soft watercolour florals hanging on someone’s wall. Have you ever thought, though, that they might make a lovely throw blanket? Or a bride’s “Thank You” notes?

Watercolor Artists

Oil and Acrylic Artists

You’ve probably seen a few of your artworks hanging on the wall, too. That’s the traditional form for them, right? Now, stop for a moment and picture your funky cat painting on a coffee mug.

Better yet, how about a new coffee shop’s logo on their sign, bags, and yes, mugs?

Cheshire Cat coffe mug
Source: Flickr

Photographers

Photography is one of the easier art forms to sell right now, as you can cater your photography to just about any of the trending products. Photos make striking T-shirts, pillows, and stationery.

photographer

Digital Artists

You’ve got the best of all worlds, as your digitally created art can be used for any and every hot-selling trend on the market. Logos? NFTs? Shirts, mugs, posters, textiles, stationery, scrapbook pages — you’ve got it all covered.

Getting Started: Preparing Your Art for Sale

You’ve created the art but that isn’t quite enough to slap a “for sale” sign on it and call it a day.

Digital Art
Source: Flickr

The Right Digital Format for Your Artwork

The first thing you’ll need is a lovely clear high-resolution photo of your artwork to create your digital scan. You may have to hire a pro and have your works shot with a digital SLR for that reason.

Most digital artists sell their work in one of five forms: PDF, EPS, TIFF, PNG or JPEG.

PDF, EPS, and TIFF are the formats printers need. Most printed products need a resolution of at least 300dpi to avoid issues with enlarging the original photo.

PNG and JPEG formats are mostly used for art that will be used online. They only need a 75dpi resolution.

Watermarks, Security, and Other Tracking Technologies

You can protect your digital creations with security and other tracking technologies. Here’s a video tutorial on creating a watermark for your digital pieces.

There’s more you can do, such as using a download tracker that doesn’t allow your works to be downloaded and saved unless payment is confirmed. You can also use software that limits the number of times a product can be downloaded after purchase.

Starting: Choosing a Way to Sell Your Art Online

There are quite a few ways to find buyers and a market for your artwork. We’re going to discuss four of the most common choices.

Using Social Media

Every artist has Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, or should. And that’s the quickest and easiest way to start selling your art online. Whether you’re a digital or traditional artist, social media gives you a ready-made audience of buyers you need.

selling artwork on social media

One of the cons of selling on social media is that you have to take care of the orders yourself. You need a payment processor, a way to store and then download the files, a way to track sales, etc. It’s all on you.

Cheap? Yes.
Easy? Maybe.
Time-consuming? Definitely.

Selling on Amazon

Amazon has an artist’s marketplace where you can sell your originals, prints of originals, and digital art, too. You’ll need to get approved. But you don’t need a business license or an LLC, so it’s not a difficult process.

amazon art section

Amazon offers you an audience reach like no one else (in marketing terms, audience reach is the number of buyers you can get your stuff in front of). Amazon also offers you “street cred” in the form of reviews.

Getting Active on Creative Selling Sites

When you think of selling any kind of art online, most think of Etsy. We have a couple of other great places we’d like you to know about, however.

ArtStation

Our hands-down fave rave spot online to sell all things digital art related is ArtStation. Unlike Etsy, ArtStation is strictly for digital art and digital artists. It’s the Etsy of the digital art world.

artstation marketplace

ArtStation’s Marketplace offers you the opportunity to put your art in front of people actively seeking digital art.

Here are a few pros that make ArtStation perfect for the budding professional digital artist:

  • No listing fees
  • You get 95% of the sale price
  • Built-in eCommerce features like wishlists, cart recovery, and email marketing
  • Create your own coupons and have your own sales events

It’s a one-stop shop for all your digital art online selling needs. And speaking of funky cats, here’s a small selection from ArtStation’s Marketplace. Cool place, cool art.

funky cat
Source: artstation.com

Society6

Society6 is a print-on-demand service that caters to artists. Remember all the neat stuff like pillows and mugs and shower curtains we talked about? They take your art and offer it up to buyers in all those forms, and more.
One of the benefits of Society6 is its artist community. You can connect with artists from all over the world there. Chat, learn, share. It’s a great opportunity to build a network of support.

Setting Up Your Own Online Store

Here’s where it get pricey. You can go all the way and set up your own eCommerce site.

ecommerce artstore
The issues here are:

  • Time – creating your own store, promoting it, running it, all takes time — do you want to sell art or make it?
  • Money – these selling platforms cost: hosting, software, apps and plugins, customizations — do you want to spend money, or make it?
  • Effort – you can have a store up and running within a weekend, but then you have to maintain it, promote it, and keep it updated — are you a shopkeeper or an artist?
  • Skill — you have to be your own web designer, copywriter, IT guy, OR have the money to hire those folks.

While we’d never kill anyone’s dream of having their own online art empire, it’s a lot to tackle for the beginner.

SAQs: Questions You Should Be Asking

How Do I Know My Art Will Sell?

Honestly, you don’t. However, a quick look at art on sites like ArtStation’s Marketplace and Society6 will give you a clue as to what’s selling now and you can cater your work based on that.

art and money

How Do I Know How Much to Charge?

Buy digital art yourself or pretend to be a buyer, and find pieces similar to yours on different sites. Compare prices. Price your art somewhere in the range of prices you find.

Why Is Digital Art so Expensive to Print?

It really depends on the quality of the final print. A professional printer will be pricey. The gang at a “big box” store can produce some decent quality products for less.

Anything Else I Need to Know?

Lots. A few we can think of to leave you with:

  • Tax laws so you don’t run afoul of the government
  • How to write a good sales letter/sales page for your art
  • Expansion – Sell on more sites? Custom orders? Gallery clients?
  • Creative growth – what’s on your artistic horizon?

Your professional art career awaits. And who knows, maybe someday, you’ll be the one making the digital art news with record-breaking sales on one of your works?

Featured Image from: Flickr by Samsung Newsroom

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