Earning with Art – Part 2

Yesterday I posted the problems associated with trying to earn money through art, first noting that being an artist isn’t about making money, which is a good thing because there are many easier ways to make money, and many will find that even working for minimum wage will pay better. I also noted that making art has its own rewards, but that money was still needed, even to be able to make the art in the first place.

I noted how selling art can be a real struggle, because materials to make art and the space to sell it both cost money, many times a considerable amount of money, and yet most buyers are looking for a bargain, barely wanting to cover the cost of the materials, let alone the overhead involved in selling the art.

I concluded though, that while very few will become rich as a result of their art, it is reasonable and possible for many artists to at least cover their costs plus make a little extra.

Today, I’ll tell you a few ways I’ve found that you actually can earn a little with art, bear in mind though, that I’m still learning myself, and there may be some very good opportunities out there that I haven’t learned about yet!


Original Art Sales aren’t the Only Kind of Sales

Its great when I can sell an original painting for a fair price that adequately compensates me for the materials, the time spent, and the overhead costs of selling.  However, that just doesn’t happen that often.  More often than not, when an original sells it doesn’t cover a fair hourly pay plus materials, let alone the overhead costs.  Thankfully though, there are other kinds of sales that can be made.


Perhaps the most obvious other type of sell is prints.  Selling prints of work allows people to purchase a version of an artist’s work at much less than the cost of the original, without the artist losing out.  Of course there are different kinds of prints and different ways to have them made, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Fine Art Giclee Prints

Fine are prints are prints that are manufactured with archival inks on acid free fine art paper or on canvas.  The advantages to these prints is that they last a very long time and really showcase the artwork in the very best way possible aside from the original.  The colors are generally very true to the original, with a depth and reflection of the most subtle of differences between shades, values, and tones. They are archival, which usually means they are guaranteed to resist fading for at least 60 years, and often up to 200 years. The disadvantage is that unless an artist can afford to have thousands made at one time, the artist is probably going to pay between $7.00-$15.00 for a small, 8×10 print on paper (it will vary based on the type of paper, how many are ordered, and what company the artist orders them from). Then add to that the cost of having it shipped to the artist, the cost of backing, matting, print sleeves, and/or frames, and the cost of overhead for sells, and the customer is going need to pay between $20 and $50 for that 8×10 print if the artist is going to make a profit.  Prints on canvas will run even more.  So, just like with the original art, there is a limit to the number of people willing to spend what is needed for these.

Standard Giclee Prints

I’ll let you in on a little secret, the term “giclee” is a term invented sometime in the 1980’s for prints done on special, high resolution, archival inkjet printers.  At first it was used exclusively for prints made on those high quality archival printers.  However, no one trademarked the term, which came from a French word meaning “nozzle” in its noun form, and “to squirt or spray” in its verb form.  So, in the mid 1990’s, it started being used to refer to any inkjet art print.  Any inkjet printer capable of reproducing a print that closely matches the colors of the original piece (a photo quality inkjet) is technically capable of making “Giclee” prints.  Because of this, artist’s have needed to specify between an “archival” giclee, and just a “regular” giclee.  I, and many other artists, specify this difference by calling the regular giclee prints “Standard Prints”, and the archival giclees, “Archival Prints”.  The benefits of a standard giclee if it it printed on high quality paper it will usually not be visually distinguishable from the archival giclee right after printing, and it costs much less, depending on the printer brand and where the ink is purchased it could cost as little as $1.50 for each 8×10, though most of the time it will probably run closer to $2 or $3 in cost to the artist. Again, you have to add to that the cost of backing, print sleeves, frames, and overhead, but in the end, it is possible for artist to ast between $10 adn $15 for these prints and still make a profit on them.  The disadvantages of these prints is that they are more prone to fading than archival prints are.  You can still expect them to last 5-10 years if they are not hanging in direct sunlight though, also they will last considerably longer if they are coated in a UV protection spray, which will bring their display life up to 50 years without fading under normal display conditions.

Laser Prints

Laser Prints, like giclees, vary in quality and cost based on the quality of the laser printer used, they have many of the same advantages and disadvantages as the various types of giclees, so I won’t repeat a lot of that information.  The main difference though is the visual quality.  A laser printer will cast a “sheen” over certain dark colors, and tends to not pick up contrast and subtle value differences as well as giclee prints.  Laser prints are best suited for digital art, because the programs used to create digital art often are designed with the laser printer’s color capabilities in mind, whereas physical paint will often have too subtle of differences between shades and values, and the laser printer will lose those.  The laser prints do have the advantage of lasting a very long time, they resist smudging from contact and moisture, they resist fading for a very long time, up to 200 years.  They generally fall somewhere in the same cost range as the standard Giclees, of course depending upon paper or canvas type, etc.


For a fairly reasonable price, prints can be made on greeting cards or post cards.  The quality and price depends on where they are purchased.

Poster Prints 

Poser prints are made by a variety of processes, often by laser printing methods, they are usually printed on very inexpensive paper, and are more prone to tearing and fading than prints on better paper.  Their quality is about what see in posters purchased from any store.  They have the advantage of being fairly inexpensive, although to get the really low prices the artist will often have to purchase 500 or more of the same image at the same time.  Still, there are some places that will do small runs or even single posters starting around $3 each, plus shipping.  Even though they are called poster prints, they can actually be made in a variety of sizes, from as small as 5×7 to as large as your typical movie poster.


Other types of sells are also possible. Art can printed on a variety of products.  A list of products I’ve seen easily available are: coffee mugs, travel mugs, pillows, T-shirts, phone cases, computer cases, tablet cases, ipad cases, shower curtains, duvet covers, book marks, purses, tote bags, leggings and skirts.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  You probably will make the most if you can find a manufacturer to print on the products for you, with no middle man, but for that you will usually have to put up the money for a large number of each image on each product type, and then you will have to hold onto the inventory and market it all yourself.

There is a way to have your art put on products without doing that though, and that is through several different print on demand sites, there are many out there, Redbubble, Zazzle, cafepress, fineartamerica, and pixels.com to name a few.  What these sites do is showcase your work on the products you choose, and when someone orders them the site pays you a royalty for the sale.  You usually only make 15-20% of the sale price of the item, but you didn’t pay anything for the manufacture of the item either.  My favorite so far is Redbubble, both for the variety of products and for the fact that they charge you nothing to have your work there.

The only disadvantage to doing this is that in the eyes of some collectors it “cheapens” the artwork and doesn’t really allow you to do a limited edition of an image.  For that reason, I haven’t put all of my work up on those sites, though I have put some.  With some future pieces I plan to do limited edition prints, and so I won’t be able to list those on redbubble or a similar site.

Well, once again I’ve let this post get longer than I wanted, so tomorrow I’ll continue this same series, but tomorrow, I’ll be venturing away from actual sales, into other ways to earn money with art.