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Alessandra Kelley 18-06-10 04:13 PM

Marketing prints online?
I need help.

I don't have gallery representation, and working on visibility and sales has been a real struggle. One logical solution seems to be selling inkjet/photoprints of my paintings from my website. How much of this sort of thing have people done? Can I ask everybody's experience and advice, since this is an end of things with which I am excruciatingly unfamiliar?

I did look through this very interesting thread, although it's not quite my question:

Do many artists sell prints online? How do you do it? Does anybody use shopping cart software or PayPal? They strike me as having the wrong tone for artworks, but I don't know -- am I simply being an art snob? Is a discreet email inquiry address effective?

I currently have the capacity to print copies of my own works in a modest size, about 21.5 x 28 cm, and if I can get the other printer straightened out I can print up to 33 x 48 cm. I have good quality digital photographs of my paintings. I need to handle most of the photographing/printing/matting details myself -- we have a very tight budget.

I am prepared to sell the prints matted, not framed.

What is a fair price? I would very much like to sell prints, indeed I need to. I don't want to charge too little, to devalue my work or give an impression of cheapness. But how much is a fair price?

I also want to be honest about what the prints are. These are inkjet photoprints -- using best-quality inks and papers, but my own photoprints nevertheless. They're not giclees or limited editions or real prints (i.e. engravings, etchings, lithographs etc.). I want to make this clear to people without making them sound awful. I've done up some print samples testing out this idea, and they really are beautiful.

Oh, heck, I'm afraid I'm stressed out and unsure and badly in need of advice from people who've been there.


JeffG 18-06-10 06:24 PM

I havent been there (as far as sales, distribution, whether its a good idea etc.) , but this topic is covered in depth over at the General-purpose art forum, It's a huge forum divided into subforums, and the Art Business section has had much discussion on this, from people wondering about it and people who've done it.

I did a one-off 11x14 print of an ET of mine for a special client, on my home Epson 2200 printer from a professionally-done hires photo of the painting, and on high-end paper. It came out really nice.

Alessandra Kelley 19-06-10 11:44 AM

Thank you, Jeff. That site looks really interesting and useful, and I plan to have a good, long look at it once the chaos of my daughter's birthday celebration dies down. I don't know if I've ever been aware of ... There were one or two general-interest art forums I looked at years ago, but I have tended to stick with this one -- well, obviously because it's my primary medium, but also because the community is relatively small (posts aren't buried in an avalanche of other posts) and very friendly and helpful.

I would still like to ask people here what their experiences have been. How many of you sell prints? Does it work for you?

dbclemons 19-06-10 01:56 PM

I sell reproductions of my work online, as well as the originals. I like the idea of expanding my options and offering quality work that some customers couldn't otherwise afford.

As for printing them yourself, I see no particular problem with that as long as the print is as good as you could possibly make it, such as a printer that uses pigmented "archival" inks on rag paper or possibly canvas. Anything less than that may look good now, but fade in a short period of time.

The means I use for selling my own prints is through fullfillment printing companies who handle all the framing themselves, Imagekind and Redbubble. Redbubble has fewer options than Imagekind, but often has better prices. I upload digital scans of my work to their site and set a markup price for the amount I want of each sale. The quality of their prints is very high. They offer several payment options including Paypal or credit card.

Sales have been decent though not stellar. Part of the problem is I don't know how well they market themselves, or specifically - me (same problem I've had with galleries, for that matter.) The bulk of the work as always falls back on me to do most of the online marketing. One annoying issue with Imagekind is they hold back payment until the amount sold reaches $50 or more during that monthly cycle. Anything under $50 in sales will sit there until more sales come in. Redbubble doesn't have that policy.

Another option with these guys (and other online printers) is you can order prints from them yourself at wholesale rates and then turn around and sell them yourself. The prints they make can also be quite large, several feet depending on the size of the file you uploaded, and larger than what you may easily be able to do yourself.

vermillion9 19-06-10 03:55 PM


While I haven't sold artwork on-line, I do have experience with retail web-sites (we currently have one and are working on building two more). If you are going to do an actual web-site, the easiest place to start is Yahoo Sitebuilder. It's $40 per month and they have a ready-made template and it's really pretty easy to set up. (by "easy" I mean it will only take you about a week) I don't think Paypal would "cheapen" your work. If anything, since most people have a Paypal account, it makes it easy easy easy for them to make the decision to buy. What would "cheapen" your art is a hokey site so choose your Yahoo options carefully! What's hard about the internet world is getting your site at the top of potential customer's search pages. So, if someone searches for "paintings for sale" on Google, you really need your site to be on the first page to achieve any hope of making a sale since almost no one bothers to look at anything other than that first page. (Getting your art on the first page of Google is called "web-page optimization".)

Also, don't fall into the trap my uncle did. He hired a company to build him a web-site. It's beautiful. The problem is no one will see it because the company doesn't do any optimization. He has almost zero traffic.

We started with Yahoo Sitebuilder and it did work for us. We have since started using a software package that let's us design our page from scratch because we wanted to do things Yahoo wouldn't let us. If you have any questions about anything, feel free to ask away. It will take you some time but don't be discouraged! It truly does come together in the end.

gainor 19-06-10 11:12 PM

Prints on line
My experience with my own website is that very few of my sales actually come from it. More often people see work on my website, then they want to see the real thing in person, and mostly they are friends or people who know my work. But it is there and it becomes a fancy brochure and I know many people go there to check it out.

I also have my work posted in a website on Fine Art for which I pay $30 per year and this company is doing a lot of marketing and will even post your work for you on Facebook when you upload work to your site (this is optional, of course). I have quite a few of my paintings available as prints, and FAA will do all the work of creating the Giclee prints on paper or canvas and will also sell mats and frames to your customers. I like it because I didn't have to do anything. I have not had any sales on this website, but I have a friend who sells a lot there and I have seen their prints and they look fine.

I also print some of my work using archival inks on watercolor paper or Rives BKF, both of which make nice prints. I sell these prints quite cheaply because I can not guarantee how long they will last, and I call them Digital Reproductions rather than Giclee prints.

My enthusiasm for selling prints is very low....perhaps I have some issues with the whole idea. I don't know if it cheapens your originals, but there is something about it I don't like, although I have sold large, very expensive Giclees on canvas of paintings that are priced in the thousands. It is a lot of work and my cash outlay for these Giclees is quite a bit of money. I had the original work scanned by a specialty Giclee maker, and in the end I am left with a couple of prints that have not sold. One advantage is that I have prints of the originals that sold, so I can show the whole series as a group, and I have sold a few of them at some of my shows.

I'm sure the print market is here to stay, and for artists that are willing to market their prints they do well. In today's economy I think people are willing to outlay cash for a print when they could not afford the original painting. I am just not willing to do a lot of marketing.

Alessandra Kelley 20-06-10 12:02 PM

Interesting points all. I'm wondering from what I'm hearing ... I'm making my prints on glossy photo paper, as it seems to show my paintings to good advantage. Does watercolor paper make things look more washed-out? When I have printed tests on regular paper (admittedly, ordinary copier paper) they don't look great.

Thanks for your very kind advice, Vermilion9, but I've had a website up for seven years now. It's somewhat crude -- I taught myself html and it's my very first coded site, the code is embarrassing to look at actually. I have since learned css and some javascript and am slowly working on a new, hopefully more aesthetic site -- when I have it more in shape I had been hoping to ask opinions here on it. But it has been up at since 2003, and I do get a reasonable amount of site traffic, possibly because it was meant to be an educational site first and foremost. I never cared for automated site generators because I like to know what all the code on my pages is for without somebody else's proprietary code all over it, and I prefer to be able to change anything I want to myself. Also, I'm still uneasy over the ease of familiarity versus looks-like-every-other-art site dichotomy. Not that any of that applies to my site right now, which is, as I said, kind of crude.

I have experimented with posting my work on art-selling/printmaking sites, but it never seemed to go anywhere. I have the feeling my work would do better on my own site than on any large, central art site where I would be simply one artist in a crowd of others. I suspect those sites work better for artists with more established names and reputations.

dbclemons 20-06-10 12:50 PM

My computer printer will handle papers with a mat surface just fine. It's just a setting change. However, it uses a dye based ink not pigmented. Most printer manufacterers recommend a glossy surface for long life prints since the media doesn't get absorbed into the paper as much. Many claims of long life for dye prints are based on them being stored in photo-albums instead of exposed to light on a regular basis. The paper is important, but not as much as the ink.

A website isn't going to do the work for you. The analogy gainor made of it being a "fancy brochure" is a good one.

JeffG 21-06-10 11:54 AM


Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley (Post 5453)
Interesting points all. I'm wondering from what I'm hearing ... I'm making my prints on glossy photo paper, as it seems to show my paintings to good advantage. Does watercolor paper make things look more washed-out? When I have printed tests on regular paper (admittedly, ordinary copier paper) they don't look great.

Definitely get some good paper for prints. I got Epson's "Radiant White" watercolor paper, and some Epson "Velvet Fine" art paper for my tests. Both are cotton rag and with the proper print setting adjustments, gave really good results. The resulting prints really looked just like hand-painted gouache copies of my work.

Alessandra Kelley 22-06-10 03:38 PM

I agree that a website alone doesn't do the job of marketing my work. I use it as an adjunct to my other art-making and -showing efforts. I wasn't really expecting to transform it into a sales engine; I just want to make the option of art prints available online.

I find the idea of Epson art papers interesting, Jeff. Thanks for cluing me in to them. Our printers are HP, but I assume one can use any paper in them. They do use dye-based inks I'm afraid, and it's been difficult to find really reliable information on their permanence.

I've also been poking around, which looks interesting but, today at least, seems to be loading v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. On the other hand, it said it had about 1900 members online at the time.

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