Before the Internet, artists had very few outlets to sell their work. The main choices were galleries (which took 50% of the selling price) and art fairs. Today there are a whole host of online art retailers, making it much easier to get your work in front of the public. These sites enable you to find buyers for original works, or to offer prints of your work, created when the order is placed. With millions of potential art buyers online, chances are better than ever that you’ll find a market for your work. No longer do artists need to be limited to a few small galleries, dependent on foot traffic. Your potential audience is now the entire online world. Today we focus on seven of the best places online for selling your work.
Determining the “best” sites for selling art is subjective, of course, but I tried to list the best in terms of audience size (traffic), cost, and quality of service. Based on those criteria, Imagekind is certainly one of the best places to sell prints of your work. According to www.compete.com, Imagekind had 113,000 visitors in October, making it one of the most-visited sites in the list. Imagekind allows you to offer your work as fine art prints, prints on canvas, and greeting cards. Buyers have framing and matting options to choose from. Imagekind offers a free account (allows up 24 works for sale at one time), and two paid options, at $7.99 per month and $11.99 per month. These paid options allow you to sell 50 or unlimited works, respectively, and add to the number of keywords and categories you can use. Imagekind has a solid reputation for print quality, and their future seems assured since being acquired by CafePress.
While Imagekind sticks to artwork printed on paper, canvas, and greeting cards, Redbubble is a place for “framed prints, mounted prints, greeting cards, posters, designer T-Shirts and more.” The number of visitors is similar to Imagekind, with 163,500 stopping by in October. RedBubble has an online community, which seems to be one of its primary attractions. There is no cost to join or use RedBubble. Both Imagekind and Redbubble charge a “base price” for products, and their profit comes from that base price. Your profit comes from whatever you decide to charge in addition to the base price. Shoppers may find RedBubble’s lack of categories make it hard to find what they’re looking for. Redbubble uses “groups”, such as “Men Appreciation” and “Elderly.” Perhaps not the best way to find an audience for your work.
Etsy calls itself “Your place to buy & sell all things handmade.” Etsy seems to be doing very well. In fact, over 2.5 million people visited Etsy in October, up 150% from a year ago. It’s mostly a place to sell crafts, but a fair number of original paintings and framed prints sell here. Etsy does not do the printing, as Imagekind and RedBubble do. Here you are selling finished products, whether that be an oil on canvas or a framed print. You handle the shipping, too. Etsy makes their money from listings (20 cents per item listed) and a 3.5% commission on sales. Due to the huge number of visitors, Etsy makes the list, though its arts and crafts focus may not work for you.
If fine art prints aren’t your thing, or if you’ve got a great design for a mug or t-shirt, then head on over to CafePress or Zazzle. These two are so similar, I’ll address them both together. Though these sites do produce art prints, they are primarily known for printing on surfaces other than paper. We’re talking coffee mugs, calendars, mousepads, aprons, fridge magnets, posters, bumper stickers, and ball caps, just for starters. Both sites offer a free option, but CafePress offers a paid option as well, which will let you create a customized “storefront.” You can create a CafePress website that looks just like your blog or website, so that visitors don’t even realize they’ve left your site. Another difference is traffic: CafePress had nearly 5 million visitors in October, while Zazzle had “only” 2 million. These are both huge numbers, however you slice it.
BoundlessGallery is a site for buying and selling fine art originals and prints. You need to do your own printing, framing, and shipping. There is no free option here, though there is a free 7-day trial. Paid options run from $60 to $240 per year. Traffic here is low compared to the other sites we’ve looked at: 21,000 during October.
DeviantArt, which we profiled a while back, is a free online community which offers a print-on-demand service, much like Imagekind or RedBubble. While uploading an image to your gallery, you can choose to make the image available for sale as a print. This is a free option. The paid option, which costs $24.95 per year, allows you to set the sales price above the set base price, and gives you a higher percentage of the sale amount. DeviantArt offers printing on mugs, calendars, mousepads, magnets, and other items, in addition to greeting cards and fine art prints. Traffic on DeviantArt was 3.2 million in October, but no doubt almost all of that is due to artist members and not customers. If you establish a following on DeviantArt, it could result in some serious sales numbers.
February 2010 update
We’ve recently learned about a new site that you may want to check out: Artybuzz. If anyone has used them, we welcome your comments. They seem to be based in Great Britain.