I can’t say I’m not happy to see the end of this road, but it certainly has been an education for me, and hopefully some of you too. If you’re just checking in, today I’m wrapping up a five part series on different places to sell art prints online. We’ve already discussed Storefronts, Marketplaces, Production Houses and Curators. We’ll wrap this up in a somewhat neat little package with a little “Boys Club” action from Communities.
Take Socializing to a New Level
Right from the start, I’m going to state that there are a bazillion communities online, and many of those are art related; too many to mention in a lifetime, let alone in the confines of this post. I told myself I wouldn’t go to bed until I finished this post, and since I want that to happen sometime before the next millenium, I’m going to cut this a bit short and discuss a few that I personally have experience with.
Also, many of the sites I’ve discussed previously have a bit of a community effort going on (Etsy, Zazzle, Storenvy), but it’s not their main focus. On the other hand, DeviantArt, Gigposters and Behance are communities first, portfolio host second and everything else after that. You can sell your work on these sites, and each one approaches it differently, but selling is a tertiary aspect to what they offer in total.
The Key Word is Deviant
Make no mistake here, DeviantArt is THE largest social media site for artists by a country mile. In fact, it wasn’t too many years ago that DeviantArt had more active users than Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. Let me say that again just to be clear: A site dedicated to art was, for a time, the largest social media site on the planet.
Of course Twitter and Facebook have grown exponentially in the last few years and they’re not looking back anytime soon, but it’s still an amazing fact that a niche like art can command so much traffic. The downside to that aspect of the community is you are a tiny fish is a really big ocean, but because it’s a social site, you create your own ecosystems to exist in
Another side effect of having so many users is the need to separate the wheat from the chaff. There is a whole lot of crap on that site, mostly because of young kids looking to kick up their artistic careers, or fanboys who just want to draw a million pictures of Sonic the Hedgehog or Dragonball Z characters. Your work may be exceptional, but it gets a little cluttered with all the other junk sitting on top. Staying prominent and popular on the site requires work, but we’re not here to talk about your social skills, are we?
An interesting aspect to DeviantArt is with every image you upload, they require you to use it on some sort of printed material, whether that’s art prints, postcards, greeting cards, mugs, puzzles, etc. It is the one thing about this site that bugs me the most because maybe I don’t want to sell my art on this site. You don’t have to sell your piece on everything; but they do require you to pick at least one item. For me, this usually means an art print or wrapped canvas option.
The process is essentially the same at the production houses; you supply the art, pick the price point (above their ‘wholesale’ pricing) and they do the rest. It’s easy and relatively painless, but as I urged with other production houses, make sure you know what you’re selling. The quality of the product may not be up to your standards, so do your research.
Boys Town is Filled with Posters
A constant source of inspiration and consternation at the same time—Gigposters always delivers. No other site on the internet satisfies my craving for cool design and illustration work quite like Gigposters. However, it never fails to make me realize how much I suck in comparison. With heavy hitters like Jay Ryan, Aesthetic Apparatus and the ubiquitous Frank Kozik hanging around, it’s easy to get intimidated.
Aside from a massive database of poster designs you can search through, Gigposters has an absolutely massive community forum. This was the first only art forum I ever was a part of, and I wasn’t even really designing posters at the time, but I loved them so much, I wanted to hang out with the cool kids. The problem with calling them the cool kids is that a lot of them have started to believe it. The forums can be a bit troll heavy at times, thriving on the blood of newbs, but if you have thick skin, take a few licks and do more reading than speaking, you’ll be ok.
There will always be the assholes in the group; the scene seems to generate a bit of the “I’m cooler than thou” snarkiness because tons of fresh faced designers are always up the cool kids ass about exactly how cool they are. Its been years since I interacted on those forums, but I check in every once in awhile and the same snarky attitude seems to come up all the time, just with different individuals.
That said, for every asshole troll on the forums, there are a dozen or more cool folks who are more than willing to help out a newb. There’s a ton of information to be had on those forums and you’ll be a richer individual for spending time there.
On the selling tip, the shop on Gigposters operates like a marketplace. It’s similar to selling on Etsy, where you pay GP a small bit for the listing, keep the cash from the sale and do all the fulfillment yourself. The only difference is you’re marketing directly to a very specific niche of collectors. You can sell more than art prints here, like tshirts or original art pieces, but the lionshare are prints.
Also, although I have seen 4 color process posters sold here, those are few and far between. Screenprinted posters are the norm, as they are throughout the site, so don’t be shocked if the prints you made from your Canon Pixma Pro don’t go over well with this group.
It’s like LinkedIn for Right Brainers
I learned something very interesting about Behance recently: it was founded by a man who used to be a heavy hitter at Goldman Sachs. How does a man who works for the most prominent (and dubious) investment firm go off to start a social arena for creatives? It’s perplexing to say the least, but they’ve done a good job with the site, so the connections must be more direct than I assume.
Behance is the complete opposite side of the spectrum from most other art communities. If DeviantArt is the neighborhood pool, Behance is the athletic club. I don’t mean to imply Behance is exclusive, because it’s not, but the people there are in a more serious mindset. If you’re on Behance, you’re there for a very specific reason. Maybe you’re trying to showcase your portfolio in the best possible manner, looking to interact and find work, or looking to hire someone for a project.
The structure of the social community is similar to DeviantArt in that the most interaction comes from “likes” and comments on your submitted work. They do not have forums like Gigposters, and there is no massive knowledge base to tap into, making this the weakest of the three sites from a social setting, but I think the intention of Behance is less about interacting, and more about getting shit done; implied explicitly if you read the founder’s new book, Making Ideas Happen (I am reading it, and I’ll write about it in more detail in a future post).
Selling on Behance is totally different than the others in that you don’t sell anything on Behance. Instead, you link up to whatever other site you’re selling through (Etsy, Society6, Big Cartel or whatever) and Behance simply sends the customer over to that site for the transaction. I personally think it’s a missed opportunity for Behance, but nobody who worked at Goldman Sachs ever gave up a dime on purpose, so I’m sure they have their reasons.
The Bow on Top
That’s the gist, plain and simple. If you didn’t know how to go about selling your art, or were confused where to start, now you have a bit more information in your pocket to reference. With each group, there are winners and losers, but there is no clear-cut choice for everyone. Each person has to gauge the level of involvement they wan tot have with their product vs. how much profit they want to keep.
The 20+ sites mentioned in this series are just the tip of the iceberg. As the internet grows, more and more sites will come to offer up the better alternative, but will it work for you and your art? The only way to find out which ones you should be working with is to get out there and do it. Don’t put an overabundance of thought into deciding which venue to choose and plague yourself with inaction. It’s better to act and get it wrong than to sit back, dwell and get nothing.
I certainly hope I’ve helped in some small way. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this series. As always, if you have suggestions about this post or anything going on here, I’m all ears. Thanks for tuning in and good luck with your sales.