Selling Art Online - The Creative Guide to Turning Your Artistic Work Into CashIn the last two installments, we talked about websites where you can take your pre-existing art and get it up and ready to sell in a very short period of time. What if you have some creative designs, but may not have the means to print your own pieces right away? Or Maybe you’d rather spend your time creating and let someone else do the fulfillment. Today we’ll talk about the on-demand services of sites like Red Bubble, Society 6 and Imagekind so you can do just that.

Production Houses – Fulfillment is for Suckers

Assuming you’re completely unfamiliar with these sites; as opposed to marketplaces and storefronts where you are the source of all the materials being created and shipped, production houses take your art, create the end product and ship it to the customer themselves. Once you load the art onto the site, add some detailed information, it becomes a nearly hands off situation. Sounds pretty ideal, right? Perhaps, but there are a few things you need to consider. (More after the jump)

Everything I’ve heard from anyone who is successful with these sites claim that volume is the key. The more art you put up—the more details you provide for those pieces—the more likely you are to make sales. How much volume equals sales is undetermined, but I know from my own experience, it’s definitely more than a dozen because I’ve had a few things up on a couple of these sites for awhile and sold very little.

Also, instead of picking your own pricing and getting the majority of the profit from each sale, each item has a base price and you establish the percentage of revenue you want to gain. Therefore, you would need to sell 2 or 3 times the amount of product in order to make the profit of one item you would produce and fulfill yourself. Sure, you could raise your percentage considerably to make up some of the difference, but you might price yourself right out of the market.

Another point to consider, the quality of the products can be questionable at times, depending on which site(s) you’re working with. I highly recommend you buy one version of your work on the product to see if there is something you should be doing to make it better. Perhaps the image comes out a lot more saturated than you expect. Maybe it prints with strange lines or artifacts, or maybe the quality of the substrate is not up to your standards. You don’t want to eat too much into your profits by purchasing multiple versions of your own prints, but you shouldn’t go in totally blind either.

Finally, it’s important to establish an identity from the start. Do you want to sell just prints, or will you also promote your work on canvas? Maybe you want to expand to iPhone covers or laptop skins. Depending on which site you’re using, the possibilities are endless. Go to and you’ll see all kinds of tchotchkes to embellish, but do you really want to have your art on someone’s coffee mugs, neckties or desk calendars? Also, some of these sites don’t give you full options on which product the work goes onto. Sometimes it’s a generalized grouping of items. Finding the balance between idealistic artist and unscrupulous shill can be a bit trickier than you expect. Do your research before making too big of a commitment.

Deciding which site(s) to put your work on can be tedious, but I encourage you to put the time in early to make it easier, and more turn-key down the road. I won’t go into detail on each site because they’re all relatively similar, but here is a snippet of what products each site offers.

Cafe Press – Arguably the most well-known, largest user base. Kitchen sink of offerings (mugs, shirts, baby clothes, you name it). Very pop-culture and universal themes.

ImageKind – Mostly art related substrates (prints, canvas, books), but has established a few other items like mugs, calendars, mousepads & iphone skins. No clothing. Very art oriented, but with fewer fringe art options.

Red Bubble – Very hangable art related with an emphasis on quality imagery. Art prints, canvas prints as well as calendars, greeting cards, some clothing and iphone cases

Society 6 – Very similar to Red Bubble with even more fringe types of artist. No calendars or mugs.

Spreadshirt – Smaller than Zazzle and Cafepress – 90% clothing, some accessories. No art prints.

Zazzle – Also a kitchen sink with high volume of traffic, similar to Cafepress with slightly fewer product types offered, but better quality production. Shoppers are more about pop-culture than art.

As you can see, there are lots of options to consider, and these are just the few I chose to talk about. You could certainly go and put your work up on all of these sites at once, but again, you’ll spend more time creating listings instead of creating art. Choose wisely, and if you have any questions or personal experiences you want to share, hit us up in the comments.

This post in the third of five discussing the top 20 Places to Sell Your Art Prints Online.