20 Places to Sell Your Art Prints Online, Part Three – Production Houses

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 Zazzle.com 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.
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Showing 11 comments
  • Emilie

    just wanted to say that this little series you did on selling art prints online is wonderful. so informative and full of resources for people who are starting out and trying to navigate how to begin, like me. i just got laid off on monday of this week, but in a way it’s been a blessing, because it’s allowed me to really think about getting back to my art. in doing research on the options out there for selling, i came across your article and am so glad! not only the information but the organization of the blog post is great too (having done research professionally and sifted through a lot of information, i really appreciate organized and concise data, you can tell there’s an actual approach to how you’re presenting the info). if you don’t mind, i’ll probably be mentioning and putting up a link to this article in my blog to share with others in an upcoming post. thanks for your hard work and spirit of sharing! now… is it too much to ask for a similar series on printing options? ;D

    • Dave

      Thanks Emilie, I’m glad you got some value out of the series. The printing options could be a HUGE undertaking because there are so many different ways and places, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t do a more general overview. I will consider it for sure, and by all means, share anything you want. I’m happy to have my stuff promoted. 😉

  • ChefandSteward

    Hi Dave,

    Just came across your site while searching for ways to sell my photo prints online as an additional revenue stream. Your blog is a great resource! Will subscribe for future posts.

    One question. What about ImageKind?

    • Chef and Steward

      My question was incomplete. How would you rank image kind in relation to quality of prints and frames? I live in the Middle East so shipping here is an issue of magnanimous proportions. Also compare print quality to cafe press.

      • Dave Conrey

        Ok, so full disclosure, it’s been a long time since I bought anything myself from Imagekind, but I can only assume the quality has improved over the years. In comparison to other print sources, I would say they are the specialist in this arena, so their quality is likely going to be top notch as far as the medium. The big issue really comes from the quality of the image and whether its printed at the appropriate size or not. Some images can be enlarged through Imagekind to accommodate larger prints, but that doesn’t always work out well in the final print.

        Considering that Imagekind is now owned by Cafe Press, I would say that the quality is probably going to be similar. I would assume CP is using IK as their canvas print source, maybe they always have, but don’t quote me on that.

  • the crimson pig

    redbubble is really cool and much of my sold works are in red bubble. I got $300 paid in my paypal account by redbubble but never sold a thing in other art online accounts.

  • James W

    Thank you for the amazing list; Those are solid places. When you get a chance consider rebelsmarket; its a fairly new marketplace where you can buy and sell art too. I would like to get your feedback

  • Mickey

    Thank you for your information. I’ve had my artwork on FineArtAmerica.com for 3 years now. I loved the idea that I could keep my originals and sell prints of them. I spent a lot of time photographing and scanning my work in high res files to put up on the site. I have 122 images of my paintings and photographs up there. I was so excited in the beginning because of the residual income potential. However, except for items I bought as gifts or some greeting cards (of my own work) I’ve not sold a thing!

    FAA has a beautiful site and lots of options; prints, framed prints, prints on canvas, prints on acrylic, prints on phone cases and now prints on throw pillows. Their shipping is high. As a seller, I wouldn’t make much compared to what they get. I’ve been very disappointed on the sales side. It’s a great way to Showcase your work for family and friends to look at as well as see how pieces would look framed a certain way (they show you exactly what the finished product will look like). But as far as selling goes, not so much!

    • Dave Conrey

      I’ve heard similar stories from others, Mickey. I believe it’s because they don’t have a natural flow of traffic to get people to their site, at least not as strong as some other sites. They depend on the artists to drive traffic, but if that’s the case, why not do it all yourself and keep the lionshare of the money.

  • David

    Are there fulfillment houses that don’t have their own on-line store but work to fulfill your orders. My goal is to only sell on my website, to control exposure but have someone else fulfill orders as they come in.

    • Dave Conrey

      You could try http://www.print.io, David. I can’t give any claim to how good they are, but I know you can use their program in that manner. At least, that is my understanding.