Friday, February 20, 2015


My Paintings on Merchandise
Well, I don't know. I suppose its because its a great way to get your art out there and known, as well as make some extra cash. We have great examples out there in other forms. Movie merchandise. Have you ever bought a Star Wars item? Performers and musicians merchandise, ever bought a T-shirt from your favorite band?

Okay, don't hate me yet, just read on.......

We image artists have been able to deliver quality printed artwork for many years now thanks to sites like Fine Art America Online and others, but why stop there?

These days its easier than ever for painters, photographers and other visual artists to create merchandise thanks to online services like Redbubble, Zazzle, Cafe Press, and many others. And don't think 3-D artists can't do it too. I know one potter who is selling beautiful note cards with images of her pottery pieces, and a sculptor can do the same. Why not? Its great paid for promotion for your work, and if someone can't afford the larger piece or they don't have room for it, they can at least acquire a small memento of it and help promote the work! I recently spoke to another painter who had a major merchandising activity on a few of these sites, and I was astounded at the profitable volume she's been doing.

Oh, I know many artists frown on this sort of thing, but I just think we have to do all we can to make our works known. Yes, I know images sometimes get stolen when you post them on line. It happens, that's just a fact of life these days. Don't let it stop you from getting your work out there, its not doing a lot for you sitting in your studio or image files is it?

Don't get mad yet, keep reading.........

A very wise successful painter once told me. When you're at a show, don't hand out business cards or brochures with your art printed on them. Make small pieces to sell like note cards, small prints, etc. and let them help fund your advertising. Make sure your website and contact information is on those pieces so they can find you again. I learned this lesson even more acutely when I helped a friend of mine make a bunch of small prints of her originals just before a show. She had only her original paintings in the show, and because of the show's location, I thought small prints would be good to have. Well, one customer who had little money bought several small prints. Several years later, that same customer, who now had much different financial circumstances, commissioned 8 large originals from my friend!  Wow! Never presume that someone might not remember you if you treat them well and give them something they can have and afford.

Personally I've saved up sometimes for years for an original piece. I might not tell anyone, but I keep that note card or small image in my files and circle that thing like a hawk to see if anyone else snatches it. If they do they do, but I've often surprised a fellow artist who didn't even know I was looking!

Another tip is to not presume what might be popular. One of my paintings that I wasn't overly happy with, I added to a line of merchandise. It turned out to be one of my best selling images! So unless you really personally hate it,  just don't assume anything. People often have surprising tastes, and our tastes aren't all the same.

Okay, this MAY not be for everyone, and of course what is most important is to keep producing art and increasing your skills, then produce more art, and get it out there to be seen. I just want you to think about it, and the importance of making your art known as broadly as possible.

The world needs more art, and artists need to thrive. The biggest brands don't use just one or two outlets. Coke doesn't sell its merchandise in a single store, and in my opinion neither should artists.

Here are a few suggestions:

1) Document everything digitally as soon as its done. Take quality scans and photographs, or have them done. Never sell the copyrights to an original unless that is purchased for additional money, but even at that I suggest you keep the copyrights to all your own work if at all possible. One caution though is not to argue with a collector about this. If they want the copyright, great, just make sure you've priced the work appropriately for that.

2) If you are worried about reproduction work competing with your unsold originals, then start making merchandise from images of sold works only.

3) Stay organized or get help doing so. Keep well cataloged files of your images, descriptions and testimonials etc. You will use these over and over.

4) Lastly, don't be afraid to promote other artists as well through affiliate links and social network sharing of things you like. I know this can push some people's buttons, but I sell more of my own work when I also promote other artists, and frankly, we need to promote art in general a lot more to keep public awareness and goodwill high.

5) Have fun! Oh, and please share this post for me.

©2015 Michele A Ross


  1. Wonderful article! Inspires me to get some more things created and painted!

    1. Great Carolyn! I'm glad you liked it, let's all make an abundance of art and get it out there!

  2. All good advice! Zazzle has been very good to me. I just wish shipping rates to Canada were better so I can have some of my own merch.

    1. Ahh yes, I understand Christine. I suspect shipping rates will catch up in other countries soon, much as Amazon has done with its markets. Glad to hear you are having success, keep at it! :)

    2. And thanks for your kind words about the post!

  3. Thanks for this insight! I am giving this some thought. You brought up some very good points and I have lots of sold works to use (and works I don't like!) Did a tweet for you of course! Very Best Wishes!

  4. Thanks so much for this post! Lots of good, sensible information and I am considering what you have mentioned! Very Best Wishes!