To Print or Not to Print: What I know About Selling Art Online
I've been selling my art online for about 3 years. I believe October of 2007 was the month I opened my Etsy shop. Yesterday, as I was home fighting off invading germs and cleaning up my painting room, I got to thinking about hows my process (both painting and selling) has changed as well as the things I've learned along the way. I know I have a lot more to learn but I figured for those just starting out, this would be a good informative post.
The first topic I'll discuss is this: A lot of fine artists at one point or another wonder if they should offer prints. And for each artist, the answer to that is a different one. My experience was as follows:
What I started out thinking: Being significantly cheaper than originals, I expected them to sell like hot-cakes. I went gung ho with a couple of my images that everyone seemed to like. I had them professionally scanned and color corrected, printed on archival German Etching paper. I figured if I'm going to do this, I'm going to go all out with it... so people take me seriously as an artist. I even printed out Certificates of Authenticity and signed and numbered each one.
What I have learned: To my surprise, on Etsy and at shows, they did not sell well at all. And the ones that did sell, people were buying because they liked the image, not because they cared if it was #17/100.
People wanted originals... well, MY people wanted originals. And the market is what made the difference. They want the original because of the nature of the artwork... with photorealism, people don't want a print, because then it's like a photo of a painting that looks like a photo. And no matter how professionally done, there's something different about when the original is sitting in front of you. Something that can't be captured with the best scanning and color correcting in the world... and that, my friends, is the nature of art.
And with prints... today if there is high enough demand for a specific painting before the original sells, I will put out a call to see if anyone else is interested and put in 1 order for that number of prints plus 1 more. This way I don't ever spend more overhead than I need to and ensure I will make my money back.
Like I said before, this is different for every artist. Some people sell amazingly well with prints... but take a look at your market. Are you willing to upfront the overhead cost of having them done professionally or if you want to try and invest in the equipment to print them yourself? Maybe poll your current/past customers and see if it would be worth it.