I have been an Etsy shop owner since around 2013. By far, my most successful shop sells art prints of watercolor paintings I painted myself. But what if you don’t have the time or inclination to go down this road? – is there a way to fast-track your way to Etsy success by selling free art prints you can find and download online?
Don’t worry; there is a way to find FREE artwork you download and then sell online legally. So you don’t have to paint or draw to make money selling prints.
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Etsy is an online marketplace with thousands of potential customers looking for digital downloads, so this is a great place to start your own online store. There is a minimal extra cost, except the transaction fee, and it is cheaper than having your own website.
One of the easiest ways to get started is to download free artwork within the public domain, upload them to your online store and sell them to art lovers worldwide as digital downloads or as physical prints using a print-on-demand service.
However – if you are anything like me, finding free artwork is the biggest challenge to getting started.
Don’t worry – I’m here to help you find everything you need to start selling quality prints at affordable prices, and it’s not as difficult as you think.
Where to find free art to download and sell online?
While I can paint and draw myself, some of you may have noticed the trend of selling the art of older vintage prints. These prints are found online and are free to use any way you wish because they are in the public domain. A simple search in google will reveal several websites that show older art that you can download.
The trick is finding PRINTS you can use legally for commercial purposes and making money.
What do we mean by public domain?
Note: I am not a lawyer and have no legal experience, so please do your own research beyond this post.
Work that falls into the public domain is no longer protected by law for copyright, trademark, or patent purposes. In effect, the public owns the property, and no one can own it again.
This usually happens 70yrs after the author has died.
You can find out more of the legal terms for these products by searching on websites such as Public Domain 2023
I purchased this book from Amazon – which gives you a good knowledge of what you can and can not use within the public domain search.
- Fishman J.D., Stephen (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 440 Pages – 06/30/2020 (Publication Date) – NOLO (Publisher)
For example – did you know Winnie the Pooh will be within the public domain in 2022?
The other option is to search for Creative Commons artwork. This artwork has been granted a license by the holder to offer certain usage rights to the public. Again please check each website you visit before using the artwork to create items you intend to profit from.
What do we mean by FREE when finding and using items to sell?
Many websites offer free use of commercial items you can access and download. You may need to create an account to access the downloads. Usually, this is of little inconvenience and can get you access to larger files.
But wait – there are things to consider.
As well as offering free printable wall art, this is usually lower print quality and will be fine if you want to create small stickers, for example, or add the image to a mug.
Pro tip –
I’ve seen some websites offer these as free prints as part of an optin to join their email list.
There is a massive difference in quality if someone scans in the original artwork than someone who takes a photograph of a painting in a showroom, for example.
However, if you want to sell prints, and usually, these come in many sizes, you will want to consider the resolution of the files you have downloaded.
Not all downloads are created equal.
Some websites offer larger documents to download, which means that the resolution is high quality and suitable for printing. The larger documents are often behind a paywall—monthly membership fees, subscriptions, or even a payment when you download.
Many vary from 1200px to 6000px. If you plan to sell large poster prints using the items you download – I suggest a minimum resolution of 3000px.
Even with a resolution of 3000px, it might still need to be better quality to print. In this case, you will need to enlarge the image enough so that when it is published, the quality of the artwork is preserved.
How do you make your artwork higher resolution to sell larger prints and products without losing quality?
Work out the physical size of the download – if you have downloaded a file and it’s 300pdi, that is 300 dots per square inch – divide the pixels by 300.
E.g., A file that is 2000px wide is actually 6.6 inches in physical size. This is why I recommend always making your files as large as possible.
You can use free online tools, such as Ai image enlarger. – This online tool allows you to make the image larger and fill in the gaps in the pixels using Ai.
It could be better – but it’s a good option if you are starting. If you have to use the paid option, gather all your prints, pay for one month, and get all your images done in batches.
I use photoshop – which also uses Ai to enlarge the image. It can be used without restrictions if you subscribe to photoshop creative cloud.
Many websites are search engines and allow you to search for free photos and documents outside their website. They might point to Wikipedia or another website, such as a museum or curated flicker account.
Treat each one individually and research what they allow you to do with downloads from their site.
Keep an up-to-date list of where you have completed the required research on the website to ensure you can use the items for commercial purposes.
What other options are there if you want to resell items you have purchased online?
There is another option besides public domain – for example, you could search for items termed PLR. This stands for Private Label Rights, and the creator has, in effect, sold a license that allows the buyer to use the product for sale.
An example would be purchasing a planner under PLR rights and then reselling it on your website as though you created it yourself. Selling planners online as digital products is another great way to make passive income online. Another term is commercial use.
Some products require you to make changes, such as your branding before you resell the item as your own. But you are free to charge more for the product, and it would also be worth the effort if you could make the product of more value.
But this means you can be something other than a graphic designer to sell high-quality prints online.
A brilliant shortcut and well worth the effort if your audience responds to the product. You can purchase at $35 and resell the items for $22 to your audience as a digital download.
The beauty of digital products is that you can resell them repeatedly to your audience without purchasing any other license to sell.
What can you do with the free items you download online?
Well, there are countless products you can create besides prints. Depending on your design skills, you can use one item for several uses.
For example – you download a vintage print of a winter scene. You can, of course, sell a print of this in lots of sizes, but also create cards, digital photos, templates on canva.com, and backgrounds.- by removing some of the elements, you might be able to use it for several items by using a print on demand service such as Printify or Printful.
- T-shirts and clothing
- home decor,
- Canvas prints
- Wrapping paper
- Christmas Decorations
- Pencil cases
- Cups and mugs
- Phone cases
- Photo books
- Photo prints
The options are endless, and today’s print-on-demand websites offer more and more deluxe options each week. It’s a great business model if you maintain good customer service, ship items quickly, and double points if you can incorporate a personalized touch.
One of the trends on Etsy right now is to add the name under the vintage print –
A list of sites I’ve used to find hundreds of prints to download and sell.
(Some of these require a monthly subscription to gain permission to use them for commercial use and on Etsy)
The British Library has a flickr account which you can access and shows hundreds and hundreds of items you can download and do anything you like with them.
One of the best websites for downloading beautiful images you use for commercial usage. This is where many sellers download the vast majority of artwork.
A super website with particular attention to showing what else that artist has in the public domain. It loads fast, making it easy to go through several items quickly. You can also search by individual artists.
This site has lots of interesting prints and etchings to download and use for sale. It’s a good option as it clearly explains what you can use the items for.
Now I’ve given you a couple of good places to download free artwork for commercial purposes and your own use.
And there are lots more.
I wanted to sell vintage artwork when I started my online shop on Etsy. The artwork I targeted was public domain (remember, different countries define a public domain differently). Still, I wanted to dive deep and see how much was out there.
Now it’s still impossible to find every place and even remember all the ones you have visited. So to ensure you don’t get muddles about where you found the item, please keep a record of where you downloaded it.
I keep google sheets recorded with a link to each item I download from each website and give it a number. The number then stays with the print I create, so if I need to know where I found the artwork, I can quickly ascertain where I downloaded it from on the internet.
Some paid products show you where to find public domain work you can download and use online. I purchased this PDF, updated for 2022, called PUBLIC DOMAIN 5. Over 100 pages of links to websites for music, art prints, clip art, high-quality photos, ebooks, audiobooks, and magazine websites for you to dive deep into the world of the public domain.
So, inside Public Domain Empire 5, there will be a lot of new things:
– What is public domain.
– How to use it wisely and without any risk.
– 192 websites to find ebooks, audiobooks, comics, photos and images, music, and government docs you can use the way you like.
– Where to find the 55,000 new materials in the public domain since January 2021, and the best ones you shouldn’t miss.
– 10 brand new methods on how to make money with the public domain.
– And much more!
Also – once you have all of these wonderful free items – you need to know what to do with them.
This product does an excellent job if you want to understand how to use the free items you have downloaded. In fact, you get 190 pages worth of ideas and projects to get started. It is dedicated to Etsy and other online shops.
Honestly, I did know a lot before I read this, but it’s surprising how things spring into your mind with a little reminder.
You can purchase your copy of Public Domain Fast Cash right here.
Ok – so this is not free, but there are opportunities to start for free, besides the Etsy listing fees and transaction fees.
This is one way to create an Etsy shop from nothing since you sell other people’s work.
A word of caution – not all works where the creator died more than 70yrs ago are in the public domain, and some countries have various rules around this. For example, create something remotely representing Disney, and your Etsy shop will be closed in moments.
So you do need to do some research into what you can sell from the public domain.
I hope I’ve helped a little bit with ideas on where to find free prints to sell online – if so, please repin to your favorite Pinterest board. Thank you
Before you rush out and start downloading like a kid in a sweet shop, if you want to start selling digital prints or even print-on-demand poster art – read our post on how to sell digital downloads on Etsy.
P.s if you are a website or know of a good website giving away free artwork for commercial use, drop a comment below.