How to make art prints to sell online

I know it – I, too, have a big pile of finished and half-finished artwork lying around. Like a tiny friend, they stand for both accomplishment and often a giant hug. But in the real world, it would be nice to make some money from these – so how do you start making art prints to sell online.

This post will look at several options on the best ways to sell your art prints online.

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more) Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

You can find other helpful posts for Etsy sellers

What is Etsy vacation mode and how to use it

How to add a listing on Etsy the right way

What is an Etsy tag, and where do I find the right ones

Sell art online today

Ways to increase your sales on Etsy

image of ebook selling digital art


Download a FREE Ebook of everything you need to start selling digital prints today. I’ve included how I got started, the sizes required and what tools you need to become a successful seller.

Ways to make and sell art prints

Is it better to sell digital prints or physical prints?

This is personal to everyone. Some artists prefer only to sell physical prints of their artwork or even only the original.

I would love to be an artist who could commend serious money for my artwork and only sell the original – preferably at an auction. Ha – we can only dream.

Like 99% of artists, I love my craft, but I do need to make some money for my art. Of course, it is nice to see my art in my Mum’s kitchen, but that won’t pay the vet bills, will it?

For me, I love digital prints. There are several deciding factors for this. Firstly I live in Asia, and my main customers are in the USA – which is quite a distance and the postal service, although reliable, is very pricey. (Well, think right now at the beginning of 2021 – no one can guarantee anything with the regular post) I’m sure you can relate.

Read our guide on how to sell digital prints on Etsy

The other thing is that digital means I can sell the item repeatedly, with very little input from me. It’s pretty much passive income. And that, ladies, is what we love.

We want as little effort as possible when making money online.

Spanish wave… yay…

If you are thinking – gosh, all those digital files will be stolen and sold on some cheap grab it all websites the Size of Russia. Yep, it’s possible.

I can’t argue with that.

Sadly, you can’t make a dancing car without some countries copying it chip for chip and remaking it in black for a third of the price. It’s how we roll these days. 

But don’t despair.

You can always sell multiple copies of your prints by printing them yourself or asking another company to print them for you and post them where they need to go.

Not entirely passive income since you will need to use the money you receive to pay the printer to print and ship. Both cutting into profits and ultimately losing the passive income tag.

If you are still waiting to start an Etsy shop – don’t worry; I will help you open an Etsy shop in 10mins.

Hmm, not too bad if your customer lives in the same country as you, and you can find a reliable drop shipper who doesn’t remove your profits.

Now – in all honesty, this could be for you. But it’s not an option for me. I don’t live in the USA, and so I must adapt to what I have.

Therefore I sell digital.

Screen shot of etsy shop

Put simply- it’s a hands-off business model (almost) and is the answer to actually doing something with your artwork.

I saw a beautiful piece of watercolor painted on YouTube the other day. The chap had a beautiful garden with the birds singing, and I loved it. Maybe he can sell his artwork locally, and perhaps have a couple of exhibitions in the local community hall. Nothing wrong with that. But consider this as a hobby. A business model needs more under the bonnet to gain any traction. 

If you want to consider shipping your artwork first – or you think digital might not be for you, then see an artists perspective on selling artwork and shipping yourself.

How do I start selling art prints you have made?

You can start selling your art prints, physical copies, and digital prints online in an Etsy shop. Some sellers prefer Shopify, and I, too have a Shopify store, but Etsy right now is far easier to maintain, and I have much more artwork in my Etsy shop.

Put simply: Etsy also collects sales taxes and presents them for you. Now that in itself is probably the best part of Etsy right now.

No one wants to end up in the sandpit with the tax authorities, and who wants to read up 90 pages of sales tax, nexus, etc., when Etsy does the heavy lifting for you, and all you have to do is declare your income as usual.

(Please note I am not a tax advisor and so please do your research with a qualified person)

Etsy also has a built-in traffic flow going past your shop – so you won’t have to spend time driving traffic to Etsy. Of course, the downside of this is the competition is fierce in almost all of the markets on Etsy.

A bit like wanting to wake up President; there are just many frogs in the bucket.

However – if you have a good body of work, a consistent and honest style, and a willingness to grab ideas when they ping at you, there is every reason to start an Etsy shop.

Ok ready?

How to make a print of your artwork?

Unless you plan on selling the original artwork you painted – you will need a way of getting your art from paper to computer.

Generally, the higher the scan quality, will equal the better the quality print for your customers. This means better reviews and ultimately return customers.

Things to remember: Etsy will only let you upload files that are <20MB in Size.

Always aim for 600 dpi if you can.

There are three ways to achieve this.

Opt to have a printer or digital shop scan your artwork to the internet.

Producing your artwork can be easily achieved if you can find a reputable person or business. They can then send the digital files to you via the Internet. You can then use these to sell online.

Of course, the downside of this is you will have to pay someone to do this = initial cost before you have started. 

Expect to pay 4-10$ for each one.

If your skillset runs to photography – you can also take a good quality image of your artwork. The benefit of this is that it works for any size art, and you can do it without leaving the house.

A word of caution for this will affect the print quality depending on the type of art you are selling. Some lend themselves well to photographs, while others – like my watercolor would not do so well.

Need more help with listing photos? – read our guide to images on Etsy

This is because it is a different medium, and I feel it’s essential for watercolor prints to look like watercolors, not a photograph. 

I’m not a great photographer, and I’d worry there were blurred bits, but perhaps you know someone who can help in the short term to get this started for you.

It’s not unusual to see artists sell photographs on Etsy – and this is a perfectly acceptable choice when you are beginning with limited funds.

I advise scanning your artwork on a scanner and producing it yourself.

My preferred choice is the Lide 120 – using the slim version, which scans at 4800×4800 dpi.

Canon CanoScan Lide 400 Slim Scanner, 7.7" x 14.5" x 0.4"
  • Enjoy high speed scanning in as fast as 8 seconds, with the included USB Type-C cable. With USB Type-C the Cano scan lied 400 has one cable for...
  • Preserve detailed photos and images thanks to 4800 x 4800 dpi resolution, and with image enhancements, such as color restore and dust removal,...
  • Enjoy ease of use with 'EZ' Buttons. With auto scan mode, the Scanner automatically detects what you are scanning; built-in PDF buttons, scan and...

It works well for me since I paint in watercolor, which lends itself well to my artwork.

There are several suitable scanners on the market. But before you rush out to buy, ensure your choice of the scanner can scan in at 600 dpi. The majority only scan at 300dpi, which is fine, but you want the largest sharpest image possible.

These small efforts to refine your processes will save many problems with blurred images and inevitable refunds later on.

Lide is the scanner I use. Before this, I had a Canon printer with a scanner bed on top. It worked fine, but when it came to getting ink, it was a nightmare. (I confess I threw it on the floor in a paddy) – no joke.

All of these options allow you to get a scanned copy of your artwork into your computer.

How do you prepare your artwork to sell online? 

Once you have the copy of the print on your computer, you need to make any adjustments to get it ready for sale, often described as the cleaning upstage.

You don’t want to sell prints that have marks on them. Also, much of my work, although it is still bright in color, I want to be able to adjust some of the tones sometimes; often, this is easy to do with Adobe Photoshop.

You can also leverage any color changes and make your work match together more if you intend (and I advise you do the same) to sell multiple pieces of artwork in one listing.

image of 3 flower prints for sale

Possibly the most emails I receive from my Etsy customers is – ‘Do you have anything to match this one?’

I get a lot of customers asking me which of my listings matches this or that listing.

So, for example, I have lots of art that are plant-based. I used lots of greens in them. Some of them match nicely, while others use entirely different tones.

You will want to match as many as possible to increase the value of the sale each time. I.e., this buyer purchases three matching prints instead of 1.

It’s a simple upsell for you to do this.

Don’t have Photoshop? Are there any alternatives to Photoshop?

No problem, you can still purchase something like Photoshop Elements for a one-time fee and does pretty much everything Photoshop does for the beginner. It does not, however, export as CMYK. What is CMYK for beginners?

This is not a problem for me as I only export as RGB. I find this works best for most buyers, and if they take it to a professional printer, usually, they can convert it for them to CMYK.

But if you are starting – it’s ok to scan in your artwork and put it for sale as a JPG in RGB, which most scanners present you with.

I can’t go into doing this here since everyone will be using a different scanner and computer. I use a Mac for my work, and you may use a PC.

You may not need to make any color adjustments and prefer to leave your artwork as it was originally painted.

What size prints should I make to sell online?

I make six files in total for each listing. If I’m listing three prints together in one listing on Etsy, I will make 18 files. See How to add a listing on Etsy.

I know I could make all of my prints one size, the most popular, 10×8 inches, but I have found that so many people came back to ask for a resize. I was spending more time making individual requests than I was creating new work.

Not a good use of time.

You can find out more about my prints’ sizing and how I use Photoshop to do this by downloading my free guide below.

This leads me to my next point.

Is it worth doing custom print work? 

In a word – no. Defiantly not.

Remember – we are doing this to create passive income behind the scenes, the income you will make regardless of whether you are at your desk or the beach.

Hello digital nomad.

So once you start to do custom work, adjustments, changes, and requests – you lose this benefit.

Then you end up making several adjustments for customers, once for the slight resize, then to fit a particular frame size, next thing you are changing colors to match the wallpaper in the dining room, and boom!… your day is over, and you just lost all of your profit.

My advice is unless you can do the custom request in under 10 mins, don’t bother.

image with text how to make art prints to sell on etsy

What Size Should I create my artwork to sell online? 

Since my scanner is A4, I only create artwork in A4 or smaller. My previous Canon printer, the one I smashed, was A3 size. So if you create artwork bigger than your scanner, think about where you can outsource the scanning.

There are ways where you can scan in several copies of larger artwork and stitch them together in Photoshop- but I’ve had little success with it.

Don’t forget to read our post on how to sell art online

Add a listing the right way on Etsy

Grab a free daily planner template

Read our complete guide to SEO on Etsy – it’s huge

If this is something you want to try, there are videos on Youtube to help you get this done.

Final thoughts on how to make art print to sell online.

Keep your artwork nice and clean if you can. Scan your artwork with a good quality scanner or take a photograph to get it to your computer. Create your prints in various sizes and upload them to your preferred selling platform. 

If you enjoyed this post – please Pin me to your favorite Pinterest board.

how to make a print from your artwork to sell on etsy

Before you go, please download our FREE ebook on Selling Digital Prints today.

image of ebook selling digital art


Download a FREE Ebook of everything you need to start selling digital prints today. I’ve included how I got started, the sizes required and what tools you need to become a successful seller.

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