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How To Sell Digital Downloads of Your Artwork… Part 1 – Getting Started

I have had some questions lately from artists who want to start selling their artwork as digital files on the internet to make some passive income. Here is a overview of what is involved in selling digital art products from your artwork.

How To Sell Digital Downloads of Your Artwork, Part 1 - Getting Started... I have had some questions lately from artists who want to start selling their artwork as digital printables on the internet to make some passive income. Here is a overview of what is involved in selling digital downloads of your artwork.

As an artist, creativity is your most important goal. Making money, however, can also be a goal. The old way of selling each piece, being discovered and getting a show in a gallery still happens, but there is a better way. With the internet, selling physical products is not the only way to make money from your artwork!

You can make more selling digital downloads of your work on the web. But how do you get started?

What Are Digital Art Prints?

It can be a few things. It could be art created right on your computer using various programs like Adobe Photoshop, Procreate or Illustrator OR a scan of your physical artwork, OR a photograph of art you made on paper or canvas. The files are usually .jpg, .tiff or .pdf files.

Digital prints can be easily created from a printer, or onto other media by the person purchasing the file.

Functionally, when someone buys your digital file listing you will be sending them a link to download that artwork.

When you sell a digital art print, you give the purchaser the right to print that file as many times as they wish in whatever form they choose for their own personal use. What you don’t give is the right for them to sell that file or print outs of it to someone else which is called a commercial license.

more about this later!

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Why Sell Your Artwork As Digital Downloads

As I was writing the second part of this series I was reaching out to some of my favorite artists to use as examples and almost NONE of them were selling their arwork as downloads… gasp!

When so many independent artists that I like and admire are not doing something I have to think that they just don't know the benefit of doing it so here are a few benefits to selling downloads of your artwork…

Sell Your Backlist

You can take your backlist of artwork and find a new audience on social media platforms, Etsy shop, Red Bubble, Amazon , the Creative Market online marketplace and more!

Many people can't afford to buy originals of your work or even want to get prints, but they can buy a digital download and print it out themselves.

Increase Your Reach

You can get new raving fans! Maybe some of these new people who have been exposed to your work will be potential buyers of an original artwork or print of your art in the future.

Having a wider audience that you can grow through online platforms means more potential customers… it is the easiest way to do free lead generation!

Global Audience

If you are selling traditional art, shipping them out internationally can be a pain! A lot of artists don't want to take the time to learn about insurance, shipping costs, shipping supplies etc.

If you are in the US, shipping to Europe is hard because they have a VAT tax, which means that some of your original pieces might just take a trip over there and come right back. If the buyer won't pay the VAT tax it is returned to you.

If you are outside of the US, being about to sell a digital art file internationally can open up a great opportunity to reach a large audience of potential buyers!

Passive Income

Last but not least, it is a passive revenue stream. No more printing out physical art prints yourself, putting them in envelopes and mailing them OR ordering online and having them sent OR ordering giclees and hoping you sell them all.

YES, you can keep selling your artwork that way, but why not add a totally free, hands free additional revenue stream to your art business?

It is so darn easy to do! If selling your artwork as digital download printable was hard, I promise I would tell you… I am honest that way. But it is really easy to do… see below!

How To Make Your Artwork Digital

There are many different ways you can “digitize” your artwork. Here are a options to get you thinking…

1. Standard Letter Size or Smaller

If your artwork is 8.5″ X 11″ or smaller, you can simply use a high quality scanner that hooks to your computer. In this case you would place the artwork down on the panel, click scan and the scanner will make a digital file of your art.

For this you will probably want to find a scanner that allows you to control the artwork by laying it flat rather than pulling it roughly through a business style scanner.

I use the Epson Ecotank ET-2800 that prints and scans!

The main thing to look out for in a scanner is that it is designed to make photo quality files.

2. Larger Sized Artwork

If you artwork is larger than letter sized then you will want to take it to a local printing shop to get it scanned. (I did a search for “print scan shop trinity fl” and found a bunch!)

You will want to bring a flash drive with you that you can have them transfer the file to or ask them about emailing it to you directly.

I use my local UPS store for all my digital scans. Their scanner is better than one I could reasonably afford and since they do scans all the time, theirs are just frankly better than mine are!

3. Photography

Last but not least you can have a photograph taken of your artwork at a really high resolution. This will require the use of DSLR or SLR camera… not your iPhone!

No matter how good you think your cell phone's digital camera may be, using it to make the file is not a good idea. Your cell phone camera has a smaller display that for most phones is set at 72 dpi (dots per inch) for digital displays.

The problem with smaller files is that to give a customer a file that will print at larger sizes clearly, you need a file with a minimum of 300 dpi for a home computer and even higher for professional printers.

Additional Resource :: Creative Live Course, File Formats Explained: Everything You Need to Know

Selling Digital Downloads of Your Artwork

Okay, now that you have a file to sell, let's talk about how you can sell them!

1. Manually Selling

The very easiest thing you could do to sell your Digital Artwork would be to put a picture of it up on your website or social media and have a link to a PayPal payment then email the file to the customer.

This could be a little kerfuffly and hard to track but it is totally possible and if that is all you are capable of now, start there!

2. Selling On Etsy

I am a total Etsy fangirl for selling digital files (I sell planners) because of the ease of using it as a seller. They handle all the logins, payments, file delivery and even have marketing tools built in that help you get the word out about your products.

If you are even a wee bit able to use the computer, I recommend starting with Etsy. They are used to working with artists and have lots of great info about getting your shop up and running easily.

Get 40 Free Listings When You Sign Up For Etsy

The big drawback to Etsy is that you are competing with lots of other sellers. The benefit is that lots of buyers know they can find great artwork to download on Etsy.

3. Shopify Store or Your Own Website

Last but not least you could set up a Shopify store or sell from your own website. If you are just beginning your selling trip, this is going to be the hardest and most time consuming.

I have a Shopify store where I sell my files and it does about 1/25 of the sales of my Etsy store. This is because of a few factors:

  1. I have to drive all the traffic to that store, there are no “built in shoppers”
  2. I don't have an email marketing program for my store… sites like Etsy email shoppers every day reminding them to come back and buy
  3. I hate doing customer service like reminding them how to log in or get their files

That said, if you already have a super popular website or social following and don't want to have to split your profits with a sales site, building your own store could be the way to go!

Additional Resource :: How To Create A Best Selling Digital Download On Etsy

Licensing Your Artwork

A wee bit ago I said I would tell you more about licensing. I waited until you got down here because it can be a confusing and scary issue and I wanted to make sure to cover it well.

As the creator of the artwork, you get to decide the licensing options for your digital products.

You can give the buyer the right to print unlimited copies or just one. You can also upsell them to a commercial licensing agreement if that is of interest to you. But to start, just go basic and get your listing up and selling!

Here is a free artists licensing agreement that you can review!

Functionally what it says is that you are giving the buyer the right to use your artwork in the manner intended in the listing they bought and that you DON'T give them the right to use it in any other way.

Please note that the vast majority of the people who are buying printable artwork are wonderful buyers who are just getting something to print out for their home or office! Don't get so hung up on the bad apples that you decide that selling your artwork digitally is just too scary!!

Sending A License With Your Files

One way you can help protect your artwork is to send a Word doc with the licensing agreement AND a page that they can take with them to Kinkos or Office Depot that gives them to the right to print out the file in the manner that you dictate.

Many print shops will not print out artwork without express permission from the artist, so you will be saving yourself frantic calls from your buyers.

The nice thing is that you can say things like … approval to print up to 3 copies of this work for personal use or printed in the size specified by the file.

Sell Digital Downloads of Your Artwork Wrapup

Well, that was A LOT of information right off the bat and maybe you are feeling a little confused right about now. If you have never sold your artwork digitally before, here are just a few things you need to do to get started…

  1. Get your art digitized… have it scanned into a .jpg, TIFF or PSD (Photoshop file)
  2. Figure out where you are going to sell it… I recommend starting with Etsy
  3. Sell a few and see how the process works and what is popular!

The biggest mistake I see ALL new sellers make is that they try to get everything “perfect” before they start. If you are thinking about doing this and have gotten this far, for sure get a file made and just start trying to get online art sales!

How To Sell Digital Art Online FAQ

Since I wrote this post I got A LOT of questions about how to sell digital art online…. so here are a few things you might want to consider!

Copyright and Trademark

I make magazine collages as my personal artwork. Because the images I use are copyrighted by the photographers (for the most part), it might be a problem for me to sell them online.

Here is a great resource for you if you have questions about IP (Intellectual Property)

What Size Artwork Should You Sell

One thing to consider when starting to sell art online is that the size art we make oftentimes is not the size of frames that people will want to print it in!

If you want happy customers, make sure you format your digital files to print correctly for 5X7 or 8X10 (or other standard size) frames.

How To Make Money With Digital Art

I get asked A LOT about how much money can you make selling your digital assets online! And the unsatisfactory answer is … it depends!

I have made about $30K over the years selling digital files… but I also know some people who struggle to sell even one print.

Some things that make a difference…

  • Where you sell – if you are trying to build a website yourself, you have to have the technical knowledge about the internet AND drive your own traffic, if you have a huge Instagram following or a Youtube channel you can drive your own traffic easily!
  • Your network – many successful artists already have a pool of people who love your artwork, it is much easier to sell than if you are just starting out from scratch (one tip to do RIGHT NOW is to start posting your pictures on Instagram! I get numerous requests about where they can buy my art!)
  • Your price – pricing digital art is tricky… too low and it is not worth all the effort, too high and maybe no one wants to buy it. For sure you will get higher price points on physical products, but selling digital prints has a much higher profit margin because you can sell it over and over again!

Selling Digital Art Wrapup

Oh my gosh, that was A LOT! Please don't let the hard work and volume of things you have to think about deter you from starting to sell online… it is so worth figuring it out!

Whether you sell wall art online or other kinds of digital files, take a wee bit of time to understand it and then just get started!

Additional Resource ::

How To Sell Digital Downloads of Your Artwork, Part 1 - Getting Started... I have had some questions lately from artists who want to start selling their artwork as digital printables on the internet to make some passive income. Here is a overview of what is involved in selling digital downloads of your artwork.