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Sell Art Prints at Galleries and Fairs

If you’re just starting out, you may be wondering how many prints of your original artwork you should get made.  This can be hard to determine since you are not yet at a point where you can gauge approximately how many orders you will get.  There are also quite a few options when it comes to getting prints made.  So how do you know what to do?

Sell Art Prints at Galleries and Art Fairs - left side art

Knowing how many prints to get made of your original works of art can be very intimidating and frustrating to determine.  On one hand, you do not want to have too many prints to store.  But on the other hand, you want to have enough to ship on demand as your orders come in.  So how many do you get made?  What size?  And on what type of paper?

These are some guidelines that I have learned from other artists along with my own personal experiences.

Each printer company is different so it is key to visit your local printer and talk to them about your options.  They are experts in what they do and can really help guide you in the right direction.  Bring a few originals that you need to pay to have scanned regardless of what prints you get made and ask for a few examples to be printed on various types of paper.  You may decide you want a matte finish rather than glossy, or you could even try other options like metallic paper.  

Prints for a gallery

If you are going to be showing your art at a gallery and you are not sure what to expect as far as bringing prints or pricing them, start by scoping out what the other artists are doing.  You can also speak with the curator to understand their policies.  You may find that the gallery does not permit selling of prints, but if they do, you’ll want to have a good feel for how many to bring for each original, what sizes, and how to price them.

Higher-end galleries may not permit any sales of prints, but this doesn’t mean you can't sell them from your own website that people may visit after seeing your art.  Leave your business cards with your website address.

If the gallery does permit prints, you can look to the other artists at the same gallery for advice on how many prints to bring.  The number of prints should be weighed against how many prints you normally sell at other events, how well known you are in the city you are showing, and how long you will be showing at this particular gallery. 

Also consider how many originals you are showing.  If you are showing 10 originals and 5 prints per original is too many for you to invest in, and you may not have room to display as many as you would like.  Find out if the gallery provides an area for your prints to be displayed and if they provide stands and tables.  You might have to bring your own.  Know this, you then can decide the sizes and variety in your collection to sell.

When you are at your print shop, you may want to look into the “Sign & Sell” option that can come with a mat and plastic wrapping.  These look professional, are relatively cheap, and are pretty common for artists to use.  For an 8x10 print with a mat and already in plastic, I would expect to pay under $5 out of pocket.  I can price each of these for $25 and make $20 each.  The gallery may still take a cut from this amount, but they also might let the artist keep the full profits from a print sale.  I’ve seen both, so check with your curator for their policy and price your prints accordingly.

Prints for an art walk or craft fair

Fairs and art walks are often filled with prints for sale.  This is where you really get to display what you want.  If participating in craft fairs is something you want to do regularly, you may want to consider having a lot more prints in your inventory.  The nice thing about selling originals or prints at a walk or fair is that you get to keep your profits.  You pay once to get into the walk or fair and then you keep your profits on what you sell. 

You will need to prepare your own table and stands with a variety of sizes and prices.  Prints often sell more at these types of events than galleries and this is a great way to get more of your art sold to a larger population.  Provide options for large and small prints.  There are stands available for post card size prints which are also a great option.  

As people approach your table, be sure to talk to them.  Find out what they like about your art and let them know more about you.  

Prints to keep at home

It can be hard to determine how many prints and what sizes you should keep at home.  If you are selling at galleries, art fairs, and online, you may have a large quantity of prints in your inventory.  If you are selling primarily online and do not have a lot of space at home to store prints, there are print on-demand options like ArtPal.   

If you are a newer artist and do not yet know how many prints you are going to sell, you may want to start with the on-demand option.  However, if you are determined to have some prints in your inventory because you sell at Etsy, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., or your own site, you may want to start with 2-3 prints per original.  This might not sound like a lot, but not only will it add up with the expense of getting prints made, you also do not know what will sell.  You may not sell any at first especially if you are just starting out.  And remember, you can always get more made pretty easily.  Once you have a scan completed of your original, your printer store will have your image file to make reordering more prints pretty easy

How to prepare prints for display

So now you have decided how many prints you want to get made and where you are going to sell them.  You go home with your new prints and it’s time to prepare them for sale.  There are endless options of how to do this.  I like to use custom made stickers with my logo and the price.  I use Avery’s 1” round labels.  Once you buy the label you want, you can go on their site and custom make your labels.  It’s very easy to do!  I thought it was going to be a struggle figuring out how to feed the printer with my labels, but Avery really does make this very simple.

I place this sticker at the top of my “Sign & Sell” which I purchased with a mat and in the plastic from my printer company.  I then insert a business card behind the matt.  I will often write the title of the painting on the back of the print (not the mat).  Sometimes I sign the front of the print and sometimes I don’t.  I’ve seen other artists op to do this at certain times and it really is personal preference. 

Once I have the print ready to go, I peal of the sticky part of the plastic bag and seal it.  Now it’s ready to sell.  Information about the art and my business are included neatly in one package.  You can use this method for any print in a plastic sleeve.