There are a growing number of websites that will allow you to exhibit your digital art and sell prints to online shoppers. These sites handle the money transaction, the printing, the framing (if needed), and the shipping. Often there’s no upfront cost, since these sites make their money by taking a percentage of the sale. We’re talking no upfront cost, no barrier to entry, money just waiting to be made. Sounds like a great deal, no? It can be. Trying to find the right place to sell your digital art, however, is not so simple. Here are some things you’ll want to consider.
- Just because a site is free, if no one sees or buys your work, it’s pretty much useless. Just as in a “brick and mortar” art gallery, you need to attract interested buyers. Just because a site has lots of traffic doesn’t mean they’re visiting your particular gallery. Do some searching on the site. How hard is it to find, say “Pink flowers in a field” or “kids blowing bubbles”? If a site has a good search built in, and uses lots of categories for browsing, it will increase the chances that your work won’t get lost in the digital crowd.
- If you post your work to a site and then sit back, waiting for the money to start rolling in, you’ll most likely be disappointed. You need to help people find you. So, along with traffic numbers, this comparison lists any marketing tools offered to help you get the word out.
- To help you compare apples to apples, we list the base price charge for common print sizes. Your profit is whatever you charge above the base price.
- There are some important considerations that are harder to quantify, such as print quality, customer service, and turnaround time. To get a handle on these, it’s a good idea to check out a site’s user community forum before committing yourself. If the users are complaining and angry, you may want to look elsewhere.
- If you plan to sell work from your own website, you’ll need to consider shopping carts and that sort of thing. Some sites allow you to customize a gallery page on their site so that it looks just like your site. This way, customers don’t know they left your site to buy, which is a good thing. Other sites give you shopping cart code to add to your site.
With all this in mind, here’s our list of sites currently offering exhibition space and POD (print on demand) services, with some information on each to help you decide. If we’ve missed any, please add them in the comments sections.
Back in 2008, when we reviewed Deviant Art, the site had over 7 million members and was hosting nearly 60 million images. It doesn’t look like they post those numbers anymore, but we must assume that the numbers have only gotten even more amazing in the last two years. Deviant Art is ten years old this August, so it’s looking like they’re going to be around for awhile. It takes a lot of effort, community involvement, not to mention talent, to get noticed on Deviant Art. It’s free to join, and everything that gets submitted is accepted (unless it breaks the rules, of course). This means there is just a ton of work, and the number just grows every minute. In the Alexa list of top websites, DA is currently number 115, and Compete.com says they had 4,565,415 unique visitors in May 2010. There’s a lot of traffic here, no question, but there’s a lot to see, too. Fortunately, there’s a deeply categorized browsing system, which is helpful for finding particular types of work. There’s also a search function, but strangely it doesn’t find member names, only image titles (“deviations”). Your ranking within a category is determined by the number of Favorites (votes) your image has received from other members. Deviant Art charges $79.99 for a 16×20 gallery wrap canvas print, so you’ll need to charge more than that to make a profit. Through the paid option ($29.95 a year), you get a Portfolio, which is showcase website, better pricing options, as well as other perks.
Imagekind was purchased a few years back by Cafe Press. They are known as a high-quality, top-notch publisher. Their current Alexa rank is 16,137. In May 2010, there were 193,862 unique visitors. You can upload an unlimited number of images for free on Imagekind. A paid premium account ($94.99 per year) comes with a customizable website, called a Storefront, including shopping cart and credit card handling. This will help build your professional image. You can make your Storefront match your existing website, if you have one. Base Pricing: Pro Matte Canvas, gallery wrapped, 16×24, is $95.99. You set your markup above this to turn a profit.
Since we first wrote about them in 2008, Zazzle’s reputation within the digital art community has grown. Zazzle’s Alexa rank is 1174, and during May 2010 they saw 3,704,331 unique visitors. There’s no rule saying you can only choose one of these sites to work with, of course, especially since they each service different markets, to a point. Zazzle and Cafe Press sell posters, which retail for $15 or less. This is much lower price point than the framed giclee prints on Imagekind, or wrapped canvases on Deviant Art. Zazzle’s a good place for popular fantasy and sci-fi art, which is the type of work that wouldn’t necessarily do well under glass anyway. There is no charge to join Zazzle, and no paid premium option. You can completely customize your store page so that it looks like a page on your website. Marketing tools include storefronts for MySpace and Facebook. There are over 350 products just waiting to be printed with your artwork, everything from ties to tees. Just keep in mind that your work will be part of a huge crowd of BILLIONS of customize products and posters.
Cafe Press and Zazzle are quite similar, in that they are all about printing on products, especially t-shirts. Cafe Press, however, charges $59.95 per year for a customized store front to match your website (and to lose the Cafe Press branding, as well). Another difference is that Cafe Press does framed prints in addition to posters (though I couldn’t find information on base prices). The Alexa rank for Cafe Press is 1372, and 4,149,532 unique visitors stopped by in May 2010.
FineArtAmerica.com has both fine artists selling originals and digital artists and photographers who need POD services. FAA charges $30 per year to join the premium program, which includes POD printing and framing. The base pricing is explained at length, but at first glance it’s quite confusing. I think a 16×20″ stretched canvas would be around $50-60, but don’t quote me. FAA, as we mentioned in this review, offers a bunch of options at the free level which other sites don’t offer at any level. The list includes email marketing, event promotion, a shopping cart you can embed into your existing website, customized sales page on the FAA site (and a full website with premium membership), a blog, and others options. FAA’s Alexa rank is 8880, and in May 2010 there were 637,213 unique visitors. When visitors look up artists, they’ll find the artists who live near them listed first, which is quite unique. The site’s own data (as of September 2009) shows that there are 25,000 members.
If you’re living across the Pond, Artybuzz may be for you. Shipping charges for your European customers will no doubt be less than the other, American sites listed here. Prices are listed in British Pounds, but the base price list does show that a 16×24″ canvas print (not sure if it’s wrapped, stretched, etc.) is $105.52USD, quite a bit more than any of the other sites. There are no fees for joining or using Artybuzz. You decide how much mark up to add to their base prices. Artybuzz’s Alexa rank is 912,309, and had 167 unique visitors in May 2010. To be fair, though, the site has been up for less than a year.