I get questions fairly often about how to do prints the “right” way.
While there’s of course no way that you have to do anything in your art business, there are common ways of doing things that will make you look more professional and ways that will probably make your life easier or make things simpler for your customers.
So I’d love to answer a few of your most common print-related questions.
When you sell an original, are you still allowed to make prints? (This is the most basic of the questions.)
Yes! I’m thrilled to let you know that when you sell an original artwork, you are selling the physical object, not the copyright.
Not only that, but you can only give the copyright to someone else through a contract. So you can’t do it by accident – well, unless of course you sign a contract you didn’t read or don’t understand.
So go ahead and make those prints!
You’ll dramatically increase the potential income from any single piece.
Should I keep inventory or print on demand?
Like most things, there are pros and cons.
I fervently recommend you print on demand. But there is a negative side to it.
You usually pay more to print one at a time whenever a customer orders. And it takes a lot longer to get the print to the customer if you don’t tell the printer to make it until you receive the order.
On the bright side, most art businesses are set up to function better financially when they don’t keep much inventory, if any at all.
Rather than having the money sitting around the studio, you can be paying yourself, buying new materials, or upgrading your tools.
So find a printer who will do them one at a time for you, as a customer orders.
Even if it’s a bit more expensive for each print, it will be such a relief to not have the pressure of stacks of prints you paid hundreds of dollars for and can’t sell.
If you’re going to an art fair, should you buy a lot of the prints just in case? You can get a discount, right?
It’s ideal when you can estimate how many sales you’ll have and order just the right number of prints.
But I know we don’t always live in ideal-land.
When you aren’t sure, I suggest aiming low. It’s better to run out of prints (honestly!) and write down people’s orders or even miss out on a handful of sales than to have tons of stock left over after the show and realize you didn’t even break even.
So do a small run of each print you want to sell – with a minimum of 3 prints of any one type and the maximum depending entirely on the size of the show.
Talk with previous exhibitors to find out how much they sold as a good gauge.
Should you do limited editions or open editions?
I recommend a combination. You should always have a few prints available, even when you become super-famous (I’m crossing my fingers for you!).
You might have a hard time doing that if all your prints are limited edition.
Imagine you’re successfully making 6-figures a year.
You’ve been able to cut back your hours so you only paint when you feel inspired. You happen to be in the middle of a low-inspiration month.
All your limited edition prints and all of your originals have sold out. And now? You’ve got nothing to sell.
People are loving your artwork daily and can’t buy it!
To avoid that situation happening some day (I know – good problem to have!) I suggest that at least every 3-5 pieces is reproduced as an open edition print.
The rest can be limited edition, which is a really great tool for helping people make a decision to buy instead of hesitating for months or even years before buying from you.
I don’t think you have to do limited edition at all if it’s not your thing.
But I do like that it lends an extra note of exclusivity to your artwork. It makes customers feel a bit more special if they know their art purchase is only in a handful of other homes. And it gives you another price point to offer.
Limited editions should, of course, cost more than open editions of the same size and style.
So don’t be afraid to up those prices a bit to reflect the special nature of the print and to compensate you for limiting the amount of money you can make from that image over time.
Should you hand-embellish your limited editions?
I love this question because the answer puts control back in your hands.
You can hand-embellish if you enjoy it or think it enhances the piece. Or you can leave the print as-is if you like the idea of not having to work so hard.
If you do hand-embellish, make sure the price is higher than a limited edition that isn’t hand-embellished.
There’s a pecking order to your pricing and if you ignore it, your customers will be confused.
And confused customers don’t buy.
The one thing you do need to do with a limited edition is sign it. Your customer needs proof that you really are only printing a certain number of them and the best proof you can give is to sign and number the print before you send it off to them.
And, just in case you were thinking along these lines, you should never hand-embellish an open edition print.
Open edition prints are perceived as not being special. Hand-embellishing is perceived as being extraordinarily special.
The two do not go hand-in-hand.
It would make it very difficult to price appropriately and you customers could get frustrated that they have a very special piece but so do loads of other people.
So hand-embellish your limited editions if you want to, but don’t feel obligated.