How to Professionally Present Your Art for Sale

Tips for Packaging, Branding, and Preparing Your Art (Plus a downloadable Certificate of Authenticity!)

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and/or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

If you’ve watched any cooking shows in your life, you are fully aware that presentation is a big deal. Something that tastes like absolute garbage can look appetizing if plated with intention. Conversely, something that tastes like a gift from the heavens can look downright disgusting if the presentation is off.

This translates very easily to your art.

Packaging and presentation can take ‘okay’ art to the next level. Disregard for such things can turn away customers or prevent you from raising your prices.

For example, when I first moved to California, I participated in an outdoor group show. Three artists displayed in a pop up tent on walls, and another artist brought a table to sell prints. This last artist was a perfect lesson on what not to do when selling your art.

All he had was a table, and a stack of loose prints that he spread across the surface. His prints were displayed haphazardly. He used no protective plastic coverings and no backing boards. A slight breeze sent some pieces flying to the ground, which then resulted in him using rocks or other random objects to weigh them down. His art was exposed to the elements and to finger tips from potential customers. His art actually looked great, but no matter how good the art itself looked, he couldn’t get more than $5 to $10 for a print because he neglected to consider presentation. Plus, odds of the prints getting damaged at his display and when the customer walked away with the print were very high. Don’t be that guy.

When you are preparing to sell your art, you need to balance aesthetics and protection. You’ll want to make sure your art remains safe, while also making it look attractive to a customer. I know that funding is often tight when you start out, so don’t feel pressured to do everything on this list, but keep these ideas in the back of your mind as your art business grows:

How to prepare your art for sale

Presenting Canvases

Clean up the edges- Either paint the edges a solid color, extend your painting over the edges, or use painter’s tape to block off the edges before painting to keep them clean.

Clean up the back of the canvas-if you are a messy painter, consider using Kraft paper and painters tape to protect the back of your canvas from drips and spills while working.

Varnish- Always seal your finished paintings. This will protect your work from fingerprints, and smudges. Some varnishes also include a UV coating to protect colors from fading. (My favorite varnish is Liquitex High Gloss Varnish from Amazon or Blick)

Resin- Resin is a huge trend these days. Both as a medium to create art, and as a protective finish for your canvas or wood panels. I personally haven’t tried it, as I prefer my usual gloss varnish, but resin can really take a simple piece to another level.

Hanging materials– If you want to give your customers the option to immediately hang their art, read this post for tips.

Presenting Paper/Flat pieces

Protective plastic- when you are selling online or in person, a protective plastic bag is a great idea. Shipments can encounter moisture in transit, and customers walking around an art fair are likely going to stop for snacks and beverages as they walk around.

When I need a couple of items, I order my plastic bags from Amazon (5″x7″, 8″x10″, or 11″x14″). When I need to resupply my entire stock of bags, I order from Clearbags. (I will not make a commission off sales from Clearbags, but you can use code MESSY10 at checkout for 10% off your order until 12/31/2020)

Backing board-I highly recommend backing board as an extra layer of protection for your finished art within the plastic sleeves. The added rigidity protects your work while stored, shipped, and carried around events. I use Clearbags backing board most often, but Amazon is great if you need an item quickly (5″x7″, 8″x10″, or 11″x14″)

Frames and Matboard- Adding a frame and matboard to your work can take even a rough sketch to gallery level of presentation. If you work with standard sized paper, you can find plenty of precut mat and ready-made frames to fit your work. Like this matboard on Amazon with a simple frame. (More tips in this post.)

Branded Details

Sign Your Work

A lot of artists believe your art is only finished once signed. Some artists stick with their full name in cursive. Some use initials. Some create a little symbol. Some use a logo. Some don’t sign their work on the front surface. Some don’t sign at all. Some include a date.

Whatever you decide to do, make it your own. Do what feels authentic to you.

Name Your Work

Naming is the last thing I think about with my work, but it can add more context to your art, and it shows the world that you’ve put more care into what you created. It holds more meaning when it has a name.

Add a Story/Meaning

Knowing what inspired a work of art or what the piece means to the artist can help a viewer feel even more connected to the art. With pieces of higher value, consider writing a few lines about the piece. You can use this in online inventory descriptions, or include the story near title cards at shows.

Include a Certificate of Authenticity

In my opinion, certificates of authenticity are a little hoity toity, but I do love the care that is taken to document details of a piece. I created my own certificate using Canva, but tweaked it for a little humor and call it a “Certificate of Messiness,” to match my brand. You can do whatever you want with a certificate. It doesn’t need to adhere to any art world standard, in my opinion.

If you want to include a Certificate of Authenticity, I recommend tracking details like title, size, date created, materials used, your contact information, social handles, and anything else you deem relevant for your art.

If you are lazy and just want a ready made cert to print, then feel free to download this PDF that I made using Canva. I usually print four to a page on cardstock, cut with a guillotine cutter, fill it out by hand, and then put into an A2 envelope.

Downloadable Certificate of Authenticity
Other details to consider using:
  • Include a Thank You card with purchases.
  • Use stamps with a logo or signature on the back of art or on shipping materials.
  • Use stickers (Branded logos, thank yous, etc.)
  • Use tissue paper/colorful wrapping in packages or when wrapping items at events. (Secure with twine, ribbon, or stickers.)

***

Alright, that was a lot. Clearly you can see, the more care you put into your work, the more valuable it appears and becomes. This list can be added to, and not all artists will do everything on the list. If you can at least start by considering how you will protect your work while selling it, then you can slowly evolve all of the fun branded elements of your presentation over time.

***

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter

P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Why Artists Depend On Others to Guide Their Art

(And why they shouldn’t.)

If you have ever dreamed of making art, selling your art, or even if you have already successfully sold art, the question “What should I make?” will pop into your head. All creative people experience a loss or lack of direction at some point. Even after four years of making art full-time, I still have those moments. It’s part of the creative process, but trying to solve your lack of direction by asking others for guidance can be detrimental to your creative development.

It is far too easy to lose yourself when you open the door to any and all guidance, advice, critiques, etc.. Believe me, everyone has opinions, but not everyone has your artistic intentions and interests in mind when they share them.

Like today, my adorable six year old niece was watching me draw. I asked her “What do you think?” and she stood there with an unenthused look on her face and replied “Why do you only know how to draw swirls?” (Reasonable question, as my work has been swirly AF lately.)

“I can draw other things, but this is what I like drawing right now,” I said. She still wore a critical expression, and posed a slightly crushing followup question.

“When will you stop drawing swirls?” I couldn’t help but laugh, while pretending I wasn’t crying a little on the inside 😉

Clearly, my niece isn’t impressed, but that’s okay. Now imagine that conversation with an adult. I’ve had many conversations like this, and even though it’s not explicit verbal rejection, questions can be loaded, and all non-verbal cues can point to disapproval of your current direction. We’ve probably all been there in some way. Someone asks an innocent sounding question and suddenly your mind is filled with “OMG, you hate it! I suck! Why am I doing this?! Nobody is going to like this!”

I mean–no–I’ve never gone down that thought spiral before… *definite sarcasm*

We artists can be sensitive creatures. Any whiff of negative feedback can make us question everything we are doing, and accept guidance from outsiders. This guidance can sometimes result in losing touch with our own creative vision, and that’s where I have a problem.

Why do artists depend on outside opinions?

In order to prevent being swayed, or pushed away from your own creative authenticity, it’s important to look at why this happens in the first place.

1. You lack confidence in your art or abilities.

We all have to start somewhere, and in the beginning of creative explorations, few of us have built-in confidence that we know what we are doing. We ask our friends, families, and partners “Do you think this is good?” And we crave their validation as fuel to move us forward. This isn’t necessarily bad if you are talking to someone who knows how to provide the right feedback to keep you moving forward, but asking the wrong person can trigger the negative thought spiral above.

Over time, you will build internal confidence. (I wrote a blog post years ago on this matter.) Until then, be careful where you seek feedback on your art.

2. You are focused on selling art more than creating art.

I get it, you want to make a sale. This makes it tempting to look at artists around you who are selling a certain kind of art and think you should follow the same aesthetic. And it makes the suggestions from friends and family to paint what they saw on Pinterest or at a craft fair sound like a good idea–but you need to check in with yourself and determine what kind of art you actually want to make.

If you find yourself accepting guidance from others on what they think will sell, then you need to revisit why you are creating in the first place.

3. You haven’t found your style or direction yet.

Maybe you’re confident in your abilities, but you still don’t really know what kind of art you should focus on. Asking people around you what they want to see is okay if it encourages you to try new things and naturally find a style, but be careful that those ideas don’t override your own desires.

Whose opinions should you trust?

I want to be clear, I am not saying that you shouldn’t listen to anyone when it comes to your art. External feedback is really important when you are exploring your creativity. Instead of trusting everyone has valid input about your art, I just encourage you to select people who can understand how your mind works.

If you are looking to others to help assess your work, I suggest making them read this post about how to critique art. Critiquing doesn’t come naturally to people, but this post will help get artists and non-artists into the right mindset.

If you want to create art for others, then having someone tell you exactly what kind of art they want is welcomed. Let’s say you are doing contracting work, commissions, illustrations, or anything that involves bringing a client’s vision to life, then accepting guidance and giving up a good amount of control of the end product is expected.

When you just want to create, or find your own creative voice, then outside opinions will likely just distract you from your goal.

So–

What should you Make?

Make the art that you want to make. Other people cannot tell you what art is hiding inside of you. They don’t know, and sometimes even you don’t know, but that’s a journey you’ll have to take on your own. Finding your direction requires playfulness, time, and patience. Before you ask others for guidance, get your art supplies and try new things. See where that takes you. You don’t need anyone’s approval but your own.

Only you know what kind of art you should make. If you don’t have the answers now, you will find them over time.

If I internalized my little niece’s displeasure at my repetitive swirls, I’d probably be drawing rainbow unicorns and dancing donuts with sprinkles on them right now to make her happy. As fun as that would be, it’s a bit of a departure from what I love doing. (Though, outside of my work day, I will rainbow unicorn the sh*t out of my art. Maybe even add some glitter!)

Next time someone tells you to draw a barn near a wheat field instead of naked lady with a body full of tattoos, or a poured abstract acrylic piece–ask yourself if they are trying to help you find your authentic creative voice, or if they want you to make art that conforms to their personal ideals.

Trust the guidance of those who want to nurture the creativity that’s already within you.

***

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this was helpful. You probably know by now that I am here to help artist’s with these posts. And, if you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.

Read more about my consulting services and book an appointment today.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week (kind of). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)

-Kelly

@messyeverafter


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Replacement Paint Pen Applicator Tips

*Links contained in this post are affiliate links for Amazon and/or Dick Blick and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. These commissions help fund more content like this, so thank you!

Have you tried the Fineline Precision Applicator?

This paint pen is the product I recommend most, and I always get questions about it. I’ve written about it too many times to count, and I’ve seen so many of you give it a try (yay!!), but you’ve run into an issue. I get this comment a lot:

“Why are your tips shorter than mine?”

I don’t know why the bottles that I got had shorter tips. Maybe it was an early run and the company decided to switch to the longer tips later. But I hear you, the shorter tips seem easier to use.

I explained it in this Instagram post a few months ago:

View this post on Instagram

Answer to your common question: "why are your fineliner tips shorter than the ones I ordered?" • • If you follow the links in my FAQs page and buy the fineline precision applicators I recommend, you likely will get bottles with 1" tips. But when I got these new slim fineline applicators, they came with 1/2" tips. They don't appear to give a choice when ordering or show any sort of differentiation in packaging. BUT, fear not! I use both and both work great with practice. I mainly use my original 1/2" tipped bottle, but the first fineline applicators I ever used had the 1" tip and I used those for months before switching to the slim bottle. • • The last video I posted shows me using the 1/2" tip, and for kicks I grabbed my 1" tip to see if I lost dexterity. As you can see, I did not. I have experimented with cutting my longer tips down by putting a wire in the tip for stability and snipping with a wire cutters, but since the tip can collapse, I would recommend not doing that unless you don't mind the possibility of ruining a tip for good. I've had one successful trim and one failed trim. Haha so I don't like those odds. • Moral of the story: these bottles take time to adjust to if you are switching from paint markers or pens. Whether it's a 1/2" tip or a 1" tip, your line work will not look perfect right away. Be patient, and be cautious with the wire cutters! • • Any questions? 😁 #messyeverafter

A post shared by Mea • Kelly Marie (@messyeverafter) on

I would still encourage you to use the 1″ tips if you have them, but I don’t know why I hadn’t researched this much earlier. Why not try to find replacement 1/2″ tips instead of cutting tips myself or suffering through the longer 1″ tips? Silly me.

Finally, I did some hunting on Amazon a few weeks ago, and I added a couple of items to my cart, but I never got around to actually clicking buy.

After yet another “Why is your tip shorter than mine?” comment, I finally clicked buy. This morning, I eagerly waited for the mail to arrive so I could test out my new purchase. Seconds after confirming the tips fit my bottles perfectly, I started this post. You all must know about these!

Products I use:

First of all, you’ll need a Fineline Applicator. The tips used are “Luer Lock” tips that can be removed, cleaned, and replaced. I usually get the 20 gauge, but the gauge doesn’t matter anymore now that I found replacement tips.

  • Fineline Applicators 1 oz 20 Gauge (3 Per Pack) (Amazon)
  • Fineline Applicators 1 oz 18 Gauge (3 Per Pack) (Amazon)

I found two products that looked like they would work, but I couldn’t be sure until I had them in my hands. The applicator pens don’t say “Luer Lock Cap”, so I was staring at my applicator tips and comparing it to different luer lock needles and giving a big ole shrug when I clicked buy. “Maybe it will work! Maybe I’m about to waste $12.”

This is the product I bought, and the tips 100% work on these bottles:

  • Brostown 120Pcs 1/2″ Industrial Liquid Dispenser Needle -Luer Lock (Amazon)

This product contains 10 different tip sizes from 14 gauge to 30 gauge, with 12 pieces per size. All contained in a cute little plastic case! Heck yes!

And I didn’t try these tips, but they were the other option on my list of potential products. I went with the other pack because of quantity:

  • 0.5 inch Unsterilized Synthetical Dispensing Needle with Blunt Tip Luer Lock – 10 Different Sizes,50 PCS (Amazon)

Should you buy a pack of replacement tips?

Again, I still think the 1″ tips work great, but I understand the desire to experiment with the shorter ones. If I were given a choice, I’d pick the 1/2″ tips. But, what else should you consider before buying seperate tips?

Replacement Tip Pros
  • You can try different sizes and experiment with different mediums. I tried the 30 gauge tip with India ink and it has potential. (But read this post for a better ink option.)
  • If your tips clog, dry, and become unusable, you can just swap out for a new one!
  • You can have the shorter tips without having to cut them.
  • The price isn’t crazy. You can spend $9-$13 on a pack of new tips that will last for a long time.
Replacement Tip Cons
  • The wire cap won’t fit into all of the different gauges. You may need to remove tips for storage or replace it with the original gauged tip. You can also find different gauged wires and make your own improvised cap. (Moral of the story, keep a wire in the tip or clean it out after each use. Don’t let paint sit in the tips.)
  • Maybe the price? It’s under $20, but it’s still money that could be spent on something else.

***

There you have it! A new solution to a problem I should have researched long ago! Sorry about that…haha! Let me know if you give these replacement tips a try! I’m excited to play with the rest of the sizes.

If you enjoy learning about the supplies I use in the studio and want to know more, let me know through Instagram or Email, or consider becoming a Patron of mine to support more content like this. Now go get messy and share your creation on Instagram using #messyeverafter!

-Kelly

SUPPORT MESSY EVER AFTER ON PATREON:

A lot of artists don’t like to share their secrets, but I’m an open book. If you enjoy the content I create and the advice I give to other creators, please consider becoming Patron of mine on Patreon. Pledging as little as $1 a month supports this content and my career as an artist.

Further Reading: