Instagram Tips for Artists

Instagram Tips for Artists

 A collection of resources for Fall 2018

As a full time artist, I am constantly trying to figure out ways to promote myself. This morning, I went down a Google rabbit trail and found a couple of articles on the Instagram for 2018 that I hadn’t read yet. (Considering that I was busy trying to sell my house and move to California when they were published it makes sense I missed them.)

Both of these articles come from the Later blog, which is an awesome app for scheduling your social media posts. I don’t personally use it at the moment, because I usually post content from my studio each day instead of scheduling things in advance, but it’s still a great tool.

After reading both articles, I figured I should share them with you and add a bunch of other useful info I’ve written to help you succeed as an artist on Insta.

Articles to read:

Later-The New Instagram Algorithm  – This article does a great job of detailing exactly how the new algorithm works and goes over some of the common rumors floating around (shadow banning, using the same tags over and over again, business accounts getting hidden in the feed, and more).

Later- 5 Exciting Instagram Updates Coming in 2018 – The name kind of says it all, but if you are one of those people who loves to try new things and have fun with the apps you use, then give this article a read.

A year ago…

I have been tracking my Instagram growth since it started blowing up September of 2017. I literally had 300ish followers on September 15th. Today, I have 63,500. In one year. Without spending money on bots, advertisements, or anything like that. Holy crap, right?

Since I am addicted to the high of getting new followers and social engagement, I have worked very hard over the last year to make sure my account continues to grow. And it does. I get at least 100 new followers a day. And instead of being a turd and just rubbing my success in your face, I also work hard at trying to help other artists get the same level of exposure.

Which is why I’m writing this. I don’t know what the next year will look like for you, but if a dysfunctional, kind of unlucky weirdo like me can make something like this happen–well then I say your potential is limitless.

I’ve written a lot of blogs over the last year, and I repeat some of the same info, but continue on to read my current tips and past writings to help give your Instagram account a boost.

My Basic Tips for Growing your Instagram Account for Fall 2018:

1. Focus on creating great content.

I’m serious. This is the number one thing you want to figure out.

I’ve said this over and over again. It doesn’t matter how much exposure you get. If you’re content is lacking in quality, followers aren’t likely going to stick around.

2. Put in the work.

How many times have people tried to sell you something to make your dreams easily come true? Do those things actually work? Unlikely. You have to put in the work.

Chasing dreams is really fricken hard. I want to give up a lot. Even now. People will try to dangle shortcuts in your face, but they are focusing on their own marketing plans and don’t really care if you succeed (Instagram bots, paid promotions, content sharing accounts, etc.).

Disclaimer: Maybe those shortcuts work. Honestly, I’m too poor and stubborn to spend money on those things and what I’m doing works–sooo do with that what you want.

3. Have Fun!

You are an artist. You get to play with art supplies! Life is pretty great when you can have the luxury of doing art. Focus on your passion and don’t forget your reasons for creating. (Maybe read reasons not to to an artist and are you forcing yourself into an art business before you’re ready if you’re not sure what you’re doing or why you’re doing it.)

Mainly, don’t take things too seriously. If you are starving and your life depends on making an art sale, then I do suggest finding an alternative source of income. If scrolling through Instagram is constantly making you bummed out, then stop doing that. Don’t let your art goals suck the life out of you. And don’t let social media take the fun out of creating.

Your mental health matters way more than the number of followers you have.

4. Give me your money

How’s that for a sales pitch?

Unlike the bot services and paid Instagram promotions, I actually care about you as an artist. So, if you ever want one-on-one advice on how to refine your brand, grow your account, and communicate with your audience–I’m your girl.

I offer an Instagram review package where I look over your account, give you feedback on areas you’re killin’ it in and areas that need improvement, provide specific advice on hashtags for your niche style, advice on captions, posting frequency, photo compositions (lighting, staging, etc.), community interactions, profile aesthetic, biography tips, and more. If you’re interested, definitely let me know.

I can’t physically give you more followers, but I can help give you direction. And, if I don’t think I can help you, I won’t take you on as a client. I don’t want your money if I can’t do anything for you.

5. Read these Other posts

I’m serious when I say I want to help other artists find success. Growing your organic Instagram following is a great way to get art sales. I’ve put in countless hours growing my own following AND writing these blogs posts for you guys.

If you are determined to put in the work and grow your Instagram following, these posts are for you.

How to Choose the Best Instagram Hashtags

How to Write Engaging Instagram Captions

How to Brand Your Instagram Account: A Guide for Artists

How to Increase Your Instagram Followers in 2018 Tips for Artists

How to Increase Instagram Followers as an Artist

 

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And that’s all I’ve got for you today. Let me know if you have questions, comments, concerns, complaints, or cat videos that you’d like to share. Leave a comment below or reach out to me directly on Insta or by emailing Kelly@messyeverafter.com .

Now go get messy!

-Kelly

Should You Host an Instagram Giveaway?

Should You Host an Instagram Giveaway?
Advice from a fellow Artist

It seems that social media is rife with giveaways these days. I can’t scroll through my Instagram feed or go more than a week without seeing or being tagged in another artist’s giveaway post. I even see a lot of artist’s accounts that include “Giveaway at ‘x’ followers” or something similar in their bios.
Everyone is doing it, so it must be useful, right?

I have come to the conclusion that for the most part, giveaways are overrated and new artists think they need to host one right away in order to compete with other creators and grow their following. In my experience, giveaways aren’t all that spectacular, and they may not do more than frustrate you.

What’s the main point of a giveaway?

Giveaways can be really beneficial. They have to benefit the giver in some way, otherwise it would be silly to keep doing them. So what are some of the potential perks of a giveaway?

  • Gain followers/Find potential new customers/Be exposed to a new audience
  • Reward current followers
  • Keep your community engaged with your account

Yes, those things sound great!  The issue is just how much can you expect from a giveaway?

The biggest reason smaller accounts do giveaways is to gain new followers, and this is where they can be a let down. When it comes to rewarding current followers and keeping your current community engaged, giveaways can easily be successful.

How can you gain followers with a giveaway?

Through asking others to tag their friends/family or share your post your work will be exposed to a new audience. If these people like your work and like the item(s) you are giving away then they will follow you and tag more people. And the cycle continues. Plus, if your giveaway post gets a lot of engagement, it can potentially be boosted in the discover feed giving you access to an even larger audience.

Easy, right?

But just how many new followers can you expect from a successful giveaway? If you are just focused on increasing followers, a giveaway might disappoint you. When I hosted a giveaway at 300 something followers last year, I gained less than 30 new followers and had under 15 entries. When I hosted a giveaway two weeks ago (my account was at 60k) I gained 700 new followers and had over 200 entries.

I’m sure the numbers are different for other accounts, but this at least gives you a frame of reference for what a giveaway can look like.

Ultimately, the success of your giveaway hinges on whether you are giving away a product that your audience wants. Free stuff is cool, but useful free stuff is even better.

If you plan on giving away your art, I hate to break it to you, but if your following is small then it’s likely that nobody wants your art right now. (Read this blog post before you get mad at me!) So, if you want to gain new followers, you need to make sure your free stuff is appealing (I’ll go over that more below.)

Should you host a giveaway on Instagram?

First of all, you don’t have to do a giveaway just because everyone else is. I am a huge proponent of goal setting and doing things with intention. Which is why I encourage you to plan things out, be strategic with your future giveaways, and make sure that it is the right decision for you and your account.

I’ve hosted multiple giveaways over the last year and my followers did increase, but not much more than their usual rate, so any giveaway you see from me will never be done to gain followers. Instead, I host giveaways to celebrate new milestones and show my appreciation for my existing followers. I also host giveaways to increase my brand recognition like encouraging people to use #messyeverafter on their posts.

It’s up to you to decide what is right for your account, but don’t feel any pressure to host a giveaway just because the other kids are doing it.

If you are going to host a giveaway, I have a few tips to help make it successful.

1. Give a product that your audience actually wants.
If you don’t have many followers (under 1000), you won’t get much interest in your giveaway if you are only offering your art. Even if your art is really awesome and especially if a bunch of your followers are artists themselves.

Instead, think about offering art supplies with your art. You can partner up with different art supplies companies and host a giveaway with them. A lot of your followers will probably be fellow artists, so giving away art supplies will attract more people to enter your giveaway.

Once your following grows, your art will definitely be sought after as a prize and you will have more marketing power to get free supplies from companies to decrease your costs.

2. Don’t give away items that have limited uses.

For example, a hand painted case for an iPhone 9. You will only attract super specific people with these items.

3. Keep your costs low.

Establish a budget and don’t go crazy with the items you choose to give away. Factor in domestic vs. international shipping when choosing your items. Sure, giving away an 18”x24″ canvas might sound awesome, but when your entrant from Australia wins and you have to pay $60 to ship internationally you might cry actual tears.

If you spend $100 on a giveaway that only gained you 50 followers, you might wonder if it was worth all the trouble…

4. Wait until you have a sizable following. 

Personally, I wouldn’t waste my time with giveaways until you hit 10k followers. If you are trying to grow your following with a giveaway, this advice is really frustrating, because how do you even get to 10k?! (I’ve got a blog for that!)

The more followers you have, the more successful a giveaway will be.

5. Make it easy for people to enter the giveaway. 

People are kind of lazy. Even when it involves free stuff. Don’t have a list of 8 different tasks that have to be completed in order to enter. Keep it simple and focus on your initial intention for the giveaway. You can have people enter on a specific Instagram post by including tasks like:

  • Follow my account. (If you want more followers.)
  • Tag ‘x’ friends in the comments below. (If you want to be exposed to a new audience.)
  • Include something specific to start a conversation like: Tell me why you love art in the comments below. (Having more comment engagement on the post might boost it in the discover feed of other accounts.)
  • Share this post on your account (You gain access to their followers and friends.)
  • Sign up for my newsletter. (This will attract more genuine people who want to hear from you regularly.)

Or you can have people enter through a google form or website: I like this because I can collect more information about people and pick winners more easily. Asking people to leave Instagram might decrease the amount of entries, but you’ll know they are at least more motivated.

6. Have a schedule. 

When are your followers most active? I usually post sales, giveaways, and anything I want to get a lot of attention Tuesday through Thursday between 9am and 12pm Pacific time. This works for me, but look at your current posts to see which have been most popular and take notes on when you posted. Historically, I get the most interest on a giveaway post during the first 24 hours of posting and I usually run them for 4 days or less.

7. Don’t be annoying.
Once you post, give gentle reminders in your Instagram stories and in the captions of following posts, but don’t let that be the only thing you talk about for a few days.

8. Picking a winner. 
I always choose my winners at random. I copy and paste all of my entries into a spreadsheet and then use Google random number generator to decide the winner, but you can choose a winner however you want. Just make it easy on yourself to keep track of entries when planning your giveaway. I usually announce winners on Instagram a day or two after the giveaway ends.

9. Have realistic expectations.

How many new followers do you want to gain? How much interest are you hoping for? The larger your account, the more engagement you’ll get on your giveaway (again, this is why I say wait until your following grows.) Unless you work some kind of internet magic, don’t expect to gain thousands of new followers while trying to giveaway an 8″x10″ print or canvas.

10. Have fun with it!

This is a great chance to build a community around you as an artist. Don’t fixate on what a giveaway will do for your account, but focus on what you can do for your audience. I know it’s easy to obsess over the numbers (says the girl who has a spreadsheet to track her Instagram account growth…), but cultivating a dedicated following matters much more than the number itself.

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In conclusion, if you are only hoping to help grow your Instagram following, I wouldn’t use a giveaway to do it. Instead, grow your following for free by putting in the daily work of posting and using niche tags (read this and this). If you just want to reward your current followers and have some fun, then by all means, host that giveaway!

I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below or reach out to me directly. I’m always happy to help out another artist and even offer my coaching and consulting services.

-Kelly

Visit the Messy Ever After store. 

Support MEA on Patreon. 

Further Reading:

Are You Forcing Yourself into an Art Business Before You’re Ready?

How I Promote My Artwork on the Internet

 

How I Promote My Artwork on the Internet

How I Promote My Artwork on the Internet

Marketing and Promotions for Artists on Social Media and More

Promoting your own artwork can be frustrating, overwhelming, and tedious. Where are you supposed to start? Should you pay for ads? What is the best way to get your art in front of people? I can’t tell you exactly what you are supposed to do in order to successfully promote your art, but I am more than happy to share what I personally do.

I didn’t have a good plan when I started promoting my art. Almost exactly a year ago, I had no social following. My Instagram account only had 300 followers, and my Facebook page had maybe 130 likes. I also had no clear branding or idea what I was doing. I was desperate to ‘make it’ as an artist, but was kind of winging it.

Today, my Instagram account is just over 60k and it continues to grow. I’ve learned a lot of the last year, but when promoting your art, persistence, patience, and willingness to evolve is crucial.

My Basic Marketing Plan

Like a lot of my blog posts, this will likely include way more information than is convenient to read in a short period of time–sorry not sorry. Instead of delivering vague and easily digestible posts, I like to include as much info as I can.. So, here is my long winded approach to promoting and marketing yourself and your art.

  1. Establish your goals.
  2. Create quality content (art, blogs, classes, crafts, etc.).
  3. Decide where you want to funnel your audience.
  4. Figure out your ‘brand’ and your message.
  5. Find platforms to share your work (online and in person.)

I’m adamant about figuring out 1-4 while promoting your artwork, but if you just want to get eyes on your work regardless of whether or not you know what you’re doing then go ahead and skip down to number 5. As I confessed above, I was just winging it when I started and it’s okay if you are too!

1. Establish your Goals

Why do you want people to see your work? Do you just want to get attention? Do you want to teach people? Do you want to make sales?

My main goal with promoting my art is to generate art sales from my online store. My secondary goal is to get people to read my blogs and potentially gain consulting and coaching work.

What is your main goal? There isn’t a right or wrong goal, but figuring this out will help give you direction.

2. create quality content And Products

What are you selling? An idea? A lifestyle? A physical product?

Exposure is great, but it’s not going to do you any good if the products you are offering don’t look appealing. When I say create quality content, I mean everything needs to be good quality. Video resolution, lighting, photo quality, staging, captions, your message, etc..

If you hope to sell your original works of art you should know how to photograph your pieces in an attractive way.

For example, look at the photos below. The left photo was from a year ago. I posted a lot of ugly process photos which did nothing to ‘sell’ my art. As opposed to the post on the right which is a staged photo of a completed product that looks much more attractive. (Add a photobombing dog for extra love from the internet.)

Your photos may not be the best in the beginning of your artsy journey, but keep looking at what other successful artists are doing and mimic their photo compositions. Work on your style. Perfect your art. Create quality products.

3. Decide where you want to funnel your audience

After you get someone’s attention, what do you want them to do?

If you want to sell your work online, it’s a good idea to set up a store front (Etsy, Weebly, Shopify, etc..). If you produce video content, you’ll likely want a YouTube channel. If you blog, you’ll want a site like WordPress or Wix. Maybe you have an email list you want people to sign up for, or affiliate links you’d like them to click on.

This goes hand in hand with your goals from above. Since my primary goal is to make sales from my online store, I use most of my promotional posts in various places to try and route people to my store.

Where do you want your audience to focus?

4. Figure out your branding and message

I should really dedicate another post to branding soon, but basically your brand is who you are, what your art means, how you as an artist are involved in the process, and your overall theme. This means you should have a somewhat consistent style. You should be able to showcase a cohesive body of work and products that are connected to one another in some way.

You should also have a clear message to send to your customers to help establish trust. How do you want your customers to feel about you? How can you help your customers get to know the artist?

(Read about branding an Instagram account.)

Once you know your message, then you can start creating captions and calls to action that match your tone. If you’ve ever read any of my Instagram captions, you’ll see how I try not to take myself too seriously or push sales too hard. I give a little insight into my daily life and then subtly tell people about new inventory in my store. This is a conscious decision on how I want my audience to receive my message.

So, what’s your message, and how will you deliver it?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

The number of black and white striped shirts I own is getting out of hand. I just can’t help myself when I’m shopping. “Ooh, stripes!”. Also, this piece is so glorious in natural sunlight! It’s crazy just how much your art can change depending on the lighting. I just added a new batch of mini pieces to my store, including this cosmic piece named “Vortex”. • • • • • • #messyeverafter #intuitiveartist #paintingday #doitfortheprocess #studioscenes #courageouscreative #inspiremyinstagram #livecreatively #colorinspiration #abstractexpressionism #herestothecreatives #designisinthedetails #createcultivate #coloraddict #coloryourlife #darlingmoment #socalartist #livetoinspire #abmlifeiscolorful #alittlebeautyeveryday #simplethingsmadebeautiful #livecolorfully #acolorstory #abeautifulmess #sandiegoartist

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

 

5. Find platforms to share your work

Once you have your products/content, quality photos/videos, and a consistent brand and message, then it’s time to get your work out there. The list below contains all of the places I’ve experimented with for promoting my art.

I have had the most success focusing on Instagram, and I do suggest starting there, but you don’t have to limit yourself. Choose any platform to start and once you get the hang of one platform, expand to another. Make sure you can dedicate consistent time to whichever platforms you choose. Social media moves fast, so you’ll have to post more often than you’d probably like.

Social Profiles:
  • Instagram– I post 1 to 3 times a day, plus post a couple of stories a day. (Use the right hashtags for your work.)  Your photos and videos really need to look good here. Captions can be short, but longer ones are more engaging.
  • Facebook Page– I post 1-3 times a week. You can schedule posts ahead of time and be a little more casual with your content since your FB page doesn’t act as a gallery like Instagram.
  • Facebook Groups– You can find bigger communities to post your work. These places aren’t necessarily good for pushing sales, but they can get your general exposure. I’ve posted in groups like Just Art whenever I feel bored.
  • Twitter– I use this to post blogs and have no following so I only post once a week. Some people recommend posting a crap ton a day. Twitter is really really fast paced so post things that are easily digestible and post often.
  • Tumblr– I connected my Insta to Tumblr during the winter but had no idea what I was doing so I put it on the back burner for now. It could be worth exploring though. I’ll let you know if I ever revisit it.
Content Sites:
  • Reddit-as the self proclaimed “Front Page of the Internet” Reddit is a great place to share your work. Check out the genre specific subreddits like Art. I share new pieces as well as promotions in my online store. Be mindful of each subreddit’s rules. They don’t mess around. You can find anything from illustration to fluid painting and a lot of dedicated artists and fans.
  • Pinterest– I pin every one of my blog posts and some of my store products on Pinterest. You never know what pin will take off, but definitely look around at successful pinners and boards to see what content people might be looking for.
  • YouTube– Art videos are addictive. If you ever get into recording your process, YouTube is a great way to expand your following. You especially want to focus on quality content here. See yourself as an entertainer rather than as an artist trying to push art sales.
Email List:

If you have a website, you should start collecting email addresses. My list is still small (and you might already be on it), but I send out one or two emails a month to update my dedicated followers about new sales, blog posts, and news updates.

I use the free option for Mailchimp.

A note about haters:

No matter what your art looks like, you’re going to get mean comments and the occasional hater when you share things on the internet. You can’t prevent it, so try and develop thick skin now. This post might help.

How do you know if it works?

Here is a snapshot of the social media referral sites on my website for the last three months. The numbers look small-ish…but considering that all of this is unpaid traffic from my social efforts, I’m happy with it for the moment. I use Google Analytics to track my traffic. If I try out a platform and see traffic from that site, then I keep putting time into that area.

I have no idea what VKontakte is… oh well!

Content Sharing:

Gaining exposure and new followers is pretty easy when larger content sharing accounts promote your work. This is actually how my Instagram following first started to grow. The hard part is getting those accounts to want to share your work. Lucky for you, these content sharers need you and you just need to get on their radar.

How can you get their attention? First, create good content like “viral” videos that are short and interesting and post them to platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Make sure you use good hashtags for organic exposure or reach out to popular accounts and ask if they want to share your work.

Example of a Facebook page that compiled a bunch of my Instagram videos and shared it.

This is why I can’t stress enough to create quality content. You never know what image or video you share could take off. Yes, part of this is luck, but most of it is putting in all of the work to be in the right place at the right time.

Collaborations and Partnerships:

As your following grows, you’ll have more power to potentially act as an “influencer” for companies. If you have favorite art supplies, start tagging the companies and create mini ads for them. If your content is attractive, it’s possible they will share your work to their following. You can gain new followers, possibly receive free or discounted supplies, and more.

It doesn’t hurt to message or email these companies to ask if they’d like to team up. If you do this, approach it from the view point of what YOU can do for them. Not what they can do for you.

So far, I have received free art supplies from 4 different companies and even free soup from an awesome ramen company (A perk of talking about food a lot on Instagram apparently!).  I’ve also worked with a company to launch a product using one of my paintings as the design. I only worked for one of these opportunities, and the others found me through my social media accounts. This is proof that patience and persistence really does pay off. If I hadn’t devoted so much time to growing my Instagram account with quality content, those opportunities wouldn’t exist for me.

Paid Promotions:
Content sharing accounts

I do not and have not paid for any large accounts on Instagram to share my work. Like I said, content sharing accounts need content. If you know you are producing good content and are willing to be patient then I don’t recommend giving away your money for a single post.

If you do decide to pay for these share services, make sure the account has good engagement. If they have 300k followers, but each post only gets 800 likes and a handful of comments then it’s not worth whatever the fee is.

Instagram or Facebook promotions

I have been seeing a lot of promotions in my Instagram feed from small and underdeveloped artists. I am always tempted to message them to encourage them to stop wasting their money. If you don’t have your branding figured out or have content that is high quality, ads are not going to help you. I wouldn’t suggest using this as your first means to gain exposure as an artist.

Now, if you have an established following, clear branding, and really attractive content then paid promotions might be the right step for you. I suggest being strategic with your ads. If you just released a new print series, are hosting a sale in your store, or put together an e-course for a new painting technique then a paid promotion might help you reach your goals faster.

I just strongly encourage you not to promote your post of a doodle photographed in poor lighting with a vague caption with only a goal of increasing your following count. Use that money to buy Chipotle or a new tube of paint.

Say No To Bots on Instagram

I know it’s tempting to try and take a short cut when you are starting at the bottom, but please don’t subscribe to any bot services. Bots are applications that automate your social media accounts by liking, following, and even commenting on other user accounts. A lot of these services ask for a fee and completely go against Instagram’s terms of service.

Your account can be flagged and shut down if caught, but more importantly it’s not genuine. Organic growth is much more satisfying and beneficial for your business. But hey, you don’t have to listen to me.

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Whew, that was a lot. Remember, this is just what I do to promote my work online. This is not a comprehensive list by any means. I’m sure there are a lot of other avenues for promoting your artwork and if you find success with them I am excited for you!

If you have any questions, please leave them below while commenting is open or message me directly. As always, I am happy to offer my consulting services if you would like one-on-one help with your artsy goals.

Happy promoting!

-Kelly

Further Reading:

How to Get Started as an Artist

Nobody wants your art, but it’s not because it’s bad

 

 

How I Make Fine Art Prints of My Work

How I Make Fine Art Prints of My Work

What I use to photograph, edit, and print from home.

*Links in this post are affiliate links. I earn a commission if you buy things. Woo!

As some of you know, I just bought a printer. I have been researching printers for months because I wanted to start offering lower priced products to my customers, but I didn’t want to just send images off to a company and cross my fingers that they turn out just the way I intend.

Fair warning: Making quality prints is not cheap. And making quality prints from home is not cheap either. You need quite a bit of equipment, paper, software, and a lot of patience.

The Basics

Fine art/giclée/archival prints are made using pigment based inks on acid free paper. They withstand the test of time much better than dye based inks and acidic papers which degrade and fade more easily. Sunlight and gases in the atmosphere cause inks to fade and papers to yellow. Archival prints aren’t impervious to this, but they last much longer. Especially when displayed behind glass or in a closed album.

From my research, pigment based prints can last nearly 100 years in optimal conditions whereas dye based prints may only last 30 or less. I once used a dye based drawing ink on one of my canvases and the color faded dramatically over the course of 4 years on my wall. Not cool.

So, pigment=good and dye=bad. Oh, and acid=bad.

What you’ll need to make prints from home:

  • Art. (You probably have that covered!)
  • Camera or scanner to capture a high resolution image of your art. (I use a Canon Rebel T3i which is discontinued but this is an alternative.)
  • A computer with a good monitor for displaying correct colors. (I didn’t have a nice monitor so I bought this one. Try calibrating your existing monitor.)
  • Photo editing software. (I use Photoshop.)
  • A pigment based inkjet printer. (I decided on the Canon Pixma Pro 10)
  • Back up inks (I’m sticking to Canon brand.)
  • A guillotine paper cutter if you want to make custom sizes.
  • Acid free paper. (I have tried Canon Luster and Premium Matte.)
  • Backing board
  • Plastic bags for protection.
  • Mat board (It’s personal preference. I don’t waste my time with it.)

My Printer of Choice

I wanted to find an inkjet printer with pigment based inks that wouldn’t make me poor. When I say I researched printers for months, what I really mean is that I hovered over the ‘Buy Now’ button for months after finally deciding this was the printer I wanted. I also tried emailing Canon and pulling the “Hey I have a bunch of Instagram followers, want to give me a printer for free?”

I’m still waiting for a response…

Canon Pixma Pro 10  (Roughly $450-$600)

The Pixma Pro 10 uses pigment based inks. Don’t be fooled by the lower price tag on the Pro 100. It uses dye based inks. Your prints will probably still look great, but they won’t be considered ‘archival’. (Read this if you want a side by side comparison of the Pro 100 vs. Pro 10)

After getting the hang of this printer (I’ll go over my brief mental break down in a bit.), I’m really happy with how it performs. I recommend going over the specs for the printer to get the basic info, I did learn some additional things that may help you in your decision making.

Things I’ve learned about this printer:
  • Printed images look more saturated and darker than the image file. You’ll have to tweak your file and monitor settings to account for this.
  • The print head runs a cleaning cycle every 60 hours which can waste ink. You’ll want to print every couple of days to avoid that. I don’t know how much ink is wasted, but it’s a common complaint online. It does another one at 45 days. Pretty much don’t buy it unless you plan on using it multiple times a week to avoid ink issues (including clogging).
  • Depending on what program you print from, prints from the same file can look different. I’ve had the best luck and consistency with using Canon software. I use Digital Photo Professional 4 and print with the Print Studio Pro plugin. You can get these programs from Canon’s website and the installation disc that comes with the printer.
  • Paper choice is really really important. Depending on what your art looks like, certain papers won’t work for you.
  • It’s slow. It took me a few hours to print my first batch of 50.
  • You need a lot of space to lay your prints out to dry before stacking them. Pages shouldn’t overlap for at least 15 minutes, and should have clean paper between them once stacked.
  • You’re going to go through more ink than you’re probably comfortable with. (Read this for estimated costs for printing on the Canon Pixma Pro 10.)

Image Capture and Editing

Since I’m mainly making prints of my larger canvases, I use my DSLR camera as opposed to a scanner to capture a well lit photo (use daylight bulbs or natural light), and then I color correct and crop in Photoshop. If you create smaller works of art, you can try using a scanner.

You need to get the biggest, highest resolution image you can depending on the size of prints you want to make. I chose to use 11″x14″ as my largest print size so my DSLR camera works just fine. (This printer can go as large as 13″x19″.) If you are using a scanner, scan at 300dpi or more.

Obviously when editing the goal is to get your image file to look as close to the original work of art as possible, but with the over saturation of the inks from this printer, you’ll likely have to make your image brighter than you’re comfortable with while editing. Which is why proofing is so important.

Proofing

Get ready to waste some expensive paper and ink. Once you edit your image, you’ll want to print to see how it looks. Even if your image looks great on your RBG monitor, it’s not going to translate exactly to CMYK inks. So, print and tweak. Print and tweak. The more you get used to your photo editing software and printer, the less proofing you’ll need to do.

Even then, your prints might not look exactly like your work of art. I was beating my head against a wall trying to get a 100% match, sometimes you have to settle with near-perfect.

Given my level of perfectionism with editing, I didn’t want to trust sending my images to a professional printer. I had no idea what my edited file would look like on their printers. If I needed to color correct, the process would take forever and printers often charge for each proof they send you. Control issues. I have them.

Paper Choices and My Mini Mental Breakdown

Remember when I said images look different depending on the program you print from? Well, they also look different depending on what paper you use.  When I sat down to do my first print run I thought I had a file that would work and the appropriate paper to print on. I wanted to use matte paper, because glossy paper has always annoyed me.

It turns out matte paper is terrible for highly detailed pieces with deep colors. I read this while researching, but I didn’t realize just how accurate the information was so I ignored it. Inks diffuse through matte paper a little more so all of my fine line details ended up looking fuzzy. Also, my deep purples and blues looked a little blah. It wasn’t as noticeable to my nerdy other half, but the more I printed and color corrected, the more hopeless I felt. Add that to the default over-saturation of inks from the printer and inconsistent image quality depending on the program I printed from and you get a defeated artist who just spent over $800 for crappy prints. Yes, I was catastrophizing and being a bit melodramatic.

I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to my business, but I should know better than trying to master something new during shark week. (Ladies, you know what I mean. #sendchocolate.)

Moral of the story, choose the right paper. I ditched the matte paper and ordered Luster (semi gloss) paper. Get sample packs and figure out what paper your art looks best on. You may end up having to spend $1 to $5 per piece of paper, but the right paper is worth it. (Check out Red River for great advice on printers and papers.)

Note: Some archivists and galleries get picky over acid free papers that use optical brighteners as it’s another element of the print that can break down over time. Your average customer probably won’t care, but it’s another thing to consider while paper shopping.

After I figured out the right software to use, the appropriate settings to tweak in Photoshop to compensate for the over-saturation of the printer, and what paper was right for the images I was reproducing I was a happy little camper. (Lol, this piece is called “Campfire”. Get it? Happy camper?! Omg. I’m so funny. *rolls eyes at self*)

packaging

Once everything is printed, and you let the ink dry for the recommended 24 hours, you can put them in plastic sleeves with backing and prepare to sell. Yay!

(Questions about shipping your work? Read this.)

Numbered Prints, Signatures, and Limited Editions

I’m dorky and include my new “Certificate of Messiness” with my prints and originals for that extra bit of branding flair. I also sign and number the back of the print.

I am only doing limited edition numbered prints. In the fine art world, this is preferred. Personally I think it’s to keep the allure of exclusivity and elitism, which drives the value of art up. As a business woman this is a great way to make more money. So yeah, sign me up. Plus, I get tired of looking at my art and I don’t want to print the same thing over and over again.

If you want to make 10,000+ open edition prints of one of your pieces, go for it. If you want to make a limited run of 50 prints of one piece and take the time to sign and number each one, that’s cool too. Just keep in mind how your choices will affect the value of your work in the long run and what’s right for your brand.

How much did this cost me?

Paper, ink, printer, backing board, and plastic sleeves has me at about $1000 investment. So far I have printed a total of 50 sellable prints which if sold at full price will gross roughly $1750. I still have enough paper and ink to create 50-150 more prints without investing anything more. The math shows that this is a worthwhile endeavor.

The real question is how quickly can I realistically sell the inventory I am creating. It’s the same with creating original pieces of art. Just because you offer a product, doesn’t mean it will sell.

You could go the cheaper route.

Don’t have $1000 lying around? You could get a dye based set up for a little less. Honestly though, it’s only going to save a couple hundred.

Maybe you don’t care about archival quality. Maybe you don’t need your prints to last a lifetime. If this is the case, then you can certainly go with a dye based printer. Just don’t say your prints are archival and don’t price them as if they are. You can break every rule out there, but don’t deceive your customers.

You could also use the dye based printer for greeting cards and other products that aren’t meant to be long lasting.

You can pay other people to handle everything for you.

If you are not a hands on person and don’t want to mess with everything I just described above, then you can find a local printer in your area who will take care of all of it. There are people who will photograph or scan your work, color correct, and print. Just depends on how much money you’re willing to spend.

You can also edit an image yourself and give it to a printer to save money. A  local print shop gave me a $330 quote  for 40 -11″x14″ pigment prints. Having a professional print my work at this price would have been cheaper initially, but again, I didn’t want to give up control of the process and once I use my printer more my cost per print will go down.

If you choose to outsource, ask a lot of questions and make sure you are getting the quality you want.

Should You Make Prints?

I’m going to strongly caution you against jumping into prints unless you have the ability to sell them now. Are you constantly being asked for prints? Are you selling originals too quickly to keep up with the demand? Are you doing a lot of events where prints could be a quick impulse buy?

If you only have a couple hundred followers, primarily sell online, and you struggle to sell your originals–don’t invest in the supplies to make prints. Back in 2010, I had a huge batch of prints made when I started doing art fairs. After three fairs, life got in the way and I had a bunch of inventory that I carried around for years. I kid you not, I threw the last of them in the trash before moving to California at the end of June. Good riddance.

If you are still developing your style and branding, I also suggest waiting to make prints. If you are having a hard time selling your art now (read this) and there isn’t a demand for prints of your work then I still suggest waiting.

You can most definitely ignore my advice and give it a go if you are determined. The 2010 version of my would have been like “You know nothing! I’m going to make this work!” She was so feisty. I just want to pat her on the noggin and give that poor girl a hug.

Ultimately, only you know what is right for your business, but if you ever want to discuss your options with a fellow artist, I am always happy to offer my consulting services.

Conclusion

At first I was excited about my printer. Then I hated it. I ate some sadness ice cream. Called Canon customer support to ask if their matte paper is supposed to look like crap. And now I love my printer and all the little print babies that pop out of it.

There is a learning curve with every new thing you jump into. Do your research and find an option that is right for you.

As I write this, I am printing a new batch of 11″x14″ prints. Each one is just as perfect as the last–but I’m also burning through ink as fast as I shoveled that sadness ice cream in my face…so there’s that.

As always, if you have questions or comments please leave them below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly. I love hearing from you!

Happy potential printing!

-Kelly

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Further Reading

Are You Forcing Yourself into an Art Business Before You’re Ready?

How I Ship My Artwork

 

There Are No Rules in the Art World

There Are No Rules in the Art World

There are only preferences and opinions.

I used to be the type of person that listened to everyone’s opinions. I didn’t know what I wanted from my life or my art, so I would ask for advice from those around me expecting them to have the answers. I made the mistake too many times of seeking counsel from people who were nothing like me. It was a terrible idea and a great way to make myself even more confused about what I should do.

Eventually, I learned to trust my gut. By getting annoyed and frustrated with the advice I was receiving that just felt wrong, I figured out that I actually knew deep down what my direction was. I had to learn to ignore and even break that rules that others put before me.

How many times have you heard things like this?

  • “You’re not supposed to do it like that”
  • “That’s not real art.”
  • “Professional artists don’t do that.”
  • “You have to frame your work.”
  • “You have to go to art school.”
  • “Art isn’t supposed to just be pretty.”
  • “Your art should have meaning.”
  • “Those colors don’t go together”
  • “You need to price your work differently.”

And the list goes on and on. Some people mean well when giving advice, and some people are just opinionated and are living by a set of arbitrary rules that keep them limited and boxed up.

Well, I am here to say: F*$& the rules. They only exist if you want them to.

What do you want to make?

Do you want to make pretty oil paintings of flowers with ornate gold leaf frames? Do it!

Do you want to explore the temporary quality of art by using dissolvable paper and placing finished pieces in a tray of water at the start of a gallery show so all of your work is gone by the time people finish their expensive glasses of wine? Heck yes! Do it! (I was only joking when I thought of this idea, but now I kind of want to do it.)

Do you want to paint portraits of famous people? Do you want to express yourself with color through abstract work? Do you want to explore geometry and create precise mathematical masterpieces? Do you want to make resin casts of bird bones? Do you want to create conceptual commentary on the state of the world? Do you just want to have fun and splatter paint on cardboard?

Do it all. Do whatever you want.

Go to art school. Don’t go to art school. Use cheap supplies. Use professional quality supplies. Paint on canvas. Paint on rocks. Paint with whatever substance you can find.

There are no rules.

Follow your gut, your intuition, your muse or whatever. Make the art you want to make.

Everyone is a critic

You’ll encounter a lot of people that want to tell you what to do. Some people wholeheartedly believe in the rules. I tend to want to break those rules.

Recently, I stopped by a frame shop to check out the art displayed in their front gallery and I struck up a conversation with the owner. I made the mistake of sharing that, for my own art, I like to paint the sides of my canvases instead or framing them, because I like a nice clean edge.

He did not like that. His response, “I’ve NEVER seen a piece of art that looked better without a frame. Frames make art look better. Artists are lazy and cutting corners when they don’t frame their canvases.”

In his defense, he owns a frame shop. It’s good for his business if he insists upon all canvases being framed, but all I could think was “Dude. That’s your opinion.”

Do your thing. Do it with intention. Do it proudly.

You don’t have to listen to what other people say.

To Follow or To Break the rules

Culture will always follow fads. There will always be trendsetters that make us question what art really is. Those people are the rule breakers. There will always be elitist people who stick their noses up at what was once considered ‘fine art’, because it doesn’t fit the current theme of the art world. Those people are the new rule followers.

Be a rule breaker or a follower. I don’t care.

Art is whatever you want it to be. That’s the beauty of it.

You Don’t have to follow anyone’s rules when making art But Don’t be an a**hole

Now that I told you there are no rules, I’m going to give you my list of rules for being an artist in a community. You don’t have to follow them, but they treat me pretty well.

  • Don’t declare your artistic preferences as superior over others. They are your preferences. They are not universal facts.
  • Don’t tell another creator how to make their art if they are operating contrary to your preferences. Do you want all artists to make things like you? That’s dumb. You should encourage diversity.
  • Don’t try to invalidate the work of another artist just because you don’t see the value in it.
  • Don’t let your ego dictate how you see another artist’s work.
  • Be a nice human.
  • Make art whenever and however you can.

Now go get messy and break all the rules if you want to.

-Kelly

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Further Reading:

Are You a “Real” Artist?

8 Things You’ll Hear as an Artist