How to Choose the Best Instagram Hashtags

How to Choose the Best Instagram Hashtags

Advice for Artists

If you are new to Instagram, or have been struggling with getting new followers, your hashtags might be the issue. When I first started posting my art, I would pull tags out of my head. I’d look at my art and brainstorm all the ways to describe the piece right when I was posting.

#sketch #doodle #art #artist #abstract

My tags were generic and I only used a handful of them, because I didn’t know how important they were and I frankly didn’t feel like wasting too much time on the posting process. When I search for those tags now, I see they have millions of posts behind them. It’s no wonder why I didn’t see progress on my account for months. I was doing it all wrong.

I started researching different tags a few months ago and I believe it was one of the huge contributing factors to my quick growth. I don’t want to repeat too much of the information that’s already out there so I’ll just say: Hashtags are really important. Yes, there is a right way to use them. Don’t worry, I will show you how.

Hashtag Basics and Suggestions:

Hashtags change and grow. Some get banned, some are popular one day and obsolete the next, which is why it’s important to continually adjust and review your tags to get the maximum benefit. I’ve put together a list of helpful tips and info:

  • You can use 30 tags per post.
    • I suggest using them all, but don’t go over. If you have over 30, your image or video will post without the caption and tags. Currently, my list is around 26 tags so I can add some here and there depending on the post content.
    • If you have heard it’s spammy to use all the tags—ignore that. If your caption is genuine, your content is attractive, and you format the caption well—it won’t look spammy.
  • Make sure you have a good balance of small and large tags.
    •  If you are using all 30 tags, but each tag is generic and overused, you’re not going to benefit much. If your account has a small following, focus on small tags.
      • Don’t use more than 5 large tags, if any (1 million + posts)
      • Use 10 to 20 smaller tags (1,000 to 50,000 uses)
      • Use 5 to 10 medium tags (50,000 to 500k uses)
      • Considering creating 1 to 2 unique, branded tags (under 1,000 uses)
  • Pay attention to the top nine of your chosen hashtags.
    • The goal is to get into the top nine posts of some of the tags you use. The more engagement your post has, the more likely it will move up in rank. And if you’re in the top nine, it will drive even more people to engage with the post and follow you.
  • Post your tags in your caption and not as a comment.
    • I’ve read conflicting articles on this. Some say you shouldn’t post tags in the caption, because it looks tacky and spammy.
      • Solution: Add 5 or more symbols and lines between your caption and tags so the tags show up further down.
    • Some say posting tags in a comment will trick the Instagram algorithm into thinking your post has more engagement and then it will boost the post. (FYI: Nobody but Instagram knows definitively how the algorithm works. The rest of us are just making educated guesses.)
      • Solution: Post the tags in your caption, but ask a question to your audience to encourage genuine engagement. “What’s your favorite medium?” “What does the color scheme make you feel?” etc.
  • Sit down and do some research. I’ll show you how I do it! 
    • It’s tedious, but I will show you how I get a healthy list of tags that I just copy and paste into posts for a couple of months until I have to sit down and research new ones.

The Importance of Researching your Tags

Again, hashtags are important–but more specifically hashtags that have a narrow focus and fit your brand are important.

As part of defining your brand, you need to know where you fit into the art world. What kind of art do you create? What materials do you use? What kind of feelings do your pieces evoke? Knowing the answers to all of these questions will help you better market yourself, choose the right tags, and find your audience.

Also, a lot of share accounts choose different works to share from specific tags. Some have their own tags, and some pull from tags already in use. I wish there was a list of share accounts out there, but it’s an ever changing network. You are more likely to find these accounts when you are researching tags.

The lazy method For Choosing Hashtags

This won’t be as effective, but it’s a start if you don’t have the time to research. Find an artist similar to your style that has a larger following than you (but not too large). Look at their posts with high engagement (most likes and comments) and copy their tags. Voila. Your work is done.

The Tedious but Totally worth it method for choosing hashtags

Get on your computer. Open up a spreadsheet (or use this worksheet). Crack your knuckles and head to Instagram. Search for a tag relevant to your art. For this example, I’m going to use #acrylicpaint. Below are the top nine posts for this tag.

I happen to have two pieces in the mix at the moment, but I’m going to look at the middle row, right side for inspiration. Okay, so looking at this post, it has high engagement and actually happens to be a @brittleeart piece from share account (I’ll tell you more about what to do with this later.). Now, what I do is examine all of the tags and start clicking on each one to see if it would fit my style.

If I find a ‘good’ tag, then I explore its top nine. Select another post, check out those tags, find another good one, explore the top nine. Repeat.

While I am clicking back and forth, I have a spreadsheet open to start recording different tags and information (or use this worksheet). Below is a screenshot my research. On the left are tags that I have already been using. Blue means I’ve made it to the top nine, red means the tags are too big and my work is nowhere to be seen. I’m not going to use the red tags anymore.

The right side are the new tags I researched today. A lot of my tags are above 50k uses, but I am having success with the larger ones so I keep using them. As your following grows, you can find success with the larger ones as well. For now, start on the smaller end.

What makes a hashtag ‘good’?

Now, you can see from my list that I don’t use a lot of one word tags or simple tags. I choose much more specific tags. Don’t use #art, use #uncommonart. Don’t use #abstract, use #abstractaf . I have to admit that the more I research tags, the more excited I get when I find a really good one. So what do I look for in a tag?

  • The tag has quality content. The top nine photos are attractive and have genuine engagement.
  • The tag is related to your art and your brand in some way. Can you see your work fitting in here?
  • The tag is currently in use. Click on the first post below the top nine. Was it posted today? Then you’re good.
  • The uses are between 1k to 50k.
  • The tags are more specific and targeted to a smaller audience.
    • You’d think you would want to display to the largest audience you can to get exposure at first, but you want to do the exact opposite. Find a small dedicated audience. Their engagement is going to mean so much more for you, your account, and your business.
Basic Steps for Hashtag Research
  1. Start with a generic tag related to your work, or a tag you already have success with.
  2. Click on the post with the highest engagement in the top nine that is most similar to your art and brand.
  3. Review the tags on that post, copy the tags that are smaller and targeted. Click on them and see if the content is relevant, the post uses aren’t too high or too low, and if the tag has recent uses.
  4. If any of the posts appear to be share accounts, look to see if they have a specific tag they use. Add that to the list if you want to increase your potential for shares. (ex. #artwhisper #fluidartwork)
  5. Explore niche tags and/or unrelated tags. Some might be specific art tags, and some might be related to creativity. Either way, they tap into a different audience, but stay consistent with your brand. (ex. #creativelifehappy #createdtocreate #creativehabit)
  6. Record your tags until you have a list of 25 or more.

I honestly spend an hour or two researching tags, but once I have a list I format the basic layout and copy it into Google Keep. I have Notes for different post content–videos, new products in my store, and my standard tag list.

Now when I have new content to post, I just copy this to my clipboard and head to Instagram. I will review my tags in another 2 or 3 months and see which ones aren’t working for me and I’ll switch things around. Again, I know this process is a little tedious, but it is so beneficial!

I hope this was helpful for you! If you have any questions, please comment below. I love getting inspiration for new blog posts and your questions are always so helpful.

Also, if you want one-on-one help for your account, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I am happy to offer my consulting services.


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs 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 doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

Get your free Instagram Hashtag Research Worksheet for Artists

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How I Record and Edit Art Process Videos

How I Record and Edit Art Process Videos

How I Record and Edit Art Process Videos

The Messy Ever After Way

I love watching art time lapse and process videos. They are mesmerizing and make things look so easy! When I first started recording my art, I struggled quite a bit. I thought I needed to use a fancy camera and my DSLR would stop recording after 11 minutes due to file size limits. I’d have to stop working, restart the camera, and repeat.

Then, once I was all finished, I uploaded the clips, pieced them together and found out my lighting sucked. If you read my previous post about how to photograph your art on a budget, you already know how important lighting is. I learned my lessons the hard way…

But hey! Now I can show you what I’ve learned!

My Current Recording Set Up

Recording videos doesn’t need to be expensive. I’ve ditched my DSLR and actually use my smart phone or a webcam to record. I’m going to show you the three main ways I record and edit videos.

No matter how you record, make sure to have two or three lamps with daylight bulbs on your work. Or work in a room with a lot of windows.

quick and easy time lapse videos for Instagram

A lot of my little Instagram videos are recorded and edited with my phone. I used to awkwardly set my phone on top of things to record, until I ordered the set up pictured above. My life is much easier now.

Equipment Needed:

I use the Movie Maker app that came loaded on my phone to speed things up and trim the video. It’s annoyingly limited in that I can only speed the clip by 2X. I usually speed up the clip, mute it, save it. Open that video, speed it up, save. Repeat until the final clip is under a minute long.

Once the final clip is saved, I delete all of the other videos to free up the space on my phone.

(Update: I feel silly for not already doing this, but @indigoimpressions informed me of a different app to use: Microsoft Hyperlapse Mobile. Seriously. I’m all about shortcuts and making life easy, yet somehow I stuck with my tedious way of saving videos. SMH.)

Close up Videos for Instagram

When I’m doing close up shots of my detail work, I use the little tripod that comes with the phone holder product I copied above. It’s bendy and can easily be angled in a bunch of different ways. For editing, I still use the phone app.

Longer Videos for YouTube or Instagram

Since a lot of my detailing can take me a while, my phone didn’t have enough memory to handle the larger video files. I recently bought a webcam to use for streaming, and decided to try it out for recording. Turns out, it works really well!


I use the same scissor arm stand for the webcam as I do my phone. It shouldn’t need any additional attachments to screw the webcam on.


You’ll need to download the webcam software to be able to record and save onto your computer. I love being able to control the entire process from my laptop. It makes it much easier for me when I start editing as well.


Since I have been making longer videos with music and more extensive editing, I use Adobe Premier Pro for these. I love this program, but it does come with a fee. I actually have the whole Adobe Creative Cloud because I use Photoshop and Spark regularly.

Final Product Using Logitech c920 Webcam:

(The last close up clip was filmed with my Canon Rebel T3i DSLR, because it’s easier to handle when moving around.)

And there you have it

Those are all of the ways I currently film my art. If you are thinking about making videos, I really encourage you to do so. They are great for exposure, and it’s pretty fun to watch the end product!

If you have any questions, I would love to answer them. And if there is anything else you want to learn about let me know in the comments below.


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs 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 doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

How to Photograph Your Art on a Budget

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How to Photograph Your Art on a Budget

With Camera and Lighting Examples

If you just read my last post about starting an online store as an artist, you may have questions about how to photograph your work. When you are preparing your art to sell it, it is crucial that you capture your pieces in the best lighting.

Have you ever looked at Etsy listings online with blurry, poorly lit photos? I think we all have. Now, have you ever purchased one of those items? Probably not.

If you are just starting out, you likely don’t have a huge budget to hire a photographer, or buy all the equipment yourself. I’m still in that position– so I’m going to show you my set up to take cheap, but quality photos to list on my online store.

My Mini Photo shoot Setup

As you can see, it’s nothing professional. I’ve got lights awkwardly clamped to plywood and an old drawing board, and a chunk of fence panel from my backyard. You know, for that rustic vibe.

Diffused lighting is the best for photographing art work, but as long as I don’t have reflections or glare on my pieces, I’m happy with my improvised set up.

What you will need: 

  • 5000k daylight bulbs ($5-$15)
  • Clamp lights (around $9 each)
  • Camera ($60-$500)
  • Random things to clamp your lights to
  • A neutral colored wall or backdrop
  • A clean area to stage your art

Lighting Basics

Lighting is seriously the most important part about photographing your art. I can’t say that enough. If your lighting sucks, even the best camera won’t be able to help you much.

  • Make sure you have daylight bulbs! You will see in the examples I’ve posted below, but regular warm 60 watt bulbs do nothing positive for your art.
  • I place lights on either side of my photo area, plus have daylight bulbs in all of my art studio fixtures.
  • Angle your lights at roughly 45 degrees to your art. Don’t shine anything directly on your art. Especially if you use a gloss finish of any kind. If you see glare, move the lights around.
  • Don’t use flash! Flash is bad.

Art Staging

If you are photographing your work to upload into a store, make sure to get multiple photos of your work. Since your customer can’t pick up the item and inspect it, you have to do the work for them.

I usually photograph every piece at multiple angles plus include a close up of the details like the examples below.

Tips for staging:
  • Again, make sure you use a neutral background
  • Use easels or hang art on the wall
  • Incorporate household decor like flowers, vases, books, etc. to help your customer visualize how they can display their art (I don’t do this yet–I like a simple display.)


Even when everything in your studio is set up with great lighting, you sometimes still need to tweak your photos to get them to match real life. I use Photoshop, or the basic Windows photo editor to make minor changes. I really only adjust my brightness and crop my photos for uniformity.

I actually have slight panic attacks about my images not accurately representing my art and then customers getting mad at me (thanks anxiety!), so I usually have the art nearby as I’m editing to make sure things match. I still can’t account for what my art looks like on someone else’s device, but my anxiety just needs to deal with that lack of control and chill out.

Things to consider while editing:
  • Different screens have different color settings, so if you are changing anything with your saturation, tint, or any color setting make sure to check how the photo looks on another device.
  • Pro tip: If you are mindful of blue light when using devices and turn on a blue light filter during the evening (it’s great for sleep hygiene, but gives your screen an orange hue), make sure you don’t edit photos during that time… lesson learned…

Camera Examples

Okay, so now to cameras. Basically, you need something with enough megapixels to give you detailed photos–which is basically every camera now.

I have three cameras on hand. My Samsung Galaxy phone, a Nikon Point and Shoot, and a Canon DSLR. I love my DSLR, but it might be out of a beginners price range so I wanted to show you how lighting differences look between all three.

I’m going to include lighting samples from a standard warm lit room (bad), a sunny day outside (way better), and inside with daylight bulbs (best, because you can control the lighting).  I want to note that I spent time out in the snow to capture some of these photos. I hate winter, but I did it in the name of art!

Also, I haven’t altered these photos at all beyond cropping.

Samsung Galaxy S6 | 16 megapixel

Price: Roughly $300 as of this post

Conclusion: Photos are a bit dull. I would definitely increase the brightness while editing and increase the contrast a bit.

Nikon Coolpix S6200 | 16 megapixel

Price: $100 for similar new model

Conclusion: Not the worst camera. I don’t like the delay between pushing the button and the photo actually being taken since it increase the likelihood of a blurry photo, but the over quality on the daylight bulb photo is pretty good. You can see it’s way better than the Galaxy.

Canon Rebel T3i | 18 megapixel

Price: $375-$500 depending on deals and bundles. The T3i has been discontinued but the Rebel T6 has some pretty decent deals. (Bundle or camera and lens only)

Conclusion: I love this camera. I still usually bump up the brightness a bit, especially on my darker pieces, but the pictures really don’t need much editing.

Daylight Bulb Comparison of All Three Cameras

Looking at this, the Nikon and Canon options are pretty similar. Canon is just a smidgen darker, but the Galaxy is definitely the worst option.


I hope this was helpful! Let me know if you have any questions. If there is anything you want to know more about comment below and your questions could turn into a blog post!

Check out my previous posts for more artsy goodness!


P.S. If you enjoy my blogs 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 doing what I do. Plus, you get extra little perks like phone wallpapers and the ability to pick my brain whenever you want through the artist Q&A perk.

*I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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