Have you ever wondered how some artists find such good titles for their artwork? Well, there are easy ways to find fantastic names if you know the secrets. This post will show you how to name your art like a pro.
Use these top tips to name your art:
- Common Expressions
- Phrases and Sayings
- Metaphors and Similes
- Proverbs and Adages
- Short quotes
- Illiteration and Rhythm
- Puns and Humor
Above all, keep a notebook and jot down ideas as they come along. Don’t think you will remember titles, you won’t. When you hear or think of one, write it down.
Let’s go over my approach to finding a good title when I’m stuck on a good idea.
But first things first…
(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)
Do Pictures Need a Title? Is a Name so Important?
YES, YES, YES! A good title will sell the work and it should never be a casual afterthought.
Sometimes the name will be obvious straight away but there have been times when I have rushed to publish with only a mediocre title and then regretted it afterward. Now I hold back until I have thought it through.
Years ago I was chatting to an art student about painting and he was aghast that I emphasized the importance of a good title. His purist approach demanded that the work should speak for itself.
A typical encounter in many ways, if it wasn’t for the context. We were in Kenya and I was painting wildlife art and selling them to tourists. I was talking from direct experience and he was being academic.
If you make wildlife art use these subjects for extra sales: 12 Wildlife Art Bestsellers
It was like listening to a virgin talking about sex. I wonder if he went on to be a working artist? Who knows?
What I do know is the first thing people look for, when they stop to look at a painting, is the artist’s title, and then they read the caption.
Your admirers and potential customers want to be informed about the picture and the artist’s title must resonate to keep them engaged. It fulfills the same function as a book title or a headline. If it grabs them, it hooks them in.
Get it right and the artists’ title alone can sell your work. Naming your art is that important.
Your choice of title will affect your sales so, what do you do when your brain goes blank?
Finding a Good Name For Your Art
Idioms, Expressions, and Turns of Phrase.
According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, an idiom is a short ‘figure of speech’ differing from the literal meaning, with 25,000 examples in the English language to choose from.
This gives you plenty of scope for a lightbulb moment. That’s why this is the first search term I use when it comes to finding a snappy title.
And I mean short and snappy. No one wants a sentence. Brevity is king and that is why idioms work so well. They are defined as being short in length so they encourage you to think in the right way.
You may indeed come across expressions and quotes that have longer lengths, but you don’t need to use the whole term. You can edit down to the key phrases and infer the rest. Search Google for ‘expressions from Shakespeare’ and see the wealth of ideas. It’s OK to use them, everyone does it.
Alliteration and Rhythm
I like alliteration, it’s very pleasing to the ear. I have a personal favorite I used many years ago to describe a cat I’d drawn lying in the shade of a pot plant. I called it ‘Potted Palm and Puss’. Very satisfying and it made people smile.
What about this goody? It has everything, alliteration, rhythm, it’s short, and describes the scene.
I named this picture ‘Mischief Monger’. Perfect for a fox. In fact, I like the title more than I like the drawing itself!
Good alliteration has a rhythmic flow that is slightly hypnotic, but you can have rhythm in other ways. I have a drawing of a line of Meerkats called ‘Eyes to the Right’
And another of two penguins named ‘Push and Shove’.
My snappiest titles are rarely more than 3 or 4 syllables long.
Puns and Humor
Sometimes working a pun into the title can work.
No prizes for guessing what animals appear in ‘Pride and Joy’. A lioness and her cub of course, what else?
How about my giraffe entitled ‘The High Life’.
By the way, you can see how I drew this giraffe here.
It’s the effect I’m after, my aim is to see the smile on someone’s face.
I’m not averse to getting input from friends either. That said, very few people have the knack for a clever artist’s title but it’s worth asking around nonetheless. I’ve used a few suggestions over the years.
One title, in particular, comes to mind. I’d drawn a domestic duck with lots of reflections but couldn’t come up with a decent name. A friend gave it some thought and suggested ‘Love a Duck’. Brilliant. Pity, it didn’t sell!
A Good Name For Artwork Has Emotion
There’s a very blurred line separating tasteful from over-sentimental goo. I’m not sure I always get it right but on the whole, I think I find the sweet spot.
On the one hand, you are trying to appeal emotionally to your audience, on the other hand, you have to live with yourself!
If a title is awkward for people, you’ll soon find out. You can hear the embarrassment when your customers say the name out loud. If it goes too far your sales will suffer.
I have a picture of a baby chimp. It pulls the heartstrings but the title saves the image from going over the top. It’s called ‘Fingers and Thumbs’ and describes the picture well. No one is embarrassed to ask for it by name.
Just imagine a huge guy buying the same picture for his family and then having to ask me for a ‘My Little Pickle’. I rest my case.
Family Matters – Finding a Metaphor
One of my most effective ploys is to find a ‘family’ metaphor. If I can hit the family/maternal button I will go for it.
Note how many titles I have that refer to family in some way:
- Jumbo Family
- Baby on Board
- A Family Portrait
- Kindred Spirits
- Father Figure
And there are more.
This is where you can stir emotions most effectively. People buy art for emotional reasons. If they can find a link to their loved ones they are much more likely to buy your picture.
I named my picture of a proud lion ‘Head of the Family’ for a reason. People buy it for their Dad, usually in an ironic way.
It’s a fact that people project human characteristics onto animals. It may have no basis in science but no one buys a picture for that reason. We enjoy seeing ourselves reflected in the natural world and the name of your art will resonate more if you exploit that tendency.
Choosing a Name For Your Art – Final Thoughts
I’ve said it so many times and I’ll say it again, never assume that the art does the talking. Your main aim in selling your art is to sell yourself. You must communicate on many levels, and that includes the name of your artwork.
Happily, one of the comments I hear most often from people is ‘I love your titles’. That alone is worth my efforts.
If all you manage to do is find a talking point to get a conversation going that’s enough to start the sales process.
Ignore the power of names at your peril.
Don’t get your business name wrong either. Check out this post: Naming Your Art Business: Don’t Do What I Did
There are so many things you have to get right if you are to sell your art successfully. Take a look at Brooke’s Skillshare class (affiliate) and get inspired. There are over 30,000 students!
If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit: (Amazon affiliate links)
- Pentel Mechanical Pencils 0.3mm
- Derwent Graphic Drawing Pencils
- Daler-Rowney Heavyweight Cartridge Paper
- Jakar Battery Eraser
- Tombo Mono Eraser Pen
- Faber Castell Putty Eraser
- Blu Tack
- French Box Easel
Good names sell a picture, but there’s so much more to learn. If you’re serious about selling your art, you need this guide! Take a look.
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- Pricing Art For Beginners: Originals, Art Prints, and Formulas
- What Kind of Art Sells Best? All The Secrets Revealed
- What Size Art Sells Best? Frames and Apertures – FREE Chart
- Can You Copy Art and Sell a Painting of a Painting? I Found Out
- Is Drawing From Reference Photos Bad? Are You Cheating?
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