Selling prints on Etsy is a great way to make some extra cash. The start-up costs are low, you have a built-in audience, and all you need to get started is a digital file. What’s not to like? In truth, there’s more to selling art prints on Etsy than meets the eye. I’ll tell you how to sell art prints on Etsy.
Selling art prints on Etsy involves making multiple listings, optimizing each listing with relevant keywords, and having high-quality mockup images. You must find a niche, have a consistent style and create a brand. Then you must promote yourself and utilize the algorithm.
Does all this sound daunting? Relax, this post will break down the process into easy-to-read sections. By the end, you will know if selling your prints on Etsy is good for you.
Let’s dive straight in.
(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)
What is the Best way to Sell Art Prints on Etsy?
Now, whatever you end up doing, one thing’s for certain, you will need top-quality digital files of your artwork. This is a step you have to take seriously, your whole business depends on the quality of your files.
In many ways, this is the most important thing you’ve got to get right, and I’ll talk about that later.
In the meantime, these are your 3 selling options:
- You either print them yourself, at home, or via a print shop
- Use a print-on-demand service and let them do the work for you
- Make downloadable digital files
Each selling option has its pros and cons. I’ll go through them one at a time so you can see what to expect.
How to Self-Publish Your Own Art Prints
There is a big advantage in making, selling, and shipping your own art prints. You keep full control of the quality and can sign and number your prints and get a better price.
If you can find a niche of your own, without too much competition, the profit margins are incredible. Getting prints made in bulk can work out very cheap per print and the markup is almost obscene.
The alternative is to buy your prints individually, as giclee prints, from a local printing business. The prints will be more expensive to buy and that will eat into your profit margins.
The 3rd way is to buy your own giclee home printer and print your own art. Most people buy an Epson or Canon desktop model. This is becoming more and more popular.
All 3 self-publishing methods are viable, but they all involve an investment in both time and money.
I highly recommend that you read my post called: How to Make Prints of Your Art before you dive in because self-publishing is not plain sailing. I go into all the details and how to avoid the pitfalls of printing art yourself. You can make very costly mistakes. Don’t do some of the things I did!
Simply put, printing your own art involves a trade-off between the potential profit you can make and the amount of work involved in making it.
Do not underestimate the amount of time and money you need to invest. The rewards are high and so are the risks
1. Buying Your Art Prints in Bulk
In the context of Etsy, buying your prints in bulk from a commercial printing company is by far the riskiest option. The initial outlay is high and the storage space required is considerable.
This was the way I started my business back in the 90s when my options were very limited. I took the gamble and it paid off, but only because I was selling them from a market pitch
The chances of you selling enough prints from a standing start on Etsy are so low that this option is probably not for you unless you have other outlets.
If you do decide that this is the way to go, you must research your printing companies beforehand. This can be a dispiriting exercise. Everyone is an expert in the printing industry, and as far as art is concerned, that’s BS.
You need a specialist company who has experience printing fine art, and just as importantly, dealing with artists. We are a fussy bunch.
I can’t emphasize this enough, it’s easy to get stitched up and lose a lot of money, It happened to me because I was naively trusting and wanted to get my prints made so badly I overlooked some warning signs.
Read my Printing Post: How to Make Prints of Your Art – Printing Art Explained in Detail
2. Commercial Giclee Printing
How times change. When I started publishing my prints, Giclee prints didn’t exist. Now they produce top-quality archival prints to match the best offset-Litho prints.
Giclee prints are produced on state-of-the-art inkjet prints using lightfast pigment inks on acid-free paper stock. They are designed for short print runs. Individually, the prints are expensive, and that will have to be passed on to your customer.
Your profit margins will suffer but the advantages are:
- There are no storage problems to worry about
- No money tied up in dormant stock
- You can order prints one at a time
- You can make limited edition prints
- You can offer your prints in different sizes.
There are costs upfront. There will be a set-up fee, and you’ll probably be charged for proof copies
Once you have approved the image and the layout, your company will store your file in their system and then you can simply order your prints as and when you wish.
Top tip: Always backup your files. My company had a fire and I lost some scans.
3. Home Giclee Printing
The final way of self-publishing is to do it all yourself. The control freaks amongst us will gravitate towards this idea.
If you want the job done properly do it yourself
They will produce results of equal quality to commercial prints, It’s the same tech in a smaller version and that presents one of the drawbacks.
These printers are designed to be used regularly. They do not fair well if they are left idle for long periods. The print heads clog up with disuse.
Canon printers have replaceable print heads, but Epson printers will need to be replaced.
You are advised to run a cycle once a day to keep the print heads clean, regardless of whether you are printing or not. That is a small issue, another more serious issue is the price of replacement inks. They can be extortionate.
Diy printing will still be more expensive than buying in bulk from a company.
I know more about Epson Printers than Canon. The Epson inks for the A3+ P700 Surecolor printer costs substantially more to run than its sister model the Epson A2 P900. The latter has large ink cartridges that are much better value for money.
This might be helpful: Printing Art Prints DIY – Epson ET 8550 vs SC-P700 – Hobby vs Pro?
If you want to make cheaper prints, you have to buy the bigger model. There may be some 3rd party attachments to convert the P700 to accept P900 cartridges, you’ll have to research that. I haven’t found one, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
One problem has been resolved with the new Surecolor models. There is now a calibrated monitor built into the printer. This is a massive advance.
Before you had to do everything from your computer and learn how to do it. It was complicated enough to put anyone off. Now, most jobs can be done on the touch screen.
Self-Publishing Art Prints for Etsy
To round this section off, Self-publishing has some great advantages, How else are you going to really know what the customer is receiving unless you do it yourself?
I know it works because Ive spent over 20 years trading this way. When I get some dud prints, I bin them or go back to my printer and get them done again.
Having physical prints also allows you to personalize them. don’t dismiss this as trivial. Signing the print is a big deal to your fans, and so is a personalized message added on request.
Then there are limited edition prints.
How can you make a limited edition unless you can sign and number them? They can be very valuable because they allow the artist to sell their prints at a premium.
This post will answer any questions you have: What Are Limited Edition Prints? 12 Things You’ve Got to Know
There is one more thing to consider when you are selling your prints this way, and that’s postage and packing.
You have to do it all yourself. That’s buying the packaging, storing it, packing the prints yourself, addressing the labels, and finding the cheapest and most reliable way to dispatch them.
You had better read this: How to Ship Art Prints So They Arrive Safe and Sound
That is hard enough for your home market but when it comes to shipping overseas the costs have spiraled.
In recent years international postal rates have hiked. I’m in the UK and the price of sending mail to the States has doubled. If your market is overseas you must factor in the extra costs and the delays that occur.
Shipping costs can make the difference between being a viable business or not.
Using 3rd Party Print-on-Demand Services
Print-on-demand companies are springing up everywhere, and it’s not surprising. It’s an easy way to get your art and designs onto a myriad of physical products and offer them for sale without ever having to do the dirty work yourself.
All those shipping and packaging hassles are taken care of, and there are no costs upfront beyond getting a hi-res file of your art and a listing fee or two. Many artists go this route because the setup costs are virtually zero.
You can integrate some services with your Etsy store listings (most notably with Printful.com) and you are off to the races.
With no costs and no risk, there has to be a downside right? Of course, the profit margins are very low.
You have to sell in volume to earn a good income. Not easy with Print-on-Demand.
How you approach the opportunities that print-on-demand services offer will depend on the type of art you make and your attitude to commercializing your art.
Print-on-Demand companies are able to print your art or design onto a vast array of items and the list of customizable merchandise is ever-growing. You are not confined to printing wall art, your image could be on a phone case, a tote bag, or a shower curtain!
This will interest you: Is Print on Demand Worth it? The Pros and Cons of a POD Business
Not everyone produces the kind of art that can transfer to other products. Not everyone will want to see their creation on a mug, I understand. I can also see the potential of a winning design appearing on multiple items, on multiple listings, and earning extra cash.
There are more limitations to using a print-on-demand service than just the style and genre of your art. Large items, for instance, need a huge file, and enlarging the file beyond its original size reduces the quality.
There are workarounds. I used some software called ON1 to enlarge my images enormously and although some quality was lost, the images didn’t pixelate. It’s the same tech they use to produce giant advertising images.
The alternative for some artists would be to turn your file into a vector graphic, that can be enlarged to any size you wish. It is possible to turn a hi-res Jpeg into a ‘high-fidelity photo’ vector using the trace function in Adobe illustrator.
The other main concern when using POD companies is quality. You’ll find most blogs recommending Printful.com and that’s because, not only do they integrate seamlessly with the Etsy platform, but they also have a reputation for consistent quality.
Printful has printing hubs around the world and they will redirect your order to the nearest manufacturing plant. They strive to maintain their standards by printing in-house and not by subcontracting their jobs to other companies.
They are not as cheap as other services but they have a great reputation. Even so, you should always buy a test product before you upload your file and start selling.
I have just ordered a print for a client and my professionally scanned image was printed slightly darker than I hoped. It needed a fine adjustment before I was happy.
Every company will produce slightly different results. There are so many variables. All you can do is submit a file and approve a proof copy, and if you change your POD company, you will have to do it again.
I know you can’t order one of everything, but if you can approve one master file, you can hedge your bets.
By using a company with numerous production bases, you can extend your reach and provide a better service to all your customers.
It must be said that POD does stop you from selling limited editions and that lowers your prices, and because Etsy is a competitive marketplace, that drives the prices down too. Your profits are likely to be small. This is not a way to get rich for most people.
Treat Print-on-Demand as a side hustle and an extra revenue stream.
Selling Printable Digital Downloads
I have direct experience with the first two ways of selling art prints, and I intend to try selling digital art prints next. I have done the research and selling digital images is potentially the most promising way of selling your art on Etsy. Internationally at least.
It’s not quite the same thing, but I do have some experience in selling digital items, I sell an ebook about selling art for beginners. The product is different, but it’s still a PDF file. It’s a great feeling to see a new sale appear in your inbox, you forget about all that hard work you put in. It feels like free money.
There are no costs beyond the Etsy fees and you can sell digital downloads to anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.
It’s the nearest you can get to passive income.
So what are the risks? Theft mainly. You have to send a large file and you could lose control of your art if it fell into the wrong hands.
This post relates to copyright issues: Can You Copy Art and Sell a Painting of a Painting? I Found Out
What is a Digital Art Print?
Digital prints, often referred to as printables, are digital files that can be downloaded and printed by the customer themselves. They buy the file and the rights to reproduce them for personal use. The file must be a PDF or Hi-res Jpeg file and have a resolution of 300dpi for printing.
The benefits for the artist are the ease of transaction, there are no limits to the number of prints available, they can be downloaded and sent immediately, and offered in a range of commercial sizes. Once the initial setup is complete, it is a passive way to sell.
This is a handy reference: What Size Art Sells Best? Frames and Apertures – FREE Chart
The advantage, for the customer, is the guaranteed immediacy of the sale. Their digital prints are downloaded straight to their computer and, if they have a good printer, they can print them at home there and then.
If not they can visit a local print shop. Downloadable prints are also cheaper than physical prints and the buyer gets to choose the size that best suits their needs.
This Post has all the commercial sizes and ratios for Printing Printables check this out: Where to Print Art Prints From Etsy (Downloads / Printables)
How to Make Digital Art Prints
Selling wall art in this way is only possible with top-quality scans or photographic files. This part of the process is key. The customer can only reproduce the best prints from the best files.
It is possible to make very good scans at home but unless you invest in a very expensive scanner your options will be limited. Having read many reviews I can safely say that the most popular home scanner is the V600 Epson scanner (4800 x 9600 dpi).
The Epson V600 will scan art up to A4 in size, and that’s not so big. You can scan larger art and stitch the images together, but that’s not ideal.
Personally, I have always had my commercial work professionally scanned. It doesn’t cost too much, and it gives me peace of mind knowing that my scan is as good as it can be.
The other way to get a digital file is to photograph your original artwork. Again, doing this at home requires space, lighting, a good camera, and photoshop skills. You will have to process your own images and that involves having your monitor color calibrated.
You can’t make an accurate color correction or tonal adjustment on a standard monitor. It’s such a pain, do yourself a favor and get a pro to do it.
To maximize your sales potential you must supply as many variations as possible so your customers can print the size they prefer. How far you manipulate them, is up to you.
Successful Etsy sellers offer their prints in standard sizes and in sets, or an art’ series, to increase their profits, and so should you.
There are some very successful print shops selling digital products on Etsy, including wall art, and they are killing it. Their impressive sales figures are nearly pure profit.
Is Selling Art Prints Profitable on Etsy?
Yes, it can be very lucrative for some, and a good sideline for others. I joined Etsy because at the time my eBay store was doing well, and I thought having my own Etsy shop was a good idea.
I made sales but in a very passive way. I had other income streams and Etsy was not my priority. Besides, that was a long time ago and before print-on-demand and selling digital files even existed.
The problem with selling art on Etsy, and anywhere else online for that matter, is getting your art in front of buyers. There is one hell of a lot of competition out there and they all want the same customers. It’s a buyer’s market.
To make things harder, if you do make something that sells well, it won’t be long before your competitors notice and sell similar products. It’s the nature of the beast, and you will have to live with it.
Inevitably, prices for art prints are held quite low on Etsy. It’s difficult to get a premium price. Etsy customers are looking for unique products but at a reasonable price and the fierce competition will dictate your prices.
For general pricing read this: Pricing Art For Beginners: Originals, Art Prints, and Formulas
The only way to compete is to narrow down your reach and serve a niche. It’s easier to stand out from the crowd when the competition is reduced. The other way is to aggressively market your shop. You can’t afford to list it and leave it.
Even digital prints will need some active marketing. Nothing is truly passive. Etsy is an online marketplace and you are an online market trader. This is a business, and to make good money you must be proactive.
To get sales you must work the Etsy algorithm, do your keyword research, and drive traffic to your site from other social media platforms, forums, and your website if you have one. Not only that, you must answer every question and over-deliver on every sale.
Having great customer service is essential for any successful Etsy shop.
And then when you get the traffic, you can maximize your profits using some tried and tested sales hacks. More of that later.
Selling on Etsy is like anything else, you get back what you put in, and the best Etsy sellers are those who sell themselves. The best way to do that is to be reliable, honest, and communicate.
When you get it right, you’ll get rave reviews and the sales will come in.
How to Make More Sales Selling Art on Etsy
Let’s get to the nitty gritty. How do you generate more sales on Etsy?
Getting a few sales on Etsy is not difficult. When I set up my Etsy account the first time around, I was too busy with other things to manage it, and all I did was make some new listings and forgot about them. I still got sales, but they always came as a nice surprise.
But that’s no good we want more than pocket money, so how is it done? I’ll start with covering the basics that you can’t ignore, and move on to a few sales ploys that will increase your revenue.
Have Great Product Images
Like it or not, your fantastic, talented, and unique artwork, is just ‘stuff’ on the internet. Ouch.
The sooner you come to terms with how your art is viewed by a member of the public the easier life will be. Unless a person is invested in you as a person, your art is not important to them.
This means you must treat your Etsy listing as a new product and it must be presented in the best possible way. First impressions count.
You can post your image as a standalone image, but think how much more effective it will be if you present your artwork as a framed print in someone’s home.
In my personal experience, the public lacks the imagination to translate what they see as a print, to what they’ll see as a framed work of art. There is a disconnect. You must guide them by the hand and show them what the picture will look like and explain how to frame them.
You can’t create their imagination but you can spark it, and the easiest way to do that is with great imagery.
You don’t need to hang your art on the wall and photograph them yourself, you can use mockups. These are digitally created scenes with a blank space where you can add your artwork. You can buy mockup packages on sites such as Creative Market, and Envato and there are apps that can do the job.
There are also plenty of online freebies on offer too, but a word of caution. You can use free generic mockups but that will mean your artwork will be generic too. That’s hardly unique.
You are better off paying for a cohesive set of professionally designed mockups because very few of your competitors will be doing that.
You could even get some custom-made on Fiverr.
There is no point pleasing everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. The competition will be too fierce and your audience too wide. The only way to compete with other Etsy sellers is to niche down and try to dominate the space you make for yourself.
This post relates: What is Subject Matter in Art? – Is it Important?
This is the only realistic way to make your store stand out.
That requires you to build a portfolio of themed subjects. People love to pigeonhole an artist and when they visit you, they’ll expect to find what they want. It’ll be easier to rank and compete if you can fulfill their expectations.
Brand Your Etsy Store,
This leads on from the last section. Your shop must be professional in design and that means great photography, a great header, a logo, and a cohesive color scheme. When the customer lands in your shop they must be impressed.
But please remember, although you must have a recognizable online presence, you are not the main brand! Etsy is the brand and they own the customers. Think about that. They are not your customers.
You can do your best to capture their details within the rules but you are building a sub-brand within the Etsy platform.
Owning your customers is the key to success in business and you must try to add every buyer to a mailing list. The best buyers are those who’ve happily bought from you before. That’s why customer service is critical. Happy customers return and tell their friends all about you.
You can find your customer’s email address in Paypal. It’s not legal to add them to your mailing list without their permission but there is nothing stopping you from sending a private thank you message and a bonus offer to entice them to sign up.
Optimize Your Etsy Shop and Listings
Etsy is a search engine and they need the right information to help shoppers find the right products. They get that info from you in the form of keywords. Choosing the right ones is essential.
Your keywords should accurately relate to and describe the product you’re selling. They should appear everywhere, including in your shop titles, your product titles, and your descriptions.
You also have 13 tags available which mean 13 more keywords for each new listing. Use them all. If you ignore these things people will not find you.
So how do you find the right Keywords? Good point.
There’s the hard way or the easy way. You can enter a search as if you are a customer looking for your product and see what pops up. The top results are pleasing the Etsy algorithm. Deep dive into their listings and note down the common keywords.
You can also utilize the search bar auto-suggest and see the terms Etsy is suggesting in the drop-down menu. These terms will all be popular phrases that users enter on Etsy.
You know your customers are using these terms, but unfortunately, you also know that your competitors are doing the same free keyword research as you are, and on top of that, you will not have any data. It’s very hit and miss.
The best way to do keyword research is to do what the pros do and join Marmalead. It is the best keyword finder for Etsy. It’ll take the guesswork out of choosing keywords. I’m not an affiliate.
Marmalead will choose your 13 keyword tags, tell you what’s trending on Etsy, compares different keywords, and tells you how to optimize your listings. You can join on a rolling monthly contract, presently $19/mo, or sign up for a year and save about $35-ish.
Even if you only use it for the first month it’s worth it. Using this tool will push you in front of most sellers who simply refuse to pay for anything.
If you haven’t got the time to do things or you need some help, just use someone on Fiverr.
One more pro tip you should practice is writing individual descriptions for every item for sale. This may sound like an almighty chore but there is a good reason to do it.
Every listing will have different keywords and attract different people. You want people to visit your shop and browse, so the more keywords you use the more customers will find you. It also gives you the opportunity to craft your sales copy.
You must convey your message in emotional terms. People are persuaded by their emotions, not their logic. No one NEEDS a picture, it’s not food. It’s a discretional spend. It’s your job to enthuse your reader enough to excite their interest. Always emphasize feelings over facts.
If you have 100 listings that need individual descriptions you can use a shortcut. There are AI tools that can generate sales copy for you or paraphrase whole paragraphs you’ve already written. Ive signed up for so many free trials, just to use their tools for a few days.
The list of AI writers is huge and I’ve tried quite a few. Try these 3 if you want to experiment, I use them all: (not affiliate links)
There are many many more. I use these 3 because they have generous free plans. You don’t need their paid plans to write Etsy descriptions.
Bonus Tips For Selling Art Prints on Etsy
Ok, you have the basics done, now it’s time to ramp up your sales drive.
Once you have customers visiting your store and you’re generating sales it’s important to encourage them to spend as much money as possible. You do this by offering bundled discounts.
Sell Your Art Prints in Bundles
When a customer comes to your store and decides to buy, they will almost certainly like more than one piece and they’ll have to decide which one to choose.
You can take full advantage of this tendency by making the choice for them. I’ll give you an example using digital downloads, but it applies to any form of selling. I use this method to sell physical art prints from my market stall.
If you have an $8 digital download on offer but you also offer any 3 for $15, in the eyes of the customer they are getting a bargain. They can have 3 prints for the price of two. What are people going to do? You will make $15 instead of $8, minus the listing fees.
You don’t have to stop there you can bundle in sets of 4 or 6 if you wish, why not?
Yes, you might lose the odd customer that would’ve bought them all at the full price anyway, but I’ve been trading for over 20 years, and let me tell you, you gain far more than you lose.
Then you set up your shop and put your bundles at the top so they can see the deals straight away.
Use the Algorithm to Boost Your Listings
When you first open your store Etsy will effectively ignore you because it has no data on your performance. Therefore to give it a kickstart you can manipulate the system by asking friends and family to buy your products and leave 5-star reviews. You can reimburse them for their trouble.
If you have a following on social media you can prime your audience for an upcoming Etsy early bird special offer and generate early sales and reviews, of course, to get Etsy to notice and rank your listings.
The best way to leverage sales is to use your mailing list if you have one. Engaged subscribers are your best fans and building up to your opening sale will have more impact.
You need as many 5 star reviews as possible to act as markers for Etsy to promote your store. You need more than just reviews you need visitors who buy. Etsy, like eBay, can calculate how many visitors leave your shop empty-handed. You will be penalized for lack of sales.
Etsy wants sales not admirers. They want their transaction fee, and fairness or loyalty means nothing.
Getting Featured on ‘Recently added’
Every time you list an item there is the chance that your listing will appear on the ‘Recently Added’ page. This can drive significant traffic your way. It’s brief, but if you have many listings you spread them out over time and get the boost now and again. This extra traffic should attract customers who hopefully leave positive reviews and help you to rank. And so it goes on.
Getting More Reviews Per Listing
With reviews playing a major role in attracting business and as an Etsy trigger, it’s in your interest that your individual listings get as many reviews as possible.
If you have an item with variations, for example, it is tempting to list each item separately to try and get them featured. On the other hand if all the variations are contained in one listing, each rave review will apply to that one multiple listing and give it a boost. It’s better, for the algorithm, to have 5 reviews on one listing, than to have 5 items each with one review.
If you can generate enough interest in a percentage of your listings, those bestsellers will attract customers to your store, and they will browse your less popular items.
LIst You Art Prints in Quantity
If you have a very smart store with beautifully crafted listings with brilliant photography, and you only have 10 listings, most Etsy sellers will struggle. For you to reach a wider audience, you must do the same thing 10x.
It’s not as hard as you think.
You must have 10 pieces of art or design to even consider starting an Etsy shop, You can offer each print in a different size. You can change the colors, you can sell them in sets, you can creatively crop them and sell them separately, you can add backgrounds or take them away, or even add captions. You have to think outside the box a little.
If you have linked your shop to Printful.com you can list hundreds of items using their merchandise alone.
You can add ebooks, guides, and tutorials if you wish. You can probably think of many more.
Make Seasonal Listings
Every holiday will generate sales. People buy for an event and you can take advantage of this desire by having seasonal mockups to reflect any given holiday. You don’t have to get cheesy, but your sales will probably increase if you do!
You can have the same items presented in a different context. You can add seasonal symbols, add text, or change the backgrounds. If you can have special mockups for each holiday and the keywords to match, you will sell more.
How to Sell Art Prints on Etsy – Final Thoughts
Let’s be realistic. Owning an Etsy shop is not going to transform your life overnight, even if you do everything written here, it will be a slow burn at the beginning. You must have patience.
This is all about making extra money, and hopefully, your store will go from strength to strength. There are no guarantees, the public is fickle and they don’t always appreciate the most talented artists or designers.
This might interest you: Is Art Subjective? Is There Good and Bad Art? Do We Need Critics?
With luck and hard work, your online store will take off and your Etsy orders will roll in. Milk it while it lasts, and be sure to back up your success with your own website and a mailing list just in case things change.
Your Etsy business is only renting space on a global marketplace with the consent of Etsy. They can change their business model at the drop of a hat if it suits them and you are wise to have a plan B.
That said, plenty of sellers make a small fortune and there is no reason why one of them shouldn’t be you.
This is the digital product I was talking about. My Guide will get you started.
These are a few more posts that will help you out:
- Is Selling on Etsy Worth it? Pros and Cons for Artists and Crafters
- Is Redbubble Worth it? Pros and Cons For Artists and Designers
- 19 Ways to Make Money as an Artist Online and Off: No Fluff!
- 25 Platforms for Artists to Sell Their Art Online and Make Money
- How Artists Make Passive Income: 9 Great Side Hustles
- Social Media For Artists: The Best 13 Platforms for Creatives
- 12 Wildlife Art Bestsellers (Use These Subjects to Make Money)
Plus find an ONLINE COURSE that suits you.
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