Does the Size of your Art Really Matter? What Size of Art Sells Best?

Selling your art Does size matter banner

Whether you like it or not, when it comes to selling artwork, the size of your art really does matter. But what size of art sells best? Should you make your art big and bold or pocket-sized?
Here’s the reality.

Few people really collect art, but they do they buy pictures to fill a space on the wall, and the bigger that space is, the more they’re willing to pay.
People see value in the size of the artwork alone and that’s regardless of the time, effort, and talent it took to make the work in the first place.

Fairness doesn’t come into it!

But knowing that there is a premium to be had making larger work doesn’t mean you should do it.

There’s a catch. Our living spaces are shrinking.

Fewer people have the space for larger artwork, and even those that do, have they got the room for more than one? Where’s the repeat trade coming from?

For many artists, it makes more sense to make smaller pieces. Not only are they easier to sell, but they’re also less expensive to frame, plus you can sell them in multiples. But can you sell enough to make any money?

Which way to go? Large or small? Let’s examine the choices for a more informed decision.

Should you Make Larger Artwork to Sell?

Ok, how large is large? Let’s say for argument’s sake A2 (42 x 59.4cm/16.53″ x 23.39″) or above.

The Pros

The Cons

  • Bigger impact
  • More profit
  • Less stock
  • Fewer images needed
  • Bulky to transport
  • Framing costs
  • Expensive to print
  • Difficult to store
  • Difficult to post

Without a doubt, large images have more punch. As advertising goes it doesn’t get much easier.

Your work will certainly get noticed and your profit margins will be good, even allowing for higher printing costs. There’s a lot to be said for going big.

That’s great, if you can work on a larger scale, but what if you cant? Large art has never come naturally to me. I for one, have always preferred making smaller pieces.

One answer may be to enlarge your prints.

Sounds simple enough but unfortunately, enlargements lose quality. The image gets grainier the bigger you enlarge them. You’ll need the right software to compensate, and I’ll discuss that in the next section.

Plus, the cost of making large format giclee prints is going to be very high. Will your customers pay the premium?

Then how do you transport and sell larger pieces, let alone post them?

If you are selling from a shop or gallery, keeping your prints in mint condition is straight forward, but not when you’re on the move. You’ll have to find a way to carry them safely and prevent them from getting damaged.

Packing your Prints

You have a number of choices. You can:

  • Sell them framed
  • Sell them flat pre-packed
  • Sell them in tubes pre-rolled
  • Roll them loose without a tube

If you have a permanent space then you should be offering frames. It’s the ultimate upsell. Who wouldn’t prefer a picture ready to hang the moment they got home? All you need is a roll of bubble wrap.

As for the rest of us, transporting frames without damaging them is a nightmare. I gave up many years ago. If the glass didn’t shatter or the plexiglass scratch, the frames would get chipped. It drove me mad.

Selling the prints alone is far more practical.

If they aren’t too big you can pre-package them with a backing board and a self-sealing bag, or shrink wrap. Backing board will add considerable bulk and weight to your stockpile but at least they are flat and store easily.

Or you can pre-roll them in postal tubes and have a set for display purposes only. Postal tubes, however, are space eaters and there are only so many tubes you can store practically.

You can always combine the two options and package the prints on request. This is how I do things.

When I first started to trade, I sold my prints lose with an elastic band at both ends and a plastic bag.

I admit it, I had no class. I look back and wince.

Strangely most people accepted my packaging without protest. I’d say my thanks and watch aghast as they crushed their prints under their arms.

It’s important to consider how your customer is going to get your print home and in one piece. Can your customer even fit it in their car?

And what if a high percentage of your customers are visiting from overseas? Are they prepared to travel with it and how can they get their picture on the plane?

You will be forced to roll the prints or lose too many sales and if you pop them in the post you’ll have to roll them anyway.

Before I end this section I want to mention one idea that although I have not tested it yet I’m keen to try at some point.

I know that limiting choice makes selling easier, so what if you only had one take it or leave it option?

It has to be a big picture and a show stopper! No half measures. One striking piece of work with a few prints for sale.

It could work. All you’d need is a few prints in stock, an easel and a chair, not much more.

There’s a lot to think about and if you get it right the profit margins are HUGE!

Should you Make Smaller Artwork to Sell?

Let’s assume we are talking about A3 (29.7 x 42cm/11.69″ x 16.53″) or below.

The Pros

The Cons

  • Easy to Frame
  • Easier to sell
  • Cheap to print
  • Easy to store
  • Easier to post
  • Lower profit
  • More images needed
  • Less impact
  • Must sell many more

With less impact, more thought must be put into the presentation.

If you cant catch the eye of the public in the first place you’re going to have a hard time selling anything. But don’t worry there are workarounds.

Small pictures in large frames

Back in the day, when I first started to sell paintings, I learned a useful trick. The way to make small pictures look bigger is to mount them with very wide borders.

They look stylish and because they ‘look’ bigger you can command a higher price. It’s that simple.

Sell in sets

Another ploy is to sell your work in sets and if you can make prints that all conform to one standard size you are onto a winner.

For this to work well you must make a coherent series. Ideally, the pictures should be themed.

Buyers, by which I mean mostly women, want things to match. In my case they might go for an African theme, just cats, or Mother and baby pictures, you get the idea.

Then there’s the issue of portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) formats.

Again most buyers automatically choose 3 of the same, three portraits or 3 landscapes.

If you have a mix on offer, then suggest a set of 3 with two portraits either side of one landscape or vise-versa. Likewise, a set of 4 is a great alternative for one feature image.

Sometimes you have to point out the obvious.

Big posters for small work

My most effective strategy for catching the eye of passing trade is to hang up 3 large posters of my most popular prints.

You can’t beat the ‘in your face’ approach to advertising.

I made 3 enlargements and had them digitally printed on PVC vinyl to be hard-wearing and suitable for outdoor displays.

If you are tempted to do the same there are a few things to consider, the most important of which is the quality of the enlargement.

The bigger the enlargement the greater the loss of quality, so if you intend to enlarge a small image you must have a high-resolution scan (or photo) from the start.

But that’s not enough. To make a giant print you’ll need the right software.

I researched this a few years ago and the best software I found was ON1 Resize. It’s a one-off fee, none of this recurring yearly subscription crap and it’s easy to use. I chose the cheaper plan which was fine for me.

The other consideration is fading. Make sure your banner is printed using lightfast inks. There is no point going to all the trouble of getting the job done only to see your advert fade away after a few months.

I made a mistake with my first banner by choosing a ‘canvas’ textured PVC. This looked fine at first but the ink scratched off very easily. My display didn’t last long.
Now I use a smooth vinyl that withstands the knocks and scrapes of everyday use.

Remember this is intended to highlight your work so don’t skimp on quality.

Conclusion

Big or small? In truth, most artists will make their decision based not on practicality but on aptitude.

Artists with a bias towards making larger work can easily sell smaller prints and those of us who prefer to make smaller pieces the same is true in reverse; as long as you have the right software.

Where and how you sell your work may well be the most critical factor. If you’re selling in galleries then big art may be a better bet. Try selling the same size painting in a craft show and you’re going to have problems.

I sell from a street stall and as far as I’m concerned my work needs to be small and transportable. Impulse is king.

Bigger art is a bigger profit. You only need to sell a few pieces to get a good return.

Small art is easier to sell but for less profit. You need a lot of passing trade and a good turnover to bring in the cash.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope this guide helps you in some way to figure out what’s best for you.


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