Whether you like it or not, the size of your art really matters, and that includes art prints. But what size of art sells best? Should you make your art big and bold, or pocket-sized? I decided to find out.
These are the best standard sizes for smaller art prints: 10″ x 8″ and 10″ x 12″, and for larger prints choose 16″ x 20″ frames. A 10″ X 8″ frame will frame 3 smaller sizes of art. A 10″ x 12″ frame will frame 4 different sizes of art. A 16″ x 20″ will frame 4 differing art sizes.
I’ve sold my art for many years. I started in the 80s, and I’ve learned a few things. Keep reading because I know a few tricks to help you earn more.
With that said let’s get started.
(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)
What Size Art is Best?
People see value in the size of the artwork itself, and that’s regardless of the time, hard work, and skill level involved.
Your talent is not the most important factor if it’s the wrong size. It has been my personal frustration for many years.
I trade in-person and after 20 years of hearing the same comments over and over again, you get the message and it always starts with ‘If only…’
If only it was bigger, if only it was smaller. if only it was this, that, or the other.
Fairness doesn’t come into it!
But knowing that there is a premium to be had in making larger sizes, does that mean you should go along with it? Not necessarily.
There’s a catch. Our living spaces are shrinking.
Fewer and fewer people have the space for larger artwork, and even those that do are unlikely to ever buy two large works of art, so where’s the repeat trade coming from?
For many artists, it makes more sense to make smaller artwork and small prints. Not only are they easier to sell, but they’re also cheaper to frame, and besides, you can sell fine art prints in multiples.
But can you sell enough art to make any money?
What’s the best way to go and what size prints sell the best, big or small? Let’s look at your choices and weigh up the pros and cons.
Selling Large Art Prints – Pros and Cons
Ok, how large is large? Let’s say for argument’s sake that A2 (42 x 59.4cm/16.53″ x 23.39″) and above, is a large size art print and work from there.
The Advantages of Selling Large Art Prints are:
- They have a greater impact
- A higher profit margin
- Carrying less stock
- Fewer images are needed
The Disadvantages of Selling Large Art Prints are:
- They’re difficult to transport
- Higher framing costs
- They’re expensive to print
- Difficult to store
- Difficult to ship
Without a doubt, large images have more punch. As advertising goes it doesn’t get much easier to attract potential customers.
Your artwork 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.
“THE CASH IS IN THE FLASH”
Make them big, bold, and brash, and you will attract attention. That’s certainly true when you sell physical prints from a market stall. The first thing you need is passing trade and the second is a showstopper.
It’s also true, to some extent, online. Small art has the same impact as larger art in a thumbnail, but large poster-size art looks impressive in a mockup.
Potential buyers need help envisaging a painting, or print, in a living room setting. It helps enormously to show your art hanging on a wall and to scale.
That’s great if you can work on a larger scale, but what if you can’t? Large art has never come naturally to me. My type of paintings and drawings have always been small.
This will help you: How to Scale Up a Drawing
One answer is to make enlarged prints of your original artwork.
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 it be within your customer’s price range? Will your customers pay the premium?
One of my best tips is to make art with a white background, leaving large amounts of white space around the main image. This way you can draw or paint a smaller image on a larger surface, with a larger frame, and get a higher price.
This is how to print your art if you haven’t got a clue: How to Make Prints of Your Art
In my experience, the major problem with selling large artwork is practical. It’s the problem of transport, not just for you, but for your customers. A large-size canvas or picture frame is not something you can buy casually. Your customer has to have a getting it home in one piece.
If you are selling from a shop, or a gallery, keeping your paintings and art prints in mint condition is relatively straightforward, and you can pad the corners and use bubble wrap.
Get your framing done online at Keepsake Frames (affiliate)
If on the other hand, you do markets, art shows, or exhibitions, you’ll have to find a way to carry large pieces of art in transit and prevent them from getting damaged.
This is insanely difficult. Glass cracks and frames chip. I know that first hand. No matter how hard you try, something always breaks. It’s frustrating and costly.
Top Tip: Always use plexiglass if you intend to transport or ship picture frames
Standard Frame Sizes For Larger Art and Art Prints
These are commercially available larger frame sizes, while the aperture measures the window inside the cardboard mount/mat.
|12″ x 16″||8″ x 12″|
|12″ x 16″||8.5″ x 11″|
|12″ x 16″||9″ x 12″|
|16″ x 20″||8″ x 12″|
|16″ x 20″||10″ x 12″|
|16″ x 20″||11″ x 14″|
|16″ x 20″||12″ x 16″|
|30cm x 40cm||8″ x 12″|
|30cm x 40cm||(A4) 297mm x 210mm|
|40cm x 40cm||8″ x 8″|
|40cm x 40cm||10″ x 10″|
|40cm x 40cm||30cm x 30cm|
|40cm x 50cm||11″ x 14″|
|40cm x 50cm||30cm x 40cm|
|20″ x 24“||16″ x 20″|
|24″ x 34″||20″ x 30″|
Standard frames with matboard apertures (windows)
Canvas Sizes for Larger Paintings
These large canvases should be readily available.
- 12″ x 16″
- 18″ x 24″
- 20″ x 24″
- 24″ x 36″
- 30″ x 40″
- 36″ x 48″
This guide will tell you more: A Quick Guide to Framing on a Budget
Selling a Smaller Size of Art – Pros and Cons
Let’s assume we are talking about A3 (29.7 x 42cm/11.69″ x 16.53″) or below.
The Advantages of Selling Smaller Art or Art Prints are:
- They are easy to frame
- Easier to sell
- Cheaper to print
- Easy to store
- Easy to ship
The Disadvantages of Selling Smaller Art or Art Prints are:
- A Lower profit
- More images required
- Less visual impact
- Requires a high turnover
With less impact, more thought must be put into the presentation.
This post is useful: How to Make Cheap Art Display Panels
If you can’t catch the eye of the public in the first place you’re going to have a hard time selling art of any size. But don’t worry there are workarounds.
And this mini-class on Skillshare (affiliate) is handy if you need to make some mats – ‘Matting artwork | a bite-sized class’. It’s only 9 mins long!
Standard Frame Sizes for Smaller Art and Art Prints
These are commercially available small frame sizes, while the aperture measures the window inside the cardboard mount/mat.
|6″ x 8″||6″ x 4″|
|7″ x 5″||3″ x 5″|
|7″ x 5″||6″ x 4″|
|10″ x 8″||3″ x 5″|
|10″ x 8″||6″ x 4″|
|10″ x 8″||7″ x 5″|
|10″ x 10″||8″ x 8″|
|10″ x 12″||6″ x 4″|
|10″ x 12″||6″ x 8″|
|10″ x 12″||7″ x 5″|
|10″ x 12″||10″ x 8″|
|11″ x 14″||10″ x 8″|
|12″ x 16″||8″ x 12″|
|24cm x 30cm||6″ x 8″|
|30cm x 30cm||8″ x 8″|
Standard smaller frame sizes with matboard apertures (windows)
Canvas Sizes for Smaller Paintings
These canvas sizes should be readily available.
- 4″ x 6″
- 5″ x 7″
- 8″ x 10″
- 9″ x 12″
- 11″ x 14″
If you need custom framing try these guys at Framebridge
3 Ways to Sell Smaller Sizes of Art For More Money
Tip 1: Put Small Art Into 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 and thin frames.
They look stylish and because they ‘look’ bigger, you can command a higher price. It’s a great way to earn more money with no extra effort. It’s that simple.
Tip 2: Sell Smaller Sized Art Prints in Sets
Another ploy is to sell your artwork in sets or in a coherent series. Ideally, your pictures should be logically themed. It’s also in your best interest to make prints that all conform to one standard size.
Buyers, by which I mean mostly women, want their pictures to match. In my case they might go for an African theme, just cats, or mother and baby pictures, you get the idea.
Check this out: 12 Wildlife Art Bestsellers (Use These Subjects to Make Money)
Then there’s the issue of portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) formats.
Again most buyers automatically choose 3 of the same format, three portraits, or 3 landscapes. In my experience, they prefer their images to be vertical.
If you have a mix on offer, intervene and suggest how they can be arranged. You must do this in a face-to-face sales situation.
Suggest a set of 3 with two portraits on either side of one landscape, or the other way around. Likewise, suggest a set of 4 as a great alternative to one large feature image.
Sometimes you have to point out the obvious, don’t take things for granted.
Tip 3: Make Big Posters to Advertise Your Smaller-Sized Art
My most effective strategy for catching the eye of passing trade is to hang up 3 large posters of my most popular prints.
Subtlety and good taste is useless, it’s got to be IN YOUR FACE
I made 3 enlargements and had them digitally printed on PVC vinyl to be hard-wearing, lightfast, and waterproof. In other words, suitable for outdoor displays.
If you are tempted to do the same, there are a few important things to consider, the most important of which is the quality of the enlargement.
Enlargements lose quality, so if you intend to enlarge a small image your first step is to get a high-resolution scan (or photo).
But having large digital files is not enough. To make a giant print you’ll need the right software, and it’s not Adobe Photoshop.
I researched this a while 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.
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 PVC faux canvas print. This looked fine at first, until the ink scratched off. My display didn’t last long.
Now I use a smooth vinyl that withstands the knocks and scrapes of everyday use. I found out the expensive way.
Remember, this is intended to highlight your artwork so don’t skimp on quality.
There is only one drawback and it would never occur to you unless you sell in person. Some members of the public will always get confused, no matter how obvious anything should be.
If you advertise your limited edition print with a large PVC poster, you’ll get people who’d prefer the vinyl poster, not your wonderful, faithfully reproduced work of art printed on fine art paper.
Selling Art Prints With Packaging
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 selling 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 and some packing tape.
Selling Art Prints in Person
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, the plexiglass scratched, or the frames got 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 boards will add considerable bulk and weight to your stockpile but at least they are flat and store easily.
Alternatively. you can pre-roll your prints in postal tubes and have a set on show for display purposes only. This is fine for cheap posters printed on thin paper, but not suitable for fine art prints.
We all know that curled paper is hard to unroll, especially if they’ve been rolled for a long time. Besides, postal tubes 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 by rolling them up with an elastic band and no tube. Strangely most people accepted my packaging without protest. Even so, looking back, I had no class and I was missing sales.
It’s important to consider how your customer is going to get your print home in one piece.
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 and pop them into postal tubes or lose too many sales.
Online Art Sales
You’ll have the same packaging issues with conventional online sales, except you no longer have full control.
If you are selling physical prints from your own website or Etsy store, you are reliant on the post office, or private courier, to handle your package carefully. Good luck with that.
Quite apart from some packages going astray, packaging gets damaged. You have to over-package flat prints if they are to survive the system.
Take my advice, as far as prints are concerned, roll them and send them in a tube.
Another way of selling your prints is via the print-on-demand business model. Redbubble is the biggest self-contained online marketplace, and there is Etsy, one of the biggest websites in the world, where you can integrate your listings to print-on-demand sites, such as Printful or Printify. Indeed you can integrate Printful with your personal website using Woocommerce.
Still not convinced that this is for you? learn to sell online, the margins are smaller and the learning curve is an issue, but the potential is tempting. Take a look at this course on Udemy
If you are using this method of selling you must make your images available in as many sizes as possible. Use the ON1 software to make your art supersized and you can sell them in any size you like. Images that can be re-cropped to different ratios and formats will fit more products.
These platforms usually have better deals for artists selling wall art prints. There are seldom any fixed markups, and within reason, you can charge what you like.
There are drawbacks. You only get a percentage of the retail price and there is always the issue of quality control. It does, however, free you from selling physical copies, the printing process, dispatching the prints, storage, and packaging. There is a lot to be said for it.
Selling Digital Downloads (Printables)
In recent years the printable market has sprung up. Many artists are taking advantage of this new way of selling.
Instead of sending out a physical print, the artist sells the file, as stock agencies do. They usually send a hi-res jpg file and the user has the license to print the image for personal use.
The buyer prints the image at home or takes it to a printing service to get it printed. The price must be lower but it’s instant profit. This form of selling has the potential to generate a very good return.
So many people have a printer at home these days that buying a file on impulse and printing it off as a disposable print, is no big deal. This approach is ideal for digital artwork, it opens the door for these type of prints.
Again, the artist will benefit from offering as many standard sizes as possible to suit the needs of the customer.
What Size Art Sells Best? Final Thoughts
Big art 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 for 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.
Selling original art online is difficult and the packaging is an enormous headache, let alone getting it insured. It’s far more suited to selling art prints or using 3rd party drop shippers to do the work for you.
Bigger art means a bigger profit. You only need to sell a few pieces to get a good return. Smaller 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.
The best size will depend on your type of art and your circumstances. You need to make images that can be adapted to any size to gain the maximum return and reach a wider audience.
Whatever you decide to do, I hope this guide helps you to figure out what’s best for you.
If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit:
- 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
This post is an extract from my guide and there’s so much more to learn. If you are serious about selling your art, I’ll show you exactly what to do!
For more articles like this check out the links below:
- Pricing Art For Beginners: Originals, Art Prints, and Formulas
- Can You Copy Art and Sell a Painting of a Painting? I Found Out
- What Kind of Art Sells Best? All The Secrets Revealed
- Tracing Art – Is It Good or Bad? When Is Tracing Cheating and Is It Ever OK?
- 25 Platforms for Artists to Sell Their Art Online and Make Money
- How to Repair Drawing Paper – 8 Ways to Rescue Your Artwork
Plus find an ONLINE COURSE that suits you.
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