How to Get Started in Art Licensing

One of the most fun ways to make money as an artist is to get your work printed onto products and sold in retail stores. It can be a rush to walk through a popular store and see your art on the shelves! This is done through art licensing, which is basically renting your art out to a manufacturer. So, here are some basic points you can follow:

COLLECTIONS

If you’re interested in starting art licensing, we recommend you pull your work into some small collections. It’s often more difficult to interest a manufacturer in using one of your pieces than in using a small collection of your work. So, it’s important you take the time to pull together pieces that work with each other.

You’ll want to have at least one collection of work that goes together (it doesn’t have to match exactly though), preferably of ten to twelve pieces of art. When you show ten pieces of art to a manufacturer, it’s called a Style Guide. This is a standard thing in the industry.

COPYRIGHTS

No reputable manufacturer will sign a contract with you without making sure you have registered copyrights for the work involved. This presents a problem for many artists because filing copyright registration can get expensive.

Technically, you could wait until the pieces have been selected for a licensing deal, but the copyright registration process often takes 6 or 8 months. Meanwhile, you and the manufacturer may have already negotiated and sorted out a mutually-beneficial contract that you can’t sign until you have those registrations. So that way is a bit of a gamble. It could take the same amount of time to negotiate the contract, but the negotiations may be done beforehand which could delay the contract or even put the deal in jeopardy.

FINDING MANUFACTURERS

Of course, you can’t get a deal if you don’t even know who to contact. It’s surprisingly easy to find manufacturers if you know where to look. Here are two ways:

  1. Google

Speaking of Google, you can just as easily find manufacturers by searching for a type of product that you’re interested in having your art printed on. For example, when you searched for “snowboard manufacturer”, the first page of results had a few lists of popular snowboard brands and manufacturers and also had Mervin, a popular eco-friendly board manufacturer, in the results too.

You may have to play around with search terms a little, but you can find manufacturers fairly quickly using this technique and then look around their website or call them for instructions on submitting your art for consideration for their products.

  1. Other Artists

Look for artists with a similar target market to your art. Their art may look nothing like yours, which is ok. But they have to have a similar audience or you may approach manufacturers who wouldn’t think your art would be a good fit for their retailers.

When you find those artists, flip through their website and see if they talk about companies they license with. If you can’t find anything, don’t be afraid to email or call them. Usually, artists in the licensing world aren’t cutthroat like many artists in the gallery world. They’re typically more friendly and giving toward other artists and have the mindset that there are plenty of licensing deals to go around.

THE LAST TIP

The last word of wisdom when you start licensing your art is to never be afraid to ask.

Call up an artist and ask them who they are licensing with or how they liked working with a manufacturer you’re unsure of. Negotiate with a manufacturer, don’t just take the first deal they give you – ask them for what you want.

You won’t always get everything you want and you may not even get answers sometimes, but asking won’t hurt and it can often help tremendously.

Put aside your fears and go for it. Licensing is an industry that rewards professionalism and work that sells well so any artist can find their niche and make a wonderful stream of income from Fine art License.