Before the advent of the Internet, art lovers were often limited by location in their search to find the perfect artwork to complement their personal and professional spaces. Gone are the days, however, when sellers relied on selling through local markets, art houses, and auctions. The far-reaching connectivity available on the Web today has made connecting global art sellers, artists, and buyers simple and fun. Whether a seller is an experienced collector, a self-representing artist, or simply looking to sell a few pieces from home, this guide will provide a quick start to selling drawings, paintings, photos, posters, prints, or sculptures.
Already know what art you want to sell?
Who Buys Art?
Quite simply, everyone buys art in one form or another. Although there might be a stereotypical notion of art buyers as people who attend exclusive auction houses and showrooms, the truth is that art has a universal appeal. Buyers range from the outdoorsman who buys a print of a Labrador retriever to hang in the garage, to the twelve-year-old girl who buys a ballerina poster for her room, to the community organization that purchases a commemorative bronze statue for a city park. Art is an extension of people’s ideals, interests, and aspirations, and helps them project who they are in a creative way.
Buyers look for all types of artwork, depending on their personal preferences and the artwork’s intended use. Decorating the home or office accounts for the largest share of art purchases. Subject matter and aesthetic considerations are also cited as strong motivators behind purchasing art. Whether it is personal or intended as a gift, art purchases can be driven by a passion for certain a subject matter or style that is represented in a piece of artwork, or for the form and functionality the art piece provides.
Types of Art
Many art sellers successfully sell pieces of art to collectors around the world. Sellers can be professional art dealers, artists, or fellow collectors looking to sell their personal pieces. These can range from limited-edition lithographs to marble sculptures. The following provides just a small sampling of the types of art that can be sold. To get a real-time view of what’s in demand, what buyers are searching for, and what items are selling the most, visit eBay Pulse.
Prints are made with several different types of media, including metal, wood, stone, and silkscreen, each with a distinct look and feel. Artists often produce a run of many prints from the original printing plate, unlike with paintings which are typically one-of-a-kind. Print runs are either limited to a certain number or are open-ended. Limited edition prints will have the print number located on the print, usually along the bottom of the print on the left or right side.
Antique prints are particularly attractive to collectors. They’re often illustrations from old and rare books on topics such as architecture, botany, birds, history, and geography. Although these prints can stand alone on their visual appeal, an added selling-point would be providing a note on the literary source of the print if possible. Little details like this can go a long way in gaining an art seller’s interest.
Using posters is a quick and easy way to add visual interest and a personalizing touch to a variety of personal and public spaces. Posters ranging from vintage-style to contemporary are in demand to help brighten up drab, anonymous areas with a little artistic flair. There are thousands of posters in every genre, from pieces featuring classic Hollywood stars, such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, to world renowned art pieces, such as Jack Vettriano’s Singing Butler or Pablo Picasso’s The Dog.
Paintings and Drawings
Paintings and drawings allow art buyers to purchase unique artworks that have no true duplicate. Antique, modern, and contemporary paintings are popular in various media such as oil, watercolor, and acrylic. Art Deco, Abstract, Impressionist, Pop, Realism, and Surrealism are some of the many popular genres of paintings. Drawings in various media such as pencil, pen/ink, charcoal, and pastel are also popular.
Photographs can range from classic black-and-white to stunning color and from antique or vintage to contemporary. Reproductions of works from famous photographers, such as Ansel Adams, have remained popular over the years. Historical photographs of years past are timeless and ever popular. Thousands of contemporary photographs of all subjects, from nature and animals, cities and buildings, people and inanimate objects, and more have been sold.
Digital art, often used as an umbrella term that has been applied to modern art since the 1970s, incorporates computers or other electronics in its creation. Art created by the world’s most talented graphic and digital artists is popular in many forms: digital files, canvas prints, posters, and more. Creators of this type of art are interested in the most modern approaches to express their artistic skills and vision.
For artists selling their own artwork, listings can be made under the self-representing artists category, no matter what media is used. Many art buyers like to know they are bidding on one-of-a-kind pieces not available anywhere else. This category includes work of various media and forms. Artists can even sell services such as web templates or logo creation.
Buyers looking for works of art by artists who seek to express their cultural and ethnic roots have great interest in folk art. Folk art is produced by artists who have learned their techniques as part of their cultural heritage, as opposed to receiving formal training. This produces artwork that is highly specific to certain geographical regions or cultures. Pieces vary from paintings and sculptures, to carved boxes and hand-made quilts.
Mixed media is a modern art form that uses various material, such as crushed glass, paper, or metalwork, and combines them creatively within a single composition. The end result might be displayed as a wallhanging or sculpture, depending on the intent of the artist. In this category, sellers can offer imaginative pieces such as collages or multi-dimensional paintings.
Sculpture and Carvings
Sculptures of all shapes and sizes are in demand, whether they are perfect for the garden, sit exquisitely on a fireplace mantle, or are small enough to use as a tabletop centerpiece. Sculptures can be made from bronze, stone, marble, wood, and other materials.
Get Top Dollar for Art
Once sellers know what they will sell, it’s time to think about how to attract art buyers. A number of best practices exist to increase the likelihood of successful selling.
Do Thorough Research
If sellers don’t know much about a piece of art, a little research can help them understand what they are selling. Look on a piece for any signatures, markings, or titles. Try to learn about the artist’s style, time period, country of origin, or other notable work. Find out if a piece is an original or if it is a reproduction.
When selling a rare piece of art that is potentially very valuable, it may be worthwhile to get an item appraised and authenticated. Authenticating art not only provides sellers with a good estimate of the expected sale price, but it also builds buyer confidence.
Third-party graders and authenticators are qualified, experienced professionals who pledge to provide unbiased opinions. Please keep in mind that the opinions expressed by evaluators are theirs alone. eBay does not examine items listed on its site and does not have the expertise to evaluate items. eBay cannot guarantee the findings of any evaluator. Authentication and grading are difficult, often subjective, matters where experts themselves occasionally disagree. Each of the companies listed on the Opinions, Authentication, and Grading page that provides authentication and/or grading services is an independent company, and eBay is not responsible in any way for any action, inaction, opinion, or service in connection with these companies. Sellers should review the credentials of each company and use their own judgment before using any company’s services.
Help Buyers Find Items with Keywords
Keywords are a great way to attract buyers to listings, especially when used correctly in the Listing Title. Listing Titles are used by eBay’s search engine to pull up listings during a search. Sellers should use their 55 characters wisely, and try to anticipate what buyers will be searching for. Find out what is being searched right now with our list of Top Art Searches. Be sure to include common search terms like "art" and "painting" when appropriate. State important characteristics of an item: artist’s name and title, medium, subject, style or country of origin, and production period. Of course, art sellers should only include keywords that are relevant to the item they are selling. They can also search current and completed eBay listings to see what other sellers include in their titles.
In the Listing Description, make sure to include both basic information and details about an item. A good description is concise, well organized, and easy to read. Create bold section headlines, bulleted lists, and be sure to restate the information featured in the title. Add more details such as dimensions, framed or unframed, condition, estimated value, artist history, and any other interesting features. Sellers can also insert photos or links to videos that highlight the unique attributes of their item. Think about the listing from the buyer’s perspective. The more information provided, the more likely the buyer will be to place a bid on an item.
Be sure to use abbreviations accurately. Some commonly used abbreviations in art selling are COA and O/C. COA (Certificate of Authenticity) applies to artworks that were produced in limited quantity. A COA states important information such as artist, production number, production limit, and date. Some COAs can be granted by third-party graders and authenticators. O/C (Oil on Canvas) can be used for any work that uses oil paint on a canvas as the primary medium. Using abbreviations correctly helps to avoid any misconceptions about the features of an art piece.
Showcase Art with Great Photos
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Photos are the closest sellers can get to putting their art in the hands of potential buyers. Using the right techniques, like background choice, lighting, or camera angles, can make a big difference in presenting art pieces attractively to potential buyers.
Choose the Right Background
Use a contrasting, solid backdrop. By placing art on a solid black or white backdrop, the buyer’s immediate attention is drawn to the item. This is easily achieved by hanging a bed sheet or placing poster board behind and under the item. Use a plain, colored fabric backdrop to make an item stand out. Most importantly, avoid background clutter that can distract buyers or confuse them regarding what item is being sold.
Cover All Angles
Take pictures from multiple angles and distances, zooming in on important details. Make sure to highlight any signatures, branding, dates, frame, or painting style with a close-up picture. Zoom in to show textures. Include photos of any flaws, tears, or marks to give buyers a clear idea of what they are bidding on. This helps build a buyer’s confidence in an item.
Use Proper Lighting
Natural light tends to give the best representation of color; however, direct sunlight can have the nasty effect of unwanted shadows. Find an area that receives indirect sunlight. Try taking an item out on a sunny day and photograph it in a shady area. If an area like this can’t be found, or if indoor lighting is the only option, try surrounding an item with desk, overhead, or floor lamps. Above all, avoid using a camera flash which causes distortion and shadows, especially if a piece is behind glass.
Always Add a Gallery Photo
Including a gallery photo with listings is extremely important for success. Sellers can attract attention to an item with a photo next to their listings in search results. In addition, when a buyer uses Gallery View to look at search results, the listing will be shown. A gallery picture should be a very clear, uncluttered view of an item. Since it is the only photo visible on search pages, make sure it provides a good representation of an item.
Maximize Profits with Low Priced, No Reserve Auctions
Auctions are a great way to create excitement around art pieces, which in turn develops into a bidding frenzy among buyers resulting in a higher selling price The keys to a successful art auction are to getting the first bid and encourage bidders to continue bidding.
Low Starting Price
Getting that first bid is critical, as other buyers are generally more likely to jump in if they see there are already bids on an item. To do this, many sellers prefer to set an opening bid below what the item is actually worth. Try beginning with a low starting price, such as 99 cents, to jump-start bidding activity.
Be careful when setting a reserve price. Buyers will often lose interest in an item if they place a bid and find it doesn’t meet the reserve. Because they do not know the reserve price, they may assume the seller is simply asking too much for the item. To prevent this from happening, try listing an item with No Reserve. Items sold with No Reserve typically attract more buyer interest, as buyers know that they will actually win the item if they are the high bidder.
Buyers want to know that they are protected when making a purchase on eBay. By accepting PayPal payments, sellers can build buyer confidence and protect themselves. PayPal instantly transfers payments to a bank account of the seller’s choosing and notifies them when a payment has been received. Best of all, PayPal offers free online tools to make managing payments easier. Sellers can even purchase shipping labels and track shipments with the Paypal tools that are integrated into the eBay seller interface.
Specifying reasonable shipping and handling costs in a listing is essential for smart selling, and it improves search ranking when buyers sort by total cost. Never leave a buyer wondering how much shipping will cost.
Calculate Shipping Costs
Shipping costs will often vary by distance. To make sure shipping charges reflect this, incorporate a shipping calculator into a listing. With the shipping calculator, eBay can automatically calculate the shipping cost for a buyer based on the size and weight of an item and the buyer’s location. Sellers can also program the calculator to add in the cost of packaging materials and any handling fees.
Select a Service Option
If selling larger items, such as large framed prints or sculptures, freight shipping might be the easiest and cheapest way to get an art piece to a buyer. Freight shipping is usually reserved for items over 150 pounds, and is available in the United States and Canada. Find out more at the Freight Resource Center.
To protect both sellers and buyers against loss or damage during shipping, consider purchasing shipping insurance for a package, especially for higher priced items. Shipping insurance is available through most postal carriers, and can be purchased while paying for postage. Sellers can factor in the cost of shipping insurance into shipping costs, but they should make sure to state in the description that they are doing so. Buyers want to know that they are paying extra for shipping for a good reason. Shipping insurance generally covers both lost and damaged items.
Packaging Art Securely
After a seller’s art is sold, they are ready to ship it off to its new home. Make sure to package an item safely and securely. Use bubble wrap, foam, or other packaging materials to ensure the item is not damaged during its move. If a seller takes an item apart to ship it, include a list of pieces and instructions on how to put it back together. To ensure an item will arrive safely, approach packaging as part of a three-stage process: wrap it, box it, and seal it.
Individually wrap items and provide lots of cushioning (bubble wrap, peanuts, foam, corrugated dividers, or crumpled paper). Be careful if choosing to reuse newspaper, as the ink can rub off and damage an items. If foam peanuts are used, be aware that they may shift in transit, so overfill the box. Remove any glass and package it separately wrapped in glass-skin or plastic to avoid scratches. If any pieces could be damaged by water, make sure to wrap them with a layer of sealed plastic. Place any flat prints, posters, or photographs that cannot be bent in-between two large pieces of cardboard and tape tightly. Protect edges of frames by cutting foam or cardboard to fit. Remember, wrap and pack firmly until no rattling can be heard inside the box.
If the item is on the smaller side, sellers can order free USPS Priority Mail boxes right on eBay, and the United States Postal Service will even deliver them right to the seller’s door for free. For larger items, use a corrugated box with rigid sides, intact flaps, and plenty of room for cushioning on all sides. Don’t exceed the maximum gross weight of the box (usually printed on bottom flap).
Use strong tape designed for shipping, rather than masking tape, cellophane tape, string, or paper over-wrap. Once a package is sealed, sellers can pay for shipping and print shipping labels right from their PayPal account. They can even request a pickup from USPS or UPS, saving them a trip to the Post Office or UPS location.
Build a Strong Reputation
Communication is the key to a successful transaction. Seller should make sure they are available before, during, and after the sale. Answer any questions about an item promptly. Include a thank you note in a package - it’s a great way to surprise and delight buyers and encourage them to leave positive feedback.
Always Leave Feedback
Feedback is extremely important for all eBay users. Consistent positive feedback lets buyers know that sellers manage transactions well and that they care about their reputation. One way to ensure good feedback is to communicate well, represent an item truthfully in a listing, and be polite. Also remember a buyer’s feedback score is important to them as well, so be courteous, thoughtful, and truthful when leaving feedback.
Become Part of the Community
Sellers should be more than just a username to buyers -- they should introduce themselves using their About Me page and MyWorld page. They can add pictures, keep track of favorite buyers, and tell the community about their interests and collections. Show expertise by writing reviews and guides. Connect with other art traders and artists on the Art and Artist Discussion Board. Remember to enjoy the eBay community and have fun.
Sell for a Cause
Support a favorite cause and enhance buyer trust and loyalty at the same time. eBay Giving Works listings tend to sell at higher final prices because buyers are more willing to purchase, and often pay more for, items that benefit a nonprofit. Get more exposure and receive a receipt for tax-deductible donations.
Art purchases are highly personal matters. People see an extension of themselves within the artwork they choose to purchase for themselves, their families, and their friends. Form, functionality, subject matter, and style are all elements that are cited as reasons to buy a certain piece of art. Using the tips above and the tools that eBay provides can help art sellers connect with art buyers around the world to provide them with art that truly inspires. Taking the extra step by providing great service and establishing a solid reputation will help increase selling potential and get sellers on the path to becoming a great art seller in no time.
So, ready to sell?