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Publishing Limited Edition Prints
by L. Diane Johnson

A recently posted message by an artist in the Art Business forum of a prominent artist's site asked:

"Could anyone tell me the best way to go about getting prints made of my artwork? I have had several people interested in buying works I don't want to sell but I am interested in making them available..."

Artists the world over have this question. There are a great many art magazines and marketing books that address this issue. As an artist who has gone through this process, here are a few of my insights on the subject of reproducing your paintings (or drawings).

There a two primary vehicles for publishing prints from your paintings: self-publishing, or through a print publisher. Here I will address only the publishing lithographic prints. There are many other processes, but this is currently the least expensive method for creating medium-quality multiples. Let's start first with...


Publishing prints is costly. But even more than the actual price of having your art professionally photographed then printed, can be the investment in time and money to market the prints. Finding and securing placement in art galleries, frame shops, and other types of stores on a regular basis is enormous task (there is also the option of having your own storefront gallery). This alone can be a full-time job, and is for many. You have to track where the product is, deal with the legalities and logistics, bookkeeping, framing (possibly), and handle all the related details of running a print business. If you can afford the upfront expenses and cost of maintenance, self-publishing can be profitable. And you receive the entire wholesale price which covers a great deal of the cost.

1. One key to successful print sales is: how many prints you publish*, multiplied by how much you paid per print to publish; plus how much in time and money spent in marketing, shipping/stocking/delivery/return of the prints; minus the amount stores selling your prints require (usually 40-50%)

Partially/totally finance the print; you get up up to 50% of the wholesale cost

3. The publisher pays you a flat fee for publishing your art.

You will not receive as much for option #3 as with option #1 or #2. However, if the print does not sell well, at least you are compensated for the use of your image. If you and the publisher are confident that your image will be a good seller, I recommend signing up for #1 or #2. If it is your first print, sign up for #3.

I hope this is helpful information to those curious about publishing their work. If there is enough interest in this subject, I will follow-up with an article on how to go about seeking a publisher. 

Happy Painting!


* A "limited edition" is just that, "limited". When printing multiples as with lithographs, the lower the number published, the higher price each print will cost. If you are just starting out in prints publication, 950-1000 is a good number to begin with. Lower numbers, 100-500 are fine for those with several prints or a "name" in the market. More can be charged per print, but there's a reduced number of people who will purchase at higher prices. And they can afford low to high-end originals.

**Individual prints and posters are not addressed here, but are a whole other area.

L. Diane Johnson NAPA PSA NAPPAP, is an fine artist and instructor with over 30 years experience. Visit her online gallery for more information or reach her via email.

©1996-2004 L. Diane Johnson - Online Art Supplies