Sunday, October 7, 2012

Branching Out: What I Have Learned from Merchandising

Recently, I joined both Fine Art America and Zazzle, and between them I have approximately 6 bazillion items featuring my artwork now available for print-on-demand. That is a prospect that is both very exciting and a bit intimidating. Since I'm so new to the print-on-demand world, I've had to learn a lot in a short span of time. I know I still have lots (and lots, and lots) more to learn, but here's what I've discovered so far:

1) Image quality is king.
I am neither a photographer, nor a graphic designer. I am a painter. But that doesn't matter if my business is conducted online. In the digital world, my artwork is only as good as the image I post. That's doubly true when it comes to producing prints. An image with a little noise or imperfect focus might be good enough for some sites, but for printing, it's useless. So I've had a lot to learn about photographing and editing my images. Sometimes, that part is harder than painting them in the first place.

2) I'm happy to leave the work of printing to others.
For as many challenges as I've encountered preparing images for printing on demand, I can only imagine how many more would be involved if I were doing the printing. From color matching, to material needs, to equipment maintenance, it is definitely the sort of thing that I am very grateful to have out of my hands - at least for the time being.

3) Some paintings should not be printed on some products.
Zazzle offers a truly humongous selection of products, and - in theory at least - I could print my artwork on any of them. In practice, I've had to learn to be a bit selective. Vertically oriented artwork doesn't look so great on a wristlet purse that's meant to be held horizontally. A praying mantis painting just might not be an ideal choice for a baby pacifier. In learning this lesson, I've left some very odd products on the cutting room floor!

4) It takes a village.
The amount of advice, encouragement, mentoring and promotional help I've found in these online communities has been tremendous. The sense of community alone is important, but without the knowledge and assistance of my fellow members, I would be so much more clueless and lost in these new worlds. Learning each new platform is like navigating a labyrinth - and that's not something you want to go alone.

5) Balance is key.
Finding time to manage my new print-on-demand presence, while still creating new original paintings and handling all the other day to day needs of my business (let alone being the stay at home mom of a one-year-old), has been a challenging juggling act. I am working to find a balance that allows me to commit as much time as possible to each facet of my home and business, but that is definitely a work in progress - hence why it has been over a month since my last blog update. I'm sure I will hit my stride eventually - for now, I'm running full tilt and having a blast!

More soon - and some pretty pictures next time, I promise!


  1. excellent advice! i have been thinking about making prints and am finding it so hard to get that perfect image. would love to hear more about how you got yours. thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you, Lisa! I think (for me, at least) that getting the images right is one of the hardest parts of the whole process. Most of mine are scans done with a flatbed scanner (an advantage of using 8" X 10" watercolor paper for many of my originals - for me, getting good scans is a lot easier than taking good photos). I do usually need to use photo editing software to adjust the color, brightness, etc. on the scanned images to get them true to the originals. And as with most things, I'm learning as I go. Good luck with your efforts!