Art is a lot of fun for most artists, whether it’s traditional 2D art like drawing, sketching, and painting or 3D art like sculpting, modeling, or animation. Whatever your passion is you can make money from it, you can even make money from it and turn your art into a business while you’re still learning.
I wanted to write this article because I too did not know where to begin to start making money from my art. I love to draw, especially character illustrations that make people laugh. I also dabble in 3D art and like to make illustrations with Zbrush and 3D modeling software and composite them in Adobe Photoshop as well.
When I first started I always had the intention of reaching a broad audience and making art that hit many demographics, not just one. I landed on a stock art style that can be classified as somewhat commercial and non-offensive. Since then I’ve sold many pieces as stock photography, giving a second life to my illustrations and 3D works…the best part is this has become a nice stream of passive income that requires almost no input from me past the initial efforts of conceptualizing, creating and marketing.
Adobe Stock has to be the best place to get started, there is a huge audience that is looking for stock art for all kinds of purposes. The payout is very fair and it’s easy to start generating revenue from your art. I was surprised that I sold some stock illustrations in less than 72 hours as everything I read about stock art said it took a long time to make a sale. Adobe is really good at effective marketing and reaching a bevy of people interested in your art for use in literature, online articles and more. If you are also into videography the payout is substantially higher some people sharing 4K clips of video have seen upwards of $50 a sale depending on a couple of variables.
Shutterstock has been around for a long time and has a similar setup to the stock site mentioned above, with Shutterstock there are a few more guidelines to follow but the overall experience is generally the same. I have sold many pieces of stock art with Shutterstock and I am grateful to be a contributing member there. This is the first place I started selling my stock photography and 2d illustrations. They also allow video uploads and well-produced 4K clips can really make a good amount of money here.
Print on a demand is a huge trend right now and if you do it right you can make a solid income stream with a little bit of effort and forethought. What’s awesome about Printful is that setting up a store is pretty simple if you have an Etsy account or run your own store using plugins like WooCommerce on WordPress. Everything from all-over print hoodies to graphic tees is at your disposal, think of them as virtual canvases and let your creativity guide you. I’ve seen some amazing businesses pump out some fantastic art onto articles of clothing. The Printful group on Facebook is full of other designers and artists sharing support and advice to get you headed in the right direction. If you can make cohesive collections of 15-30 pieces you can create a brand and make good money going this route, but do keep in mind that print on demand is not really passive income as it sometimes regularly requires providing customer support to your buyers and troubleshooting issues with the Printful platform from time to time. Some sellers in the Printful group routinely make upwards of $5,000-$10,000 a month (keep in mind that many sellers do pay for advertising to hit these numbers).
If you’re more into producing physical art be it finished sculptures, 3D printed models, jewelry, prints, or paintings then Etsy might be what you’re looking for. Over the years the selling platform has evolved as more than just a place for arts and crafts. Serious artists are regularly selling their art pieces for good amounts money-making stable income from their art. If you have something special or niche to share the buyer is probably on Etsy looking for it right now. I have been making a solid income selling on Etsy for well over 3 years now and the experience has been nothing but positive for me and many other artists. Etsy takes a small percentage of every sale, don’t forget to account for shipping and material costs, price your art accordingly.
Auctioning your work off on Instagram is quickly becoming a way that artists with a moderate following can do to make a few bucks on the side. If you’re doing quick prints, sketches or paintings often times you can make a post about them and allow your followers to bid on them in the comments section of your post. I’ve seen many artists use this as a way to gain more exposure and the algorithm likes to see the activity on your profile and rewards you with better placement in the feeds. Typically these small pieces or quick art can garner anywhere between $10-$50, but sometimes artists can make even more depending on the subject (fan art seems to do really well in this format).
Earn Commisions as an Affiliate
Affiliate marketing used to be a bad thing, but now so many vendors offer the opportunity to make money by referring people to them that you can be selective in which products you recommend. Often times a product or resource that you use will offer such affiliate marketing opportunities.
It might seem silly to you right now but teaching art is a really great way to make some passive income. Artists consistently teach what they do to fund their own endeavors and pay for materials and tools. Consider making videos and monetizing them on YouTube, starting a Patreon, or even using a site like Skillshare or Udemy to make a course. After the initial effort, this method can generate a nice passive income that should be evergreen. Make the information more about the person wanting to learn and less about you and you’ll be surprised by how well this resonates with your target audience. Everyone starts somewhere, maybe they’ll start with you if you can persuade them with well-structured and engaging educational content. There are so many teaching opportunities available if you put yourself out there.
Start Doing Commissions
If you’re feeling more confident in your work then doing art commissions is a great way to make a side income from your art. Not only will you gain more experience but you’ll likely gain new followers and networking contacts along the way. You set the ground rules, charge for the amount of time and effort, offer simple sketches or detailed works the choice is yours. The best places to advertise these types of services are going to be your social media pages just be mindful to not be spammy or come across as desperate and be very clear upfront to set expectations for the final art piece.
Make a Patreon Account
Patreon is fast becoming a hub for artists to show their process from start to finish in exchange for a small monthly contribution to support the artist. Many people are more than willing to pay $5 a month to learn more about the process if you don’t mind sharing the details. It’s very easy to set up and start gaining followers, you can even offer rewards and contributor-only gifts that make people feel like they’re getting something in return for their support. Some artists are making upwards of $8,000 a month from their Patreon accounts alone, but many are happy to make even $100 a month. This might be a good option for you if you like being social or showcasing your talents.
WooCommerce and WordPress
Setting up your own e-commerce software sounds pretty scary but with a good web host that offers support like Siteground most of the process of installing WordPress and WooCommerce is pretty automated and straightforward at this point. We have been personally selling art using WooCommerce for around 5 years now, the fantastic part about WooCommerce and WordPress is how much control of your spending and customization you have. Out of the box you have support for accepting payments from PayPal and credit cards but you can also easily add payment providers like Stripe to your site by just installing a small plugin, using Stripe you can accept Android Pay and Apple Pay straight from your product listing pages, this makes the sales frictionless. All you need is great photos and a well-composed product description. WooCommerce is widely used and trusted these days and because you’re not personally handling payments directly on your site you’re pretty well protected from transactional and security issues. To date I have made well over $20,000 USD in sales using this one free e-commerce cart solution, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In our opinion, this option beats Wix and Shopify in terms of costs and scalability.
Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon KDP)
Amazon KDP is a really great way to create a passive income if you can spare a little time to learn about the program. Kindle Direct Publishing has been around for a long time and I wanted to mention this really quick as I think a lot of people tend to overlook the different possibilities. With Amazon KDP you can make coloring books and even art books if you really wanted to. For my particular project I created a series of coloring books that have been steadily reaching a nice audience, Amazon pays you your cut in the form of a royalty when your book is sold…the best part is that your Amazon KDP books reach a global audience as they are printed-on-demand near the buyer’s closest Amazon facility. To date, I have made around $600 for books that have only been up for less than a year. It can be a little time-consuming at first as you’ll need to use a tool like Affinity Publisher or Adobe InDesign to format the PDF master proof of your book. I think you’ll be surprised at how fun it is to see a physical print of your own books though, it’s extremely rewarding to get a copy in the mail and see your finished work in print form. This is a good way to promote your art to your fans too, because who doesn’t love coloring books?