Top 10 Ways Artists Make Money

top-10-ways-artists-make-money-.jpgHow do you make money as an artist? Many people who aren’t artists wonder this, and many seasoned artists wonder the same thing!

Of course artists know that to make money, you must sell work. But there other methods of making money that you may not be aware of.

Here are the top 10 ways artists can make money. Each has a short description and a link to an article full of expert advice.

Guest author: Originally posted on ArtBistro

1. Commercial Galleries

  • Commercial galleries typically sell artists’ works at a commission. The typical commission that galleries take is somewhere between 40% and 50% of the sale of the work. This is determined by the contract. Whether you submit your work for sale by consignment or enter into an ongoing relationship with a gallery, the parameters should all be written down in a contract.

2. Nonprofit Galleries 

  • Nonprofit galleries typically show work that is young, edgier, and cutting edge. Depending on the gallery, they will take a commission – usually not more than 30%. Nonprofit galleries typically do not “represent” artists or enter into contractual relationships with them.

3. Co-Op Galleries

4.  Out of Studio

  • Many artists sell their work out of their studio by arranged visits oropen studios arranged with other artists. If you are represented by a gallery, that agreement may extend to “studio sales” or all sales of your work. If you do not have a formal relationship with a gallery, you obviously retain 100% of the sale.

5. Online

  • More artists are selling their work online, this is a great way for artists to make money! Any commission from an online website would be determined by the terms of use contract that you agreed to. Different sites charge a different percentage of a commission. Anywhere between 1-5% is normal; 10% is on the high end.

6. Private Commissions

  • Artists will do work on a commission basis to make money. If collectors want a personalized work of art like a portrait, they will commission an artist. The artist sets the price and usually asks for a percentage of the price up front.
  • If you have a formal relationship with a gallery, they will likely take a cut of any commissioned work that they bring to you. Terms of commissions will be stated in your contract. Artists who do a lot of commission work have been interviewed to give you.
  • Public Commissions
  • Artists are commissioned for public art usually in connection with a new building or construction project. Many states have a law that specifies that 1% of the total building cost go to art for the building. Usually state and city art groups have the latest information of what program is currently accepting applications.
  • There are also private funds for public art like The Public Art Fund and Percent for Art. When artists get a public work commission, they typically get 20% of the total cost of the project as an artist’s fee.

7. Grants

  • There are many grants for artists. They are very competitive to get, but as one mentor of mine advised me, “Don’t give up until you have applied ten times.” Grants vary in how much money they award. Some grants are privately funded and some are publicly funded. Some are given for a specific project that you propose and some are given outright for the work that you do.

8. Residencies

  • There are many residencies for artist to get “away from the world” and focus on their work. The length of the residency varies and the amount of money granted to the artist varies too. Some residencies actually charge money. But many will cover at least some if not all costs. You must apply for these residencies and have a flexible work schedule to go.
  • Many times the most valuable asset of a residency is not the money granted, but the professional network an artist forms while there. The network may include other artists, guests, curators, and other influential people in the art word.

9. Museums and Art Centers

Artists generally don’t see a cent from exhibits in a museum. In some cases, however, they do make money.  Installation artists are typically given an artist fee for creating a temporary installation. The fee can be set by you or the museum. Find other ways that museums can help an artist’s career and hear what a curator has to say about the business of museums.

10. Teaching / Guest Artist Programs

One of the most popular ways to make money as an artist is to teach. Teaching opportunities at a college level are competitive, but don’t overlook guest artist programs. There may be ways to get a teaching job that you have not thought of.


How do YOU sell your work? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


Thanks for visiting Fine Art Tips. I hope this article helps you with some new ideas so you can make money with your art!

Let’s meet on TwitterFacebook and now on Google Plus

…and if you want to see my own paintings, please visit ~Lori 

2012-06-07T00:13:01+00:00September 27th, 2011|Art Business Tips, Fine Art Tips, General, Guest Articles|47 Comments


  1. Paula Manning-Lewis September 27, 2011 at 11:01 am

    I have to add licensing art to your list. I personally sell some of my images to a fine art needlepoint canvas manufacturer, but there are literally thousands of products that use licensed art. 🙂

    • Lori McNee October 21, 2011 at 2:24 am

      Hello Paula, that is a great addition to this list. This is an area that is often overlooked by artists and obviously this post! Thanks for sharing and if you have any tips you would like to share about art licensing, I’d love to get a guest post from you!

      Lori 🙂

      • Jennifer Harshman June 25, 2014 at 11:20 am

        I would also love to hear more about licensing art. My husband has digital designs at and would like to license them to manufacturers, but doesn’t know where to start. We can’t afford to hire a licensing agent (the only ones we’ve found want their fees up front, plus commissions). Any help would be much appreciated!

        • Lori McNee July 20, 2014 at 3:25 pm

          Hello Jennifer, this is not my area of expertise. However, my friend Tara Reed specializes in this. Please visit her website for more information…tell her Lori sent ya!

  2. Carol McIntyre September 27, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    Lori; Another way artists make money is through the sales of their books. Some are also are regular contributors for art magazines.

    • Lori McNee October 21, 2011 at 2:22 am

      Hi Carol, Thanks for the additional tip! Yes, I have made some money in these areas myself.

      Happy painting-

  3. Lou Belcher September 28, 2011 at 8:17 am

    Nice article… especially for beginning artists who are searching for other revenue avenues…


    • Lori McNee October 21, 2011 at 2:21 am

      I am glad this helped you Lou. Thanks for the comment.


  4. emilyfujiemair March 3, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Wow I never really thought about all this as an artist. Thanks for sharing!

    • Lori McNee March 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      I am happy to have given you something to think about!

  5. Will Hoffman June 13, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    Thank you Lori for your valuable article,
    I have sold a substantial amount of artwork through Farmers/Community Markets, it’s a great way to meet other artists and learn which pieces people are most drawn to. I focused on smaller paper works and 4×6/8×10 paintings selling over 100 in one season. I also entered into a mural painting contest and won $1,000 which both gave me front page newspaper and some extra cash, and some daily exposure. I had a solo exhibition at a government funded gallery and was paid a base amount for the show as well as extra money for sales made. I have had success with transferring my images to clothing, its like a walking gallery of your art around the town.

    • Lori McNee August 28, 2012 at 11:28 am

      Hi Will, I’m glad this article is useful to you. Good for you, selling at the Farmers’ Markets. I am happy to hear you are doing well at that. Congrats on your successes, and for thinking outside the box!

      • oluwole April 7, 2013 at 5:55 am

        how do i sell my paintings?

        • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 4:35 pm

          There are many articles on this blog to help you! Have fun reading them…

  6. March 7, 2013 at 2:57 am

    Hello, my name is Jack Frazier. I own a website called Holllajack Clothing Company found and ( ). We are looking for REAL art to display on our website. We are not contacting every artist we see, just the ones that amaze us. We want to showcase art that wows people, and makes them ask “where did you get that”? Which is why we are contacting you. We hope you might be interested in sharing your designs with the rest of the world while making a commission that you set (we recommend $1-$5 because it adds to the total cost of the product). We are just starting out and you would be taking a chance on us….but we hope you take that chance. We hope you Holla, and can’t wait to see your other work!

    • Lori McNee June 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Hello Jack, I am obviously behind on my replies… I would be interested in learning more about your company and will check out your site. Thanks for thinking of me. ~Lori

  7. Latvian March 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Also just going out in the streets and offering people to buy your art
    Also t-shirts and interior design objects
    Also shopping mall stands

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Great additions to this post! Thanks 🙂

  8. Michael Gaudet April 13, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Thanks for this great article Lori. My main source of income by far is by commissioned artwork, mostly large-scale murals. In my experience, I’ve found that murals are not only an engaging and challenging art form, (that obviously has a long illustrious history) but also are an amazing way to attract attention and gain notoriety as an artist in general. For me, murals have been a very powerful career-builder. As an added bonus, in some cases my clients have gone on to commission reproductions of their murals that have been very successful as local fund-raisers. I retain all of my copyright ownership so I am exclusive supplier of the reproductions, creating an additional revenue stream.

    • Lori McNee May 1, 2013 at 11:11 am

      I would welcome a guest post with your tips Michael! Thanks so much for taking time to share your story here…

  9. empower network reviews May 13, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Hello! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be ok. I’m
    undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

    • Lori McNee June 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Yes I LOVE Twitter! I am @lorimcneeartist…hope to meet you there. Tweet me and say hello.

  10. afsoon May 24, 2013 at 4:02 am

    hi mrs.mcnee…im from iran .first i wanted to thank u so much because of these advices and second i wanna ask u a question:im an amateur painter…i want to make money…what site can u introduce me to sell my paintings and how can i put my paintings in that site please make an example for me and learn it to me because i really dont know how to do it .thanks(in addition i would like to say that its right that im an amateur painter but if i decide to make a great painting i really can do it)

  11. Joanna Stanton June 11, 2013 at 4:58 am

    Thank you for all your great ideas! I am getting busy on them NOW! 😀

    • Lori McNee June 11, 2013 at 7:26 am

      $$$ Good luck Joanna!

  12. Darren June 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    I just found this blog thanks to a post in google+ by another artist friend of mine. Love what you are doing here Lori. I subscribed as I am working on being a “full time” artist to escape the “9-5”. It does take time though… and a LOT of work. As far as making money from art I have also made money designing one of a kind tattoos for people. My main focus lately has been “branding myself” though.

    • Lori McNee June 18, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Yes, it is a lot of work for sure! We have to be wise with our time and learn how to juggle it all to succeed. I am extra busy these days, so I am setting an egg timer to remind me to get off the computer!


  13. rezwan August 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Lori McNee ur landscape is wow!!!. u will come to Bangladesh. thanks

  14. Jcob October 16, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    i still need some ideas

    • Lori McNee October 17, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      Keep reading this blog and hopefully something will click for you.

      Good luck,

  15. Anne November 7, 2013 at 8:46 am

    I met a fellow artist at an art fair who told me she travels all summer to fairs selling her original prints. She was nearly sold out and told me she makes well into the six figures selling her prints that range from around $40 to $150. for unframed prints and much more of course for matted and framed work. By selling prints instead of originals her work is much more affordable to the general public and she earns way more off each project. Thanks for your article and open discussion.

    • Lori McNee November 18, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Anne, thanks for adding your valuable input to this thread. I wonder how many shows this art friend has to attend to make 6 figures? That is quite impressive. I also wonder what type of prints she is making and what kind of overhead she has? Thanks for sharing this story. ~Lori

  16. Diana B. SANTOS July 10, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Wow. This post is amazing! I just graduated in fine arts so this will help me. Thanks!

    • Lori McNee July 20, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Great Diana, and congrats! I hope this posts helps you out…good luck.

  17. Mert Bowen September 21, 2014 at 5:05 am

    I have a Café that is interested in showing two landscape oil paintings of mine. This is all new to me.
    Should we have a contract? What’s a common percentage paid to them? Length of time to show?
    I’m a new artist with a lot of questions.

    • Lori A McNee May 1, 2016 at 2:48 pm

      Mert, many apologies for the belated reply. I am obviously behind on comments. By now you most likely have the answer to your question. But, it is best to have a contract. Length of time depends on the venue and your agreement. You should at least get 50% unless you agree for less – I wouldn’t do that! I hope this helps for the future…

  18. Don January 3, 2015 at 1:01 pm

    Hello Artist,
    I’ve been painting on canvas for over 30 years, After sales decreased to selling about one painting a year, I created a line of very detailed sport cards, rendered in pencil, that I have posted on Etsy. Now I’m into image manipulation software, eg; Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign , etc. Although i’m learning how to use the software, I haven’t began learning the most important thing, “How to make Money” doing freelance, with this type of art.
    Any ideas, anyone?

    • Lori McNee February 8, 2015 at 12:53 am

      Hello Don, Etsy is a great way to sell your products. As far as freelance is concerned, there are a number of ways to get your name out there. You should search for new work and new clients. Join Linkedin, forums, job boards, etc, anything you think will help get you noticed, because most often you’ll need to find your clients – they usually won’t find you. It will take a lot of work and determination. Good luck! 🙂

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