How to make money with digital art: what you need to know

Whether you’re an artist creating digital paintings or a graphic designer designing pre-made logos or social media templates, selling digital art can be very rewarding.  

From wall decor printables to affirmation posters, people shop online for a wide range of digital art. If you can draw these people to your digital art store, you can translate your passion and skills into actual profits.

Unlike physical art, there are almost no logistics to run your business here. Just join a digital art gallery or marketplace or set up your own store, upload your digital artwork, and you can start earning. Additionally, digital art sales are highly scaleable, in contrast to physical artwork.

If you’re looking for ways how to make money with digital art, this article offers all you need to know. But, first, let’s see if it’s really possible to live off your digital art.

Is it worth selling digital art?

Just like physical artwork, digital artwork has an audience. Since anyone can access and own it, its reach is even greater.

Digital art marketplaces and platforms such as Etsy have hundreds of artists earning good incomes from them. Many artists even run their independent digital art stores.

Making money from digital art simply comes down to finding people who are interested in the type of art you create. You can expect to earn a good income if you create a mainstream digital art product — printable wall decor, for example. Or, print on demand fine art. However, if you only do motion illusion posters, you will reach a much narrower market that can cap your income potential. 

Also, as with traditional art, the kind of distribution you allow and the channels you use influence your earnings. We’ll look at these aspects of how to make money with digital art in the following sections. For now, just understand that if you set reasonable expectations, digital art can be worthwhile financially.

The best part when you create a piece of digital art is that you can keep selling it with little effort, which makes it an actual passive income stream. Regular maintenance and marketing activities take hardly a few hours a week once your basic infrastructure is in place. You can manage this in your free time!

How to make money with digital art in 5 simple steps

Choosing profitable digital artwork to create

Learning how to make money with digital art starts by choosing the right kind of artwork to produce.

Some digital artwork types are more sellable and have more demand than others.

So if you haven’t chosen a type yet, think about one now. You’ve plenty of options to sell art:

  • Decorative and printable artwork (posters, stickers, paintings, etc.)
  • Screensavers and digital image files (for video games, SaaS businesses, etc.)
  • Designs for tattoos
  • Printable patterns (for merchandise like t-shirts)
  • Photography work
  • Other graphic designs like logos, templates, etc.
  • Audio art
  • Video art

Also, to find out how to make money with digital art, you need to get inside the head of your art buyers. You need to understand what motivates them to buy art. This compelling article on the types of art buyers walks you through each type and helps you know how you can position your artwork better.

Understanding how your artwork enriches your audience’s lives makes selling it simpler.

Creating your digital artwork inventory

The most important part of the “how to make money with digital art” mix is your digital art portfolio. In creating your digital art inventory, quality is naturally more important than quantity, but you still need a few pieces. 

Having a portfolio of artwork helps your potential audience see you as a real artist and take you seriously. Art lovers want to know their artists, too — having a body of work helps with this.

Take a look at Etsy stores where artists are selling digital art files for reference. A lot of art pieces are on display in those.

Artists on digital art marketplaces, too, upload quite a few digital files.

And even those who run independent stores post quite a few pieces.

When you upload your artwork, be sure to describe it properly using the right keywords. This can impact how these platforms rank you for searches of your kind of art. Search engines, too, use it for ranking your store. And so do social media platforms.

Making your art digital-friendly

Naturally, if you’re looking for how to make money with digital art, you need to make your artwork friendly for the digital medium.

Ensure that the files you’re going to sell don’t exceed a certain size and aren’t too slow to download for the buyers. But they should still be of high quality.

Also, make sure to convert your artwork into a version that the end-user can easily access. For example, if you create printables, offer downloads in formats like JPEG or TIFF, as not everyone has the tools (like Adobe Photoshop) to view PSD or files in other formats. Make sure to use your digital file as if you were a customer to see how the art looks when printed on the promised materials and dimensions.   

Selecting the right platform(s) to sell your digital artwork

Whenever you think of ways how to make money with digital art, one of the first questions you’ll hit is: Where do I actually sell my digital art? You have a few options.

  • Marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon: Etsy already has an established audience that comes to it looking for digital art. While you can get exposure before this engaged audience, you’ll compete against a number of more or less established sellers.
  • Dedicated digital art galleries: Depending on your digital artifact (graphics, audio, video, etc.), you can sign up on several dedicated marketplaces selling just that kind of art. DeviantArt, for example. Again, the competition is high, but your work can catch the attention of many potential buyers.
  • Your own eCommerce store. Alternatively, you can use an online store building solution like Shopify or set up a storefront with a digital product sales solution like Gumroad or Patreon. If you factor in all the fees and charges, these options get pricey. In contrast, WordPress offers an affordable way.

Why WordPress is the best website/store solution for selling digital art online:

WordPress offers the most cost-effective option to sell digital art online. Just invest in a domain name and hosting, and you’re ready to launch your digital art brand. For powering your digital sales’ logistics (like taking orders, collecting payments, and delivering files), download Download Monitor.

When you start making profits, you can unlock more features with Download Monitor’s premium extensions and take your digital arts business to yet another level.  For example, with Download Monitor’s Advanced Access Manager extension, you can limit the number of downloads for a buyer:

With the Terms & Conditions extension, you can protect your digital art:

The Downloading Page extension lets you create a dedicated page for delivering your digital art. This can help you offer a great brand experience:

Plus, with WordPress, you get complete control over how your store looks. You also get various free WordPress plugins that let you display your work beautifully, add reviews and ratings, build your email list, and more.

Pricing your digital artwork

A crucial step in how to make money with digital art is pricing your digital artwork.

It is difficult for even seasoned artists to place a price on their work. Nevertheless, there are typically two ways to price an art product in this format.

In the first case, you provide a mass-market product such as wallpapers or screensavers or a bundle offering. You can sell these for much less. Just check out what competing products go for, and you can get a fair idea about how you can price yours. It’s the volume of sales that drives profits in this case. Price one at $1, and you might end up selling a thousand copies.

In addition, there are times when your digital art isn’t for everyone. Generally, artwork like this is more expensive and is for people who appreciate art and are willing to pay a premium price for it.

Such art could also be something you create as a limited edition. Because you only make a few of these, exclusivity is a factor when pricing.

Alternatively, you might only create one digital painting every year and charge what you think it’s worth.

These approaches, however, naturally don’t work if you want to sell digital art at scale.

The baseline when pricing your digital art — it doesn’t matter what kind of digital art you produce — is that you shouldn’t undercharge it. Because doing so can lead to devaluing your brand, especially if you’re serious about growing your art brand.

As with traditional art, you can charge more as you grow a following and build a name for yourself.

The fine print: Licensing your artwork

When looking for how to make money with digital art, another thing you must sort on priority is your licensing approach.

You grant your art buyers the right to use your artwork in the manner described in the listing. And not in any other way. Convey these terms of use in a friendly but firm way right on your product page; keep the legalese for your terms and conditions.

Also, look into how you’ll protect your work:

  • Will you add watermarks to your files?
  • Will you digitally sign your artwork? How about using nonfungible tokens (NFTs) for better control of usage?
  • Will you protect your art with the DMCA?

Whatever you do, don’t allow your buyers to sell your art to others. If you wish to allow such reselling, create a separate commercial license.

How to make money with digital art: A few power moves

An essential step in how to make money with digital art is diversifying your income sources.

Sure, you can sell your digital art files on your own website and other portals and make passive income. But if you’re serious about hitting revenue goals, consider these:

  • Offer personalizations: Some personalizations can be done at scale without involving too much time or effort  — adding initials or a note to a printable, for instance. Art buyers happily pay for these subtle customizations. And these can add to your income significantly.
  • Create custom artwork (commissioning): Once you’ve established yourself, stay open to taking custom artwork requests, because there are art lovers who love to own art that’s only theirs! Here, you basically work as a freelancer. As a freelance artist, you can also find potential clients for such artwork projects on platforms like Upwork. Freelancing can bring you a steady income.
  • Diversify your income sources: In addition to creating art, also explore other ways to make money like engaging in brand partnerships, selling digital products (workbooks, step-by-step tutorials, workshops, webinars, etc.), or creating online courses. Note that these monetization methods are more effective for digital artists who have already built an audience.

All these, of course, don’t provide passive income and aren’t scalable the same way that sales of digital art are, but you can do these along with a full-time job.

Wrapping it up… 

The “how to make money with digital art” question ties directly to the market you cater to. So if you’re currently exploring options, research which digital art items have the most listings on platforms like Etsy.

Also, note the average pricing. These can indicate how much profits you could be looking at if you pursue your passion commercially.

Once you’ve done the groundwork, set up a low-cost WordPress store to sell your digital art. Get a free plugin like Download Monitor, and you’re ready to sell, deliver, and track your downloads. And when you’re ready, get some of the pro extensions that unlock even more features.

Raiber Cristian