This is the #1 most frequently asked question by artists just learning about this thing called “art licensing”.

Art Licensing means an artist grants the right to use their art to a manufacturer, for use on a specific product or products, for a specific period of time, in exchange for a royalty (percentage of sales.)  Sometimes there is a flat license fee but that differs from selling art outright since the artist still maintains the copyrights and there is still a contract defining the product(s) and term of the agreement.

So how can you tell if your art would be a good fit for the art licensing industry?

Here are 4 things that make some art easier to license than others:

1. The art is FLAT. 2-dimensional art can be applied to all sorts of products: gift wrap, greeting cards, dishes, dish towels, fabric and more. And with some dimension and maybe a back and side view picture as well, 2-D art can be turned into 3-D figurines, ornaments, gift products and more as well.This doesn’t mean that if you are a sculptor, wood carver or other type of 3D art creator, that you can’t license your art. It just means that you will need to look at what products are going to be a good fit. I haven’t seen photographs of many sculptures on wrapping paper lately. So target companies who create products that are 3D, like your art.

2. The art is in COLOR. Go shopping and instead of looking for items you need to purchase for your own use, look at products that have designs on them. How many of them are in color vs. black and white? (And I’m not talking about the trendy black and white art, but black and white sketchy type art…)Art is used by manufacturers to help their product stand out from the competition. And most of that art is in color.

3. The art is in COLLECTIONS. It is rare for a single image to be licensed. Manufacturers usually need a variety of images – in my experience, at least 2 if not 4 if you paint or create in collections of images. (When I say “images” – I usually mean something you could frame and hang on the wall. A painting of fruit or a beach scene, things like that.)Another way to create a collection is to take a theme and create icons, borders and patterns. (That is what I do.) Manufacturers usually create groups of products instead of one of this and another of that. Think about dishes for example, sets often have a variety of 4 plate designs, an apple, a pear, a plum and grapes. Then the bowls might have a coordinating border design and serving pieces with a group of the 4 plate fruits. So designing in collections of art that can create a variety of coordinated products increases your chances of success.

4. The art is MAINSTREAM. Like I said in the beginning, art is subjective and no one style is more “valid” than another. It is personal expression, personal preference and personal choice. But when you want to license art, the rules change a little.You are no longer creating for yourself or a single collector but for the masses. Art that is more mainstream is going to be chosen more often than things that are more unusual, edgy or abstract. And in tighter economic times, retailers and manufacturers become even more conservative and traditional in what they choose.

A great way to figure out if your art might work for licensing is to head to the stores!

Go shopping and look at the designs you see on products on store shelves – do you think your art could fit? Of course I don’t mean “is your art exactly the same?” but is your art within a range of what you usually find. For example you will regularly see Christmas themes for home décor, paper and ceramic tableware, greeting cards and more. Chances are if you do Christmas themed art, you have a shot at licensing. So go shop!

Here’s to your creative success!

– Tara Reed