Artists who are new to licensing get confused at first about how and why they need to build collections of art to succeed in art licensing.

Manufacturers want to see groups, or collections, of art more than stand alone pieces.

A collection is a coordinated group of images and/or patterns that can be mixed and matched to create full product lines that sell in stores and online.  Think about throwing a party – either with fine china or paper plates – would you want the same exact image on everything or a little variety to make it more interesting?  Variety of course!  And it’s up to the artists to provide that for the manufacturers.

Here’s a video I created to show you how to think about collections….

[youtube 297JZl7aG5c]

How an artist goes about creating these collections seem to fall into two categories – those who take a ‘fine art approach’ – creating painting that could be put in a frame and hung on the wall.  The type of art that easily lends itself to gallery sales, for example.  The other way is to start with icons and build to a scene or image digitally.  Art can either be done by hand or completely digitally – there are both types of artists successfully licensing their work.

Artists who paint completed images use four coordinating pictures as the building blocks of a collection. For example, four different but coordinating snowman paintings would make up a winter or holiday collection.  The artist could make the collection more easily applied to products by creating coordinating borders and repeat patterns, using elements from the four base images, to fill out the collection.

An alternate way of creating art collections is to start with individual icons as the building blocks. The icons can then be combined to create scenes (similar to the four painted images above), borders and repeat patterns.

Here’s a basic recipe for an art licensing art collection:

  • 4 Coordinated images (this is the bare minimum you need)
  • Patterns to support the images – often the patterns or textures are pulled from the images. For example, if you have snowmen and one has a striped scarf and the other has a polka dot scarf, create the stripe and polka dot as repeat patterns.
  • Icons – pull out a few design icons that might work alone on a product.  Perhaps the snowman would be embroidered on a towel or tote bag.  Maybe flip flops would be added to a note pad.
  • Borders – take elements from the images and create a border design.  These might be used at the top of a gift bag, on a kitchen towel, on fabric or anywhere else borders would work.

How many collections do I need?

The answer to this question will vary but here are two good rules of thumb:

  • 12 collections before you submit to an agent or manufacturer – it shows you really “get” the concept and are committed to art licensing.  You are less likely to be a “one hit wonder” if you have taken the time to build a portfolio with collections specifically for art licensing.
  • 25+ before you have your own booth at a trade show.  It’s better to wait an extra year and make a solid first impression than spend the time and money without enough art for the manufacturers to choose from.


Creating collections means thinking about the bits and pieces a manufacturer would need to create a product. When manufacturers see that you understand and can provide what they need, you are more likely to get an art licensing deal.

– Tara Reed

P.S. To learn more about the basics of Art Licensing and decide if it might be a fit for you and your art, I recommend you take a look at the “Beginner Basics Audio” or the eBook, “How to Get Started in Art Licensing”.