Tera writes: Hi Lisa,

What are the general rules when selling art regarding selling originals and prints? If you sell an original painting, can you still sell prints of that piece or is that a big no no?

The only time I won’t make prints of an original painting or drawing is under the following circumstances

  • Celebrity/fan art that I did for my own practice Even though you drew it, the photographer or movie studio has copyright, not you. I also don’t sell these originals for the same reason.
  • A custom portrait. If someone hires me to paint their kid, I need permission from whoever took the original photo not only to paint the photo, but to make prints as well. I also would feel obligated to get permission from the client.
  • A pet portrait IF the client requested prints not be made. I’ve never had a client request that I not make prints, but I want that communication before I start the portrait.

Other than that (unless I’m forgetting something), yes, I’m absolutely going to make prints of all my original work. The original is not the same as a print. Original art will sell for much more and holds a much higher value than a print. Prints in no way devalue the original artwork because there is only one original no matter what! In many cases the opposite is true. Even if 1000 prints sell, only one person gets the original, which brings it’s value up even more to many buyers.

I’ve heard artists fear that people won’t buy the original if they can just buy the print. This is also not true. You’re talking about two very different target markets. People who want prints are not usually the same who want to spend more for an original. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those who prefer prints, but they are often two different sets of buyers so one is not cutting into the profits of the other.

One thing to keep in mind, as the artist YOU hold the copyright of your artwork. Not the buyer. Unless you give consent, they can not make prints. You are always going to be the copyright holder which means you are the only one who CAN legally make prints.