How to License Art to Manufacturers


by Guest Blogger Joan Beiriger

The key to being able to license your art is to create the right art for products that appeals to manufacturers, retail stores, and ultimately consumers. You also need to know the ins-and-outs of the art licensing industry but before you jump into it you need to decide whether licensing your art is right for you. Read “Is Art Licensing Right for You? / Interview with Tara Reed.”  If the answer is yes, you need to learn about art licensing, create the right art, create a strategic plan on what types of manufacturers to license your work, find those manufacturers, and most importantly follow up with the contacts you make.

Art licensing Resources
I feel that knowledge is power and the more that you know about art licensing the better you will make good decisions in licensing your art.  Networking with others that are knowledgeable about licensing is very helpful in learning about licensing and I recommend joining one or more internet forums.  Read “Networking Resource – Art Licensing Forums” for more information.

Many resources are available about art licensing on blogs, teleseminar question and answer sessions (telephone dial-in muted conference sessions), websites, newsletters, magazines, etc.  They discuss how to get started in licensing your work, describe the importance of creating art collections and product mock-ups, copyrighting your work, using Adobe Photoshop and/or Adobe Illustrator to manipulate art, and much more.  Note:  Each licensing expert is NOT an expert in all aspects of art licensing.  Getting information and opinions from multiple persons will give you a more rounded perspective of art licensing so that you can decide what works best for you.

Check out the following blogs for art licensing information.
All Art Licensing by licensing consultant/agent J’net Smith
Art Licensing Blog by artist Tara Reed

Create the Right Art
I am a firm believer that ALL art is licensable to some degree but it can be difficult to find manufacturers willing to license your art if your style and subject matter is for a small niche market or is not right to be put onto products.  Also, photography and art for some industries are not normally licensed but purchased outright. For instance, if you are a surface designer and want to license your art for clothing and home decor fabrics, you will find it difficult if not impossible to license your work unless you are a well known designer. But the home sewing and quilting industries are open to licensing surface designs IF the designs are right for their market.  Read “How to become a Porterfield’s artist” to find out more about the art licensing industry and what type of art that agent Lance Klass of Porterfields Fine Art Licensing can and cannot license. Also read articles about different manufacturers, to find out what kind of art those manufacturers want.

Plan Strategically
Art agent Eric Kuskey of Creative Brands Group (artist Thomas Kinkade’s agency) recommends that you plan strategically on what manufacturers to license your art.  By doing that, you can use your core manufacturers as a foundation to gain exposure and build equity in your art brand.  Read more about this in “Eight Steps to Become an Art Brand.”

What type of manufacturers to first license your work depends upon your art style and the themes you create. For instance, if your art is surface designs, it makes sense to first license your work to fabric quilt companies.  Later you can license to the scrapbook, possibly the gift wrap industries and other industries that use patterns. Or, if you paint themes that show sentiment and emits an emotional response (how cute, how beautiful, “I can relate to that,” etc.) than the greeting card industry is the right industry to begin.  And if you create art that uses unsaturated colors with themes suitable for the home décor industry, you might start licensing your work in that industry.

Finding Manufacturers that License Art
Finding manufacturers that license art requires research, research, and more research.  You need to find manufacturers that are a match with your art style, find out what art themes they want, how they want art submitted and in what format.  To get suggestions on how to find manufacturers, read “Finding Manufacturers that License Art.”  And remember, you need to submit art that is right for the manufacturer.  Read art agent Jim Marcotte’s of Two Town Studios blog article “Do Your Homework” for his perceptions on submitting appropriate art.

Contacting Manufacturers and Follow up
After you select the manufacturer(s) you wish to submit your art, you need to contact them.  It is better to find out the name of the art director and submit the art directly to her/him unless submission guidelines state that art is to be submitted to a committee.  For more information on how to do this, read 6 Tips in Writing Winning Query Letters to Manufacturers that License Art.”

And the most important step is to follow up after submitting your art to a manufacturer.  It is not enough to submit your art and hope to get a response.  Often manufacturers do not respond to submissions.  You need to be persistent and continually follow up.  Art agencies know how important it is to be persistent and I have heard that they continue submitting art and inquires until the manufacturer responds with a yes or no.  Many artists give up too soon when the manufacturer does not contact them and thus they lose the chance in getting a licensing deal.

Comments to this article are welcome.

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  1. Art licensing is one of those things that make you go “huh”?! It’s a mystery to many. But it can be a wonderful way to earn money from your artwork, and the same pieces over and over again.

    Thanks for all of the links that you provided in this article, Joan. It’s funny, I, too have been referring artists to the Porterfield website forever because their info on licensing is the best description I’ve found!

    My advice to artists regarding licensing is that you learn best by doing. With each license deal you go into, you’ll learn more and more about the process.

    Sure, you might make a few mistakes along the way, but that’s all part of earning your “licensing MBA”!

  2. What a great article. I just added to my resource list on my blog!

  3. I forgot to mention in the above article a must read for artists wishing to license their art – “20 Steps to Getting Started in Art Licensing”. It has very good suggestions and lots of links.

    The link is:

  4. Joan:

    Another fabulous and informative article!!! Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge. It is appreciated.

  5. As a young professional, this article provided a fantastic starting point on getting my foot into the art licensing world. I will definitely share this with peers of mine who are looking to do the same. Really, thank you for putting this together!

  6. Wonderful & informative article. Thanks.

  7. This is a great article and resource! By following all the links and then additional links—I’ve been reading for over an hour! Thank you so much for all the support and info. I’m learning so much. And being someone who is a sponge—loves to soak up all I can about subjects I’m passionate about —your articles are gold! Thanks again. All My Best,
    stephey baker


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