Artists Vs Merchandise Stores

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Where Should You Buy Your Art Prints?

So, you’ve chosen the work of art you want hanging in your bedroom, or you’ve picked out the piece that you know will make a great gift. The original is way out of your price range, but you want to buy a print. On the artist’s website, it’s fairly pricey, but you’ve found the exact same thing on Redbubble, or Zazzle, or Teespring and it’s a fraction of the cost.


Here’s a heads up: you have not found the exact same thing. You’ve found a cheap facsimile of the original.

Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely no problem with these merchandise stores (I have a Redbubble shop myself), but what you have to bear in mind here is that these sites are just that – merchandise shops. And some of their merchandise is great – there’s no way I’d be able to produce acrylic blocks or metal prints. But let me just go into the common differences between an art print you’d get from Redbubble and an art print you’d buy from an artist…

The Comparison in Art Prints

I recently ummed and ahhed about doing a limited edition print run. It’s expensive, especially when you take into account postage and packaging of receiving the print run and then sending prints out to individual buyers. The margin I’ll make back isn’t as great as you’d think and I have some stiff competition, since my most popular pieces sell as plain art prints on Redbubble a lot. Redbubble can offer prints for a lot less than I can and the service is convenient from my perspective – all I do is upload a picture to the site and they take care of everything else. I guess that’s the reason I only make 20% of any sale on Redbubble (yep – for every £13.14 art print I sell on Redbubble, I get £2.63).


Additional to the cost of the art prints themselves plus p&p is the cost of having my artwork professionally photographed in order to create high quality art prints, whereas the photographs uploaded to Redbubble were taken on my iPhone 6. That’s a big difference in quality right there. Photographers do not come cheap, and nor should they; photography is a skill I don’t possess and a service I’m more than willing to pay for. 



On top of the photography, there’s my time. Time spent sourcing a photographer, time spent pondering which pieces to turn into prints, time spent finding a printer that I trust (printing can be a minefield in itself) and liaising with said printer over bleeds and margins and paper quality.


Then there’s the Photoshop element. That’s more of my time, but it’s also a subscription fee I pay every month. Making sure the prints will come out as true to the originals as possible, lining everything up, creating bleeds, converting to CMYK, saving in 300dpi. This is another thing with Redbubble – you’re likely buying a print created from a 72dpi RGB image, which those of you who don’t have to deal with printers probably don’t know is a low resolution image. No printer worth their salt will create art prints with low resolution images like this and that’s also something to bear in mind when buying art downloads – make sure they’re at least 300dpi and in CMYK format!


Oh and signing! More time spent painstakingly numbering every single art print and signing it. It’s necessary, because what you’re paying for with true art prints is quality, authenticity and exclusivity.


In short, merchandise vendors’ art prints are fine. I’ve found them to be slightly faded out and occasionally pixellated, and the paper quality isn’t great, but unless you look closely, you can’t really tell. And they’re cheap, which is always a bonus. They’re not signed, of course, and the colours may vary quite a bit. There’s just no guarantee that you’re getting a quality product, but then for the price, I guess it doesn’t matter so much.

But proper art prints – the kind you’d buy direct from the artist – they’ve been lovingly crafted to the point where they’re a piece of art in their own right. The colours are true to the originals, the paper is thick and smooth, the bleed is neat and tidy, they’re signed and you have a direct line to the person who made the original piece of art if you have questions. 


Speaking of questions, if you have any, feel free to drop me a line at