Art licensing is an option for artists who want to design artwork for use on products, without producing those items in their own studio. The artist licenses his/her work to a manufacturer, or an art publisher, who is allowed to use the art as defined in a licensing contract, until the expiration of the license. This allows artists to retain ownership of their work, yet allows others to use it in exchange for payment.
If you want to do primarily design work, you may find that licensing works for you. Since manufacturers are major customers, your work needs to be appropriate for use on their products. In fact, artists who license should have a very good idea of what types of products their art would work well on.
Linda Warner Constantino of LinadonaBotanica creates mock-ups of her designs (above and at top) which are shown to prospective clients as samples of how her art could work in different formats. This smart technique helps manufacturers to visualize the end product and helps to sell the artist’s work and services.
Artists who license must understand the proper formats to use, how to submit their work, and the details of licensing contracts. They have to be flexible, be able work on deadline, and make changes upon the request of a client.
Don’t look for a check soon after you license your art; there can be a long turnaround time before you realize any income. You are licensing, not selling your art, so income is through royalties, which commonly are 10% or less. Still, artists with multiple licensing deals can make a good living this way.
Art publishers also license art, for reproduction into prints and wall decor. They look for artists with a defined signature style which would appeal to their customers. Artists who create artwork in series that creates a very cohesive collection may do well with an art publisher.
This field is growing, with many artists vying for opportunities. Artists who want to license can exhibit at trade shows, such as Surtex, which takes place in New York City each May. They may also contact manufacturers directly to find opportunities, or work with licensing agents. Agents are typically paid 50% of the royalties, but they have great industry connections and can help your business immensely.
How easy is it to get a licensing agent? Recently, we spoke to the owner of a licensing agency which had been established for about twenty years. He said that he gets between 400 and 500 submissions a year from artists wanting to be represented. How many new artists does he choose to represent each year? One or two.
Still, this is a growing field where artists who have the right type of designs can flourish. Learn more about licensing by visiting some of the top blogs in this industry:
- The Business of Art Licensing by Lance Klass
- Joan Beiriger’ Blog on Art Licensing
- Art Licensing Blog by Tara Reed