Graphic elements like clip art are fun to make and easy to sell. What’s better than uploading drawings and letting them sell forever? It’s easy to get started thanks to marketplaces like Etsy or CreativeMarket. And your skill level isn’t a dealbreaker, since even simple doodles can sell well. Let’s talk about how to sell clip art online, making it with the best practices, licensing, and promotion.


How to Sell Clip Art Online

clip art example from etsy seller

Beautiful graphics collection by LenaNikolaeva.


Understand Clip Art Buyers

Clipart is broad in its scope, so there’s room for a bit of everything. People use them for everything from web design, scrapbooking, to elements to use in their own products.

To sell strategically, be aware of your customers.

  • Some people buy clip art so they can create and sell things like t-shirts or stickers. They’ll need extended licenses.
  • Others just want it for personal use in stationery or newsletters.
  • Bloggers and site owners want graphics to use on their sites.

Here are some categories to think about:

  • Stationery: What kinds of things would people want to put on greeting cards, invitations, or announcements?
  • Documents: What about document formatting? These are things like like bullet points, check marks, borders, flourishes, or frames?
  • Themes: Think of seasons of the year, holidays, places, travel, nature, entertainment, food, and daily life.
  • Scrapbooking: Consider different elements like borders, dividers, bullets, sayings, and family milestones.
  • Web Use: Try web essentials like custom social media icons. Also think of elements that people might use when creating their social media pages, like header images.
  • Trends: Keep an eye out for design trends and popular color palettes. Things that have been trending in 2018 are astronomy and geometric designs. Floral clipart is a perennial favorite. Browse listings and sort by popular, and stay on top of art and design feeds.

Pick a category and make a list of some themed packs you’d like to make now.

Ready to get started on your collection? Read on for the best practices.


How to Make Clip Art

Be sure you can create clean lines and print-quality resolution is you’re going to sell clip art. The best way to do that is with vector art. That means you’ll need the right software for the job.

Software

Adobe Illustrator:

For good-looking lines and image quality, the gold standard is Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator makes vector art based on paths, so images can scale up or down with no fuzziness or pixelation.

The program also smooths out jagged edges or wobbly lines like a charm. Clean line work is effortless. It especially lends itself to the flat design style that’s popular for web design.

Adobe products are on a monthly subscription, but you can try it for free.

Surface Pattern design class on Skillshare Cover Image
The most thorough Illustrator tutorial I’ve ever found is in this class.

Procreate for iPad:

The Procreate app for the iPad Pro is fast becoming a favorite among illustrators. It makes drawing digital art anywhere and at any time easy. It’s amazing for digital nomads or the artist who just likes to work at the cafe — or draw in bed. 

However, since Procreate is a raster tool, your images won’t scale up and could have fuzziness issues. If you go this route, start with a decently large canvas size and 300 dpi / ppi. Procreate is available in the App Store.

Learn to use Procreate to make clipart with the video class here at Skillshare. (It’s free for two months.)

Cover Image of Procreate Class
Procreate Clipart Class on Skillshare

Image File Requirements

Whatever workflow you use, export your image as .png files with a transparent background. Clipart files are usually sold as .png files, but you can also include .eps vector file formats. Scalable vector art is a plus, so be sure to say so in your listing.

  • Transparent backgrounds
  • Image fills frame
  • 300 dpi resolution
  • Save mainly as PNG files
  • Save other file types, like .PSD, .SVG, and .EPS
  • Place files in ZIP folder

Drawing Tools and Hardware

Tablets: Any drawing tablet is good to get started, but the industry favorite is Wacom’s line of products. And increasingly popular is the iPad Pro.

Wacom Intuos

Pros: The Wacom Intuos comes in wireless versions, and allows you to replace your mouse with a drawing pad and pen. It’s cost-effective, and has good pen pressure sensitivity. It’s also easy to travel with and use with a laptop. See the one I use here on Amazon: Medium Intuos Pro

Cons: No display. You will be drawing on a tablet while looking at your computer screen. However, you can get used to it quickly.

Wacom Cintiq

Pros:  More than a drawing pad, the Cintiq is a display and lets you draw directly on its screen. Large sizes available. High pen sensitivity. Adjustable stand can be angled upright or low. It acts as a second display, so it works with anything your computer runs. Resource-heavy software is no problem. Here’s the 2019 Wacom Cintiq 22, and here’s the one I currently use.

Cons: Heavy and mostly stationary. Display can be very bright, so some artists use blue light blocking glasses to work longer hours.

iPad Pro

Pros: The most portable device of them all, the iPad Pro is taking off as a creative tool for artists. The Procreate software is quickly becoming popular with illustrators. To sweeten the device more, Adobe announced that Photoshop and Illustrator will be released for iPad Pro. (See: iPad Pro prices on Amazon.)

Cons: Screen size is smaller than other devices. Can’t run intensive software if you have other work needs, such as 3D modeling or CAD. Adobe’s full programs aren’t yet available, but they have been announced for future release.

Writer’s Note: I personally now use the Wacom Cintiq 22HD, which is a nice large size, and has been a phenomenal boost in my productivity compared to regular tablets. I still have an Intuos for travel, since it fits in my backpack with my laptop on the go.


Can Traditional Painters Make Clip Art?

Digital reigns for clip art, but it doesn’t have to. Some successful artists paint on paper and scan their work, such as watercolors. Just know that there can be challenges making files with transparent backgrounds.

You can always draw on paper and then scan your art for digital tracing. It’s easy to do in Illustrator. So if inspiration strikes while you’re away from your desk, doodle away. 

Using Photos to Make Clip Art

In fact, you can do this with photos as long as you own them. I did this once with a photo I took of a peony bouquet I had. After importing the file to Illustrator, I could trace the shapes and make simple patterns of the flowers I had in real life.

It’s important that you’re the photographer and own any photos you use for this method. Most people would argue that drawing from life or references is better than tracing, and I would generally agree. But for a simple graphic element rather than a whole photo, it’s efficient.

This method is used by the pattern designer Christine Bonnie for her surface pattern designs. Check out her tutorials for using Illustrator — this pattern design tutorial in particular has the most comprehensive introduction to using Adobe Illustrator I’ve found.


Possible Clip Art Styles

  • Line Art: They can be simple or complex outlines of objects, whimsical doodles, geometric shapes, single weight line art, or flourishes and borders.
  • Watercolors: Create these by using watercolor brushes in Photoshop or Procreate.
  • Flat Design: Flat design took off as minimalist but still-colorful web design movement. It opposed old styles that overused shadows, borders, and gradients. It’s still strong, and works well as vector art.
  • Realism: Complete images with color and shading.
  • Stylistic: You don’t have to go with trends. An expression of your own tastes, stylistic graphics can stand out to customers.

Marketplaces

  • CreativeMarket: CreativeMarket is specifically for digital downloads, and is known for polished sets and bundles of graphic elements and clip art packs. You can create an account and apply any time, but be aware that they won’t approve you without submitting a portfolio of 10-20 good products ready to sell.
  • Etsy:  Etsy offers an easy way to upload files and sell them. The sets that artists publish are often smaller packs than you’d find on CreativeMarket, with a range of affordable prices. The difference is that you will have to create a separate listing for each license type. However, you can define your different license terms.
  • Your Own Website: This is a nice way to work if you already have a large audience. Otherwise, stick to the marketplaces until you do — you can still use your own blog and social accounts to promote. You can build your website on Shopify, or use a shopping cart service like 3DCart or Gumroad.

How to Promote Your Clip Art

Product Mockups: Make your shop images pop with product mockups. They’ll bring your art to life and help buyers imagine its uses better. For example, I like clip art sellers who use mockups of their art on stationary. You can buy mockup templates from sellers on Creative Market or Envato.

Make Lots of File Types: Your customers aren’t going to use the file types you think they should. They’ll use the ones that they’re at ease with. So don’t just include PSDs or PNGs. Include as many file types as you can.

Use Visual Social Accounts: Social accounts are awesome for everyone with a visual message. Get the word out by curating a good Instagram account. You might also be a good fit for Twitch if you want to live-stream your art process while you chat with people.

Youtube Channel: Some creators have made whole channels about how they keep their journals and stationery, or about making and selling stationery and stickers. If your work fits into one of these passionate topics, maybe it can work for you, too.

Your Own Blog: I always recommend owning your own site on your own hosting. It establishes you as a real brand, gets you a professional e-mail address, and prepares you for future growth in case you decide to sell through your own shopping cart. You can read my guide to starting a new self-hosted blog here.

Clear Copy: Let buyers know exactly what files they’ll be getting and what your licenses policies are in plain English.


Know About Licensing

Licensing is how you’ll give usage rights to your buyers. You’ll set terms to decide if they need to credit you, if they are for personal or commercial use, and how many finished products they are allowed to create using your images.

Generally, licenses can fit into three types:

  • Personal License
  • Limited Commercial License
  • Extended Commercial License

Creative Market makes it easy because it has license terms already preset for you to choose from.

On Etsy, you’ll add your license terms to your item description, and create a separate listing for each license type. Alternatively, some sellers sell a license upgrade in their products that grants a commercial license to the user on any of their other products.


Publish Your Clip Art and Have Fun

The most beautiful thing when you sell clip art and other digital downloads is that once your items are listed, they can keep selling even as you sleep. How motivating and satisfying is that?

If you’re up for it, take a look at selling other items like print on demand t-shirts and stickers. You might also want to read about other types of digital downloads you can sell online.