My cousin who sells his designs online just bought a house. He remarked how anyone can find success these days if they just find their niche. He and I have both made an income from our designs online, without art school, and he’s right. These days, there are more creative ways for artists to make money from art online than ever before. And some methods, like digital downloads or print on demand, are incredibly scalable for a passive income. Hopefully this list of creative niches will inspire you to start monetizing your art today.
How to Make Money with Art Online
1. Stream Your Art Process on Twitch
Twitch.tv is famous for gaming, but that’s not all it offers. The site is brimming with creative content like talk shows, travel streamers, and art streams.
The art category has a supportive community of creative people with a laid-back atmosphere. There’s a variety of creative content from digital work to the canvas.. Artists stream themselves working and talk to viewers in the chat room. Being friendly and open to interacting with the chat room is vital.
Streamers earn money from subscribers and donations, and the community can be extremely generous to appreciative streamers.
What can you offer viewers and subs in return? It’s common for artists to open a discord server and let viewers send post their work. You can give helpful critiques live on stream, perhaps only for subs as a reward. SleepyMia is a great example of a creative streamer who engages with her audience well.
And artists like the amazing KillerNEN create works and sketches and price them live on stream to sell or auction.
Some other categories on the site are Just Chatting, Travel and Outdoors, and ASMR. And of course, gaming is the classic option.
You can get PayPal tips through StreamLabs or StreamElements.
Once you meet the requirements for Twitch affiliate, you can also make Amazon affiliate income.
Streamers sometimes also supplement their income with Patreon.
Streaming is a great way to get out there. If you do any of the other ways to make money online in this article, you can always stream their process, too.
2. Print on Demand
Print on demand is a low-risk, low-cost way to earn income from art online. You carry no merchandise and don’t organize the transactions yourself. Just upload your designs and go — you’ll make sales even as you sleep.
Selling art prints has always been obvious. But it can be even more lucrative to sell prints on stickers, clothes, home decor, and phone cases.
Popular print on demand platforms are:
- Amazon Merch: You have to request an invitation and then work your way up on Amazon Merch. But the payoff is that you’ll be put in front of the most enormous customer base online. Many people have done well selling T-shirts this way.
- Society6: Society6 has enabled the immensely successful artist Cat Coquillette to make a living while traveling the world as a digital nomad. It’s a marketplace with a trendy, youthful vibe. Upload your designs to sell as art prints, throw pillows, blankets, phone cases, and more. Even the famous YouTuber Hila Klein has designs here.
- RedBubble: RedBubble also has many kinds of products, but seems to sell stickers the best. Fanart is big on the site. It also allows all-over print designs, instead of being limited to a square section on the front of a shirt. That’s perfect for making patterns.
Go for platforms known for quality, and that allow you to own your copyrights. Personally, I use Society6 and RedBubble, but I have no particular recommendation. (Do you? Please share yours in the comments below!)
3. Design and Sell Pins
Pins have been having a major moment.
For a hundred bucks or so, you can have a design made in bulk and sell them for $10-$15 a piece at a very nice profit.
Check out manufacturers like Made By Cooper for exact quotes.
Smaller artists do this with kickstarter, so they can get preorders to make sure there is enough interest.
Pin makers who take it offline can be found selling their collections at music festivals, with a huge turnover every night. This has even spawned rare, collectible pins.
4. Digital Downloads
Downloadable goods are all over the place and can be sold everywhere. Here are just some of the things that are selling:
- Clip art packs
- Printable planner pages
- Digital scrapbooking graphics
- Logo creation templates
- Photoshop brushes
- 3D Assets
- Game creation assets
- Stock music
- Stock photos
If you already have skills with illustration, 3D design, or page formatting you could open a store and get started now. Here are some online marketplaces for selling digital downloads:
- ArtStation Marketplace
Whatever you decide to do, success requires time spent on research as well as production. Check out this list of digital downloads you can sell online.
5. Create an Online Art Course
What do you know well? Whether it’s creating art in a certain style, software proficiency, or promoting art — there are other who want to know, too. Sites like Udemy and Skillshare are perfect ways to get started.
Skillshare offers students a premium membership that gives them access to all classes on the site for one subscription price. Teachers are paid royalties based on the amount of views and watch-time their classes get. The top instructors make more than $100,000 a year!
Upload screencasts of your work, or even just a sit-down and talk with decent editing along the way to clarify your points. If you create quality classes and add a new class each month, you can quickly build a following and even more watch time.
You don’t have to use the course format. EnvatoTuts accepts written tutorials from artists to post on the site. Apply here.
Of course, tutorials are something you can also on Patreon as well. More on that below.
If you want to make a good web content, you can also do this on your own blog. See starting a blog, and our article about how to start a blog using WordPress on your own domain here.
7. Surface Pattern Design
Today, even pattern design for fabrics and wallpaper can be print-on-demand. I think it deserves its own section.
Sites like Spoonflower allow pattern designers to sell their work on fabric, wallpaper, gift wrap, and home decor.
If you haven’t tried your hand at pattern design before, it can actually be fun. You’ll most likely be using Adobe Illustrator. The pattern artist Christine Bonnie teaches pattern design using Adobe Illustrator in her easy-to-understand class on Skillshare, Intro to Surface Pattern Design.
8. Sewing Patterns
Cinnamon Miles started a $600,000 turnover per year (revenue) business selling sewing downloadable patterns for dolls clothes online. Already a skilled seamstress, she began making outfits for her daughter’s dolls, which turned into her brand Liberty Jane. Now, she owns the online marketplace PixieFaire which features the work of many designers. It’s a fantastic success story and also a possible marketplace to apply to if you have patterns up your sleeves.
Knitting more your thing? The site PatternFish is a marketplace where you can buy and sell knitting, crochet, and weaving patterns.
In both cases, you could also start your own Shopify store or branch out to Etsy.
9. Join Patreon. Today.
Patreon is a way for artists to be compensated for their work by their audience. Your supporters can subscribe for $1 per month, $5 per month, and increasing tier levels that can come with different benefits.
What kinds of things do artists give in return? Patreon-only tutorials, videos, livestreams, a personal chat, or simply your thanks. There are so many ways creators are making Patreon work for them! Just write out your own rewards for each subscription level. Audiences are often happy just to support the creators they care about.
Who’s on Patreon? Artists. Youtube ASMR video creators. Filmmakers. Photographers. Comic artists. Everyone!
10. Take Commissions
Taking commissions is a classic way to make money from your art online. It’s not as passive or necessarily lucrative as other options, but it’s fun, and you can charge based on your skill level.
Popular commission types are drawing people’s original characters, whether for fiction, roleplay, or their game characters in MMORPGs.
Commissions that are a little more adult in nature are said to sell well, but you can get stuck making that type of art once you start.
A good way to get noticed for this type of work is by making fanart for movies and games. It will be shared fast among fan communities on Twitter and Facebook, and get you followers.
If you show your art on DeviantArt, you can put up a commissions section on your profile that describes your work and rates.
11. Set Up a Profile for Online Gigs
Gig marketplaces are not without criticism. To a lot of freelancers, it can feel like a race to the bottom. Since freelance marketplaces can be global, there’s a lot of low-bidding competition.
However, some people have made it work for them. If you need some extra cash, you can work remotely for short-term and long-term contracts. Build your reputation on the following sites by listing a portfolio, relevant experience, and education.
This notorious gig marketplace was once for jobs sellers would do for five dollars. Now, the site it more expansive (and expensive), as you can set your own prices. Creative jobs on fiverr include infographic design, illustration jobs, writing, voice acting, and pretty much any gig you can imagine.
A more professional gig marketplace. Users upload a headshot and fill out a resume, a bio, and tests. You can be recruited and also apply for gigs.
I think the best way to get noticed on these platforms is to have your own unique angle.
12. Sell Game Content
There’s a surprisingly active community of creators in VR and games, and an even more active community of buyers. Games like Sansar, IMVU, and Second Life each have their own digital currency. The currency can be bought with real money, and cashed out for real money, too.
In addition to currency, these games have creator tools. Knowledge of 3D modeling, texture design, or programming can go a long way. Just make the digital assets that people like and that enhance their game play. Goods range from digital home decor, clothes, and hairstyles to landscaping and scripted items.
Second Life probably boasts the most trading of them all. Although now it’s dated, having come out in 2003, it has estimates of a half-million active users. It’s even a bit notorious for the strange array of mature created objects that exist in the adult parts of the platform. Still, that’s not all the online world offers.
Today, Second Life’s creators built a new iteration: the social VR world called Sansar. Sansar also has a digital marketplace where creators can make real money from their digital art online. Skills that will help along the way are 3D modeling, clothes making in Marvelous Designer, or programming.
Other games like IMVU have similar features, but skew towards a younger crowd.
13. Art-Focused YouTube Content
Some artists have created story-time videos using illustrations in a video comic style, if not outright animated. User EroldStory has such video comics, with titles like Weird Kids I Met at Art School with a whopping 5.9 million views at the time of this writing.
Those aren’t the only types of videos. Time-lapses are popular for accomplished artists. So are sketchbook tours.
WLOP posts speed-painting time-lapses of his popular digital work (like this one). The videos seem to be for his Patreon supporters, and surely helps draw more attention and interest to his projects.
Sketchbook tours are another option, like the ones Leigh Ellexson posts of her watercolors of adorable animals.
Minnie Small posts a variety of content related to her art career, including advice and productivity tips, as well as sketchbook tours and more.
Essentially, Youtube can be a standalone job or it can be a piece of a bigger puzzle. Sure, it can generate ad revenue. But it’s also a way to bring attention to your work, prints for sale, and other platforms where people can support you.
14. Write About Art for Medium
Sure, this one is usually relegated to writers rather than visual artists. However, you may have insight into design trends and the art industry that makes readers interested in what you have to say.
Anyone can make an account on Medium and start posting. A subscription platform, Medium pays its writers based on popularity and performance of the articles.
15. Start a Webcomic
Any endeavor you can put more time and heart into will have more potential to thrive in the long run. One such project is a webcomic.
Webtoons usually appear on their own blog, but new platforms are emerging. Line Webtoon Discover is one such app that allows new creators to get in front of a large audience and to be paid for their work.
A successful webcomic can even jumpstart the creation of licensed merchandise, TV shows, and other lucrative deals.
16. Create Your Own Blog
It’s easier than ever to blog, and I can’t recommend owning your own website enough. It’s a good place to link to all your other work, and give you a central hub where people can find your social media, sale info, and other relevant details. It builds your name and your so-called personal brand, which opens doors for you.
You can read my guide to setting up a blog using WordPress on your own domain name here.
Even if you don’t plan to blog much, you can use WordPress themes as art portfolios. Portfolio-style themes also have blog sections, so there’s a lot of flexibility to use your site however you want.
Additionally, art blogs don’t have to be about you and your work. You can write a blog that’s informative or instructional to earn income from advertising and affiliate marketing. Topics could be tutorials, curated lists, and industry news.
17. Get Interviewed By Other Blogs
This is a way to get traffic moving your way. More people learn about your work, possibly spend money, and share your work with others.
Do you have a success story or other interesting story about your creative endeavors, self-employment, or side gigs? Let us know so we can feature you!
18. Use Online Art Auctions
Of course we can’t overlook the standard of selling your originals. With social media, it’s easy to get a lot of eyeballs on an online art auction.
Sell your original artwork on sites like Every Day Originals, or use your own social accounts to auction work.
19. Deviant Art CPA Offers
DeviantArt is the classic online destination for artists to share their work, launched in 2000.
Today, the site enables artists to make money with methods from above. There are options to enable art to be sold as prints, take commissions, and sell digital downloads. The site also hosts art contests with cash prizes.
But the most unique way to make money with DeviantArt is with CPA offers. Basically, this means you’ll offer free downloads like fonts or brushes, but require people to fulfill some action before they can download it. Usually, that means taking a survey. You can get paid per survey completed through an ad CPA network like AdGate Media. It’s a win-win for everyone. You get paid, people don’t have to pay, and the ad network gets surveys filled.
Another tactic is to offer licensing options. By offering a free noncommercial license, you can build interest. Then offer the paid license.
20. Tattoo Design:
The site Create My Tattoo lets people post their tattoo wishes, and artists submit their ideas. At the end, the person requesting designs pick a winner and the artist is compensated.
This isn’t my favorite method, because making submissions involves working for free. But for the sake of completion, I added it to the list.
21. Paint Instagram Photos:
The site Instapainting lets people commission their photos to be painted. They just upload a photo and the site has an artist paint it to canvas for them.
As an artist, you’ll be able to pick the commissions that you’re interested in working on, and the customer can choose from those applicants.
To start, you’ll need to signup and provide a biography and portfolio samples.
Online Presence is Paramount
It’s only going to get more relevant with each passing year: An online presence will make or break you.
So many of these methods for making money online with art can be interconnected.
However many platforms you create a presence on, they can work together. Have a following on Instagram and Twitter for sure. If you want to show a portfolio, consider being on Art Station and DeviantArt.
Check out my guide to starting a blog using WordPress to create website that works as your launchpad.
As with most things, it’s about building momentum. Get started and follow where it takes you. Successful artists online just go to show that if you establish yourself and gain a following, you stand to gain in just about any environment.