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How to Make Money From Your Art on Royalty Merchandise Sites

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Tote bags and more on Society6

Tote bags and more on Society6

What Are Print-on-Demand Marketplaces?

Print-on-demand (P.O.D.) websites allow artists, photographers, designers, and other creatives to upload original art and images that users can then pay to have printed on shirts, mugs, pillowcases, fanny packs, stickers, and pretty much any other type of merchandise you can think of.

These marketplaces are a great way for artists to merchandise their designs because there is no up-front cost. The site only prints your design onto a piece of merchandise when a user orders it. They take care of the heavy lifting, and you, the artist, get a percentage of the sale price.

Why Sell Your Art Using Print-on-Demand Websites?

I was asked recently what I do with my art to make money. I also saw an article written about this subject that left several things out that I have tapped into. I think the most important piece of information I have received from an artist besides “practice, practice, practice” was to get into image royalty businesses.

This is only one of the many ways I use my art to make money, but I thought it needed to be shared. Using print-on-demand websites to sell my art, I can generate a passive income that keeps paying me year after year. Remember—in addition to paintings, drawings, and illustrations, original photos are also sought after, so photographers can get in on this industry as well.

Even writers can benefit from print-on-demand marketplaces. What better way to advertise your book than to put the cover art or title on a t-shirt or tote bag? Taking a popular saying or quote from your book and having it put on a mug is an awesome form of promotion, too. The possibilities are endless.

"Good merchandise, even hidden, soon finds buyers."

— Plautus

Cowboy boots business card on Zazzle

Cowboy boots business card on Zazzle

There are a large number of image royalty merchandise companies out there online, and the number is growing. These companies print images of art and photos on everything from T-shirts to tote bags to tapestries to shower curtains to bed covers to pillow covers to iPad cases and beyond.

It takes a little time to size your digital image to the specifications they are looking for, but once you have done so and uploaded that art, you receive a royalty percentage each time someone purchases a product with your design on it.

If your work is popular, you can earn quite a lot. In this way, you can keep your art and even sell the original while also using the digital image on these royalty sites to keep earning from the design for years to come.

What's more, you are not limited with regard to how many sites you can upload the same image. For record-keeping purposes, I use only three P.O.D. sites at any given time, but in theory, I could use as many as I like.

I have included a small number of royalty sites below. The top three are the ones I use myself. This is in no way a comprehensive list, but it is a good place to start.


This site has been around since 2009 and has around three million visitors per month. It is very popular. The artist margin for most products on this site is 10%.


This one is my favorite site for ease of uploading and overall sales, but everyone is different. It seems that each site caters to a slightly different clientele. There are over 700,000 artists adding images to Redbubble, so it is easy to get lost in the mix if you don’t add images regularly and change up your mix of work.


This site gets over seven million visitors monthly. If your designs stand out, you will get noticed.


Don’t be fooled by the name; they offer more than just t-shirts here. They get around 2.3 million visitors monthly, so they are worth the time to check out.


This may be one of the oldest sites on the list, having started in 1999. They still get about 1.5 million visitors monthly, and they have just as many P.O.D. merchandise choices as most other sites. The artist margin is also around 10%. The traffic isn’t as great as Redbubble, but then again, you may not be such a guppy in an ocean of artists here.

Designs by Humans

This site specializes in apparel, so it is a natural go-to place for those hoodies and t-shirts you want your designs on. They get monthly traffic of about 150,000.

My dear friend showing off her fanny pack with my watercolor roses on it from Redbubble

My dear friend showing off her fanny pack with my watercolor roses on it from Redbubble

"Great designers seldom make great advertising men, because they get overcome by the beauty of the picture - and forget that merchandise must be sold."

— James Randolph Adams

How Do I Start Selling My Art?

First, you must have a good-quality digital image of your art. Remember—photographs are accepted as original art. You cannot just use the photo you have taken with your phone for this. Though phones take some good photos today, the size of the capture is often relatively small and will limit the number of places you can use that image on royalty sites. Smaller photos could be used for stickers, cards, and phone cases, but larger items like quilts and divans would be out of the question for these smaller phone photos.

Size and Quality of Images

Most places (not all) want the dpi (dots per inch) to be at least 300 and the size to be about 20 inches on the longest side. Larger photos are a plus, but this is a minimum for many of the sites I have checked out. Each of the royalty sites will list what size they expect your art to be for optimum use.

File Format

Most of the sites want jpg or png images. Since jpg is a popular format, it may be the best method of keeping your image useable for these sites. If you don’t know how to size your work or convert it to jpg, you may be able to get a computer-savvy friend to do it for you.


Next, you just upload the image and name it for your own record keeping as well as the site's. This sometimes takes a little time—maybe five to 10 minutes—depending on your computer or internet speed.

Choosing Merchandise

Once it is uploaded, you are offered a number of merchandise items that your image will look good on or items that the site has to offer. You can pick and choose which you think will be best for your work. Some people just check the “print on canvas” or “posters” and leave it at that. Others check all the merchandise items available. If you don’t check that item, your art will not be available for sale on those items.

On Zazzle, I went so far as to place some of my art on “sample” business cards with fictitious addresses just to show how it would look. I can’t begin to tell you how many of these business cards I have sold using this method.

Some of my work on Society6

Some of my work on Society6

Setting Up Royalty Percentage and Payment Method

With each item, you can usually set up the royalty percentage. If you put the percentage high, like 50%, the cost of the merchandise will increase, and it may be so pricy that customers will pass it up. If you set the percentage too low, like less than 10%, it will take forever to see any real income, but the merchandise will be more affordable. I think it is kind of the companies to leave the percentage up to us (the artists), but I keep mine below 20% just to be fair to the customers.

Next, set up how you would like to be paid, and you are done. You can link your bank account or set up a PayPal account. Either way, you will be paid regularly based on your sales.

My dear friend purchased a comforter with my watercolor Dahlia on it.

My dear friend purchased a comforter with my watercolor Dahlia on it.

Making Sales

You will get regular emails with each sale telling you what sold, what the customer paid for it, and how much you will be receiving. It is always a joy to see that my art is loved so much that people pay to have it on their beds or on bags and fanny packs.

Good Luck!

It always gives me a charge to see that someone loved my work enough to buy it and buy merchandise with it. Do you think you may look into this kind of passive income? Have you done any work on royalty sites?

I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 09, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

Sweet of you to say so. I was thrilled indeed.



Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 08, 2021:

It must make you so happy knowing that someone wants your beautiful irises on towels along with a matching mat in their bathroom. You are correct in writing that original art like that does not happen at Walmart.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:

Peggy Woods,

One lady purchased a set of bathroom towels and a bathroom matte with my iris watercolor on them. I bet they look great in her bathroom. I love that someone likes my work enough to pay money for it. And it's unique. You won't find that at Walmart! Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:

James C Moore,

Yes. For smaller things like cell phone covers or stickers the smaller cell phone photos would work but if you want to print on larger items you do need to go back to the traditional digital camera. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:


Yes. Many of these sites are also equipped with calligraphic fonts so you could type whatever right there on your image. Try it. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:

Mary Norton,

Thanks. It is an interesting world we live in to have places that will print my art on anything and pay me for the privilege. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:

Chitrangada Sharan,

I'm glad you liked my information and my artwork. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:

Linda Lum,

Definitely pass this on to her. Have her do some research on which sites will best work with her style of photos. I'm glad to be of help. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 08, 2021:

Ann Carr,

Yes. People see all the art and forget that photos are art too and many of these sites have lovely photos with little sayings or quotes printed on mugs and pillows or whatever. Do pass it on to anyone how may be interested. Thanks for commenting.



Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 07, 2021:

Thanks for telling us about these sites, Denise. I am going to pin this for future reference plus share it with others. Your work is so beautiful. I can imagine that many people order it on mugs, pillows, and the like.

James C Moore from Joliet, IL on May 07, 2021:

This could potentially turn out to be one of the most valuable articles I've read. I mostly used actual cameras for article photos until about 2016. Then it's been practically all pics by cell phone. But it sounds like for this, I need go back to old fashioned cameras. Good info.

RoadMonkey on May 07, 2021:

Really interesting article. I have a few things up on Etsy but I use calligraphic fonts, as I am not an artist but I could use pictures for which I have bought the copyright and try those. Thanks

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on May 07, 2021:

Thank you for sharing this with us. I am sending it to some artist friends who might be interested. I love your designs in bags and bed covers. They look great.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 07, 2021:

This is a very well explained and informative article about earning money with artwork. I didn’t have any idea about these Royalty Merchandise sites.

You have a wonderful collection of your art pieces and getting appreciation from others is always a happy feeling. In addition, you can get paid too, and that’s a wonderful idea.

Thank you for sharing this excellent information.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 06, 2021:

Wow, Denise, I never thought of this. My daughter is a gifted photographer and has sold prints on Etsy, but this opens up an entirely new avenue for her. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. Blessings to you!

Ann Carr from SW England on May 06, 2021:

This is really interesting Denise, especially concerning photos, partly for my own use but even more so for my granddaughter who is looking to make money from her excellent photography. I'll pass it on to her. I didn't know anything about such sites so thanks for the excellent guide.

I hope you're keeping well.