Earn Money From Your Artwork and Never Be a Starving Artist

Last Updated on December 8, 2023 by Ava

The possibilities to earn money from your artwork is more possible than it’s ever been.

My background is in art. It was my first love and the thing that I found I had talent in first. When I realized that I could draw well, I thought my future was decided. I wanted to be a Disney Animator!

Thus began my journey to definitely NOT being a Disney Animator! I laugh now, but in reality, I’ve wasted so much time being clueless about how to make money from my art.

If this article helps ONE person avoid what I’ve been through, then my job here is done.

Let’s jump right in.

What You Need to Earn Money From Your Artwork

This really depends on what kind of artwork you want to create. The path of least resistance is digital art because you’re creating a product directly on the same platform where you can sell it…your computer, or iPad, or whatever.

If you are a traditional artist, your bread and butter is going to be in selling your tangible artwork directly orearn money from your artwork earning through advertising while you record your processes on video.

Your situation may be a hybrid of the two where you start with traditional art and digitize it or you create it and sell it online.

So, this list of skills and hardware is subjective to your specific situation.

  • It doesn’t hurt to have talent!
  • Knowledge of software – usually Photoshop, Illustrator, Procreate, etc.
  • Knowledge of popular art sizes and formats
  • Knowledge of genres and techniques
  • An audience to sell your art to
  • A relevant mentor doesn’t hurt
  • Computer savvy
  • Internet savvy
  • A place to work
  • A lot of patience
  • Business and marketing skills
  • A camera 
  • Photography and lighting skills
  • A unique style (more on this in a moment)

Get on YouTube and search for artists. Pay attention to what they’re using and create a list for yourself. This also applies to skills. You can teach yourself almost anything with YouTube free.

This article will focus heavily on the digital side of things.

Many of the opportunities available to young artists just simply didn’t exist for me. What a time to be alive!

Are you an artist who is ready to begin selling your digital art online? Step one is to create an account at Creative Fabrica! It’s free to join and free to set up your shop. Get started earning passive income from your artwork by visiting HeyYoAva.com/getcreative.

Develop Your Style

While I can draw anything in the world I can see, I’m not great when it comes to drawing from my head. If you’re the same way, I’m going to share a technique in just a minute that helped me immensely in that area.

I spent a lot of time copying the work or others that inspired me. While this was great for developing techniques, it caused two problems:

  1. My work was never truly my own.
  2. It stopped me from developing my own style.

Without these two things, there was no way to monetize my talent.

Make sure you are developing your style as you are developing your talent and technique. I’m going to share a method that was an utter epiphany for me about 2 decades too late.

My Epiphany

I watch ridiculous amounts of YouTube on all different kinds of topics. 

A recommended video popped up in my feed recently that changed my life entitled Studio Vlog 001 from a user named Katnipp.

This is an old screenshot from her channel. 

earn money from your artwork


She’s grown a ton over the last 5 years:

katnipp youtube channel screenshot

Studio vlogs are nothing new, but it was certainly new to me. I watched as Catherine filled orders from her Etsy shop, made stickers to stock her shop, and created a new set of designs for her brand.

I was in awe!

This girl was creating a business and earning a living from her artwork. Not only that, she was doing it from an adorable studio full of expensive equipment!

I picked up a few ideas from Catherine, too. She used a technique that made the bells and whistles in my brain chime. As she was sketching her new designs, she used a red pencil until she liked the designs and scanned them into Procreate which is an Apple application sort of like Photoshop.

I’d seen this red pencil technique before, but for some reason, this time it made me excited. I could use this technique to sketch from my head.

It was like drawing with a regular pencil made design concepts and development feel too final for me. I could draw with a red pencil, and then only go over the parts I liked in black to develop my own designs!

This idea changed my world. 

I started drawing immediately after a long, long hiatus! 

Some other discoveries coincided with this that really culminated the bigger picture for me. I’d just recently been introduced to Creative Fabrica through a friend. 

Light bulbs were going off left and right! All of this coupled with my recent discovery of selling digital downloads on Etsy, learning how to use InkScape to trace hand-drawn designs, and creating Popsockets for Merch set off an explosion in my mind. 

I could create designs and sell them online as digital downloads for others to use in their print on demand business.

So can you!

Katnipp is a fabulous example of someone whose style serves current trends. Her designs are sought after and she has found great success in selling them as stickers, mugs, bookmarks, coasters, and enamel pins.


On the other hand, check out Peter Deligdisch at his Peter Draws YouTube channel. He is amazing and has created a brand and following while pursuing his own unique style.


How to Digitize Your Designs on the Cheap

Having a lot of fancy equipment can make things convenient, but it’s certainly not a requirement.

I’m a person of very limited means. If you’re in the same boat, I can help you with minimal equipment. All my tech is at least a couple of years old and far from cutting edge.

If you’re like me, and you’re much better at creating on paper, then I’m going to share with you how I digitize my designs with a free and open source piece of software called Inkscape. In fact, you may find this list of tools useful.

You can digitize your work with a DSLR camera or scanner, but these options are expensive and require that you do a bit of research to find the best equipment within your price range.

Inkscape is a vector graphics program like Adobe Illustrator without the cost. It has one very important feature called Trace Bitmap that allows me to digitize my work.

I have minimal experience with vector graphic software, but am fairly proficient with Photoshop. I didn’t want to spend a ton of time learning new software, and I didn’t have to.

I can simply take a photo of my hand-drawn design with my phone, open it in Inkscape on my computer, and digitize it with just a couple clicks. The great thing about doing this with Inkscape is that the end result can be scaled without pixelating, and it easily removes the background.

I have a video showing how I do this, but it comes with a warning. I’m not great at video. I can’t talk and work at the same time. 😆

Next Step: Create Your Online Portfolio

Once you’ve figured out your style and how to digitize your work, it’s time to build a showcase.

If you are building your following on a platform like YouTube or Etsy that already gets massive traffic, then you can send that traffic to your website rather than trying to get it organically from the search engines.

So, in this scenario, building your portfolio on a free platform works just fine. I would suggest shelling out a few bucks for a custom domain at some point simply because it looks more professional. 

If you don’t know how to build your own website, then use one of the artist communities already available to you: 

As long as you can upload your images and make them look professional, that’s all you need.

Your portfolio is an optional part of this whole scenario, but it’s always good to have your own place online where your creations can live.

This allows you to build a following outside of the platforms where you choose to sell your wares. You can also build an email list, share links to all of your shops, share your social links, and pretty much whatever your heart desires.

So, it’s not a requirement, but just a good business practice.

There is a space for you and your art. You can earn money from your artwork!

Where and How to Sell Your Art

There are many choices here, and I suggest that you start with just one.

The great news here is that selling digital downloads is one of, if not the easiest, ecommerce model to take on because it doesn’t require you to stock any inventory, ship anything, or have to deal with the headache that any of that entails.

Selling Digital Downloads

You want to offer 5 basic formats:

  1. SVG – Cut File for Cutting Machines (Cricut Design Space, Silhouette Designer Edition)
  2. DXF – Cut File for Cutting Machines (Silhouette Studio)
  3. EPS – Cut File for use in other Vector Softwares
  4. PNG – For Printables, Iron On Transfers
  5. JPEG – For Printables, Iron On Transfers

This allows your customers to use your designs in many different ways. They can create stickers, shirts, mugs, pillow cases, etc. or just use them as clipart and in digital scrapbooking.

Needless to say, you’re covering multiple huge buyers’ markets.

You can create 4 of the 5 file formats with Inkscape. To convert your designs to JPGs without software like Photoshop, you can use the Convert.io website to convert one of the other formats into a JPG file.

5 Platforms Where You Can Set Up Shop

Etsy – Etsy is probably the most well-known in this list. While they began as a place where crafters could sell their handmade items, they have evolved to include crafting supplies. That’s where we come in!

Listings on Etsy cost just 20 cents each every 4 months. That allows you quite a decent profit margin.

CreativeFabrica.com – Creative Fabrica sells only digital graphic design and fonts. With their great membership deals, freebie giveaways, and more, they do all the marketing for you.

It’s free to open a shop and list your items there. They take a small percentage of your sales. It was super easy to get started with CF, and I’ve made 10 times more with them than with Etsy.

DesignBundles.net – This site is a lot like Creative Fabrica except you have to apply to open a shop. This is where your portfolio comes into play because they will ask for the URL. The approval process was super easy, and my shop was earning within just a couple hours of uploading my first designs.

Make sure your designs are completely unique. Not all of my were (had some free for commercial use stuff in the mix), so my shop got shut down as a result. However, they let me keep what I’d made as a credit on their platform and my account, so I’m hoping to reopen with only unique designs in the future.

CreativeMarket.com – This is another one where you have to apply to open a shop. They are super picky about who they approve, but if you include SVG files and fonts in your mix, you should get in.

TheHungryJPEG.com – This one is the same as Creative Market. They are picky, but like to see super clean unique designs and fonts.

If your work is good, you shouldn’t have a problem with these last two.

This isn’t it, when it comes to selling your art though. These are just the places you can sell it as a digital download and earn passive income. Let’s talk about physical products!

Selling Your Art as Physical Products

making money online with print on demand in quarter four

If you’re not comfortable selling commercial licenses for your designs, and would rather build your business as the sole license owner of your work, then print on demand is the way to go.

Using a service like Printful and/or Printify allows you to create many different products from your designs including, but not limited to, prints.

By choosing to sell your art as print on demand products, you can sell them on Etsy, Amazon, eBay, at craft fairs, on your own ecommerce shop, and well, pretty much anywhere.

It doesn’t end here.

You have dozens of options and the ability to reach millions and millions of buyers. There have never been more opportunities to earn a very good living as an artist.

I also want to mention another artist here who sells both physical art and prints.

El Gato Gomez.

I don’t remember exactly how I found her. I think it was looking at Mid-Century Modern stuff on Pinterest. Here’s a quote from her Big Cartel site: 

El Gato Gomez is an artist and designer with a mad penchant for retro design and a genuine passion for social justice. Her artwork combines a vintage aesthetic with a progressive stance. 

Anytime I see her work, it’s usually sold out. She is the epitome of what I mean when I say “develop your style”. Her style obviously resonates with many.

Check out her Instagram.

Scaling Your Business

work for yourself as an artist

Once you’re up and running with your shop and you have a little cash flow, it’s time to think about scaling to the next level. 

It’s quite simple to do that by expanding your current shop, opening additional shops on new platforms, or by choosing to sell physical products.

It is highly feasible that you can create a full-time income and achieve financial freedom from selling your art online. Isn’t that amazing!?!

But wait, there’s even more ways to earn!

Diversifying Your Income Streams

If you enjoy teaching others how to start and develop their own art empires, you can teach what you know through courses, a YouTube channel, or as a member of the growing Creative community on Twitch.tv.

sell your designs online

There are many artists live streaming their work on that platform, and the number is growing all the time. 

The cool thing about Twitch is that it’s easier to reach monetization status on that platform than it is on YouTube. However, don’t ignore YouTube! There is a great opportunity there if you know how to rank your videos. You can earn even before you’re able to monetize your videos!

I’ve seen super small channels do very well there, and I’ve seen channels with just a few thousand subscribers earn 5 figures.

The best news is that you don’t have to appear on camera if you don’t want to. Just show your artwork!

How Much Have I Made?

I’ve made enough to be impressed and experience the potential.

I’m not currently working on my digital stores at the moment. I closed down my Etsy shop because it wasn’t earning much.

Creative Fabrica is my biggest earner and in 5 years, I’ve made $1200 on that platform. This is with very little marketing and very little new art. My mom got sick soon after I started, and I spent 4 years helping care for both of my aging parents.

So, this is the part where I tell you that if you are consistent, you create and upload regularly, and you do a bit of marketing on social media, you’ll do much better than I have.

Final Thoughts

This information is a starting point. It’s up to you to make it to the next level. My mission to help you get started is complete.

My hope if that my advice and somewhat broken dream will help you save yours. 

If yo’re an artist looking to start, drop your links in the comments! I want to check out your stuff!

11 thoughts on “Earn Money From Your Artwork and Never Be a Starving Artist”

  1. This is what I’ve been looking for. I just wrote you this long post about not understanding how this stuff works. I’m not an artist but I know of some designs that I’d like and can’t find. So I’ll explore what you have here and see how I could use this. Thanks for this post. How did I miss this one?

  2. Me too! This is what I’ve been looking for. So happy when this appeared in the search results. I’ve been looking at Creative Fabrica and wondering about the links I have to provide to open a shop: Link(s) to your products or shops & Links to your design portfolio. I’ve had no response from Support about the following…

    I don’t have any products or shops, do you think I could just upload some designs to an image hosting site like photobucket, or would it be better to create a website? I just know that if I create a website, I’m going to be tweaking it FOREVER and never actually put my portfolio on it. 🙂

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for stopping by. Creative Fabrica is severely lacking when it comes to documentation…and probably support as well when it comes to answering queries. I have contacted support to change the main image on my listings before and have had them contact me about a zip file they couldn’t open. They eventually got it open and fixed it for me on my listing.

      I don’t remember exactly what their application process was like, but it was simple, and I applied with this really shoddy portfolio – https://quietdeluxe.com/portfolio/

      You could probably apply with something as simple as Instagram or a Behance page. I suppose an image host could work, but if you’re going to be uploading images anyway, you might as well make it something you can use as an asset.

      It’s always good to have a website, but if you don’t have a plan to create content for your site consistently and it’s just going to be a time-suck for you, then I really do recommend building an asset and using that for your portfolio. Something that will promote your efforts at the same time. A social media account can and will do that for you.

      Best of luck. Thanks for subscribing!!!

  3. That’s a great shoddy portfolio, if I may say so! Simple, compact and clean definitely works for me. *slaps forehead* Yes-yes, a social media account makes perfect sense.

    Thanks Ava!

  4. Hi,
    I came across your blog post as I was searching for info on Creative Fabrica. I was
    wondering how is Creative Fabrica working out for you since you posted this article? I’m looking for a platform to sell my graphics to print on demand designers and thought Creative Fabrica might be an option.

    1. Hi Liz, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. In Q4 of 2018, I made $300 just from Creative Fabrica alone with my Halloween and Christmas seasonal graphics. This year, I’ve already made around $100. The items sold all year, but not as well as when they are in season. My mom fell ill, so I wasn’t able to create and post all through the year as I planned, but I was pleased to see the items pick up and start selling again this year. Not to mention I wasn’t able to expand to the additional platforms I mentioned. You can actually upload to all of them at once to diversify your income streams.

      I also have the same inventory on Etsy. Last year, Esty sold under $100, but this year, it’s the opposite. It is currently outselling my CF shop. I would definitely encourage you to sell your designs. I’ve done well and my stuff isn’t that great or even that original. I you wish the best, and I’d love to hear back from you about how things go!


  5. Hey! I was wondering how many products do you have/had at the time of these earnings on Creative Fabrica and ho the payment form subscriptions is working for you?

    1. Hi Maya, I had less than 20 items…like maybe 16-ish. My most recent withdrawal was about 85 bucks for a few months and I haven’t really uploaded anything new since I wrote this post. Maybe one Christmas pack of vintage items. I’m not getting rich, but I’m also putting in like zero effort. I have plans to ramp this up and update it soon.

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