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The Artist‘s Guide to Selling Custom Art on Etsy in 2023

Are you an artist looking to share your work with the world and make a living doing what you love? With over 7.5 million active buyers and over $10 billion in gross merchandise sales in 2020 alone, Etsy provides a massive opportunity for artists to turn their passion into a thriving online business.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll dive into the world of selling custom art on Etsy, from finding your niche to optimizing your shop and maximizing your sales. Whether you‘re a painter, illustrator, or digital artist, you‘ll discover actionable tips and strategies to stand out in a competitive market and build a loyal customer base.

The Opportunity of Selling Art on Etsy

Before we dive into the how-to, let‘s look at some eye-opening stats that highlight just how much opportunity exists for artists on Etsy:

  • There are currently over 120 million items for sale on Etsy, many of them in the art and collectibles category
  • In 2020, 39% of Etsy buyers purchased items in the "Home and Living" category, which includes art and decor
  • The average Etsy buyer spent over $100 in 2020, demonstrating a willingness to invest in unique, high-quality items
  • 88% of Etsy buyers agreed that Etsy has items they can‘t find anywhere else

What‘s more, the demand for personalized, one-of-a-kind items is only growing. A recent survey by Etsy found that nearly 50% of buyers were interested in purchasing custom or personalized items in the upcoming holiday season.

For artists, this presents a huge opportunity to connect with buyers looking for unique, meaningful pieces to express their style or gift to others. And as an Etsy seller, you have access to a global market of millions of buyers specifically looking to shop from independent creators.

Finding Your Niche

One of the keys to succeeding as an Etsy seller is finding a profitable and specific niche. Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, focusing on a particular style, medium, or subject matter allows you to differentiate your shop, target a specific audience, and establish yourself as an expert in your niche.

To identify potential niches, start by considering your own artistic strengths and passions. What subjects do you love to create? What mediums or styles do you most enjoy working in? Reflect on the pieces that have resonated most with others or generated the most interest from potential buyers.

Next, do some market research to identify underserved or trending niches. Use Etsy‘s search bar to see what keywords shoppers are searching for, and analyze the top results to see what‘s currently performing well. Tools like eRank and Marmalead can provide further insights into keyword search volume, competition, and trending items.

Some potential art niches to consider include:

  • Custom pet portraits
  • Personalized family or couple illustrations
  • Hand-lettered quotes or signage
  • Vintage-inspired travel posters
  • Fandom art and fan art
  • Birth stat prints and baby milestone art
  • Architectural renderings or house portraits
  • Botanical or scientific illustrations

The key is to find a niche that combines your unique artistic skills and passions with proven customer demand. Don‘t be afraid to put your own creative spin on trending items or come up with something completely new!

Creating Your Etsy Shop

Once you‘ve identified your niche, it‘s time to set up shop on Etsy. Your shop is essentially your storefront on the platform, so it‘s important to create a professional, cohesive, and memorable brand experience.

Start by choosing a memorable shop name that reflects your brand and niche. Keep it short, simple, and easy to spell. If your shop name is already taken, consider adding a word like "studio," "designs," or "art" to make it unique.

Next, create a shop logo and banner using Canva or Adobe Illustrator. Opt for a clean, professional design that communicates your brand aesthetic and personality. Use your brand colors consistently across your logo, banner, and product photos to create a cohesive look.

Fill out your shop‘s About section and policies thoroughly. Your About section is an opportunity to share your story, process, and what makes your artwork unique. Use a friendly, conversational tone to help customers connect with the person behind the art.

In your shop policies, clearly outline your production process, turnover times, shipping policies, and return or refund policies. This helps build trust with potential buyers and sets expectations.

Finally, consider your shop organization and navigation. Organize your products into clear, logical sections using Etsy‘s Category and Section features. Use high-quality, eye-catching thumbnail images to entice shoppers to click through to your listings.

Crafting High-Converting Listings

Your Etsy listings are your key to converting browsers into buyers and earning sales. An effective listing should capture attention, showcase your artwork in the best light, and communicate all the key details a buyer needs to feel confident purchasing from you.

Start with high-quality, professional product photos. Invest in a DSLR camera or hire a product photographer to capture your art in bright, natural lighting against a clean backdrop. Show multiple angles and details to give buyers a clear idea of what they‘re purchasing. You can also use mockups or lifestyle photos to help buyers envision how the piece will look in their space.

When writing your listing titles and descriptions, use clear, concise language and incorporate relevant keywords naturally. Your titles should be descriptive and attention-grabbing, while your descriptions should tell the story behind the piece, highlight its unique features, and anticipate any questions a buyer might have.

Some specific details to include in your descriptions:

  • Item specifications (size, materials, framing, etc.)
  • Your process for creating the piece
  • Customization options
  • Production and shipping timelines
  • Care instructions
  • Your story and inspiration as an artist

Use all 13 available tags to help your listings get found in Etsy search, and don‘t forget to fill out attributes like color and style to make your listings more discoverable.

Finally, set your prices based on the cost of materials, your time, labor, and the overall value you‘re providing to buyers. Don‘t underprice your work, but also consider what similar items in your niche are selling for to stay competitive.

Marketing Your Shop

While Etsy brings in millions of shoppers organically, relying on the platform alone to bring in sales will only get you so far. To truly grow your art business, you need a multi-channel marketing strategy that gets your work in front of your ideal customers on and off Etsy.

Some effective marketing strategies for Etsy artists include:

  • Optimizing your shop and listings for Etsy search using relevant keywords, attributes, and tags
  • Leveraging Etsy Ads to showcase your listings to high-intent buyers
  • Building an email list of past customers and interested shoppers to nurture with exclusive content, discounts, and promotions
  • Showcasing your process and latest work on social media channels like Instagram and TikTok, and driving followers back to your Etsy shop
  • Collaborating with influencers or brands in your niche to get your work in front of new audiences
  • Participating in Etsy‘s community through teams, forums, and local events to network and learn from other sellers
  • Running targeted social media ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to reach new potential customers

Remember, marketing is not a one-time effort, but rather an ongoing process of experimenting, analyzing, and refining your approach based on what resonates with your unique audience.

Streamlining Custom Orders

One of the joys of selling custom art is the opportunity to create meaningful, one-of-a-kind pieces that perfectly fit your customer‘s needs and preferences. However, the custom order process can also be time-consuming and challenging to scale without the right systems in place.

To streamline your custom order workflow, start by setting clear boundaries and expectations upfront. Use a standardized order form or questionnaire to gather all the necessary details and references from your customer before starting the project. This might include preferred colors, sizes, references photos, and specific customization requests.

Next, create templates or mockups to help customers visualize the final product and make the revision process smoother. Tools like Canva and Photoshop make it easy to create professional mockups that you can edit and share with customers digitally before finalizing the design.

As you work on the custom piece, send your customer regular updates and work-in-progress photos to get their feedback and ensure you‘re aligned. Use project management tools like Trello or Asana to keep track of deadlines, revisions, and client communication all in one place.

Finally, consider ways to turn one-off custom orders into recurring revenue streams. Could you turn a customer‘s custom design into a new product offering in your shop? Or could you offer personalization options on existing products to cater to customers looking for something unique?

By systematizing your custom order process and finding ways to bring in recurring business, you can scale your custom art business without burning out or sacrificing quality.

Scaling with Print-on-Demand and Digital Downloads

While original art pieces and custom commissions can be profitable, they also require significant time and effort to produce and ship. To scale your Etsy art business and create more passive revenue streams, consider adding print-on-demand products or digital downloads to your shop.

Print-on-demand services like Printful and Printify allow you to upload your designs and offer them on a variety of products like prints, canvases, t-shirts, mugs, and more. When a customer orders a product, the print-on-demand service handles the printing, packaging, and shipping, allowing you to focus on creating new designs.

Digital downloads like art prints, phone wallpapers, and coloring pages provide another way to make money from your art without the added costs and logistics of physical production. Simply upload your file to Etsy, and customers can purchase and download it instantly. You create the file once and can sell it an unlimited number of times.

By diversifying your product offerings with print-on-demand and digital downloads, you can reach new customers, scale your business more easily, and generate passive income from your art.


Selling custom art on Etsy can be a fulfilling way to turn your creativity into a profitable online business. By finding your niche, optimizing your shop and listings, marketing strategically, streamlining your custom order process, and diversifying your product offerings, you can build a loyal customer base and make a living doing what you love.

Remember, success on Etsy takes time, effort, and continuous experimentation. Stay curious, open to feedback, and focused on providing value and great customer experiences. With persistence and creativity, you can build a thriving art business and share your unique vision with the world.