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Intro to Art Licensing | Part 1

I get a lot of questions about the wonderful (and very strange) world of art licensing and surface design, so I decided to start a series to help people navigate the industry. Designers, Illustrators, Lettering artists and fine artists can all get involved with art licensing, but there’s so much information to share that isn’t readily available.

Intro To Art Licensing and Surface Design


I started licensing about four years ago. I was a freelance designer, just dipping my feet into the world of illustration and lettering. I had an opportunity to work with a wonderful client in the paper goods world, and it was a perfect fit for the type of work I was creating. However, I quickly learned that the project was a royalty percentage of sales, instead of a flat fee – so I had some research to do! I spent hours googling, and getting in touch with industry friends, signed the contract – and made a very important shift in my business.


I created about 18 pieces (lettering, quotes, illustration, patterns) for this company to license (use for a specific period of time and terms) – sort of like “renting”. Then, I received a small (but mighty) percentage of sales once the product was put on the market.


It was incredible to see my work in big box stores, professionally photographed, and shared with people all over the nation! I knew it was time to find more clients. I spent the better part of the next year and a half working on building a licensing portfolio (more on that later) and immersing myself into the world – making new friends, reading articles, researching companies, taking classes on Skillshare, and soaking in everything I could.


A lot of licensing is sort of “up in the air” – you may create a piece with the idea that i’d be perfect for a greeting card for Trader Joes (yes please), but then a client wants it, and see’s it working so well for a reusable shopping bag. It’s important that you start to think of your art working in multiple ways so you can create pieces that buyers will love, and see a vision for! Buyers often have really cool ideas for bringing a piece to life – like die-cutting, flocking, foils and even pop-ups that are really amazing to see in person!

Over the next few posts, I’m going to share as much as I can about the world of licensing. I’ll help you determine if it’s right for you, and point you in the right direction for resources and industry standards. If this gets your SO EXCITED OMG then be sure to sign up for our class Art Licensing for Letterers!

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Represented by Jennifer Vaughn Artist Agency. For commercial work please contact Jen Vaughn at jen@jenvaughnart.com or 760-808-2462