As an artist myself I love to look and see where art is bought and sold online, and while it may be a bit confusing about where to find the best artwork at good prices from trusted merchants, there are a few that I have found that look really good.
The problem with buying original artwork online is that it is usually an expensive purchase and it’s hard to know the quality of the painting you are getting. So let me break down a few of the top online destinations for original artwork to enlighten your search. As always, please check out my paintings for sale where you can buy online and I’ll ship right to your door!
Pricing: Wide. $100-20,000+
Ease of Use: The site is clean and simple. You can easily filter down paintings by nearly every possible element: size, price, medium, artist, color, etc. User friendly to the max.
Variety: Ugallery has the whole spectrum covered. They have every fine art medium from paintings to sculptures, photography, prints, and more. They have every size, color, and price range imaginable. Think of it as the Amazon of art.
Quality of Work: Very high quality. Every painting is juried by Ugallery staff.
Return Policy: 7-Day no-risk return policy. They pay return shipping.
Test Artwork in Home: Yes, try it in your home for 7 days. They will pay for return shipping if you don’t want to buy it.
Designer Discount: Yes
Ugallery.com works closely with artists to ensure that the artist, seller and buyer all benefit. They claim that 70% of their artists sell and they give artists many tools to promote their art. They have a daily deal email that goes out every day, where one piece of art is discounted at 50% off. Definitely one of the top destinations for quality original artwork.
Pricing: Most in the $100-$500 range. Some as low as $25, some as high at $2,000+
Ease of Use: It’s a little difficult to find art, since it’s hidden under Home & Garden strangely. There’s also not many filters to sort through different types of art besides the medium, so you’re looking at a random assortment within each medium for the most part.
Variety: There’s a wide assortment, from collages to paintings to figurines & art objects. It’s hard to separate what’s original and what’s not unless you pay attention to the description or only look in the Originals category.
Quality of Work: The quality ranges from amateurish to semi-pro. Not too many high-profile artists on here, but some good mid range ones. There’s a large emphasis on vintage art, so a great place to find rare pieces.
Return Policy: You have to look at each individual Shop Policy to find their terms for refunds. This makes it a little murky, but most shop owners are eager to work with you.
Test Artwork in Home: Varies by shop. Contact the shop owner for details or read their Shop Policy.
Designer Discount: Depends on each shop. Some may give discounts to designers who buy in volume.
Pricing: All over the place. From $5 small originals to $16,000 Picassos.
Ease of Use: Average. There are tons and tons of filters, so it takes a little while to find exactly what you want.
Variety: eBay has every type of artwork imaginable from oil paintings to stuff that you probably wouldn’t consider art.
Quality of Work: Ranges from extremely amateurish to Picassos.
Return Policy: Varies by seller. Make sure to pay close attention to the details of each item, you don’t want to make a mistake here.
Test Painting in Home: Again, varies by seller. Most offer a 14-30 day return policy, with the buyer paying return shipping. eBay also offers buyer protection to cover the return costs and shipping if there is a discrepancy between what’s advertised and what you get.
Designer Discount: No general designer discount, but you might work one out with the seller.
eBay is almost the wild west of art. Almost anything can be listed at any price by anyone. The quality and authenticity varies by seller. You can find some really good deals from up and coming artists or hidden auctions, so it’s a gold mine for treasure hunters. For those who are limited by time and want to ensure the best quality, eBay may take too much time. For those that love the thrill of the hunt and looking for good bargains without too many limitations.
Pricing: $25-$8,000+ Plus free shipping in the U.S. or $8 international.
Ease of Use: Zatista is very friendly for the buyer looking for original art since, like Ugallery, they specialize in it.
Variety: The site is dominantly focused towards original paintings, with photographs coming in at a distant second place. There are a few other types such as mixed media and drawings as well, but not nearly as much as paintings. Within each type there are a variety of mediums such as oil, acrylic, and watercolor in paintings. Each type and medium has a wide range of styles of work as well, so there is a bounty to choose from.
Quality of Work: Zatista is very scrutinous and make it clear that they only accept original work. All Artists and Galleries must be reviewed and approved by Zatista’s Art Review Board. Each and every work of art on Zatista is 100% unique, 100% original.
Return Policy: Returns are easy at Zatista with free shipping both ways. They don’t seem to have a clear limit on the number of days you have to return your bought piece, so you can buy with confidence as all of the work is 100% guaranteed.
Test Painting in Home: They don’t have a program set up to test the paintings, but since it’s free shipping both ways within the United States, they make it easy to test it in your home for a few days and send it back if you don’t like it.
Designer Discount: Zatista does not seem to offer an apparent designer discount. You can contact them directly to request one. Designers will get a dedicated account manager to help them with their purchases, however.
5. Artist Websites (Various)
Pricing: $5-$100,000+. This is such a broad category and artists prices are all over the place, that it depends on the artist.
Ease of Use: Unfortunately, a lot of artists’ personal websites are very rudimentary, and there are very few that you can actually purchase art from directly. Most artist websites are just for displaying their work with the hope you will visit their gallery or give them a call. We see artist websites getting better as more and more people feel comfortable purchasing expensive works online, but currently the big websites listed above provide a much better customer experience when buying art.
Variety: The variety runs the gamut. All types of artists in all fields have personal art websites, some better than others. On the individual artist’s website, however, there will be little variety in terms of the medium of works.
Quality of Work: Most artists who take the time to create their own website are invested in the process and see themselves as professionals, so you will generally see higher quality work on the artist’s website than you would see generally on eBay or Etsy, where there are more beginning artists.
Return Policy: This varies widely. Generally, artists want to have a good relationship with their customers so they will work with you if you have a problem with the painting. Talk to the artist first to make it clear before you make the purchase, or read their return policy thoroughly on their site.
Test Painting in Home: A lot of artists will allow you to test out the painting or art piece in your home, though this is less likely if you live far away from the artist or in another country. It works best with local artists that you can meet because artists are less willing to ship their work for a test when they don’t have much legal protection.
Designer Discount: When selling multiple paintings or when trying to forge a relationship with a designer, artists will often give discounts. Again, this depends widely on the artist themselves so talk to your favorite artist first.
Art.sy is a brand new site that promises to take online art buying to a new level. Making original art accessible to anyone with an internet connection. Art.sy is powered by The Art Genome Project®, an ongoing study of the characteristics that distinguish and connect works of art – similar to the Music Genome Project that powers Pandora.com. The site is invite-only at this point and still in the beta stage, so be on the lookout for this one soon.
With so many options available to the new art buyer, it may seem daunting to have to choose between all the art out there in the world. But follow a few of these steps first and you will be able to shop and purchase new art with confidence.
1. Begin with a Broad Overview
If you are just looking into buying new art for the first time, or you are still new at the process, begin by surveying all the options out there so you can get a good feeling for what is available. This is a good time to get your bearings and have a feeling for the art landscape as a whole. If you know what type of art you want such as impressionist oil paintings or watercolor paintings, this narrows down the search. Great places to get a broad overview are live events such as art walks, art shows, open art galleries, or online art galleries. If you will be visiting an art walk or art event, most of these events have the artists’ work available online, so it’s a good idea to research the art work and pick out your favorite paintings before you go to the show.
2. Look at Artist Bio and Materials
Most artist will have a bio, resume, artist statement, or brochure describing who they are as an artist. This is a good opportunity to understand where their work is coming from, and allows you to connect with the art better. It also gives you the chance to see their past accomplishments and awards and how well known they are. Some artists also have a photo book of all their past paintings so you can see the range of all their work rather than just the few paintings they have displayed live.
3. Talk to the Artists
As artists, we love talking to people who are interested in our work. This is our life’s passion, so naturally we love talking about our work and hearing what you are looking for in a painting. If you like a particular painting, point it out to the artist, or if you have any questions, ask away. Artists get lots of lookie-loos at shows, so having a real conversation about a piece is fun for the artist and the buyer. You’d be surprised about how much you can learn from a brief chat about a painting with the artist. If you are looking for a painting for a particular room in your house or office, give the artist information about where you will hang the painting and what type of room it is, and they can help you decide what size painting will work the best.
4. Inspect the Artwork
When you find a painting that you are thinking of buying, take a closer look at the painting and look for any marks or dents on the canvas or frame. Ask questions about the materials of the painting, since you wan this to last a long time. Most artist paint on archival quality canvas or boards meant to last a long time, but it is good to double check for piece of mind. Ask about the painting process, and the artist can tell you how much work and thought went into the painting, information you normally wouldn’t get just by staring at the painting.
5. Purchase with Confidence
Once you have thoroughly inspected the painting you fell in love with, buy it! If you can afford the painting and you truly love it, a new painting will add richness and joy to your life. If you are buying in person, all artists will take cash, and most can accept credit card through their gallery or through the art show they are exhibiting at. Buying paintings online is quickly becoming more and more common, and it is very safe if you are buying from a trustworthy site. One way to buy from an individual artist online is by purchasing their art directly from their website and paying with PayPal (like I have set up). PayPal is a very safe credit card processing system that protects the buyer’s credit or debit card information and pays the artist. Alternative ways to buy from the artist are through their eBay auction or Etsy store online.
6. If You’re Undecided
There are two common situations when buyers find an artist they love, but they are unsure on buying a specific painting. First, most artists will allow a local buyer to try out a painting in their home for a week. This is an excellent way to test drive the art and see how it will look once you get it home. The best way to do this is to walk into the gallery where the artist is displaying and talk to them personally. If you live within a reasonable distance from the gallery they will often let you take the painting home once they have your credit card on file as a backup. The second option is to commission a piece from the artist. Some artists do not do commissions, but a lot of them are open to paint a custom scene or portrait for you. A lot of commissions are based of a sentimental memory the buyer has, whether it is a scene near the town they grew up in, or a figure painting of one of their loved ones. Talk to your artist and they will most certainly be happy to work with you.
Buying a new art piece can be a time consuming, but overall satisfying process. Some art buyers know exactly what they want when they see it, while others have to take awhile to decide. Everybody is a bit different, so working with your favorite artist and asking them questions will make the process much smoother.
There are added perks to buying a piece of art that you love, since a lot of artist continue the relationship with their collectors after the piece is sold. Many artists will send their collectors images of their new art before they put it out for sale to the public. Also, artists will often invite people who have bought their art so special art events and shows, or give private showings. In the end, it’s a beautiful process, and I think we can all agree we need a little more art in the world.