Art shows: Selling matted photographs

Selling matted prints:

I sometimes print new images in the smaller sizes, mat them and place them in the print rack. I then see what the customer response is.  If a specific art piece gets a good response or sells in the smaller size, I then print that image up in a larger size.

You do not want to make 2 or 10 of the same images and size with the idea that if you sell one you have a replacement so you do not run out.  Start off with one or one of the same images in two sizes to see if it is popular with the customers.  If you have a selected group of photographs that sell more often, then I would have a spare replacement print for just those images. For full time traveling artist, you need to have more duplicate prints.

If the customer is looking for a smaller or larger print of a photograph they see, let them know you can custom print it for them and mail them the print.  In this situation, I charge a reasonable shipping cost. Many people traveling do not want to carry larger artwork with them. If they live out of State and you mail it to them, you most likely do not need to charge sales tax which makes up for the additional shipping costs. You just cannot keep every image in stock of all sizes.  The availability to print on demand and this mailing option is how I handle this.   Larger prints can be rolled up in a tube for mailing and do not need to be mailed flat.

On special orders sometimes custom packing and mailing can be time consuming and expensive for larger flat prints. If the customer is local, I find it more convenient to make an appointment and just drop it off at their house. The customers do not seem to mind and still pay a delivery fee that is equivalent or less than any shipping costs.

Sunrise at Mesa Arch








How many different sizes for matted prints:  The general rule is that you do not want the sizes to be too close to each other or the customer will most likely select the lower cost smaller size.  For photography, the size usually refers to the outside mat size and not the print image size.  Popular mat sizes are 8×10, 11×14 and 16×20 or 18×24 and larger.  If you sell note cards, you may not sell many 8×10 matted prints since the note cards are cheaper and may be close in size.

If a customer wants to only purchase the larger matted print they see in a frame.  I am happy to remove the frame and sell them the matted print only.  Many customers know they can frame it themselves at a lower cost or they may prefer another frame color or style. Take the money for the sale and then let the customer know to come back a little later and you will have the matted print ready for them to pick up. It helps to have a few Clear Bags of various sizes for this purpose since most shopping bags are not designed or will fit large flat art items.

I see many artist display matted prints in a print rack or other container and have many of them on their side so the image is not upright. Many artist seem to be OK by this and even if they notice it do not correct the situation even when the container will fit the prints in both directions. I feel it is always better for the customer to see the artwork as it would be displayed on a wall. For some reason, this bothers me since I have never been to a gallery and seen work displayed on its side. I recommend as part of your final setup check that you go through your print racks and look for sideways prints.

Sometimes when I exhibit my art in alternate gallery locations such as a coffee house or other business, I may have two different prices on a framed art title card, one price for the artwork framed and a lower price for non-framed. I am in the job of selling art, not frames and I try to be flexible when it comes to trying to meet the customer’s needs and price points.

While most artist sell matted prints with the standard 4-ply mat board backing, some do use 3/8″ foam core as the backing behind a matted print. Foam core is thicker and with the total combined thickness of the top mat, print and the foam core backing, the matted prints will not fit into many standard frames that the customer may purchase. The ability to not use a frame that the customer bought because the print matting is too thick, could upset the customer and cause them to purchase a more expensive custom frame.

I feel that using foam core backing makes the prints in the print rack seem more high end for some reason and could be beneficial when just used as a support backing, in a clear bag, to an unmated print or original painting that is not attached to the foam core. Another issue with foam core is that you can not get as many prints in the print rack since they take up more room.

For matted prints which could include photography or other mediums such as matted watercolors or prints of paintings, I try to keep the outside mat size to a standard frame size.  If they buy a matted print for $70.00, they may be upset if they need to spend another $135.00 on a custom frame at twice the price of a standard frame. A happy customer is more likely to be a repeat customer that might start collecting your art. As a selling feature, I often inform the customers that my mats are a standard size and this gives them the option to purchase a less expensive ready-made frame instead of a custom frame.

Unsold Matted Prints:

How I handle matted prints that have not sold: I currently have three sizes of matted prints and refer to my 11 x 14 mat size here in this example. I currently carefully take the prints out of my 11 x 14 mats that have not sold for a while. The actual image is 7 x 10.5 being printed on 8 x 12 photo paper. I then reuse the old 11 x 14 mat (top and backing board) by placing a new print image in the mat and protect it with a new 11 x 14 Clear Bag. I use archival double stick tape to hold my mats together and it is possible to just run your finger between the two parts of the old mat and separate the two pieces without harming the mat. Since the cost of the mats is more than the actual print image, I can save a lot of money by reusing my older mats that are in perfect condition.








I used to write, with a pencil, the image title on the lower left section of the mat below the image. This caused a problem in which I could not reuse the mat with a new image so I no longer do this. I now have the image title on the Bio information sheet on the back of my matted prints. I still have my signature on my mat fronts but that only limits to the image replacement to be of the same vertical or horizontal format.

What I do with my old removed prints: In this case the outside photo paper dimensions are 8 x 12 with a 7 x 10.5 image showing with a white border. I ordered some Clear Bags in the specific size of 8 x 12 and also ordered some 8 x 12 mat backing board. I simply take the Clear Bag and put in the backing board and print and seal the bag. I place these prints in a separate bin and sell them for $19.95 instead of the matted version which sells for about twice the price.

I find that this helps sell my older prints and also give the customer, on a lower budget, another price point that might work for them. You can also use this method of selling prints with no top custom cut mat and just a backing board and Clear Bag for odd sized prints such as panoramic’s or just larger prints such as 16 x 20 size or larger. Some customers purchasing larger unframed prints would be interested in handling the framing themselves.


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