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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Licensing Art to the Calendar Industry

Calendar manufacturers produce all kinds (desk, mini wall, engagement, daily, pocket) but the most popular is the monthly wall calendar that has 12 art images based on one theme. The standard themes for many manufacturers are cats/kittens, dogs/puppies, butterflies, birds and flowers. And depending on their consumer base, some also produce calendars with themes such as Americana, country, and specific hobbies like quilting. Thus, artists MUST do their homework and research what kind of art a manufacturer uses BEFORE submitting art to them.  

When looking at calendar manufacturer websites, notice what kind of art themes they have and the number of different calendars for each theme. For instance, how many cat calendars do they have. If it is more than one? Is it by the same artist or by a different artist with a completely different art style? Calendar manufacturers tend to license art year-after-year from the same artists if the calendars sell well. So unless your art style is completely different and also if the manufacturer feels they can add more calendars with same theme to their product line you will probably be unsuccessful in getting a deal no matter how good your art. For that reason, it is hard to license art to some calendar manufacturers unless the themes are different from the standard themes, that are popular and on-trend, and the manufacturer is willing to take a chance they will sell. Not all manufacturers are willing to take a chance in this economy but some do. For example, several years ago artist Tara Reed was right-on-trend and created images for a "green" calendar as shown in her blog article "Be Green! Be Crafty! Be Healthy!" She was successful in licensing it to Trends International for 2010 and another "green" calendar for 2011. Way to go Tara!

Calendar manufacturers generally want art that: 
1. has themes that appeal to the general consumer. However, some manufacturers do produce calendars that has the art for niche markets such as western, fantasy, and sports. Also, some manufacturers produce calendars strictly for niche markets such as Amber Lotus Publishing with their metaphysical, healing, and spiritual themes.  

2. is already formatted for their calendars. There is no universal format and each manufacturer has an unique format. For instance, The Lang Company normal uses art that is 12-3/4 by 10-3/8 inches for their wall calendars. Others use rectangular or square art that fits into their more square shaped calendars. So it is advisable when painting for the calendar industry to create art that can be cropped or edited to fit a variety of calendar shapes. However, some art is used as painted no matter the format and placed on backgrounds to fit the calendar format. But, I do not like the look and think this detracts from the art and the overall look of the calendar page.   

3. has themes that are suitable for calendars. It is unlikely that you will get a deal for themes that are not popular to the mass market although most manufacturers do produce calendars for some niche markets. Also if the theme is for a certain season as Christmas it is unlikely a manufacturer will produce it because Christmas is thought to be only for December. BUT any calendar theme may be possible to license. I am wrong about not being able to license a Christmas /Winter themed calendar. See Susan Winget's "Sam Snowman" calendar licensed to The Lang Company. Thus, if you think a theme is licensable for calendars and has enough consumer interest go for it because you never know. Note: A snowman calendar probably works because there are many consumers that love snowmen.  

4. the artist is willing to edit (change colors, remove icons, reformat) to their specifications.  

5. is in a collection of at least 12 paintings (one for each month) for wall calendars. But more paintings are better so that the manufacturer can have a choice on which ones they prefer.  

Calendar Manufacturers: 



Read more articles about other manufacturers under the Topics section on the side bar.  

Make sure you read the comments to this article.  Consultant Jeff Grinspan posted an informative comment about the calendar industry!    

I welcome any comments. Please click on comments section at the bottom to write your comment.


  1. That's funny Joan, I was just looking at calendars yesterday, my art-match/research day exploring retail products and markets :) Great article and thanks for the very useful links!

  2. Thank you thank you!It was just what I was looking for! Very informative.

  3. Just what I needed to get me back into my studio...after spending too much time in my summer garden...THANKS

  4. Joan... two interesting items of note re: calendars.. most publishers want 13 images- 12 for the months but usuallly a 13th for the cover! also, based on my experience and discussions i have had with calendar publishers-up to 80% of the following year's calenders are done by the existing artist/photographer- the publishers base what they will show on sales for current year- under the assumption that consumers are dedicated to a particular artist or theme or style.. oh and photography generally sells better than art...