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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Editorial: Art Licensing Myths continued (myth #7 to #12)

My first article about art licensing myths "Editorial: Art Licensing Myths" listed six art licensing myths (#1. License your art so you do not have to work so hard, #2. License your art if you are broke and need money. #3. Any art can be licensed. #4. One design can be licensed for ALL products. #5. An artist will get many licensing deals by signing with an agency. #6. Licensing revenue is always from royalties.) This is a continuation of that article with comments on six more myths.

Why I am writing this article is that I do not want artists to enter the art licensing industry with misconceptions. These are my opinions but others in the art licensing industry may have different ones. It is always a good idea to get several opinions and not depend on only one viewpoint.

Myth #7: An artist must have an agent or manufacturer sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) before showing art.
In theory asking an agent or manufacturer to sign a NDA before an artist shows her/his art is wise. But most likely, neither will be willing to sign it. An agent will not sign because she/he would need to get an attorney to review it before signing. The agent is not willing to take the time or spend the money to hire an attorney to view unknown properties.

Manufacturers will not sign a NDA because they MAY have already licensed or plan to license similar art. Different artists creating the same art themes with a similar art style happens more often than you would think. Note: When an artist asks a manufacture to sign a NDA, it is like waving a red flag because they think that the artist may be litigious (sue happy). Thus, they will steer clear of any relationship with her/him.

Instead of trying to get a NDA signed before showing art, find out if the company is honest and does not rob art. Most likely manufacturers that license a lot of art is honest because they cannot afford to get a bad reputation. If you are not sure if a manufacturer is reputable, ask experienced licensed artists.

Myth #8: Agents not only manage the business part of licensing but track trends, guide the artist in what art to create, and critics it.
Yes, some agents will be art directors and give artists ideas on what to paint and also critic the art. And some will follow trends, subscribe to trend reports and pass trend information on to their artists. However, many do not. These agencies think that their job is to market the art, get deals and track licensing deals. They do not have the time or expertise to be art directors. They depend on the individual artist to follow trends and create the art by themselves or with their own resources. If you want or need art direction from an agent, find out if it is offered by the agency BEFORE signing on with them.

Myth #9: There is a manufacturer art size and file format standard.
There is no such thing as a standard size or shape of art needed by manufacturers. Size and shape of the art depends on the product produced by each manufacturer. The type of the file format depends on their requirements but many accept jpg files at 300 dpi.

Note: Artist Will Tait reminded me to clarify that art files should NOT be saved as jpg but as Photoshop psd files and then converted to jpg before sending to manufacturers.  Go to the comment section in this article to read his comment about file formats and saving them.

Art should be created large enough so that the resolution will not be lost when placed on most products. For instance, if art is painted on a 5 by 7 inch sheet of paper (standard size for greeting cards) the resolution will NOT be good enough when enlarged for a 28 by 40 inch decorative flag. Read "Art Licensing Tip: Creating the Correct Art Size" for more information.

Myth #10: There is a standard time of the year for submitting art to manufacturers.

There is NO certain time of year to submit art themes to manufacturers. Each manufacturer has their own schedule and it can vary each year. For instance, Christmas art (a huge category for most manufacturers) could be requested from one flag company in September and another in January or February. And the following year the submission schedule could be different. In fact, I find myself creating Christmas art all year because of the variety of manufacturers requesting Christmas art and their different production schedules.

It is advisable to contact manufacturers before submitting art. Find out what art themes they are looking for and ask for their submission guidelines and submission schedule if they are not already listed on their website. Also ask to be put on their list for submission call-outs (cattle-calls) if they do them. For more information about cattle-calls see Myth 12.

Myth #11: Manufacturers prefer to license art from agents than from individual artists.
Most manufacturers do not have a preference in licensing art from an agency or an artist because both have their advantages and disadvantages. Agencies have a variety of art styles, a large amount of art and are experienced in negotiating contracts. Artists representing their own art may not be as experienced so they accept a lower licensing fee than an agency. However, artists getting lower licensing fees than agencies is not always due to lack of negotiating experience. Some manufacturers routinely offer a higher licensing fee to agencies than to artists representing their own art. The reason is to offset some of the lost revenue to the agency and to the artist because of the agent/artist partnership (revenue split among them).

Another advantage for the manufacturer when licensing art from an artist is that they have direct access to the artist when the art needs to be edited to their specifications. Some agencies require the manufacturer to filter editing requests through them. But as said above most manufacturers do not care if they license art from an agency or art because if they like the art they will license it from either one.

Myth #12: Participating in manufacturers call-for-submissions (cattle-calls) is a waste of time.
Participating or not participating in call-outs /cattle-calls is probably not a myth but a personal preference. Some artists consider it a waste of time because the likely hood in getting a licensing deal is low since hundreds of artists submit art to them. However, I find it beneficial to participate in cattle-calls such as learning what themes are popular for certain categories and helping me stay focused in creating art because of the deadlines. Learn more by reading "Thoughts on Doing CattleCalls - Should You?"

Any suggests or comments that you would like to share about this article would be greatly appreciated. Click on the comment section below.


  1. Great blog post, Joan! Thanks for keeping your blog updated with new material- it's really helpful and inspirational to see other artists making their way through the woods that is art licensing. Thanks also for your insights, very useful! There's so much info out there it's hard to tell what to follow and what to forget- what works in theory and what actually happens in practice. This clears a few things up for me.

  2. Hello Joan,

    My name is Will Tait, a classically trained artist who does a bit of surface design work. I subscribe to your blog e-mails and find them interesting and informative, I would like to make a comment on the most recent and focus on myth #9. Size and format, where you mention jpg at 300 dpi.

    I feel that possibly many people without much computer graphics experience might mislead those with little digital experience to thinking they should save their file in the jpg format which would be a mistake. I believe people should be informed that maintaining their files in either Photoshop psp files (if they use that software) or TIFF format if they are using other software is the best practice. Then if a manufacturer or agent or whoever requests a file in jpg format a copy can be saved at the size and resolution requested. It is also best practice to maintain at least one but two is better copies of the original files as backups.

    This is not meant as criticism, but simply a cautionary note that some people might think you meant that jpg is a good format in which to save files, which being a lossy format is not the case. Each time you open and resave a jpg file you create additional artifacts which degrades the image more.

    Regards, I look forward to your blog e-mails,

    Will Tait

  3. This is a very helpful blog. Thank you for writing it and sharing your experience and advice with us! I used to be in the habit of saving files as jpegs unfortunately. Lately, I've been saving as PNG. Is that ok for the original file? Also, should you save at more than 300 dpi? I'm low on computer space at moment, but will have new one soon, I hope :)

  4. Allyn,
    png format is lossless compression which means that pixel information is not lost and thus it is better to use for saving original files than jpg format. However, when saving in png the layers in Photoshop are merged into one layer and therefore if you want to later edit one of the layers you cannot. If you are using layers in Photoshop, it is better to save the original file as a Photoshop psd format so that you can edit the art to manufacturers specifications. Joan

  5. Many artists save in 300dpi although some do save at 600dpi. If you are out of space on your computer, consider purchasing external hard drive(s) to store your files on. But in any case, you should have your files on two separate systems (DVD/CD and hard drive, two hard drives, one DVD/CD and one hard drive, etc.)in case one crashes. Years ago I didn't and I lost valuable files. Joan

  6. Thank you Joan. Excellent information.

  7. I only use png files for websites.

  8. Theresa,
    I looked up information about PNG files in Photoshop help and it stated that NOT all web browsers support PNG images. Therefore, some viewers may not be able to see the images if they are used on a website. Joan

  9. I teach Photoshop to illustrators. The best archiving format is a psd (Native Photoshop Document) preferably in 300 dpi resolution or higher in rgb. I simply open this file and do a save as in jpeg or pdf format. PDF is a portable document file that can be opened in Acrobat Reader.
    Will is right about continual opening and saving in the jpeg format. The lossy compression aspect of this format throws away pixels in the compression process. When you open the file it interpolates or makes up pixels that were "lost." So if you keep opening and saving the file in the jpeg format you are essentially ruining it. The format is meant to be saved for continuous tone images like photographs that are meant for the web.
    I have had manufacturers request both jpeg and pdf formats. I think they often like jpeg because it embeds in the email and they can see it right away. No one wants too much clicking to do these days.
    I often send images in multi-page pdfs because it is in a neat little package and all the images are together. I create these from separate pdf files in Adobe Bridge.
    I hope this helps.