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Art Licensing by artist Joan Beiriger: I'm happy to share art licensing info but please
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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Licensing Art for Coffee Mugs

Coffee mugs with art on them are sold in all sorts of retail stores but not much of the art is licensed to companies that make the mugs. With the advent of dye-sublimation printers and the ease in printing art on various products including straight-sided mugs, print-on-demand stores have sprung up everywhere on the internet. Most mug manufacturers no long license art and sell their mugs to retailers. Instead they either sell mugs with custom art supplied by individual consumers or to companies that purchase or license art. Note: In the art licensing industry, the name "manufacturer" is really a misnomer because most "manufacturers" that license art is really product converters since they do not actually make the products. Instead they purchase or license the art and outsource the manufacturing of products to other companies.

Mugs are NOT usually the major product that product converters sell to retailers. It is part of their product lines and many times these companies want to license art to go on multiple products. Thus, an artist needs to create art that is suitable for many of the products the company sells. And that means before submitting art, the artist should do her/his homework and look at the company website to see the type of products and make sure the art fits. For instance, Lang company sells calendars, cards, stationery, jigsaw puzzles, tote bags, flags, melamine dinnerware beside mugs. Therefore, when submitting art for licensing consideration it may help in getting a contract if the art is already formatted to approximately fit the product shapes the company sells. So for Lang, an artist should submit a tearsheet with a collection of art that is formatted vertically and horizontally & various icons and borders.

Different processes are used to place art on a mug depending on its shape. The following links show two methods.

• Straight sided mugs: "Art Print on Mug"

• Curved sided mugs and products: "Transfer Printing Process on Promotional Mugs"

Product converters (manufacturers) that sell mugs want art that:

1. fits their product lines. If they are selling mugs with only slogans or inspirational words and messages, then they probably are not interested in licensing art with iconic images. Or if they are using only graphic styled art on their products they probably are not interested in licensing realistic fine art images.

2. is formatted horizontally.  The company usually wants art twice the size of the mug.  Thus, a 4 inch high mug with a circumference of 12 inches and art placed on only 9 inches of the circumference should be 8 by 18 inches.

3. has different themes than what they already have. But be aware of the type of themes they carry.  For instance, if all they carry is Christmas art on mugs they probably will not license everyday themes.

Companies that License Art for Mugs:

Burton + Burton

C.R. Gibson



Evergreen / Cypress Home


Leanin' Tree

Mug World Inc. (Manufacturer of mugs and coasters.  Contact them to see IF they still license art)


Read more articles about Manufacturers and the products they license under the Topics section on the side bar.

I welcome any comments and additions to the mug company list. Please click on the comments section (below) to write your comment.


  1. Thank you Joan, you are always so helpful.

  2. Thanks for this article, Joan. Very helpful for newbies like me!

  3. Thank you much Joan for all of your very informative articles. Your art is very lovely.
    I love the vibrant color mix in your images.
    What stores are your products marketed to?

    I especially love the hummingbirds and morning glory flowers images as well as all of the others.
    Thanks again for sharing.
    Thelma Harcum

  4. Thank you for the kudos Thelma. So far my images are licensed mostly for decorative flags, gift bags and wraps, wrap around canvas pictures, and greeting cards.

  5. As a student, I am just now considering that more of my work is ready to sell - experimentally. Since some of my family members collect unique mugs...
    Thanks for giving such a thorough introduction.