7 Practical Ways to Make Money as a Portrait Artist
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 8 min read


  1. Sell portraits online
  2. Offer commissioned portraits
  3. Teach portrait drawing classes
  4. Publish a 'How to Draw Portraits' book
  5. Create and sell portrait drawing courses online
  6. Sell portrait prints at art fairs and galleries
  7. Partner with photographers

As a portrait artist, you've spent countless hours refining your skills—shading, highlighting, capturing the soul in the eyes of your subjects. Now, it’s time to turn that passion into profit. You might be wondering, how to make money as a portrait artist? Well, let's explore seven practical ways you can make money from your artistry.

Sell Portraits Online

One of the most straightforward ways to start generating income from your art is by selling your portraits online. With the rise of the internet, artists are no longer limited to physical galleries—you can easily reach a global audience from the comfort of your own home. Here's how:

  • Build your own website: Showcase your portfolio in a professional manner. Using platforms like WordPress or Wix, you can create an aesthetically pleasing site where potential clients can view your work and contact you for purchases.
  • Utilize online platforms: Websites like Etsy, eBay, and Saatchi Art are popular places to sell original artwork. You can also use social media platforms like Instagram, which has a large art community, to promote and sell your work.
  • Print-on-demand services: Websites such as Society6 and Redbubble allow you to sell prints of your portraits on items like coffee mugs, T-shirts, and phone cases. This way, you can make money from a single portrait multiple times.
  • Art commissions: Many artists make a significant portion of their income from custom work. By setting up a commission system on your website or through an online platform, you can draw portraits specifically requested by your customers.

Remember, when it comes to selling online, consistency is key. Make sure you update your portfolio regularly. Also, interact with your audience—reply to comments and messages, engage with other artists, participate in online art communities. All these steps will help you build a strong online presence and increase your chances of making money as a portrait artist.

Offer Commissioned Portraits

Let's face it—who wouldn't want a custom portrait of themselves or their loved ones? Offering commissioned portraits allows you to not only create a personal connection with your clients but also to ensure a steady income flow. So, how can you make money as a portrait artist through commissions? Let's see:

  • Set clear guidelines: It's important to clearly communicate what you can offer to your clients—be it a realistic portrait, an abstract interpretation or a caricature. Also, discuss the medium, size, and any additional features upfront to avoid any confusion later on.
  • Price it right: Pricing is a tricky part of commissioned work. You need to consider the cost of materials, the time you invest in creating the artwork, and the skill level required. It's a good idea to research what other artists charge for similar work to understand the market rate.
  • Request a deposit: To safeguard your interests, it's always wise to ask for a deposit before you start the work. This not only ensures that the client is serious but also covers your initial expenses.
  • Offer revisions: While you are an artist, remember that you are also providing a service. Offering a limited number of revisions can ensure client satisfaction and lead to repeat business or referrals.

Commissioned portraits can be a rewarding way to make money as a portrait artist. Not only do you get to exercise your creativity, but you also bring someone's vision to life—there's quite nothing like the smile on a client's face when they see their portrait for the first time!

Teach Portrait Drawing Classes

Being a skilled portrait artist, you have a unique talent that others might want to learn. Ever thought about how to make money as a portrait artist by sharing your knowledge? Teaching portrait drawing classes could be your answer!

  • Choose your platform: You could teach in-person classes at a local community center or art school. If you prefer flexibility or reaching a broader audience, consider hosting online classes. Platforms like Zoom or Google Meet are perfect for this.
  • Design your curriculum: Start by figuring out what you want your students to learn. Will you focus on basic techniques, or do you want to delve into advanced concepts? Once you have a clear idea, break it down into individual lessons.
  • Set a price: Your class fees should reflect the value you're providing. Consider the length of the course, the materials required, and your expertise level while deciding on a price. Remember, your knowledge and skills have value, so don't undervalue yourself.
  • Promote your classes: Use social media, local community boards, or word-of-mouth to let prospective students know about your classes. You could even offer a discount for the first few sign-ups to generate interest.

Teaching can be incredibly rewarding. Not only will you make money as a portrait artist, but you'll also help others discover their artistic potential. Plus, the joy of seeing your students improve under your guidance? Priceless!

Publish a 'How to Draw Portraits' book

Writing a book might seem daunting, but it's a fantastic way to share your knowledge and experience with a larger audience. Think about it: with a book, you're not just making money as a portrait artist—you're also becoming a published author! Let's walk through this process.

  • Plan your content: Just like with teaching a class, the first step is to decide what you want to cover in your book. You could start with basics for beginners, or dive deep into advanced techniques for more experienced artists. Make sure to include some of your personal tips and tricks that make your portraits stand out.
  • Write, edit, and illustrate: Now comes the main part—writing your book. This will take time, so be patient with yourself. Include clear instructions, helpful tips, and illustrations to guide your readers. After writing, make sure to edit your work meticulously or hire a professional editor. Remember, quality is key.
  • Publish your book: You have a couple of options here. You could approach traditional publishing houses, or opt for self-publishing. With the rise of e-books and print-on-demand services, self-publishing is more accessible than ever. Plus, it allows you to keep a larger portion of the profits!
  • Market your book: Once your book is out, you need to let people know about it. Use social media, your personal website, or art forums to promote your book. You could also collaborate with art supply stores or local bookshops for promotional events.

Writing a book is a significant undertaking, but it's one that could open new doors for you as a portrait artist. And who knows? Your book might just become the go-to guide for aspiring portrait artists around the world!

Create and sell portrait drawing courses online

Who says you need to be physically present to teach? With the advent of technology, sharing your knowledge about portrait drawing can extend beyond the walls of a classroom. Creating and selling online courses is another exciting avenue for making money as a portrait artist.

  • Course creation: Start by identifying what your course will cover. Will it be a comprehensive guide to portrait drawing, or will it focus on specific techniques? Once you've decided, it's time to plan your course. Break down your material into manageable lessons, and create engaging content with videos, slides, and worksheets. Remember, variety is the spice of online learning.
  • Platform selection: Next, choose an online platform to host your course. Some popular platforms include Udemy, Skillshare, or Coursera. These platforms have large user bases, but they also take a portion of your earnings. Alternatively, you can host courses on your own website, giving you more control and higher profits.
  • Pricing your course: Pricing can be tricky. You need to strike a balance between what your target students are willing to pay and the value you're providing. Research similar courses to get a feel for the market price, but don't undervalue your expertise!
  • Promotion: Lastly, you need to get the word out about your course. Use your social media channels, email newsletters, or partnerships with other artists to spread the word. You might even offer an introductory discount to attract initial students and garner reviews.

Creating an online course can be a rewarding way to share your knowledge, reach a global audience, and generate income. So why not give it a shot? Who knows, your course could be the next big hit in the online learning world!

Sell portrait prints at art fairs and galleries

Art fairs and galleries are traditional avenues for artists to earn money, and they're still as relevant as ever. If you're wondering how to make money as a portrait artist, don't overlook the potential of these spaces. Here's how you can leverage them:

  • Creating Prints: First, you'll need to create prints of your work. The quality of the print matters, so invest in a good printer or partner with a professional printing service. You could offer prints in various sizes to cater to different customer preferences and budgets.
  • Art Fairs: Art fairs are bustling hubs where artists and art lovers converge. It's a great place to sell your prints. Research local and regional art fairs, understand their requirements and register as a vendor. Remember, presentation matters — so set up an attractive booth that showcases your artwork in the best light.
  • Galleries: Galleries provide a more curated environment for selling your prints. Approach local galleries that feature similar styles of art. Discuss their terms and if they agree, your artwork could be hanging on their walls, ready for sale. Just keep in mind that galleries usually take a commission on any sales.
  • Pricing: Price your prints carefully. Consider the cost of materials, your time, the printing process, and the venue's commission. It's okay to price higher at a gallery, given the prestige associated with such venues.

So, why not dive into the vibrant world of art fairs and galleries? It's a fantastic opportunity to meet art enthusiasts, network with fellow artists, and most importantly, make that cash register ring!

Partner with photographers

Another practical way of making money as a portrait artist is by partnering with photographers. It's a win-win situation — photographers can offer their clients something extra, and you get to increase your visibility and income. So, how can you make this partnership work?

  • Find the Right Photographer: Look for photographers whose style complements your own. You can start by reaching out to local photographers or those you follow on social media. Remember, this partnership should be beneficial for both of you.
  • Offer Value: Explain to photographers how your portraits can add value to their photography packages. For instance, a hand-drawn portrait could be a unique, personal, and lasting memento from a wedding or family photo shoot.
  • Work Out the Details: Discuss the terms of the partnership. You might provide a set number of portraits per month, or work on a commission basis for each portrait sold. Establish clear communication channels and a process for sharing the photos you'll be drawing.
  • Promote Each Other: Once the partnership is in place, promote each other's work. You can share the photographer's pictures on your social media, and they can display your portraits in their studio or online platforms. This cross-promotion can help both of you reach a larger audience.

Collaborating with photographers can open up a new stream of income and broaden your client base. It's a smart way of answering the question, "how to make money as a portrait artist?" while also forming valuable professional relationships.

If you found the "7 Practical Ways to Make Money as a Portrait Artist" blog post helpful and want to dive deeper into the art of portrait photography, check out Andreas Laszlo Konrath's workshop 'The Portrait: An Intimate Act.' This workshop will help you understand the intimate connection between the photographer and the subject, and how to capture the essence of your subject through your lens. Give yourself the opportunity to take your portrait photography skills to the next level.