Christmas tree paintings in sketchbook

What’s a “Collection” in Art Licensing?

When an artist designs a group of artwork in art licensing, it’s referred to as a collection. These collections always have a cohesive theme or style and are the key to licensing your art. 

Why? Because manufacturers love to create entire sets of matching products so they can sell more items and make more money.  

A collection usually has at least four images that complement one another or fall under the same theme. However, a collection needs to have different designs. You can’t simply take one design and recolor it four ways (except on rare occasions).

Think – a series of floral patterns with a similar color palette, a set of illustrations featuring different woodland animals, or a group of abstract designs that share a connected style.

Christmas trees art for art licensing

In your portfolio, collections show potential licensees that you understand product lines and how they work – that you have more business acumen than just painting nice pictures.

Here’s a basic example using a popular theme: Christmas. 

Imagine you’ve created a collection of four (cohesive) images around the theme of Christmas. 

A potential licensee might look at your designs and envision one image on a ceramic tray (let’s say a cute Christmas quote) and another image (let’s say a wreath) on matching enamel mugs. They might see your third image (a quote with Christmas garland) on a glass ornament, and your fourth image (a collection of Christmas trees) as a recurring pattern on a pitcher or oven mitts. 

Christmas tree art for art licensing

Having a collection allows manufacturers to offer a range of products with a consistent look and feel. But it also allows the artist to earn more money because their work is now on multiple products! So it’s a win-win situation.

To ensure your collection is commercially viable, it’s important to consider popular art licensing themes. I wrote about these themes recently. You can refer back to them here.

Christmas art for art licensing

In the Christmas example above I listed kitchenware and décor items but a collection can be built out much further. For example, your Christmas collection might extend from holiday dinnerware to wall art, pillows, greeting cards, gift wraps, and figurines.

I believe that four designs should be your minimum in a collection. And often that’s enough. However, the more designs you have in a collection, the more possibilities you have for licensing a larger product line. So if you’re feeling inspired, go bigger.

Christmas tree art for art licensing

When you’re starting out, your portfolio should have at least three collections that you’re able to show prospective licensees. If each of those collections has four images, that will give you a total of twelve pieces. And, the more general you keep your themes, the more appealing they’ll be to a larger audience – and therefore, art licensing.

But note that while collections are the preferred way for art licensing companies to review your work, they may still choose to work with just one image from a collection.

Finally, I always retain the rights to my copyright, so I can still license the same art in different product categories. 

Christmas art for art licensing

So if I license those Christmas designs for only the kitchenware category, I can license the very same designs to another licensee who wants to use them on, say, cushion covers. Pretty cool, right?!

Stay tuned for more info on my upcoming Art Licensing Course where I personally take you through an entire module on designing your portfolio.