Art Licensing for Small Business


If your business manufactures and sells products, you may want to consider licensing art to up your design game. Many small business owners often assume that their business is too small to enter the realm of art licensing-- that's for the giants, right? No!

In fact, art licensing is a perfect way to make your products stand out from the rest. A beautiful design can change the basic hum-drum product into a must-have item.  There are many artists out there, myself included, who will work with small or even start-up brands who want to up their product game.  While each situation is different, we have lots of experience with figuring out how to make our artwork accessible while not giving it away.

If you are a small brand looking to work with an artist, here are a few things you may want to know.



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Art licensing gives a business flexibility.

There is a growing push in the art and pattern design industry towards licensing. This means that the artist grants you the right to use the work in a certain way for a certain amount of time or production runs. This is great for small companies because they don't buy the worldwide, exclusive rights to artwork when they don't need to (those terms cost more!). If the product doesn't sell as well as you thought, you don't renew the license and find something else. For the manufacturer or brand it lessens the financial risk. For the artist, it means they can reuse the artwork in a non-competing industry while your license is active, or after your license expires, in any way they choose. You are giving the artist an opportunity to earn from the artwork again after you no longer need it. Win-win.

You may not need custom work.

Sometimes a company will approach me for a pattern or design that already exists and can use it "as is". In this case, it's much easier to license and requires less time to prepare. If you need custom colors, a different size repeat, or some other design changes, those usually require extra time and will add to your cost. Make sure to consider your needs and how much customization you really need. We are accustomed to making changes as many production process can require a certain number of colors or a specific size repeat, but if you’re ordering 3 extra colorways so you have a choice, this may add to your cost.

You will have the opportunity to renew licenses and can request to use the work for alternate items too.

When an artist grants you a license to use their work, be sure to read the terms carefully. Most artists will have conversations with you up front about how your business needs to use the artwork. You will know exactly what is permitted under your terms. Ask the artist for an additional license for the other things you want to make with their art! We love seeing our work out in the world, provided everyone is fairly compensated. The same stands true on our end. If we get a better offer for that piece of artwork but it's already actively licensed to you for that particular product category, well, we are out of luck and can only wait to renegotiate when the license is up for renewal.

You won't necessarily need to track royalties and make repeat payments.

Many brands don't know that royalty tracking and quarterly payments aren't always required.  While we do work with many brands who have royalties built into their accounting systems, not everyone does. For those that don't, a flat-fee is decided upon. Typically this takes into account the amount of production, the cost of the item, and the industry standard percentage for artists. It feels similar to buying art, but your usage rights have an expiration date and the cost will be less than buying art outright.

Art licensing is a foreign topic for some small brands, but it doesn't need to be. If an artist aligns with your product and brand mission, it's even more likely that they will want to work with you to get their work on your products. Smart small businesses CAN and do license art. Interested in seeing more? Reach out to Jennyto gain access to the online library, or simply let us know what you’re looking for. We’d love to be your go-to art brand.


handwritten jenny sign-off


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