How to Create an Artist Website: New for 2016

Guide to Artist Websites

If you’re an artist and you don’t have a website yet — or if you want to change the one you have now — it’s never too late to get started!

That’s why we started our original artist website post, and three years later, it’s more true than ever. If you’re ready to take the plunge, you’ve come to the right place! This guide will walk you through:

  • Why you need an artist website
  • Creating your website:
    1. Defining your goals for your site
    2. How to choose your web service
    3. How to choose a domain name
    4. What you should put on your website
  • Other resources you can use

The website of Jeff Huntington uses Other People’s Pixels.

Why does my art need a website?

A website is another way for people to find out about you and your artwork. They could be strangers who find you by googling “sculptors in DC,” or people who already know you and want to learn more.

Think about it this way: where do you go when you’re making a purchase or doing research? Online. So will your potential customers (and email subscribers, and fans, and so on).

The website of Andy Yoder is built in WordPress using the Vertex theme.

Step 1: Define your goal

Your goal for your website will determine what features you need. Common goals include:

  • I want to sell artwork through my website
  • I want my website to serve as a portfolio for interested galleries, customers, and fans
  • I want people to find and contact me
  • I want to keep my fans and customers updated with my latest news

If you want to sell work through your website, make sure the service you choose (below) has an option for an online store — and make sure it’s easy to use! If you want to make a portfolio site, make sure the service you choose can handle beautiful image galleries. If you want to keep customers updated, you will probably want a built-in blog and email newsletter.

If any of these are must-haves for you, make sure they’re a possibility on the platform you choose.

The website of Suzanne Vigil uses Smugmug.

Step 2: Choose your web service

We made a chart comparing some of the most popular options out there. Some are geared specifically toward artists, but most of them have portfolio templates for your design, and they’re all suitable for use by artists. See below for an explanation of the terms used and links to the websites:

Artist website services comparison

How to read this chart

  • Hosting: This is how your website is delivered to visitors. You’ll pay around $10 a month if you get hosting on your own (for example if you use WordPress.org), but it’s included in all the other services above.
  • Store: Is there a built-in way for people to purchase through your website? Typically, you’ll pay extra for this feature.
  • Stats: Can you get information on how many people are visiting your site and how they’re getting there?
  • Domain: A domain name, like theartleague.org, is an important factor. Do you get your very own domain? Or do you have to share one, like theartleague.squarespace.com? (This is sometimes offered as a free option, but it’s worth it to pay for your very own domain.) See below for tips on choosing your domain name.
  • Blog: Is there a built-in blogging platform?

Links to the services above

Fine Art Studio Online | Heavybubble | Moonfruit | Other People’s Pixels | Smugmug | Squarespace | Weebly | Wix | WordPress.com | WordPress.org

Do your research

Before committing, see if there’s a free trial. You should also look for examples of live artist websites using the service you’d like to use. Keep your goal (step 1) in mind as you tick off the following checklist:

  • Can you use the back end? The back-end is the part of the website that’s visible only to you, where you go to make changes to your website.
  • Is there customer service? When your website goes down or disappears, will there be someone to answer the phone?
  • Is it mobile friendly? Most of your visitors will be viewing on their phone (possibly at the very moment they’re standing in front of your artwork). Make sure everything works properly and is easy to use.
  • What designs are available? Notice that this is last on the list. It’s typically the easiest thing to change, and it’s most important to consider the function and content before appearance. That said, you’ll want to pick a service that matches your abilities. There’s a trade-off: easier services with drag-and-drop builders will tend to look more bland, but a highly customized site will take more work and know-how.

The website of Melissa Staiger uses Squarespace.

Step 3: Choose your domain name

As explained above, the domain name is where people will find you online. It typically ends in .com. Follow this formula if you can:

your first name + your last name + .com

For example, fridakahlo.com. That should be your first choice, but if that’s taken, try one of these variations: fridakahloart.com, fridakahloartist.com, fridakahlostudio.com, or fridakahlo.com.

Note that people are more likely to visit a website that ends in .com than .net or something else.

Alex Paik built his website using Tumblr.

Step 4: Build your website

Now comes the fun part. Again, what you put on your website depends on your goal. At a bare minimum, you will want the following two things:

  • images of your artwork
  • your contact information

You’ll probably expand on this to include things like your artist bio or statement, different image galleries, or a store or blog, depending on your needs.

It’s important to start small and keep your website up to date. Any obviously out-of-date information is going to lead to visitors leaving your website. As you get comfortable with building and updating your website, you can start to build more.

Online gallery Buy Some Damn Art is built using Shopify.

Conclusion

A functional, up-to-date website is a must for any artist working today. While it takes some time to set up and maintain — time that you’d rather spend in the studio — it pays dividends in creating a visible, professional presence for your art.

Hopefully, this guide gave you a head start on the process. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments!

Other resources

Here are some other articles you might find helpful:

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