I have been a portrait artist for many years, and I have tried many things during that time to promote my portraits. As I mentioned in a previous post, portraiture has been very effective in helping to promote myself as an artist. I also create oil and acrylic paintings – mostly semi-surreal images of scenes of this province. Some people discover that I also paint other things after commissioning a portrait.

 Helga McLeod portrait

Portrait above by Helga McLeod


Below, I share some of what I have done to promote my portrait drawings, and I also have some great tips thrown in. If you have anything to add, or have any questions, please do so in the comments.

Have you read my previous article relating to portrait art?

Why are Portrait Paintings Still Popular?

Tips to Promote Portrait Drawings and Paintings

  1. Focus on a specific type of portraiture.

    There are many genres and mediums of portraiture, including celebrity portraits, portrait drawings, acrylic, watercolor, realism, semi-abstract, etc. It will certainly help in your promotional efforts if people recognize you for a certain portrait type and/or medium.

    tim smith drawing
    Child and Baby – Tim Smith

  2. Have your own style.

    Portrait artists are plenty. Having your own distinct art style will help to set you apart from other portrait artists.

  3. Find a public spot, and draw or paint people.

    This is one of the best ways to get the word out that you are a portrait artist. It is also much better than being isolated in a studio. Find a place with lots of people (but not overly crowded), such as a park or coffee shop. This will give you a chance to talk to others about your artwork. Many people, especially kids, are fascinated with watching artists draw or paint portraits.

  4. Fairs and festivals.

    jill-harrison-wool-art If you are proficient at quick sketches, and can achieve a very good likeness within 10-30 minutes, consider setting up a booth at a fair or festival. This would be for fast, signed sketches.

  5. Have a range of sizes for clients.

    If the portrait is to be framed, try to pick typical framing dimensions for the paper or canvas. Some of the most popular frames sizes (in inches) are 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, 18x24, and 24x36.

  6. Consider framing and matting portraits yourself.

    Many times people would rather have everything done in one place than have to buy frames themselves.

    Amy - Jill Harrison

  7. Write up a contract sheet.

    This can include a place for the client to fill in details of the portrait commission, when they would like to have it completed, and a place for them to sign their name.

  8. Up front fee.

    I like to charge 50% of the cost of the portrait before even beginning. This is deducted from the final price. I didn’t always do this, but decided to after an unpleasant experience with a client. After fully completing a portrait, they decided they didn’t want it. I was left with a completed portrait that I could not sell, and many wasted hours. Have you experienced anything similar?

  9. Create a few typical sample portraits for clients to view.

    sylvia fuller These should range from a simple single portrait to a more complex group portrait. If you have a website, get permission from clients to post their likeness on your website. In this way, all your past work can function as promotional pieces.

  10. Always sign the front and back.

    I like to write my website address and other contact information on the back as well. This way, the client can easily know how to get in contact with me if they want to get another portrait done, or refer someone else.

  11. Get business cards for your portrait business.

    Carry some with you everywhere you go. Give them to people who ask about your portraits.

    Bow’s New Flower – Sylvia Fuller

  12. Use Facebook

    Post finished portraits to your Facebook Timeline and answer any questions others may have. Also consider getting a Facebook page. Post all your pricing info. in the About section here, so people will readily know what you charge for different sizes and things in the portrait.

  13. Pricing

    The way I like to price my portraits is a combination of pricing by size and by what is included in the portraits. I have a base price for each portrait size. If the portrait is to have extra people included, or text.. this is extra. How do you price your portraits?

  14. Display your best portraits in a gallery.

    Consider creating works and having a show specifically for this purpose.

  15. Have portrait promotions during special events.

    I like to have promotions well in advance of an event. There is a cutoff date as well, so I have plenty of time to complete portraits before the special day(s). Holidays such as Christmas, Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Valentines Day, etc. (and other special events in your area) are perfect times to hold promotions.

  16. Advertise in the newspaper or on a local community channel.

    bride-painting-terry-sita I’ve done this a few times, and every time it has resulted in a few portrait commissions.

  17. Create a portrait blog.

    Write there regularly about your portraits, and share those posts to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.

  18. Giveaways and charities.

    Giveaways can be a great way to entice people to promote your art, in hopes of getting the freebie. A common promotion I have seen is for people to share or like a post in exchange for an entry into a drawing for the freebie. I recommend to do this sparingly, and make sure your name will always be mentioned in charity fundraisers.

    Beautiful Bride – Terry Sita

  19. Newsletters.

    Get all clients and interested people to signup for your email newsletter, so they can stay updated with your work.

  20. Get a website.

    This can be a great way to showcase your portrait art all in one place. There are many places online for hosting a portfolio site. If you want an easy way to design a website, take a look at Webydo!


Have anything to add? Have any questions? Please comment below.

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  1. Thank you for these wise tips. I have been painting pet/animal portraits since 1999 on a commissioned basis. IEven though I use most of these tips, I will use the others you suggest. www.greatpetpaintings.com

  2. Might it be of help to create a couple of well known/celebrity pieces for your portfolio - this will show potential clients how much of a likeness you can achieve, as many people won't know what your brother's wife/sister/cousin will look like unless you are allowed to post the photo next to your artwork, and not everyone who has their portrait painted may want that.

    Great article as always, thank you!

    1. You're welcome :)

      I forgot to add - place a disclaimer next to the celebrity art too, perhaps saying that it is 100% unofficial and not for commercial use.

      You can also offer these pieces to the stars themselves or to charities, as additional promotion!

  3. This is very helpful. My son is an incredible portrait artist working in pencil and has recently added caricatures to his portfolio. I have always encouraged him to pursue this as a business but he is well aware of the staggering amount of other portrait artists some of which charge a pittance for their work. The information you share here is very helpful. Thank you.

  4. Helpful tips, yes. I've tried most of these things but can't seem to get past the hobby level income. It's like Patty Lynn said, with other artist charging a pittance for their work, it's hard to compete and make a profit and a living. Any ideas on how to get past the hobby level income? Lisa

  5. I've been stung that way to. I did a full family portrait fully painted in acrylic. The guy pushed me to do aswell so I moved other commissions aside r make sure I didn't lose the sale. Once the painting was complete he stalled straight away on the payment. Despite being over the moon with it. It took 3 months to finally get him to admit he didn't want the portrait anymore as he was no longer with his partner. I was left distraught and frustrated not to mention extremely angry at the client and myself for not taking a deposit. It's so hard to make money in the art field so thanks for the tips.

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