A major part of my growth as an artist is simply in asking questions! You’ll be surprised how nice and helpful veteran artists can be. I always have a few questions floating in my mind about the world of art licensing, and the more I learn the more questions I have! I started reaching out to the masters in art licensing with a quick question…and guess what? They were all happy to share their point of view.
Question: Do you sign your artwork for licensing?
Tara Reed from ArtLicensingInfo.com said:
“Since you have to manipulate art so much to get it onto products, and it’s done digitally, my signature is a separate layer in Photoshop. I always try to have it included on products but there are times when it isn’t for one reason or another. Keeping it separate keeps it flexible!”
Cherish Flieder from Something to Cherish said:
“When I create my art I don’t put the signature on it because, depending on the product, it could actually be in the wrong sort of place. If I wanted a signature on a piece, I would add it in digitally so I or a production team can move it around on a separate layer. I think the identity of an artist is part of what is being licensed, not just the artwork itself. I am sure there are companies that are looking for generic art, but I think art is more meaningful to our retail customers when it is attached to a name or a person. So, if I don’t have my signature shown on the art used for the product, I would at least insist on it on being on the side, back or bottom of the product and/or its marketing and packaging. The artists’ copyright notice needs to be expressed as well in these types of expressions adjacent to the work. Having the artist’s name and/or signature adds value to the item for which the art is being licensed and is helpful in building the artist’s brand value. On a side note, I do sign my original paintings, but only after having a high resolution scan preserved.”
Joan Beiriger said:
“I put a copyright symbol and my signature on ALL my art for licensing but no date. The reason why I don’t put a date is that it “dates” the art. When I send a file to the manufacturer, the symbol and signature is on it. So far manufacturers have not commented about the signature. They just go ahead and print it. I suppose that I may some day find a manufacturer that wants to remove it and then I’ll have a discussion with them on the importance of having the symbol and signature on my art. However, so far that hasn’t happened.”
Pilar from Puffy P said:
“…no I don’t sign my work. For the type of thing I’m doing, it seems distracting. I do though add a brand logo where applicable, so that would be similar. I consider my work to be attached to my various brands. I usually have my brand logo or company logo on the product, which is in essence my signature…”
Khristian A. Howell said:
“I don’t sign my work as in the same sense that a gallery artist would. However, usually all the products that use my artwork have my copyright on them. To be clear, I mean on the actual product, not just the packaging. Depending on the product it may be as simple as ©Khristian A. Howell or ©my logo.”
Sue Zipkin said:
“Yes, when I submit my designs to manufacturers I always include my name on it. I usually keep my name (which is my standard signature logo) on a separate layer. In certain situations, depending on the product sometimes the artist signature will need to go on the back of a product and or a label. In most cases artists who are licensing do get there name on the products. If you are selling all rights to your work, then most likely you will not get your name on it.”
Kathy Weller from WellerWishes said:
“It depends on 1) the final use of the product and if it makes sense in the context of the product, and 2) the client’s flexibility. Each case is different. Regardless if signature is used or not, it is important to insist upon a printed name credit © name of artist printed somewhere on the product.”
One important topic I learned was how everyone stressed the importance and value of having an artist connected to the artwork. The exact location of a signature or copyright might vary by product understandably. Many illustrators work their signature into the artwork itself…whereas a surface pattern designer would have their name elsewhere given the nature of the work and final product. I was happy to learn about dates and copyrights as well. It’s funny how a little detail, can lead into so many different avenues of discussion. I am starting to believe that whatever works for you as an artist will help to determine your style and brand…however being flexible also helps you to grow and change with the times. Who knows how products might be manufactured and labelled in the future!
It’s been really helpful to learn what works in this industry today…and I’ve been reminded of the simplest way to grow as an artist – by just asking! My sincere thanks to all the artists that shared their thoughts on this question. Do you have questions about the art licensing industry? For more useful information, check out this article about branding and signing your work by Lance Klass, adding copyright to your artwork by Joan Beiriger and be sure to listen in on the live calls by Tara Reed at art licensing info, where art licensing masters answer your questions directly!