How to Display Your Art on the Web

How to display your art on the web



Who this is for: This is intended as a rough guide for illustrators, gallery artists, cartoonists, comics artists, concept artists and other visual artists who want to present a professional representation of their work on the web. If you’re just putting up your stuff for the benefit of your friends, do what you want, it doesn’t matter. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to have your art seen by art directors, publishers, gallery owners, webcomics readers, reviewers and prospective buyers, how you present it can make a big difference in how it’s viewed and received.

Why did I write this? In the past several years, and particularly in the last few as I’ve worked on lines and colors, I have seen hundreds (if not thousands) of artist’s web sites. So many of them are so badly arranged, poorly designed, ill-conceived and horribly implemented that it has started to make me crazy. If you’re read much of this blog, you’ll know how much I love this stuff, and how much I would desparately like artists of all kinds to succeed in doing a good job of making their work visible on the web.

The original post that prompted this grew out of this frustration with the apparent desire on the part of artists to drive visitors away from their sites in droves. My repeated encounters with mind-numbingly bad artists’ web sites eventually resulted in my snarky, but well-received article, How Not to Display Your Artwork on the Web.

The response to the article was, and continues to be, emphatic, and frequently includes requests for more information. Those requests prompted this series of follow-up articles. If you haven’t read the original post, I reccomend that you read it first and then come back to this one.


What do I know? This is simply the opinions (read that word carefully) of one person. However, I do have some qualifications to be knowledgeable about this topic. I’ve been on the web since 1994, several years before most people even knew the web existed. For most of that time (12 years) I’ve worked as a professional web site designer. (When I started doing web site design we actually had to put some effort into convincing companies that a web site was a worthwhile investment, and that the internet wasn’t just a fad for geeks that would fade out in a couple of years.) In 1995 I created Argon Zark!, the first long-form (comic book style) comic for the web, and one of the earliest webcomics of any kind.

I do not hold myself up as a paragon of design and usability. I’ve designed my share of bad sites, with navigation problems and usability issues and, due to the realities of graphic design (time, budget restraints, and the wishes, demands, desires and delusions of clients), I will continue to do so to some extent in the future; but I have tried to benefit from my mistakes and I have learned a thing or two (or three, or twenty) over the years.

This is a work in progress. I envision this as a series of eight to ten articles on individual topics, perhaps more. As time allows, I’ll continue to edit, revise and add to these pages in an attempt to make them more useful.

This series of articles is intended to he helpful. I don’t proffer it as definitive or set in stone. If you disagree, write a comment and give everyone the benefit of your own ideas or helpful suggestions.

67 Replies to “How to Display Your Art on the Web”

  1. Girando nel web, sono entrato nel tuo sito.
    L’ho trovato interessante perché nel creare nel mio sito “la bottega d’arte di Lo Curto Giovanni, ho incontrato molte difficoltà che avrei risolto con le tue indicazioni. Complimenti, un buon lavoro ed un’ottima consulenza.
    Non so se sono riuscito a fare un bel sito, io ci ho inserito molte delle mie opere.
    Ti invito a visitarlo e grazie per le indicazioni.
    Distinti saluti
    Giovanni Lo Curto

  2. doug chiang is my favorite artist,i follow him i study his arts under microscope view and gather ideas from his works,he is just like the way i do my kind of works, and i do it and display them if i got time for it but chances are to get, i really would like to join him in future he is like my MASTER of ARTWORKS—-i named my works-

  3. You have a great Blog, it’s the first thing I read everyday. Your articles on setting up a WEB site series were outstanding.
    The question I have is; do you know of or have you done research or looked into what might be a good software for locating and deleting duplicate photos on a computer hard drive?
    Thanks for your time.

  4. I am in the final stage of designing my website using an application called Rapidweaver for Mac OS X. I will read your article on finding a web host. Thank you for your guidance on this subject.


  5. Hi Charley,

    I have read your advice thoroughly on “how to display and how not to display your art on the web”. I am humbled by your generosity of time and knowledge. I can sense that you have a sincere need to guide artists through the maze that has become “artist website design”. As a fellow web designer and lover of art, who has also felt this need for some time, it is comforting to read how closely our views on the subject coincide.

    Almost 3 years ago, I set out to try and create a portfolio website solution for artists. My wife Susan, had recently decided to follow her true passion, makeup artistry, and I could see how important it was for her to have a professional looking online portfolio website, that she could easily update herself.

    My approach to this problem was a simple and a practical one. Standards had emerged in physical portfolios, and through the chaos that is web design for artists, standards would emerge in online portfolios over time. After 3 years of a lot of ups and downs and plenty of headaches, the result of my efforts is what I call SwiftFolios. I would like to tell you a little bit about it and how I created it.

    I decided to use “Flash without the Flash” as I like to put it, because it was the only alternative that was going to enable me to fulfill the vision I had for how it should work. However, I used the Flash files as “empty shells” that artwork, text etc., got loaded into, to ensure a complete separation of site content from how it was presented. This was important for many reasons.

    Since I was trying to create a standard, I had to decide what that standard would look like. The “Don’t make me think” philosophy you mentioned is so true. That philosophy and the philosophy “your portfolio website should complement your work, not distract from it” drove most of my design decisions.

    I settled with professional title (logo) on the upper left hand corner, menu items on the upper right hand corner, scrolling thumbnails on the right side, and artwork centered on the page to the left of the thumbnails. Back, next buttons (with image numbers) were placed under the thumbnails. To the left of these buttons, I placed “slideshow” and “image info” buttons. When the visitor rolls over the image info button, any text related to the artwork appears below the artwork. If there is no text, the image info button does not appear.

    With regard to the administration tool for updating the website, I used the same “Don’t make me think” philosophy and made the artwork the central focus. I really don’t want to go into a detailed description of this tool here, because it would take too long. The only feature I would like to point out is the ability to have full creative control over every element of the underlying design, enabling you to ensure your website complements your work, and communicates your unique style and personality.

    I built this website solution for you guys, so please take a look, and email me or call with your feedback, questions and suggestions.

    In particular, I would love to hear from you Charley. Some questions have arisen in my mind as a result of reading your guide and I would love to discuss them with you. From the breadth and quality of your work that I have seen, you are already a mentor to me. I would really appreciate your advice and guidance.


    Anthony Donoghue
    SwiftFolios LLC

    PS. If you go to my website, you will see that I used (with their permission) images of artwork from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to present example websites. Why? A. Because it is my favorite place in the world, but more importantly B. If the old masters were around today, I can’t see them arguing over the design to choose for their online portfolio, the colors maybe, but not the design. All I can hear them saying is “Does it complement my work, does it complement my work?”

    Please forgive me if you don’t like the colors I selected in my attempt to complement the old masters work. This is why I gave you the control to do this yourself. I am told I have a decent eye, but there is nothing like your own eye.

    I am off to the MET. Have a great weekend.

  6. I was happily checking off all the correct things I had done with my website until I got to “Use tiny, square thumbnails with a nondescript crop from some obscure corner of the artwork.”

    As my work varies in size and shape, what do you recommend for an orderly presentation instead of cropped images in squares?

    Thanks for all your efforts. You must love what you do…guess I really will go back and learn CSS before my gray matter smooths out entirely.

  7. Thanks for your comments, Deb.

    I think the way you’ve handled on your fiberworks site is good.

    Cropped images in squares are fine if they are large enough and contain enough of the image to be recognizable as specific images.

    The ones I think are a problem are much smaller than this and harder to identify as individual images.

  8. Wow. This is the most comprehensive blog/resource site concerning fine art I have encountered thus far. I have now favorited it and will return often to view the articles…..and hopefully…. and eventually improve my website and my art’s marketability. Thanks!

  9. It’s Thanksgiving today – and what am I grateful for? —– you, Charley Parker! and your wonderful generosity in sharing this amazingly helpful series of articles.
    I’m just getting started designing my website. I’ll drop in again sometime soon (I hope) to let you see what you have guided me to do.
    Best wishes,

  10. Hello.
    Here in France, I read your blog everyday and just wanted to say thank you for sharing your knowledge and for me to discover new sites and great artists each day.
    I want to rebuild my website and I will follow your great recommendations…

    Meilleures salutations,
    – Julien –

  11. This was a very helpful blog post for us to design our gallery online. We have also used it as a reference for our blog. We hope that the use of the internet will revolutionize the way we do business and help establish new relationships with our buyers. Thankyou!

  12. All your recommedations are very precise. I was doubting in buying a domain and getting a hosting company, but your articles have convinced me. Any suggestions?

    I have been browsing through several art galleries’ and artists’ websites, and you are right, sometimes the objective of the web gallery is lost.

    Your articles show that you have a good knowledge of art. You really show the passion in what you are doing.

    1. Thanks for the good words, Joseph. I host Lines and Colors with HostMySite, with a basic account called Linux Builder. It’s not the cheapest, but not overly expensive either, ($12/month if paid yearly with $20 setup). Their customer support is the best I’ve ever encountered. There are some other hosts that I mention in the article on hosting who cater specifically to artists. They would be worth checking out.

  13. Speaking of finding a website provider, Sensational Arts USA is developing an e-creative arts magazine/webnet for artisans of all stripes. We provide the IT, business development, marketing and public relations support to free the artist, crafter, photographer, creative writer, film/video producer, etc. with a link or subdomain to our website and other social networking media including blogs, Facebook, MySpace.

    We provide the optimization (search engine ability to bring up a site), analytical data on usage, and business expertise to help our members get their work seen through our e-magazine that is presently under development. We will be on board with all the major search engines, Google, yahoo, Ask, About, StumbleUpon, Digg, etc.

    Artisans are given options to link to our sites with a range of formats and display options that range in initial set up cost based on their needs and finances. Membership fees range from $30.00 per month to $65.00 per month based on the amount of support the artisan wants. There are a la cart options as well. There is no long-term contract and members are free to change plans, upgrade or downgrade. We track the number of visitors to our member sites and offer easily updated templates. Sensational Arts USA acts as a portal to draw internet traffic to our sites by offering a visually and interactive environment to stimulate the senses of our visitors. Keeping a website up and making sure that it is found and visited requires knowledge and just as importantly time and tenacity.

    Sensational Arts USA (SAUSA) has teamed with an IT company to develop our webnet and is hard at work creating alliances across the United States with galleries, museums, art educators, art patrons and opening doors through partnering with and networking with the multitude or entities on the internet involved in promoting some aspect of creative arts of all stripes.

    We expect to open our site in September. If you are interested in receiving a notice that we are up and running, please send us an email at

  14. Brilliant work!
    Your blog has been given to me to read/analyze in a proper manner so that I would be examined tomorrow on the basis of my learning from here. Being an artist, I really admire your work. Very well done. Keep going.

    Best regards,

  15. I like this website but I can not find where I can register to put my drawings in this website because I love to draw and I think I have a talent and I draw good, (I think).

  16. Estou começando à alguns poucos meses um blog
    que transformei em site,Aqui no Brasil.Tenho amado a experiência e recebido algumas visitas.
    Tenho a consciência de que tenho muito que aprender,mas me orgulho de ter tido a coragem e confiança em começar.O resto vem com o tempo e a evolução das idéias.Irei ler seu artigo e tenho certeza que terei muito que aprender.

  17. Hi, stumbled across your website by chance… I am a traditional – based artist/illustrator trying to gain some notice for my work. Although places like deviantart are useful for feedback, I wonder if serious companies would even sniff around such sites where just anyone can post their art?
    I would love to hear what someone who actually makes money from their art thinks of my work, if you have a spare minute my deviant gallery link is
    I’ve been trying to gain notoriety for almost five years now
    (only been on the web a month though) and have been told time and time again I should have a career of SOME variety from it, would love to know what you think.

    1. If they are offering them for sale directly through the site or by email contact, I think so. Opinions vary, in that you will notice some artists prefer a “contact artist for price” approach, but as a potential buyer, I would be more likely to contact an artist about purchasing their work if I knew the price beforehand.

    1. The price should be the same as the gallery price. You are setting a value for your work.

      Price for individual works will vary by size or medium, but they should be consistent between the gallery and your site.

  18. Hi….Best wishes to u all. I m Rafi from Bangladesh.i m working on deep pen & ink since feel my artwork…please visit i m waiting for ur valuable coments….please any body can u show me the ways to explore my artworks world wide? regards- Rafi +88 01715407778

  19. Hello:
    I am the artist Ibrahim Adam
    Work in the field of animation and digital art and painting, I want to subscribe with you and I want to share with you models
    Of my work.
    With thanks to very much

  20. I remember waiting for the next page of Argon Zark! to be up. You were doing stuff with coloring that I hadn’t seen at that time. Oh, the good old days!
    Found this article very helpful and the what-not-to-do one hilarious.
    Thank you.

  21. I’m so glad that Flash is going away! It was a real pain to sit through all animations with music over and over during simple navigation steps. Plus, a lot of artists didn’t realize that Flash was not indexable for SE…

  22. In this life we rarely have the opportunity to share ideas, and yes, emotions, in communication with people such as yourself. As an 80 year old who taught art for the past 50 years and only closed shop this month – regretfully, I am especially appreciative of your erudite contributions. Had I followed your directions years ago perhaps the path would have led to personal success as a fine artist. Instead, I chose to teach and earn money for the children. My work is sometimes really good, most often rather ordinary. I don’t think the muse works well when you put all your energies and creativity into the stimulation of others ages 6 through adult! I hate when people give me that ” It’s never too late B.S. ” – because it is too late to do much now other than sell an occasional work. I will miss the students and am not socially viable in the younger, practicing local art community. So you see, your blog work is exceptionally valuable to me and I want to thank you for your efforts, to wish you every good fortune and to reinforce the knowledge that what you do is most meaningful to others.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Linda. I’m pleased to know you find Lines and Colors rewarding and are appreciative of the work I put into it. It means a lot to me to know I’m making a positive contribution to others’ enjoyment of art.

      However, I would think that the effort you’ve put into directly sharing your skills an expertise with your students over time has had a much more dramatic impact on their appreciation of art than the small effect someone like myself could have with a blog. 50 years of teaching art is not a small accomplishment.

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