The full guide of advice for a successful first art fair

Your first art fair can be very scary. (Mine was) You might not know what to expect or how things work. I certainly felt that way. But after my art fair, I feel like I have a much better understanding of what works and doesn’t work.

I think art fairs are a great opportunity to find out what people like and what sells. So trying them out is certainly worth it. 

Here is everything I learned from art fair from my first booth on one (and of course talking with some professionals there).

How can you make your first art fair a success. I learned loads on my first run and am excited to share with you everything I learned!

This Saturday I had my first art fair like I mentioned before. It went very well and I really liked the atmosphere (already planning for next year) I was also very lucky in the fact that the weather was wonderful.

I was very nervous for my art fair. Even though I was invited by a relative of my boyfriend I still felt as if I was being a little over confident by being there. I know I am not the only one who feels like that (intruder syndrome). I think that for me seeing people enjoy my work and being happy with it was a really good confidence boost and made me

Preparing for your art fair;

I think that for me the most important preparation was gathering and organising my artwork. I am a slightly messy person and I had many different maps full of artwork. So finding everything I wanted to sell and dividing it into categories was quite some work.

dscn1136I also had to order packing materials since I wanted plastic sleeves around my artwork, not to mention I needed bags to carry my diamond painting kits. The main tip that I have for ordering packing material is to order for your main formats and if you make anything that is slightly outside of your formats trying packing it in something bigger and taping the edges. It still looks amazing from the front but it beats having to order all the different formats.

The third thing you might want to think about is how you are going to present your artwork and creating signs (which I didn’t before hand but worked better in the end)

The things you definitely will want to take; 

  • Rope for tying things up and working with the entire booth.

  • Tape to stick things and secure them.

  • Scissors for the rope and tape.

  • Extra package material just in case

  • A  business card with your information, you never know if people want to see more of you.

  • Change (I didn’t take enough change with me in the end, it does make things more difficult! )

How to dress up your booth;

First of all, you might want to make sure that if your art fair is outside that you have your work protected. I used plastic sleeves on everything so that in the case of rain my work would be protected. Some places also have the option to have a back on the booth so if your weather report doesn’t sound so good you can


If you are selling lots of painting make sure you have ways to show them upright. That way it easier for people to see them. I didn’t really think about that so it wasn’t as obvious. Taking things like painting easels and some boxes to prop things up against can really help your presentation without making it too expensive.

For my smaller cards, I used a system I bought online. This consisted of hang strips and sticky handles. I think this might have worked better if I had put it in the front in the booth.

dscn1138Take a table cloth with you as well. Most booths outside don’t have anything but a wooden plank. Personally, I just used an outside cloth with fake marble structure secured with scotch tape at the underside of the table.

Make sure you have some big works that make your booth stand out from a distance. You will want people to come look closer so catching their eyes is important.

For you money and change you can take a little box. Maybe try something that you can secure to your booth if you are outside so people can’t run off with your money.

Things that definitely didn’t work;

Some things simply didn’t work or I hadn’t thought about. To help you avoid these mistakes I thought I would mention those to!

  1. I had a little map for A4 work that people could go through. But maybe people found that a little scary. Maybe the idea of messing up the display or something like this. It is still great for keeping work safe but I think that it didn’t really work as a display.
  2. Since the fair was outside we had a little trouble with the wind. Having things laying loose on the table definitely didn’t work so good. I would say; always take things to mount things to your table or displays.
  3. Also, I started off with a price list. This, however, was not very clear. People might not know what you mean when you are describing your different works and formats. I bought price stickers and little cards to make it all a little bit clearer.
  4. I mentioned my problem with change already. In the end, I didn’t take enough change with me. While I had lots of smaller items to sell I didn’t have a lot of small coins. I think it is important to look at what you are offering and basing the amount of change you take on that. If you are selling bigger and more expensive items, you might need bigger bills as change. If you are selling cards like me you will need slightly smaller change like coins.

Some notes; 

One thing to consider is if you are going to sell original artwork or prints. Depending on the kind of art fair you going to and the price and size of your print and artwork this might make a difference in the number of sales you will make. For example, I had only originals with me but since this was not a professional art fair people might not immediately realise that. Some thought they were just expensive prints. Mostly also because I sold a lot of Copic marker drawings which kind of looked printed.

Also, a number of people that show up can vary from year to year. Some years people might not buy a lot but that is not a representation of your work or the quality. There is a whole lot of luck involved in selling at art fairs. While selling your work is amazing, try to keep in mind that it is also a way to network and gain an audience. Even if you sell nothing it can still be helpfull. If you have only very expensive work people might not feel comfortable buying it on the market but they might still want it later.

While I was very nervous in the beginning and found it really scary it ended up being a great day. I learned a lot, business wise and I have a better insight into what people like and enjoy.

One thing that made me really happy for example was when I sold some dragons since I love drawing those but I never thought others would want to buy them.

I hope this will help you prepare for your own art fair and make it less scary. Let me know if you would consider art fairs. Or if you already have done art fairs do you have any tips for the rest of us. 

Don’t forget that if you have any helpful blogging post of you own you can submit it to the list! 

3 Responses to “The full guide of advice for a successful first art fair

  • Hi Sofie,
    thank you for this great informative post. I’m glad you found the courage to put yourself out there and to hear what you have learned is helpful and inspiring. When it comes to presentation, I saw a really interesting idea that keeps your work upright but still open enough for people to flick through. Quite a few artists that I saw recently use wooden boxes to put their cards in vertically so they peek out halfway but are stable. I also like your idea of using easels, however if you are concerned about wind maybe this could be an issue. The table cloth looks good and I loved to see some of your new paintings I haven’t seen.
    I guess it is good to have a mix of prints and originals. Especially because of the price point, you wouldn’t want to sell your hard work too cheap. Another nice idea could be postcards or greeting cards. I’m working on notebooks at the moment. I’m sure you will find a good way.
    It was nice to hear from you and I look forward to your next post,
    Romica 🙂

    • artsbysofie
      7 years ago

      Hi Romica, Thank you so much for your feedback. I like the idea of boxes. Definitely something I will look into next time. I think most artist btw used wires and such to mount their work. I just forgot to do that at first. I think mixing prints and originals is also a good idea. Many of the artist that had only big canvasses for sale mainly go to art fairs so people see their work to buy later. It is really interesting to hear all the different ways people set up their booth. I have lots to looks into for next time. Thank you again for your wonderful comment Romica!
      ~ Sofie

  • Thanks for sharing this information about preparing for your first art fair. I would imagine that getting an art appraiser could be helpful for those who may attend. This could help with determining the potential of the financial aspects of art.

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