Printed Marketing materials

There are various places in which you will encounter the need for printing. This is going to tie back into our documentation discussion and images a little bit. We are also going to talk about starting and maintaining a mailing list- both email and physical addresses.

Print material. What do you need printing for anymore anyway? How will this help me market my work?

Well, good questions! There are several ways we still need and use printed material to market ourselves. For example, in Alfred, the best way to communicate with your community is with posters! We cannot get away from printing yet. Handing someone a tangible part of yourself is a powerful tool. If someone walks away with something tangible, they are more likely to look you up later. Even if you spend time showing someone your website or photos on your phone, you cannot guarantee that they will remember your name later on. Printed material acts like social media with its ability to drive people to your website. Maybe they will find your business card in their pocket when they get home, maybe they will decorate their studio wall with your postcard. Printed material helps to keep you in a person’s mind.

Images: First, I want to reiterate the importance of having high resolution images of your work. Print quality images should be at least 300dpi jpegs (minimum dimensions to match the size of your printed image), though some designers prefer to have raw or TIFF files to work with. This ensures that your printed image will not be grainy, but maintain their saturation and quality.

Postcards: While fewer galleries are printing postcards anymore, you have to think in terms of multiple generations. Many collectors are of the generation that physical postcards are the best way to communicate. They either aren’t active online, or they have developed a love of collecting printed images. There are several companies that have interactive tools you can use to design postcards for yourself. You can choose size, color, finish etc. Each of these sites feature drag and drop options which help you to ensure correct orientation front to back. Something to think about when ordering postcards yourself, is the cost of shipping- and the time shipping takes. Also, consider what you will do with postcards that go out of date as soon as an exhibition is over. I know several people that print postcards with blank backs and print a separate sticker for exhibition information, allowing them to use one postcard for several exhibitions. I also know several people that cut up those black backed cards to business card size and print a sticker with their website and contact information  for the back, creating a dual purpose card.

In Alfred, you have a spectacular option of using Print services at Alfred State. They have incredible prices and really fast turn around. The down side is it’s a little hard to communicate with them and the color quality is a little uncertain.

Color. This brings up a very important point. CMYK (four color) is used for printing while RGB (3 color) is used for the web. Here’s an article about the difference between CMYK and RGB. Color looks very different from screen to paper because of the simple fact of light. Remember that your image is being printed on a white background- this can alter an image a great deal. The image files you send are often opened with photo editing software at the print company and they will deal with the conversion for you. While there are very specific formulas that printing companies use to match color as closely as they can, some of the discount companies do multiple jobs in one print run- which leaves you open to your colors being skewed. If you need the color to be exact, I recommend Modern Postcard. They will actually send you a sample before they do your complete printing.

In Photoshop, other Adobe software and many other image editing tools, there is a place you can find out what color profile you are using. This is often in the Save As feature. If you are a designer, it’s likely you already know a great deal about this.

It is my personal opinion that postcards are wasteful. I can’t tell you how many of these things I have thrown out, as a consumer, artist and gallerist. People pick them up, put them in their bag, and throw them out. They are not easy to carry, and often get lost in the shuffle in a mailbox. However, while the world is changing, they are still the gold standard for advertising exhibitions.

Posters: As I mentioned earlier, posters seem to be the best way to communicate here in Alfred. This is not the case everywhere but for those of you that are going to have a BFA show or an exhibition in Turner this spring, here are my recommendations: Alfred State seems to be the most cost effective option for printing posters. I suggest printing 50 posters for the best visibility throughout school and the Village. I have not personally needed to use posters previous to my time here, I would bet that other small communities are similar in this respect. Personally, I love the culture of communicating in this way. It makes me pay attention to my surroundings as there is always something new to learn about what’s going on here.

Business Cards: While I think the postcard is becoming obsolete, the business card is a highly functional Marketing tool. If you find yourself in a situation talking with someone new about your work, a business card can give someone a taste of what it is you do. Business cards tend to stick around in people’s wallets, bags and pockets because of their convenient size. I can’t tell you how many times my business card has opened doors for me. Always carry a bunch with you. It can be awkward to have someone look over your shoulder or to hand over your phone so someone can browse your photos or website on a phone. A business card on the other hand puts your work in the hands of others. If you go to a convention where you are talking with galleries, graduate schools and residencies, you can show your work to someone easily. actually allows you to print up to 50 different images on your business cards. You can create your own set of baseball cards!

Keep the text on your card simple. Your name and your website (or blog, or instagram handle) are enough. The rest can be image. You can also print on both sides of these cards which can give people a miniature view of your body of work. Business cards also outlast postcards as the information changes more slowly. Once you have a website, the information can stay the same for a long time. This equals less waste. If you are going to spend the $ on printed material, business cards are a worthwhile investment.

Catalogs: I am not going to talk too much about catalogs though I do want to address that these will likely enter your life at some point. What I do want to say about catalogs is this: you must have high quality images of your work. Keep them, store them and protect them. You will need them someday. Also, if you ever decide to print a catalog (a pretty powerful tool for a mid career artist), spend the $ on a good designer, hire an editor, and find a printer that will walk you through your options. There are so many options from size, to binding, to paper quality and finish, ISBN codes, and bulk orders that you might not be able to imagine when deciding to print a catalog. Typically, galleries and museums take care of this for you. However, if you at some point create an exhibition that travels from one location to another, it is a good idea to print a catalog. These are great tools to promote the exhibition. Check out this article about self publishing here.

Vinyl Lettering: You have probably seen show titles printed and stuck to the walls of the galleries around here. This stuff is great! Now, you can print these yourself by purchasing a die cutter or laser cutter, though if you do not have an application for this aside from exhibitions, you probably don’t need to spend the $. So, where do you have these printed? Here in Alfred, you can have your vinyl letters printed at Alfred Sports Center for a very reasonable cost. There are a ton of companies that do this outside of Alfred, just google “custom vinyl lettering”. When ordering, you can send the company your text alone, or you can send a jpeg or pdf file of what you are looking for. You must consider how large you want this to be. It is best to consider the width you want your sign to be. Also, consider how high you want your letters to be. The company you will work with will ask this of you. I usually indicate the width I would like to have my sign printed. Also, be sure to indicate the color you want your text, and the finish (matte, satin, gloss). If you are printing multiple lines of text, be sure to indicate whether you want your text to be justified, right justified or centered. Also be sure to indicate whether you want all caps, title case or sentence case. You must be sure to indicate exactly what you want when you are ordering or the designer will print what they think is best (rarely will you agree). In this case, sending a pdf or jpeg of your design is best, eliminating the numbers of errors that can be made. In fact, if you can, try to send a vector file or an eps which is sized to the exact proportions you want.

Printing Documents: While most of your documents will be sent via the web, you will encounter organizations that want you to send physical documents. For your CV, resume, bio, artist statement, cover letter etc, paper is important. Use higher quality white paper. Do not use a color. That cream colored resume paper you will find at staples is not good. If you can help it, also avoid using the cheaper quality copy paper.

Press Releases: Check out this article. While it is a little old, I have found the information found on this site helpful. Why do you need a press release? If you are putting on an exhibition outside a usual gallery setting, you need to let people know about it! Look up local media press contacts and create a list of places you would like to have this information broadcast. Consider sending information to publications in your field as well. You can also take out adds in higher profile magazines to announce your exhibition. Local media love something new and you never know, you might get picked up by a larger publication!

Here’s what GY*T says about writing press releases:(By the way, I would l read this whole article. It’s got a lot of really great stuff in it).



A press release is the most important part of an effective PR campaign. Like everything else it takes time and practice to write a good press release. If a news outlet doesn’t cover your event, don’t get discouraged. There’s a lot of news out there. The important thing is to be persistent. The more times your name/organization comes across the editor’s desk, the more recognizable you will be and the more likely you are to get coverage in the future.

A press release gives reporters a one-page summary of your event or exhibition. It should be “scannable,” which means it should use key descriptive words and short, concise sentences. It should clearly state the basic features of the event:

Who: The artist or performer, and the organization.

What: The title of the event or exhibition and what it will  present.

Where: The venue.

When: The duration of the exhibition, hours of operation, and opening dates.

Why: Why the exhibition or event is important, and why it is occurring now, in the space where it occurs.

Contact info: The person who will answer questions from the press.

The press release should describe the audience the work is geared to. Most importantly, it should set your project apart from the rest by relaying clearly and succinctly WHY YOUR EVENT IS WORTH COVERING. The more your press release reads like a ready-to-publish article the better, as this makes for less work for the media outlet’s writer.

Newsletters/ Eblast: Here’s where creating a mailing list comes into play.

You know those silly updates you get from family and friends during the holidays? You an do this too for your work. Create and send out a yearly or quarterly update to your loya fans. You can have this printed and send it physically, or you can send this out via eblast. There are some GREAT eblast marketing companies out there that have simple drag and drop tools and  great templates for free! These are a couple I have used myself. Mail ChimpConstant Contact, Vertical Response.

About creating a mailing list from GY*T

  • Your personal mailing list is probably your most important marketing tool. You want to keep your personal list up-to-date and private. It is never too soon to start your own mailing list. Start with your friends and family, and then research other venues that might be interested in your work.
  • Word-of-mouth publicity is priceless and hard to generate. Here are some tips for ensuring that your personal contacts help you in creating a buzz about your project:
  • Send individualized emails to your friends, family, and colleagues. Start with a short note asking them to personally attend your opening. You absolutely don’t want them to think you just cut and pasted an introduction. After this you can paste a standard invite to your show.
  • Don’t send press releases to your friends and family or colleagues. PR is meant for the press, send an email invite or personal postcard to the above.
  • Write short personal notes to friends and family on postcard invites.
  • Send a save the date up to one month before your event.
  • Let your personal contacts know that they can forward event details to their own contacts. Thank them for doing this, and offer to assist them in any way you can.
  • Always have a sign-up mailing list at every event or exhibition. Get names from other artists or art organizations, dealers who represent you, or other sources. Have a subscription button on your website to gather visitors’ email addresses.


So when do I do all of these things? Here are some common recommendations:

Be sure your information is correct and gathered together a week before you need to send it out. Have someone else look over all your press materials to make sure your project description and venue information is clear.

3 months before the show or event

Most magazines have a three-month (at least) publishing deadline. Call publications for their requirements. Provide the venue with information about the project way ahead of time.

3 weeks before the show or event

Most newspapers and weekly publications require a three-week event deadline.

1 week before the show or event

Send out an invitation to your emailing list. Remind any reviewers via email.

Have a little fun!  you can do all kinds of things to promote yourself in unconventional ways. StickersTemporary Tattoos . . . The world is yours!

22 thoughts on “Printed Marketing materials

  1. I learned that mailing postcards and things to people is not practical – environmentally or economically. Is it good to keep posting the poster image/information leading up to the event on social media? Is it actually effective or just annoying?

    • I think it’s ok to keep posting the poster, but… the more effective thing to do with social media and events is to create a facebook event and make it public. You can copy the image of your event page and pot it to instagram too. I understand your concern about being annoying. This is why the facebook events are more helpful- they kind of grow organically. I suggest, mixing it up. Time your posts, some of the poster, some of installation images, some of new work for the show.

      As far as printing posters- here in Alfred- it’s the only way to go. They are vital for communication.

  2. This reading was great for learning how to advertise and market my work for future exhibitions. I learned the importance of a mailing list, and what formats are most effective.

    For individualized emails, roughly how long should the individualized section be?

    • I think when you’re using Mail Chimp, ore an eblast platform like that, stick with Dear so-and-so. If you’re talking about sending personalized invites using an e-card service, you can add a sentence or two- “thank you for coming to my last opening. I would love to see you at my next event”- or “as you expressed interest in this work in my last show, I invite you to come see my new work”

      If you are sending individual emails- maybe a paragraph- no more. It will burn you out if you have to write too many… Keep that part of your list short- only for collectors, family and galleries.

  3. This article showed me that a press release is an option! I never considered contacting news platforms to promote my work. It also made me think about business cards floating around in people’s lives. Perhaps you pick one up just for fun but you find it in your bag a month later and think “Hey this piece is beautiful and I need a new mug, a great place to buy one just showed up in my bag!”

    Question: How often should I order new business cards that display my current work?

    • Great question. Business cards can last longer than many pieces of printed information. Order new ones when the old ones feel like they’re too old- if they are no longer selling you in the best way. That said- I think my husband used his last business cards for about 3 years before they started to feel out of date.

  4. It is great to know that we have great printing resources not only in the 5th floor lab of Harder, but across the street at Alfred State.
    My one question would be why is it important to have your documents printed on white paper? Is it just to look professional?

    • It’s really just standard- and it looks more professional. I’ve seen upper administration in a variety of places (Schools, galleries, museums, restaurants) all roll their eyes at that cream colored resume paper. It somehow comes across as trying too hard. Now that said- if you wanted to present your work on purple glitter paper- that might say something entirely different- a something that if you do it well, might land you in a list of finalists.

  5. One thing I learned and took interest to was creating a mailing list. This is important not just for invites to events. When you do something such as photography, its important to build connections and find clientele that wish to come back year after year, and what better way than to organize a mailing list for promos and special offers. This is something I definitely have to go through and learn more about.

  6. Since I’m in intro to photography this semester I’m just beginning to understand the importance of image quality especially when it comes to printing. Another part of this post I found interesting was about the mailing list. This is an idea I haven’t really considered before, but it’s clearly very important. Making lasting connections and building your community starts now in college! Lastly I guess the only question I have is what are good places to print once were out of college? Should we find the closets college campus and see what options they have? What other kinds of places could we seek out to print once were out of school/institutions?

  7. I think this is a really great timeline to have before a show or opening. I also have created mailing list sign ups on a website before so that’s a great tab to have on your website! No extra work necessary! I also wish I knew about color settings before this but, I do not think I was printing much in my artistic career.

    I’ve seen a lot of creative and drool-worthy business cards in the past but is flashy always better? Since the card is so small, would you do image on one side and details on the other? And what do you think about using a detail of an artwork as an image for a business card? I see that a lot.

  8. I have two sets of business cards: one for my pastel drawings and one for my photographs. Each of them has a sample of my work in the background, with text printed clearly over the top, with my name in letters that are larger than the rest. Along the bottom is my phone number, then email, and then facebook link. The phone number had periods instead of dashes to formalize it.

  9. Color was information I truly hadn’t thought about until you mentioned it in class, referring to the green printer mishap solidified its significance. When I initially had my business cards printed, I had always assumed there would be a shift in color from computer screen to real life. Some websites have a page where it shows you the expected color difference in what you ordered to real life. Mailing Lists are interesting and something I have tried. It didn’t seem to work. How can someone pick up steam with a mailing list, or how do you know it’s working?

  10. There are so many different ways to market yourself as an artist, whether it’s utilizing a press release or creating a mailing list to keep everyone updated. This was definitely helpful as I haven’t really gone through the effort of trying to market myself before

  11. Postcards may seem outdated but I love them! When I go to galleries I try to collect them, they act as a souvenir for the show. I think it would be great if Alfred had classes in marketing yourself as an artist or had workshops. No matter your practice, every artist should be familiar with graphic design to help promote their overall art career.

  12. This is all really exciting information to me because I am interested in marketing and am hoping to make it into at least a minor, and if possible another major. I learned a lot about how to get your “product” or in this case your art and your shows known, and how print media is still very important because you’re trying to obtain as big as a market as possible and not just preaching to your own generation via social media.
    How expensive is it to get companies/publishers to advertise for you? And how beneficial is it to spend that kind of money rather than just advertising for yourself via print media, social media, and email chains?

    • It can be pretty expensive to get printers/ publishers to advertise for you. For example, a full page add can run anywhere between $2000 and $8000 depending on the publication. Later in your career, this may make sense to do. That said, publications that have an online version often sell banner adds for as little as $150 for a short period of time. I think this is a great avenue- particularly if you form a collective with a group of artists.

  13. I agree with the wastefulness of postcards. I don’t know how many i have dragged back from nceca and then thrown away. I never really considered that i could personally create a press release. Some how i always thought only the gallery could do that. This is maybe a personal preference question but what do you think the value is in having a matte business card vs a gloss image. I have been told in the past it is important to have a white matte area so that more information can be written on the card if need be. However it seems more professional to have a finished looking card with color and print on both sides.

  14. I found the idea expressed about different micro cultures requiring different types of printed media interesting.
    I am curious about the average price for vinyl lettering, how to know when a company is asking too much money? Can you show us how to make a vector file?
    When creating a mailing list for the first time, what is the etiquette about adding people you already have an email for? Professors, galleries, etc.?

    • I am not sure what the average price for vinyl. For the gallery, I spend on average $25 per exhibition. This pays for a 3′ wide piece of vinyl. Vinyl comes in varying widths. To save $, you can ask the printer how wide their vinyl is, and tailor your design from there. For example, if your want to print your name about 3′ wide, but you know the vinyl cutter only has 18″ wide rolls of vinyl, you can stack your words, then space them out manually on the wall. This takes a little more time, and can be tricky to line the words up properly. This is only cost effective if the new width of words stacked on each other is smaller than if you printed the long way on the vinyl. Here’s a wiki how to create a vector file.
      It’s always best to ask people first. Perhaps a “dear so and so, I am building a newsletter mailing list. I would love to include you. Please let me know whether you would like to receive new from me. I plan to send out quarterly newsletters.”

  15. I am happy to now have information about local printing in Alfred. I always wondered where people would print their posters, and now I can too if I want. I also think it is interesting that postcards are seen as outdated now since I actually really enjoy collecting them. I guess it is something to think about when planning. For making a mailing list, is it important to ask our friends and families if they would want to be on it even if we know they will say yes?

    • It’s always good practice to ask before adding anyone to a mailing list. for the postcards, there is a whole zine culture which attracts people who like to collect paper items. If you like postcards- keep printing them! There are others our there like you.

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