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What Kind of Art Sells Best

Discover some of the most popular art subjects, themes and styles

What kind of art sells best? What are the top-earning subjects? What are the most popular art genres? Are smaller paintings more sellable than larger ones? Are oil paintings better than watercolour paintings? Prints or originals? First of all, we'd just like to say stop worrying about what kind of art sells. It can be counterproductive to your creative process to mimic other artists and at BRUSHWRK we believe that, ultimately, the kind of art that will sell the best is art that we like to call ICI (pronounced ee-k-ee) or Individual, Creative and Imaginative.

We all like different things and on BRUSHWRK you don't have to worry too much about adopting hip styles to sell because of our powerful AI-powered recommendation engine. On BRUSHWRK we make sure that your work is shown to people who already like your style! However, we are all curious creatures and if you want to take a little look at what the best-selling art subjects are keep reading. In this post, we will explore the most popular art subjects, themes and styles.

artists on money
Best-selling art forms

According to a survey published in the 2019 Hiscox online art trade report, these are the top-selling art forms:
  1. Fine Art

  2. Decorative Art

  3. Antiques

  4. Jewellery

  5. Memorabilia

Fine art and decorative art sell the best. From 2018 to 2019, around 10% more people were more likely to buy decorative art. Whilst jewellery and other crafts are popular, they don't sell as much as fine art or decorative art. However, all of the above five art forms saw an increase in sales from 2018 to 2019. While forms like crafts, jewellery and memorabilia might not be top of the list, now is a good time to be experimenting in these forms, as they are trending upward regardless. With this in mind, if you're trying to be recognised as an artist, you might be better off selling your jewellery on more art-centric platforms, as opposed to traditional marketplaces such as ebay or etsy.

"Online art buyers are increasingly focusing on unique works of art"

If you're looking to outsource the creation and just want to sell, best-selling art forms such as decorative arts and antiques can easily be sourced and curated from charity shops and antique stores and resold on platforms like BRUSHWRK.

decorative art in the louvre
Decorative art and antiques (source: The Louvre)
Best-selling art mediums

Next, let's look at which art mediums move the most money. First, we'll explore art mediums in a broader sense and then drill deeper. Broadly speaking, the hottest mediums are:
  1. Paintings

  2. Prints

  3. Photographs

  4. Drawings

  5. Sculpture

  6. Illustrations

According to a recent Hiscox online art survey, whilst you might think that the online art market would be best suited for prints and editions at lower values, trends in recent years suggest that online buyers are buying more and more unique works (such as paintings, sculptures and drawings) online. Prints and limited editions are still the dominant medium for millennial online art buyers and are still on the rise. 79% of millennials said they had bought a print online in 2019 and 74% said they had purchased a painting online.

"Whilst one would think that the online art market would be best suited for prints and editions at lower values, trends in recent years suggest that online buyers are buying more and more unique works (such as paintings, sculptures and drawings) online"

We now know that paintings seem to be the best-selling medium. But wait a minute, there are loads of different kinds of painting media – which painting medium is most popular? A survey carried out by Art Business Today identified the following to be the painting media that sell best:
  1. Limited-edition offset-litho prints

  2. Limited-edition giclée prints

  3. Open-edition offset-litho prints

  4. Oil and acrylic paintings

  5. Watercolours

  6. Artists' original prints (e.g. etchings and engravings)

  7. Open-edition giclée prints

This list really just confirms what we already know. ICI art is the way to go! According to this list, we can see that limited edition sells better. Additionally, original prints sell well. Unique and limited works seem to be what buyers want.

It is also worth remembering that price is an important factor. Prints are usually cheaper than original artworks, so will typically sell more as a result of this.

best selling drawing
Pencil drawing (source:
Best-selling art subjects

You could draw or paint virtually anything! But for an artist looking to pay the bills and leaning commercially, which subjects are going to bring in the cash? A survey published in Art Business Today reported the following to be the most lucrative subjects or themes:
  1. Traditional landscapes

  2. Local views

  3. Abstracts

  4. Dogs

  5. Figures and nudes

  6. Seascapes, harbours, and beach scenes

  7. Wildlife

"Prints are usually cheaper than original artworks, and so will typically sell more as a result of this"
It is often said that landscape painting is the most quintessential form of art. After all, landscape is universal: everyone understands and appreciates a good view, so it's an easy and accessible choice for a buyer. Who doesn't love to look at a beautiful vista? And in a sense, buying a landscape is kind of like buying a beautiful view. Not only that, but a landscape will work in any type of house or setting.

Paul Klee abstract art
'Senecio' by Paul Klee (1922)
At the end of the day, many people buy art to match their decor. As it is with landscape art, this might explain part of the reason why abstract paintings sell so well. If you put an abstract painting on a wall it might "read" simply as a colour, texture or shape. Because of this, abstract style art appeals to those who want to create a unified aesthetic in their home decor. Additionally, since abstract art is usually nonrepresentational or symbolic, the viewer is free to interpret and ascribe meaning, and this freedom is another reason why abstract paintings sell. Also, we love abstracts over here at BRUSHWRK!

Next, people seem to love paintings of dogs almost as much as they love their dogs. Taking this into consideration, focusing on a popular breed of dog is be a very smart way of tapping into the dog-loving art buyer's heart.

pug painting
'Pug With Pearl Earring' by J.M. Steele
Finally, there is a connection when a viewer looks at a painting of another person. There is something about the natural voyeurism of humanity that means people will always enjoy looking at other people. On top of this, there is still, and probably always will be, a market for nudes as is illustrated by the survey findings. So clothed or unclothed, don't be shy to put your exploration of the figure out there.

Final thoughts

Whatever art you are creating, do it as well as you can, in the genre and style that you choose. BRUSHWRK can be an excellent platform for selling your art.
  • Get access to a thriving online creative community at your fingertips.

  • Super simple to get started.

  • We do all the legwork for you. Our AI-powered recommendation engine matches your work to the people most likely to be interested buyers.

  • We don't take any of your money and simply donate 10% to arts charities.

Finally, just create what inspires you! It sounds cheesy but putting your heart into your art will lead to better artworks which will, in turn, lead to more sales. Good luck – we cant wait to buy your work!


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