As an independent artist, it makes sense to keep looking for new ways to help your art reach more people and get more exposure. As you know, I sell my art via my own shop here and via my print-on-demand partners worldwide. For a while now, I have been doing some research on the best ways and practices to sell digital copies of my artwork as printables that my customers can print at their end in the size they want as per their convenience.
This seemed like such a great idea because I won’t have to worry about printing & shipping and it can be an additional income stream considering I regularly am requested to make digital downloads of my artwork available. Some of these requests mention that they want a specific size that’s not available through my sales channels while for some others, shipping costs to certain countries are an issue. I therefore embarked upon this journey to find out everything there was to know about selling printables online so that I could make an informed decision and share it with you fellow artists.
I started off by testing the few WordPress plugins that are available claiming to protect PDF files thinking I could convert my artwork images to PDFs and then host them on my website, making them accessible to customers when their printable purchase is complete. The security features they offer are uselss if you’re looking to prevent actual artwork theft.
Then I looked up the security features that online image hosting services like Dropbox, box.com and Google Drive provide. What I wanted now was a place to upload and store my artwork printable files safely. When a customer purchased the printable, he/she would get access to print the file but downloading would be disabled. Also, the number of copies that could be printed would be limited ideally. Dropbox and box.com failed to offer anything close to this. Google Drive lets you disable downloading but then it automatically disabled printing as well and you can not separate the two options.
How To Protect Your Artwork
The solution is 2 fold.
- Prevent people from downloading the artwork file. Allow them to only view it and print it.
- Limit the number of times the file can be printed to 1. If at all a particular customer prints it on say a wrong size paper or faces an issue, you can always give them access to a new file which will in turn allow only 1 more print. If someone wants to send the printable file to an online provider like Office Depot, Snapfish or Staples,you can always contact these providers and give them access to the file instead.
The following are the two go-to tools that are a must for anyone wanting to seriously secure their digital files online.
Lizard Safeguard pricing starts at $500.00 per month and is the leading PDF Security software with a good range of DRM controls. It’s unobtrusive to users, easy to implement with a responsive technical support. It offers a range of features that let you prevent saving, limit prints, add watermarks, prevent screengrabbing, expire & revoke access, lock use to devices, lock use to locations and more.
2. CopySafe PDF
CopySafe PDF costs $295 and claims to be the most secure solution available for copy protecting documents and the only solution that can protect PDF files from all avenues of copy including PrintScreen and ALL screen capture software. It also provides advanced features that let you distribute secure PDF documents that cannot be copied, prevent PrintScreen, stop ALL screen capture software, password protect PDF documents, prevent printing of PDF documents, set an expiry date for PDF documents validated by time server and many more. The protected embedded PDF object can be viewed only in the ArtisBrowser – which is a specialized Copy Protection Web Browser. The platform also offers a WordPress plugin if you want to display and protect PDFs on your wordpress website.
The biggest limitation they have is that both their software as well as the Artistbrowser are compatible with Windows OS only and not with Mac.