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What are Art Trades?

what are art trades

The online art community is one of the most active groups right now. You can find groups of artists almost everywhere online. They are on Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, DeviantArt, and many more social media sites.

If you are a budding artist, one way to get noticed quickly is to do an art trade with other artists, preferably people with a lot of clout in the community. This article will teach you the basics of art trades. You will learn how does art trade work in-depth and how to start one.

How to Do Art Trades?

The things you will need when making art trades will depend on the exact kind of trade you and other artists agree upon. Here are the steps:

Before the Trade

You don’t simply initiate an art trade with another artist. This is not something that you can just do at the drop of the hat. There are things you should do first before getting into an art trade.

1. Make Sure the Artists Accept Art Trades

Before sending out art trade requests, make sure that the person you are sending invitations to welcomes art trades. Check the artist’s social media accounts. You will find their introductions in their bios.

There is a lot of information that you can get about a fellow artist just by browsing their social media accounts. If there is any indication in the bio about how they don’t do art trades and the like, don’t send a request.

Most artists would only do art trades with other people whom they share “mutuals” with. If this is the case, don’t press the issue any further. This is a good way to get a bad reputation.

2. Prepare a Usable Reference Image

You need to provide the other artists with as much information as they need to recreate your original character (OC) if that is what you are thinking of doing. If you are trading portraits or caricatures, you need to provide a clear photo of yourself.

Make it as easy as possible for the other artist to draw what you want them to. That way, they can provide you with the best work possible and they will reciprocate.

Also, if you are using a hashtag for your character, share that too so that the other artist will have other points of reference they can use.

3. Communicate with the Other Artists

If you manage to snag an art trade deal with another artist, keep an open line of communication between the both of you. Tell the other artist what you would like for them to draw and ask them the same question.

Will you be doing a sketch, a fully-colored computer renders, or an actual painting? This is very important so that both parties will not get disappointed with what they receive in the trade.

Also, discuss a deadline. It is best to have a deadline to avoid spending too much time waiting for the other side to finish.

4. Discuss how the Trade Should go Down

After discussing what kind of artwork you will be doing, the next thing that you should talk about is how you would go trading your art pieces. For beginners who are just looking for some online clout, it is enough to post each other’s work on your social media accounts.

You can just tag each other on your posts so they can get online traction. However, some artists like to collect artwork as well. So, if you will be doing traditional art, like sketches, paintings, sculptures, and whatnot, discuss how and where you need to ship your artwork.

On the other hand, if you will be swapping digital art, discuss what file-sharing platform you will be using so you can send the full-scale, uncompressed file.

Creating the Piece

how does art trade work

1. Study your reference materials

If you are doing each other’s OC, study the reference materials that you received, and also the ones that you gathered on your own. This is where a character hashtag comes in handy.

Also, if the artist has done other art trades before, check those out as well. This can help a lot, especially if you are having trouble with the character’s design or you are looking for ideas on how to pose the OC.

2. Send Work-in-Progress Pictures

You can also send each other WIP pictures, particularly when you are still in the sketching stage. This is not just to show the other artist your progress so far, but this will give the other artist enough time to correct any issues that you might have with the character. It will always be better to spot and correct any errors earlier than later.

However, if you discussed earlier that you would like to be surprised, avoid sending WIP pics. You can still post pictures of your WIP on your social media accounts, but be sure not to show the entirety of the drawing. Just zoom in on a particular part.

Finishing Touches

1. Inform the other artist

If you’ve finished your part of the trade, you should tell the other artist. They may want to see the artwork right away, or they may want you to wait until they finish theirs and have a simultaneous reveal.

2. Follow-up

If you have completed your artwork, it is important to regularly communicate with the other artist to ask if they are nearly finished. Ask if they can provide a timeframe on when it will be finished.

There are times when some artists just plain forget about some of their products, especially if they have a lot on their plate at the moment. It is not that bad to ask about their progress. It is also a good way to make sure that you’re not getting cheated.

I’m not saying all do this, but some artists take advantage of art trades to get free commissions. Some go into art trades and they do not do their share of the work. Following up constantly will remind them about their responsibility and hopefully, finish their work soon.

Art trades are a good way to network with other artists. It is also a great way to get your name out there. Having your name associated with another artist is reward enough. However, getting another social media account to promote your work is a great way for people, and potential clients, to know your name.

Helpful Tips

  • Do NOT give your art piece until the other side finished their part – This will help you protect yourself from getting scammed
  • If the other side asks for a WIP pic, take a picture of a part of the screen, paper, or canvas
  • Add a watermark on your artwork when the other side asks for confirmation of your work, even a simple scribble over the piece will do


Newbie artists who want their name to get out there in the art community need to get into art trades. This is a good way for you to network with fellow artists. It is also a great way to showcase your art for potential art commissions and clients.

Art trades are quite simple. However, if you are not careful when dealing with another artist, you will most likely encounter needless complications. Hopefully, this article was able to teach you how to get into art trades and how to do it properly.