Self-Publishing An Art Catalog - Thinking BIG on a Small Budget.
Create Your Own Exhibition Opportunities

Publish Your Own Catalog - DIY

The previous post by Guest Author Larissa Dahroug titled, Self-Publishing An Art Catalog - Thinking BIG on a Small Budget, described how she decided to create her own catalog using This catalog was sold during her exhibition but more importantly, it can be used to approach stores, galleries, and exhibition spaces or as a gift for collectors.  I thought Larissa's catalog was great. Using all of the online programs, computer software and the resources of the Internet now available is so much easier than it used to be.

I've published my own materials several times, it was a worthwhile effort and investment in my career. Here are two examples:

HBcat_frontcover My first catalog was a collaborative project with the Triton Museum of Art. It was printed in black and white with one color (see the cover to the left). I offered to pay for the printing if their staff did the graphic design layout (a long time ago when graphic design layout was all done by hand and color printing was prohibitively expensive). It cost me $1,000.


It was a win-win deal for both the museum and me. They were able to produce a catalog for their exhibition (my solo show), and I had copies to distribute for years.  The whole thing was my proposal from the start including the design. How else was I going to have a catalog of my work so early in my career? 

The refrigerator door on the front cover opened, to reveal the inside of the refrigerator.  I used an Exacto knife to cut every door in the front of the catalog by hand to keep the cost down.  There is a lot you can do to keep costs low if you are willing to work. 

My next opportunity to produce a catalog came when I was invited to be Master Metalsmith 2004 at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. They were willing to contribute $1,000 towards a catalog, on the condition that I take responsibility to arrange everything.

This time I produced a CD-ROM Catalog of work from 1980-2004. 

Cd The catalog included:
*Images of all work
* GRASS/gras' video
     (8:45 minutes)
* Essays by Jill Vexler
     and Deborah Trilling
* Introduction by Jim
     Wallace, N.O.M.M.

* Archive of 1984 catalog and appliance ads
* Past articles and reviews
* Image Directory suitable for PowerPoint presentations
* Compatible with MAC and PC
* Retail price $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping

The $1,000 helped defray the cost, but producing the CD catalog was expensive. There were many challenges in getting all the CD programming done in time. Just like Larissa, every big project is fraught with problems. Nothing ever goes smoothly. It is impossible to foresee all the problems you will run into.

The fun part for me was that I literally constructed the cover design in my post-consumer, recycled tin cans.  Then the metal was professionally scanned and printed. That was the fun and easy part.

The advantage of a CD catalog is that the CD and the catalog cover can be used as promotional collateral for years after the particular exhibition.  I can even add new work in a supplemental CD.  I send this catalog with all my more important packages to galleries, museums, and collectors. As CDs are currently not used as much, this same concept can be applied to a thumb drive.

Alternative catalog ideas:
Some people are using online photo albums services to produce their catalog/portfolio with hardbound covers. I-Photo and Shutterfly are two examples.

These businesses market their product as photo albums, but you can use them as your own catalog or portfolio. Each printing of your portfolio (photo album) tends to be somewhere between $25. to $35, so they are too expensive to give away casually. On the other hand, you have something very nice that you can carry around and show your work to people anytime with beautiful, professional printing.  Some artists have their entire photo album/catalog layout and text completed and simply print it on demand.  With this method, it can be updated anytime. The catalog is even listed on their website, in case a client is interested in buying a book about their work.

Another resource is Custom Museum Publishing. I was recently introduced to their company by the president,  Jane Karker. She says, "We are actually less expensive, press proof each and every job for our artists before printing (meaning we actually set up the press, proof it, send it to the artist, make color adjustments as needed). We are a small outfit but have been New England's premier art printer since 2005. We also provide award-winning graphic design. We work closely to consult with customers who want to design their own catalogs as well."

I would like to offer you more information about this company, but it will have to wait for another day and another post.

In the meantime, next time you put a show together either on your own or with your local arts organization, think about Doing It for Yourself documenting the exhibition event and your work with a self-published catalog.


This post was updated on January 21, 2022, to provide current links.

Mighty Mouse Frt72 

Mighty Saves the Day Flower Pin can supercharge your day This Flower Brooch is an ongoing series by Harriete Estel Berman from post-consumer, recycled tin cans. View my entire album of Flower Brooches by looking on Facebook or Flickr.