Nowadays you can almost anything online - from clothes, to cars to castles and cryptocurrencies.

Most things are a straightforward purchase, while others need a little more study and thought before hitting the "Buy" button. Buying clothes is a great example, as there are key criteria we need to establish before hitting the buy button, such as fabric type, texture and measurements.

This is no less the case when buying art online. We need to look at it as closely as possible, as well as get a feel for size and space in relation to the room we want to hang it in.

To help make buying art an even better experience, here are our tips on making a successful purchase.

Colours

How many times have we made an online purchase, only to declare when it arrives that the colour looks a bit different from what was seen on-screen? It’s an all-too common situation.

The way colours appear on screens can vary from real life, depending on your laptop, PC or iPad screen settings. It’s always worth playing around with your monitor's brightness, colour warmth and constrast settings to get a better feel for tone and shade.

Green Mile by Branisa Beric
Green Mile by Branisa Beric

If you find that you’re mainly looking at art on your smartphone, then it is recommended you do one last check on a larger screen, just to ensure the colour is still right and what you’re looking for.

Texture and materials

The other downside of a screen or monitor is that it does make a painted canvas look smooth, so do make sure that when you’re looking at art, you not only use the magnify option, but also read about the materials that were used.

Revelation by Neil Hemsley
Revelation by Neil Hemsley

This is particularly the case with digital art; because what looks textured on-screen will not be the case when it is delivered. The reason for this is that they tend to be printed pieces. One of the most exciting elements of this medium is that it can look extremely realistic, so always double-check if it is a digital image or a canvas.

For those artists using traditional media, the type of paint used can also give you an idea of a painting’s texture. Gouache, for example, is like a watercolour, so that will be a smooth image, whereas oil and acrylics, when applied thickly, will leave a textured surface.

Some artists like to apply oils or acrylics so thickly the painting is actually three-dimensional. This technique is called impasto, so look out for this word in the artwork's description.

Woman Siamese cat by Teresa Tanner
Woman Siamese cat by Teresa Tanner

Mixed media is the use of a range of different materials to create a painting. Alongside paint, a piece can consist of anything from cloth, rope, newspaper or even hair.

Artworks labelled as mosaics are often highly textured. In these works of art there will either be some, or a lot of texture, so use the zoom feature on the artwork to carefully examine the surface.

Dave by Liane Stevenson
Dave by Liane Stevenson

Size

The size of a painting or piece of art is probably the most important element in the buying process. More often than not, we’re buying a piece to hang on a specific wall in the home, so it’s important the painting is to scale and isn’t too big or small.

There are many ways to gauge size, and one is through a room simulator, which gives you an example of how the painting will look in a room.

A lot of artists are now providing interiors shots to show a painting in situ. It also gives you an idea of how the image will look with a certain style or trend. This is a great way to get a feel for whether the painting you’re buying will work with your interior.

Framing

Buying original art online means you’re making an investment. You could be looking for art by a major up-and-coming artist, or an unknown who you feel has potential. Either way, you’ve budgeted to buy that work.

'Enigma' by Nora Doherty
'Enigma' by Nora Doherty

Some artists do sell their work already framed, but the majority don’t, and this is an important point, especially if you are new to buying original art. Framing is a key element to buying art as it enhances a painting and gives it that extra edge. Most artists will make it clear if a painting is sold framed or otherwise, but if in doubt, you can always contact the artist. They may also be able to recommend the best frame style and colour for your painting.

Nude Study - framed original oil  by Christopher Gill
Nude Study - framed original oil by Christopher Gill

With this in mind, it is recommended you factor in additional budget for framing. There are many ways to buy frames, right from high street chains and online stores, to making your own or going to a bespoke framers. If you’ve bought a high-end piece of art, then, ideally the frame should match, but if you’re on a budget, a more cost-effective version can still have impact.

Do your research

The great thing about art, and artists, is that nothing is uniform. When buying clothes, we understand that every item, although in a different colour, will still be made to exactly the same specification. This isn’t the case with art.

When an artist creates, they do it as and when the muse hits them. That’s why it’s always worth double-checking the measurements of the specific painting you want to buy. They may all look uniform on their gallery page, but one could be a large size, whereas the other an A4 piece.

This is why it’s always worth reading the painting’s spec before adding to your basket. This is a great way to get to know the painting and make a final check to see if it meets all your criteria.

And, if the spec hasn’t answered all your questions or you would like to find out more about the artist, then, as mentioned earlier, why not contact them? There is an enquiry button on every artist’s page just below the information about the artwork.

Finally, don’t forget to check out customer reviews, which, for some people can be a crucial part of the buying process.

A great review can go a long way in helping you make your decision, so it’s always worth finding out about how people feel about their new purchase.

Ultimately, your piece of art is an investment. It’s important to be fully-informed and happy before you buy that all-important painting or sculpture. With all these factors taken into consideration, by having as much knowledge as possible at your fingertips will transform your art buying experience from good to great.