What Is Bin Art?

Many art shows allow artists to both hang art on the walls and to also bring bin art. What is bin art, and how does it work?

To be simple, bin art is “art in a bin.” Usually this bin is a metal frame with canvas hung between it to allow the art to sit within.


Here’s a photo of how these are used at an art show. This is from our 2016 show at the Sutton Common.


Once the bin is set out, visitors can then paw through the prints and images to make their choices.

For photographers, making bin art is easy. We simply print out smaller versions of our photos. For painters and drawers, bin art involves taking a high quality photo of your original art, resizing that photo, and then printing that photo out. We’ve done sessions in the past on how to photograph 2D and 3D artwork. If we have enough interest we could run another one. In the meantime if you need assistance with this process, ask and we’ll offer advice. On the printing side, here are instructions on how to make prints:

Making Prints of Artwork

Bin art is traditionally matted and provided with a backing board to maintain its shape. Since random customers will be “pawing” through the items in a bin, it’s generally best to have the items plastic-wrapped. That way visitors with sticky fingers from cotton candy or whatever else don’t damage the prints. How do you do that?

The easiest way is to buy pre-made sets from Amazon. You can buy packets of the front mat, the back board, and the enclosing plastic bag in sets. That way you just tape your print to the mat, slide it into the bag with the backing board, and are all set. Here’s one set that many of us at the BVAA use.


You can buy these sets in most common sizes. The above example is a 5×7 opening matted to an 8×10 frame size. The cost is about $1 per unit meaning even if you price your completed print at $10 matted and bagged you’re still making $9 per sale (not including the print cost, whatever that is for you).

Generally you want to make sure that either each image is labelled on its back with its price or that the entire bin is labelled with the price of the pieces within it. Most artists choose not to individually label the prints and to instead tape a label to the inside back of the bin with generic statements like “all 5×7 prints $10 each.” That way they can raise or lower prices based on the venue, by changing that one sign. Some venues are more geared toward “bargains” while others will draw in attendees more willing to pay a higher price per item. It’s easier to change one sign rather than re-label every single print.

It’s wise to have a business card or artist postcard at the back side of the print within the bag, against the backing board. That way each print is clearly labelled with the artist name, email address, and other contact information. Postcards tend to be best because they’re large and easier to read. Here’s how to make an artist postcard.

Making an Artist Postcard

If you don’t have your own bin for a BVAA show that’s generally OK – we have a few common-use bins which members without bins share. Just let us know.

You can also put one-of-a-kind artwork like small matted-and-bagged watercolors into bin art. The challenge here is how much you’ll want to charge for those unique items. Bin art is usually seen by buyers as the “cheaper art” at a show so if they come across something in there priced at $100 they’re less likely to buy it. Especially if it’s slightly dented from people pawing through the bin. So if you’re fine with selling small watercolors or oils at inexpensive prices, and risking them being damaged, they work well as bin art. But if you want to charge a higher price for that art, it’s better to frame it and have it hung. That way you can hang the original and then have print versions of it that you sell much cheaper in the bin art area.

In general, relatively few people spend the money for a large framed image at a show – but quite a few are happy to pick up the cheaper matted versions of the images they like, or smaller works from a painter who has a few larger items showcased on the panels. You can easily make far more from your bin art sales than you do from actual sales of the “entered” pieces. So it’s well worth it to bring in bin art for all shows which offer that component.

Ask with any questions!