Documenting the Sale of Your Artwork

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by Rita Job

In this day and age, documenting the sale of your artwork is extremely important. Every sale requires at least two pieces of paperwork to make sure that everything is recorded properly for your own records, the buyer, and tax purposes. If you’re working with a gallery, most of the important documentation will be taken care of by the gallery staff, but if you’re navigating the waters of artwork sales on your own, you need to be able to create an Artist Bill of Sale and a Certificate of Authenticity. As a bonus, you can also include a press packet for your collectors’ records.

Documenting the sale of your artwork

Artist’s Bill of Sale

What is an Artist’s Bill of Sale?

This is one of your most important documents. Basically an invoice, an Artist Bill of Sale acts as a record of transaction between you and the buyer and should include information about the artwork, the parties involved, and services provided. Country, state, and local requirements for invoices do vary, so be certain to check with your local government to make sure you’re providing the required information.

One important requirement to definitely check on is the sales tax. What is the tax rate for artwork in your state or city? Who’s responsible for paying, the artist or the buyer? Are there any exemptions? These questions are very important and you, as an artist, need to understand your responsibilities for collecting and paying taxes.

Regardless of the local requirements that might exist, the basic outline of the Artist’s Bill of Sale will be same no matter where you are and should include the following:

An example of a bill of sale for an artwork
Click for PDF

1. Date of sale and invoice number

Invoice numbers can be used as a unique reference ID and will prove very helpful should you need to quickly find the documentation later.

2. Artist’s contact information

Include your full name and, at least, an address. It might also be helpful to provide your telephone number or an email, to make contacting you in the future convenient and fast.

3. Buyer’s contact information

List the same contact information for your buyers as you have for yourself, making sure that the buyer’s address is their Shipping address since this is where the taxes come into play. Don’t forget to add the buyer to your mailing list, if they’re not already on it.

4. Artwork sold

This is the field where the price of the artwork should be listed. Each artwork should be recorded separately and never grouped as one transaction. You should also include the description of your artwork, such as the title, dimensions, and medium.

5. Subtotal

That’s the total cost of the work before taxes. Subtotal is the field where you can make notes regarding any other fees in addition to the price of the artwork itself.  For example, if someone has asked to purchase the artwork without the included frame or with a different frame, you might include any discounts or additional costs.

6. Taxes

Since tax rates vary between regions and types of transaction, be sure to look up rates that apply to artwork sales in your area.

7. Other charges

Do buyers want your artwork delivered? Are they purchasing a frame or an encasing from you as well? Will you be commissioned to visit their residence or place of business to hang or advise on the placement of the artwork? One-off charges like that do come up and should be listed separately.

8. Total

The sums from the Subtotal, Taxes, and Other Charges categories will go into this field.

Other things to include in your Artist Bill of Sale. Definitely include a line about the Copyright and Reproduction rights. Doing so will inform your collector that you have the ownership of both and that you know how to protect it. Signature lines are also useful. Having both parties sign the Bill of Sale indicates the understanding between the two of you and acts not only as another lever of protection for the artist, but also as a “closure” of the deal for the collector.

When it comes to formatting, be as creative as you wish. For a collector, even looking at a unique and beautiful Artist’s Bill of Sale can bring memories and raise positive emotions associated with the purchase.

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Certificate of Authenticity

What is a Certificate of Authenticity?

The Certificate of Authenticity is another essential document that should accompany every artwork you finish. Just as it sounds, it’s a document that certifies that the sold artwork is an authentic creation by the artist that signed it.

Why do you need a Certificate of Authenticity?

Let’s say that five years from now you are an incredibly well-known artist and your works are selling for big money. Art collectors who have purchased your earlier works may want to sell it to a museum or other major institution, but how would they prove that this is your work? This is where the Certificate of Authenticity comes in very handy. Furthermore, this important paper can also be used for valuing an estate, for insurance purposes, and for other legal matters surrounding your artwork.

It’s good to have a certificate made for each work you finish, so that you can be ready to sell it as soon as the paint dries, especially if you already have a buyer lined up. You can either make a certificate for each piece you’re working on and store them in your records, or you can make a general template and create and modify them as needed. It can over-complicate matters if you’ve sold the work but don’t have a certificate ready immediately.

What to include in a Certificate of Authenticity

A high-quality Certificate of Authenticity contains information about the artwork, a line or paragraph certifying its authenticity, the artist’s name and signature, and the date. It’s also very important to note that this certificate is not a transfer or release of copyright.

Click for PDF
Click for PDF

1. Artwork information

Include here the title of artwork, artist’s name, dimensions, medium, and the year created. If you’re really feeling ambitious, add where the work was created as well.

2. Special instructions

If you have special hanging or display instructions, you can include this on the certificate. This is especially wise if your works are made up of materials more prone to degrading in certain circumstances, such as glow-in-the-dark paint.

3. Artwork image

You’ll want to attach a high-resolution image of the artwork itself for extra security and convenience.

Remember, Certificates of Authenticity provide not only valuable information about the artwork itself, they also bestow reassurance about its legitimacy on the collectors. It’s the document that art collectors hold on to and use as proof of genuineness and originality in case of a sale.

Press Information and Personal Texts

If you’ve ever been written about in the press, collectors would often love to have this information. You can also include your artist statement and personal biography. You should have these materials already. You can either print them out or send them as a PDF.

Information and Press about TarasBorovyk
Click for PDF


By including an Artist’s Bill of Sale (or invoice) and a Certificate of Authenticity, you separate yourself as a professional artist and add that extra level of  legitimacy to your work.


Looking to develop your artistic career and build a presence in New York City and worldwide? Book an online career development consultation meeting today.

Share with us in the comments what else you like to include in your sales paperwork!


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37 responses to “Documenting the Sale of Your Artwork”

  1. Kristi Garthwaite avatar

    Hi there! This is a fantastic article with lots of great info…thank you so much! I did notice, however, that the link to the CofA actually takes you here: …instead of displaying a PDF of the CofA. Thanks again!

    1. AGI Fine Art Experts avatar

      Hello, Kristi! Thank you for bringing the incorrect link on the CofA to our attention. I’m happy to let you know that we have already fixed the issue, and the correct link is now working properly. Your feedback is greatly appreciated!

  2. RV Repair Shops Near Me avatar

    I think this is a real great article.Thanks Again. Great.

  3. Yelp reviews for GPS Moving & Storage avatar

    Terrific post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this
    topic? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit
    more. Thanks!

  4. Antonia Guerrero avatar

    Hello thank you for the insightful article on Invoicing and Authenticity Certificate. Are there any templates or sites you would recommend to craft my own?

    1. Andra Bilici avatar

      Hi Antonia,

      There is a template inside the article, maybe you will find that useful. If you want to create a personalized CoA, offers some templates.


  5. Megan Brand avatar

    I have a very complicated situation. 1). One of my buyers bought a painting 4 years ago. It was bought in cash where i told my client she was responsible for the tax.
    2) Not sure she did. 3)I had it picked up from my home to hers on Long island NY, Then brought NYC only to be stored somewhere else.?
    Most likley in her basement.
    After a few months she decided it was to dark,
    Then asking if it was Authentic
    She wanted it lighter. I tried to please her by offering another painting, She said “No rush” I then sent over not one, but 3 paintings that were in my personal collection.
    After time she had the 3 paintings returned, without the cutesy of wrapping them in protection and left them in my garage.
    Then she said it wasnt the painting she bought.
    Now after she is threatening to sue me!
    Maybe one question is, How long does a client have to return a paid for painting?
    I so hope you can help or at least sed me in the right direction.

    Thank you
    I’m grateful for a response

  6. Matthew Jablonski avatar

    Dear Rita,

    Great informative article.

    I typically dry mount press my digital artwork, as well as matte it. When it comes to the actual dimensions should I only account the measurements of the actual artwork, and treat the matte board completely out of the equation, when indicating the measurements on paper? Or does the matte board become part of the project, since the two pieces have become one?


    1. Andra Bilici avatar

      Hi Matthew,

      The size of your work should include the final dimension so if the matte board is part of it, then yes, you should include it.

  7. Christo Anto Francis avatar

    Hi. Thanks so much for all the amazing info that the gallery provides.

    I do have a particular question about the signature portion of the Bill of Sale section. Since I do my work online, how does the signature portion work? Do I sign the invoice and send it to the client to let them sign and email it back? Or do I omit the signature portion since it’s online and not a face to face transaction? It seems a bit confusing on how that works. Like the article says, signatures do solidify the transactions well. I would really appreciate some feedback on it. Thanks. Have a good one.

  8. Irene avatar

    Thank you a lot for such priceless info!
    I have a question, if I, as an artist, print my artworks in the lab that is located in other country then I do (as I like their quality a lot and we work together for a long time), and I want to send the prints rights from the lab to the customer; separately I will send certificate and an invoice already signed by me. Would it value without a signature directly at the art print? Or what are the variants in this case?
    Many thanks!

    1. Andra Bilici avatar

      Hi Irene,

      Maybe the best way is to send the COA together with the invoice. This could be right after the client purchases your work.

  9. Josh Brown avatar

    Wow, amazing info You just made my day

  10. Volodymyr avatar

    Hi Rita,

    Thank you for the information, and I have couple questions I hopeyou could answer?

    Is Certificate and Bill PDFs provided here are just for informational purpose or can be used as a template?
    Am I required to use government issued Certificate to not only sell artworks abroad but inside country as well?
    Should I keep copies of both Certificate and Bill for myself? Should I include e.g. screenshot of money transaction as a proof of payment?
    Can I create custom designed Certificate and Bill? If yes, do they have the same legal power as e.g. standard gallery issued ones?

    And what is the best way to attach certificate on stretched canvas?

    P.S. I assume it would be a good idea to have Certificate for a fan art as well (not for sale art), or would it? Especially with fan art being in a grey area of a copyright law.

    1. Andra Bilici avatar

      Both the Certificate and the Bill are for you to use so feel welcome to adjust them according to your needs. Regarding the type of certificate, maybe it’s best to discuss this with your accountant, as local laws might apply. We suggest you keep copies of all the documents for your records.
      Please note that the Certificate of Authenticity documents a sale of an artwork, so you should prepare one just for the pieces available for sale.
      If you have any additional questions, let us know and we’ll try to answer them as soon as possible!

  11. Ali.omrani avatar

    Thanks for visiting the artwork I shared on my page

  12. Terai avatar

    Hi Rita,

    Thank you for this helpful information. I am preparing for my first solo exhibit this coming Dec. It’s not in a Gallery but just a simple place and not too spacious.

    Just a thought:
    1. Will I attach (glue) the certificate of authenticity at the back of the painting or just hand it down to the buyer?
    2. Is it really necessary to have the Bill of Sale? Or I can proceed without one?
    3. As this is my first time, if my painting is sold, do buyers pay directly during the event or pay it when I deliver the painting to their house?

    Thanks in advance for your kind help.


    1. Daisy O Connell avatar

      Hello Terai,

      Thank you for your message.
      With regards to the certificate of authenticity it would not be uncommon to hand the certificate of authenticity to the buyer and create a smaller sticker of the certificate to attach to the back of the painting, just in case the original one gets misplaced.
      I would advise to always have a Bill of Sale for every transaction you make.
      When you sell your art, it is obviously preferable to get paid up-front, but if this is not possible, a lot of artists don’t hand over the work until it is fully paid for. If you are not getting paid up front it is important to have some kind of written agreement in place between you and the buyer stipulating how much should be paid and when it should be paid.

  13. Miles Frode avatar

    WOW! thank you Rita Job for this beautifully informative outpouring of Art professionalism!

  14. ali avatar

    Hi, I have some artifacts. I think it’s rare. I want it. Can you help?

    1. Daisy O Connell avatar

      Hi Ali,

      Thank you for your message.

      What artifacts would you be referring to?


  15. Lisa avatar

    Excellent article! Thank you for providing this helpful advice. We have a couple of questions. as photographers desiring to sell our work on metal as well as giclee and digitally matted prints in various sizes. Should Certificates of Authenticity be medium-specific and size-specific? For example, if we want to make a particular image available as a 24×36 metal, an 16×24 metal, a 16×24 giclee and 11×14 digital matted print as limited editions with Certificate of Authenticity, is the proper way to begin the numbering with #1 for each medium and #1 for each size? So, the 24×36 metal would begin with #1 and the 16×24 metal would begin with #1, and the giclee number #1? Thank you for your help!

    1. Agora Experts avatar

      Dear Lisa,

      We would advise that the numbering be medium as well as size specific. For more information on this you can read our article – What to Consider When Making Limited Edition Prints.

      1. Lisa avatar

        Thanks for your help! We really appreciate it!

  16. Luke G avatar

    Hi thanks for this article, slightly related but possibly unrelated to bill of sale and authenticity question—But say I hypothetically sell an original painting to someone, if I had prints of the same original painting after I sold it, can I still sell the prints of the original painting to other people? if anyone can answer thid that would be awesome! Thank you

    1. Agora Experts avatar

      Dear Luke,

      Yes, you may sell prints of the painting, unless you have a contract with the person you sold the original that says otherwise.

  17. Markas Odom avatar

    Dear Agora Expert, thank you for this blog and the information provided. I feel everything I’ve read so far in this blog should be taught in art schools, but most of them don’t. My question to you is would a bill of sale and certification of authenticity be necessary for caricature artists that do commission work for clients?

    1. Agora Experts avatar

      Dear Markas,

      Thank You!

      The bill of sale would be optional, but you should always provide a Certificate Of Authenticity. You can simply keep a record of sales for yourself, you don’t have to give it to the client unless they ask for it.

  18. Elizabeth avatar

    Dear Agora,

    I recently walked into an exhibition of an online art gallery. I saw a piece that I liked which was supposedly drawn by a modernist master.
    I asked gallery owner if the piece came with a certificate of authenticity n he said that his gallery will issue one but it comes without the artist signature.

    Is the certificate of authenticity of the art still valid without the artist signature? Should I proceed with the purchase? Also I saw the info on the art exhibited to be using a different mediumof painting which the artist traditionally uses. Is it safe to take the certificate of authentication fron the online art gallery issued by the gallery as the real deal?


    1. Elizabeth avatar

      I forgot to add that the painting is done by a living artist

    2. Agora Experts avatar

      Hi Elizabeth,

      First of all, you should enquire who owns the work – the artist or the gallery/foundation/company. The certificate of authenticity requires a signature, if not the artist, then the estate for the artist. The gallery can also sign but needs to take full responsibility for the authenticity of the work should the buyer learn that the piece is not original or as claimed to be.

      No purchase is really safe without a signature or stamp and the backing of a reputable seller. If the gallery cannot provide you with one, we would suggest against it.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  19. Alberto avatar

    Dear Agora expert, thank you a lot for your information, so important in a time of lots of self-made career internet artists that doesn’t know how to frame their work properly. I include myself.

    My question is: I want to send an artwork to somebody from a cultural institution as a gift for great help he provided me in the past. I want to send him the work in a professional manner, indistinctly whether the art is for free. I want to prepare both Certificate of Authenticity and Press info but, should I enclose a Bill of Sale? (This would help valuing the work, and tracking it better, but since he didn’t pay for it, could be difficult to calculate price and taxes of the sale)

    Thank you so much for your time. (I guess it must exist a proper way to present donated work as well)


    1. Agora Experts avatar

      Hi Alberto,

      There is no need to include the Bill of Sale, unless requested.

      Hope this helps!

  20. Rebecca Krantz avatar

    thanks much, this is exactly the information I was looking for!

  21. Cher Bettencourt avatar

    Thank you I did not even think of doing certificates of authenticity. Learn something new every day. That will be something I will do now for all of my commissions.

  22. berkeley avatar

    Dear Agora expert, thanx a lot for the opportunity of this blog and your help. I have a question concerning the certificate of autenticity. Do I need to make one even if I sell thorugh a gallery? In case of so shall I glue it on the back of the painting or it’s better a loose paper in an envelope?
    Thank you in advance
    Best regards

    1. Agora Experts avatar

      Dear Berkeley, if you’re working with a gallery, they should provide you with a standard certificate. However, they can still ask you to provide your own documentation for legal purposes.