Pointers on Wall Labels for Your Art Exhibit

Approach the making of the labels you place next to your artwork with thoughtfulness and common sense.

At a bare minimum, your wall labels should include your name, object title, and media/support/technique. A retrospective of your work should also include the dates.

Barbara Gilhooly painting label

44T Artspace in Denver went to great lengths to match the text to the colors in Barbara Gilhooly‘s art. This label references 3 works in close proximity.

In a one-person exhibit, your name need not be as prominent on labels and you might, instead, make the title larger and put it before your name. When showing with other people, distinguishing between artists is more important and names should be first.

If there are multiple rooms in the exhibit and your exhibit title text doesn’t appear anywhere near your works, you might need your name on every label.

If your work is hanging at a restaurant where a customer could stare at it for longer periods of time, your name should be on every label.

If the exhibit is small or in a single room and there’s a large sign with your name on it, you probably don’t need your name on every label.

Feel free to put more than one artwork on a label (as in the image above) as long as viewers can discern which information belongs with which piece.

Make the font size at least 14 points. Larger is better when you want the majority of your audience to be able to read the labels.

1 Label, 3 Ways

Traditionally, titles of artworks are italicized. You could, instead, make them bold, all caps or larger than the other text. Distinguishing the titles is especially important if they give clues about the content of your work, such as the location of a landscape.

“Mixed media” isn’t a medium. Using it is like saying something is a “painting” instead of “oil on linen” or “sculpture” instead of “bronze.” Spell out the various media you use within each mixed-media artwork. A curator is going to ask you that later anyway, so you might as well start treating your art like it’s in a museum now.

If the work is for sale, show the sale price on the label.

Labels can be printed on cardstock and stuck on the wall with rolled masking tape or something like Elmer’s Tack removable adhesive putty. I don’t recommend using the latter on textured walls because the adhesive gets caught in between the bumps.

For a more polished presentation print labels on regular paper, adhere the paper to mat board with spray glue, then cut out with a mat cutter.

Labels within an exhibition should all be the same size unless there is need for longer, explanatory text.

Place object labels to the right if at all possible. Large sculpture may require that you place a label on the nearest wall or floor.

Hang all labels at the same height and use a level to make sure they are parallel to the floor.

Label Cheat Sheet

  1. Viewers must be able to see your name when looking at your work!
  2. People shouldn’t have to guess what your work is made of.
  3. The price, if for sale, should be front and center.
  4. Above all, the labels should be consistent.
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25 comments to Pointers on Wall Labels for Your Art Exhibition

  • I’ve found that clear labels work the best. They look professional, adhere well, and can easily be moved and removed. They come in various sizes (I use the shipping label size (2″ x 4″ ).

    • Laurie: But don’t use them on textured walls. They look terrible! And they look bad when they start coming off from the wall, so work best with shorter exhibitions. I’ve seen clear labels that look really bad. Gotta keep tending to them.

  • Exceptionally useful advice…wish I’d had it last week! LOL

  • Just what the doctor ordered. Thanks Alyson!!

  • Any thoughts about including the size of the painting on the label?

    • Jennifer: I don’t think that’s necessary since the artwork is right in front of the viewer.

      • Hi Jennifer and Alyson,
        Great advise on the labels. I always include the size of the painting. The reason being that some people think in numbers. They need to know how big a painting is to be able to envision it on the wall of their living room. Some customers don’t need that information at all.

  • Question:
    When should you NOT put a price on the label?

  • Great tips for labels… I don’t know if your suggestion to put labels to the right covers this, but my preference is to put the labels at eye level beside the painting. I have shown with a number of artists who like the label below the painting and the price in a show guide. The argument is that it looks professional. My thought is “Why make people work so hard to learn about your work?”

    • Sandy: There’s all kinds of research on this. What is “eye level” for you might not be eye level for someone else.

      This document gives a wide range of 36-67″.

      In the museum, we were very concerned with accessibility issues, so we placed them lower for people in wheelchairs. It’s an eye opener to go through your exhibit in a wheelchair!

  • Thanks for providing this helpful info. I’ll try the color-full labels at my next art festival.

  • Great info! This is on my “to-do” list. Thanks!

  • John Schroedl

    How about including a small QR code with link back to your site/info?

    • John: Sure, that works, too. Be very careful that they don’t go to your home page or a sales page. They MUST go to juicy information that pulls people in.

      I may be pessimistic, but I see QR codes as a waning fad. Whenever I use the QR codes at the museum, I notice I’m the only one doing so. Are you finding more positive results?

  • I’ve struggled for years for the best way to do price labels for outdoor or indoor festivals. Everything in the booth is my work and my name is in several places, plus on the artwork, so name doesn’t seem necessary. Everything needs to go up fairly quickly and the artwork is slightly different each time. I’ve settled on using tags which I prepare in batches with a little swish of watercolors. I put the title and the price. Since I do Mixed Media, I very much like the idea of adding the “ingredients” of each artwork. Good topic!

  • Thanks for the tips, Alyson. Just wondering. Many of the galleries use numbers next to the work and then have a typed up list for the patrons to hold as they walk through the gallery, with the information regarding the painting next to the corresponding number.
    What are your thoughts regarding this type of identification?

  • Wonderful advice as always! I’m starting to offer prints of certain paintings and am considering putting that information on my labels for my upcoming open studio event. Something like “Original $1500; Prints available”. Would you suggest also putting the price of the print on the label (or not mentioning them there at all)?

  • Awesome advice! I’ve had a couple of shows at odd venues (ie: in the lobby of a local independent old movie theater) that didn’t really have good places for business cards and the like. I decided to put QR codes on my tags that linked directly to the Etsy page of the painting.

  • To attach labels, I use Scotch Foam Mounting Squares, specifically the removable ones. They easy to use, strong, attach to nearly any surface, and come off quickly. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004QMQ12E/

  • I actually use the Avery clean edge business cards for my labels: one side has all of the information about the artwork, the other is a business card. This gives a consistent size and format for the labels (you can set up templates just like for address labels), is easy to print and a breeze to detach – no cutting involved! Then when the work sells, the collector takes home the detailed information about my piece AND has a business card with all of my contact information. Another option is to use the self-print postcards if you need a larger size to fit more information, like a story about your artwork, or a mini-artist statement. The postcards don’t have as nice of finish/print quality as the business cards though.
    Great tip about the Elmer’s poster tack – I will definitely be using this instead of scotch tape. Thanks!

  • Rebecca Drummond

    Thanks for the tips. Very useful blog!