Day Income/Earn from Art/

Upcycling Thrift Store Paintings And Any Paintings For That Matter

Having a real painting decorating one’s wall adds a bit of class or prestige to one’s house or building. Real paintings have a certain prestige built around them which includes even the cheapest ones.

This is because each painting is really one of a kind, even the mass produced ones. This is because even today, most paintings are still made by hand. This is especially true for the old masters which are still being duplicated.

There is a thriving market for reproduction paintings. I have even written an article about it titled: The Business Of Reproducing Famous and Very Expensive Paintings.

The handmade quality of real paintings is what makes them different from the now digital printouts we see of many drawings today. But there is something undeniable about paintings. Except for a few lucky painters, the vast majority of paintings are not making money for their painters.


This is the main reason why many people tend to stay away from expensively priced paintings. Since art is very subjective, there is no guarantee that they are getting their money’s worth or even if their investment in the painting would pay off.

When I was living in Australia, I always liked to visit the thrift shop stores for knick knacks and any other cheap objects I can buy. In a few of these thrift shops I visit, there would be a regular stock of paintings which are being sold at cheap prices.

Though many of the paintings being sold in these thrift stores are clearly the mass produced kind, sometimes I find paintings which were clearly painted by the owners or their close acquaintances themselves.

One reason I can think why these paintings ended up on the thrift store is this: the paintings were made by an aspiring painter who is still practicing with their painting skills. Thus, to these people, these paintings were not really made to be kept, they were mere test pieces.

So, there are two kinds of paintings that can be found in thrift stores, the mass produced but low quality paintings of professional painters and the paintings of amateur painters which arguably still lacks quality.


The simple answer is: “Yes.” As what has been discussed, paintings are works of art and art is very subjective. As the saying goes: “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” I experienced this first hand when I was moving out of my apartment.

During my garage sale, a few of the thrift store paintings I bought cheaply were bought at a higher price. There was also the issue of a buyer being more interested in the ornate frame of one of my paintings than the painting itself.

So it really boils down on finding the right buyer for your painting even though they were just bought from a thrift store. One thing I also discovered is that not all people are interested in paintings or any house decorations for that matter.

As I have discussed, art is a very subjective thing. And, as I have found out, there are people who are not really interested in art. Remember this when you are thinking of making money from thrift store paintings or any art for that matter.

You should realize this problem about art early before you even think about going into business with these products. The word “subjective” has been repeated many times already and would be repeated several more times in this article.


As I have mentioned, paintings are mostly hand painted and are one off pieces. This is the reason why there are people who commission paintings of their portraits or some other subjects.

The people who commission these paintings basically get to decide how the paintings would look like. A person who is ugly can basically tell a painter to paint them in a more beautiful way or to paint them in their best.

The same can be done for people who buy thrift store paintings or any paintings. A person might buy a nature painting and might probably have a wish that their portrait be included in the painting.

This is where you as a painter can stand to make some money. You can advertise yourself as a “painting alterer” and offer your services to people who want their paintings altered or just retouched.

Of course this is not an entirely new service, old paintings for example degrade with time and need to be periodically retouched. What you are doing is nothing different. You are just simply following all the painting retouching whims of the people who commissioned you.


I found an interesting article about a few people who are making good money upcycling thrift store paintings:

Article: This Artist Adds Flair to Thrift Store Paintings and Sells Them for $800 Each

As the title suggests, the painter featured makes anywhere from $300 to $800 for each painting he upcycles. This is not bad considering that he only bought the paintings for a few dollars each.

Of course, there is no assurance that your upcycled painting would sell even for a few dollars. That is why it is best that you study first what your prospective customer really want. You can do this in a variety of ways.

One way would be to presell your work. You can post a picture of your thrift store paintings and then discuss with your followers/customers how you plan to upcycle it. From this, you can more easily gauge which of your art projects would sell and for what price.


Besides articles you could find online regarding how to upcycle thrift store paintings, there are also several YouTube videos which discuss and teach people how to upcycle thrift store paintings.

A simple YouTube search using the search keywords: “upcycling paintings” would yield a few videos showing how people upcycle paintings. In the case of the painters, the changes they added to the paintings were varied.

The changes can be drawings, letters and anything that their imagination can think of. It would have been very helpful if all the painters of the upcycled paintings also discussed if they were able to sell the paintings and for what price.

So, a word of warning, just because something that looks like a way of making money has a video of it in YouTube, it does not necessarily mean that it’s a new thing and you are sure to make good money because of it.

The way I see it, the YouTube videos regarding the upcycling of paintings is more geared towards the hobbyist side. This means that rather than the upcycled paintings being sold, they are more of a hobby for the painter.


I did a quick search on Amazon but found no upcycled paintings being sold in this e-commerce site. The most probable reason I can think of is that Amazon is not really the place where artists sell their paintings, but only mass producers sell there.

Then I went to Etsy where I found several sellers of upcycled thrift store art or simply “thrift art.” I checked on the comments section of a few of them and discovered that there were indeed people who are buying these kinds of products.

But there is one thing more I discovered, there are sellers who are not selling the actual upcycled painting, but just their prints. I suggest you go to Etsy and type the search keywords: “upcycled thrift art” to get an idea of how these products are selling.

What you should do is to read the comments section of some of these products to see how the people who bought them perceived them to be. As I have said, there are sellers who merely sell the prints of the upcycled thrift art, but customers still like them.

One seller I can point is named UpcycledThrifter and he seems to specialize in famous cultural entertainment characters like Star Wars. I can only assume that this seller is attracting the Star Wars enthusiasts.


The selling of the prints of upcycled thrift paintings is an entirely different ballgame. Looking at all these Star Wars themed upcycled thrift paintings, I began to realize that there was a relatively untapped market that is yet to be explored by many art companies.

But before we get ahead, let me emphasize the trouble you could be getting into if you try to duplicate these people. I seriously doubt that these Star Wars themed thrift paintings are licensed by Disney which owns the intellectual property to Star Wars.

Assuming I am wrong, then these people would have gained the interest of customers who are generally not interested in fine art, but would be if their favorite cultural icons have been turned to art.

As can be seen, the customers buying these thrift store art are only buying the painting or their prints because their favorite cultural icon is there. The thrift art would not sell by itself to these people.

As can be seen, this is the gray area of the business. Also, the owner of the mass produced thrift store art may also have something to say to the people who are altering their original art. You should think the seriousness of this scenario.


All the previously discussed issues aside, the problem still persists for anyone legally upcycling thrift store art to find paying customers. As also previously discussed, one can use social media to find customers and get a clear idea of what they wanted in their painting.

But even when I see real painters in their art galleries or in their art stands, I don’t see them advertising such painting alteration services. What I see instead are painters offering only their own paintings or are making portrait art of their customers.

I think this should be a sellable service that painters should consider especially during the lean times when their own paintings or their portrait painting services are not really bringing them any money.

Of course, the painter and the person commissioning the changes or upgrades to their paintings should have a clear communication of what work is to be really done to the paintings before any work is done.


As what some online articles and Etsy have proven, there is a market for upcycled thrift art and for that matter, any painting. A painting might find another life yet as a repurposed or altered painting.

One however should be very careful of adding unlicensed cultural icons in their upcycled paintings. One cannot be certain if and when the owners of the intellectual property would decide to act against you.

You might also like to read the article:

The Business Of Reproducing Famous and Very Expensive Paintings

I love classical paintings. I wish that I can own paintings like the Mona Lisa and other paintings by famous painters like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. But alas! I don’t have the money to buy such very expensive paintings...