How to Display Paintings at an Outdoor Fair

It takes the same artistic flair that you applied to your artwork as it does to display it at an outdoor fair or arts and crafts show. When you've gone to all the trouble of gathering your art together in hopes of making sales, the last thing you need are customers who turn away because you didn't capture their interest. Use your business and marketing acumen to sell your art, and make it easy for your customers to say "yes."

To protect your paintings from the harsh glare of the sun, invest in a commercial tent canopy or two -- meant for repeated use -- to cover your mini art store; it serves a dual purpose in protecting your fine art from the sun's ultraviolet rays, while giving your customers a shade break as well. Include one or two cloth-covered tables for smaller paintings mounted on mini easels; don't forget to set the mood with a bit of incense and relaxing music.

Once you have the canopy, you also need an art display system on which to hang your art. To set up the display system as the walls inside the tent, you'll need one of the following:

  • Freestanding screen-type hinged panels
  • Pegboard hanging system
  • Freestanding metal display racks
  • Mesh panels that fit the wall dimensions of the canopy
  • Rail displays that attach to canopy support posts
  • Hanging hardware

Art Display Setup

Arrive at the outdoor fair a minimum of two to three hours before it opens so that you have plenty of time to set everything up. Keep your art well-protected when transporting it, especially if you have matted and framed watercolor paintings under glass. The best location for an outdoor venue is close to food service, entertainment areas, a corner booth or near the entrance to the fair.

Make it easy to accept credit card payments from your customers by using a smartphone dongle that can accept credit card payments to your bank account or a third-party payment vendor. Have extra tarps on hand to protect your art against a sudden rainstorm. Bring extra clothing and shoes; have a partner with you so you can take breaks when needed.

Things You'll Need

  • One or two tent canopies, based on the amount of artwork
  • Art display system
  • Art hangers matched to display system
  • One or two 30-by-72-inch rectangular folding tables
  • One or two tablecloths
  • Money box
  • Smartphone
  • Mobile payment device or [dongle](
  • Calculator
  • Notepad and pen
  • Portable music player
  • Cooler with ice and refreshments
  • One or two folding chairs
  • Extra clothing
  • Tarps for inclement weather

Position your booth toward the traffic area in such a way as to avoid direct sunlight from piercing the inside area of the canopy or tent.

Unfold the metal support system for the tent canopy; lock the supports in place. Install the canvas or covering according to the type of canopy you have. Once you do this a few times, you'll be able to set it up with your eyes closed; practice setting beforehand if it is your first show. If setting up on grass, use stakes to secure the canopy system into the ground to keep it from blowing away if the wind kicks up.

Set up your mesh display system, your freestanding panels, or metal racks on which you plan to hang your art. Arrange them so that they are either part of the wall on the inside of the canopy or adjacent to it. The idea is to create enough space beneath the tent to allow people to move around and browse your art.

Attach the hangers to the display system. Each display system, whether homemade or purchased, has its own hangers that work best with it. If you crafted a homemade pegboard hinged-panel display system, install hooks into the pegboard for hanging your art. Each painting or art piece requires hanging hardware on the back of it to hang it up for sale.

Arrange your paintings on the display system in an attractive way. Apply your artist's eye to make the setup pleasing and welcoming. Have extra artwork available to hang if you sell something, or be prepared to rearrange the art to fill in any blank spots.

Set up the rectangular folding table at the back of the tent to display your mini art on miniature display easels. Cover it with a tablecloth to give it a professional touch. Place your business cards and a guestbook on the table. Have an inventory of small, inexpensive art pieces available for sale.

Place your folding chair in such a way that you're out of the sun and out of the way of customers, yet you can easily access your second tent.


  • When using two tents together, allow an opening between the inner wall so the two canopies make one larger area. You can set up a freestanding metal display system to display art on either side of it between the two canopies and still allow enough room for potential customers to peruse the area.

Unframed Art

Set up a portable bin that allows customers to rifle through unframed prints or art canvases easily. You can offer these at reduced prices because they're unframed. This type of rack is freestanding and folds away when not in use.

Promotion Materials

Leave a guestbook open on the table so that you can collect customer names and email addresses. Display business cards with all the appropriate contact information on them in a prominent location. Add a custom sign that hangs above the booth with your personal or business name.

Multiple Price Points

Offer you art at multiple price points so that you are able to attract more customers. To get ideas of how to attractively display your artwork, visit a few outdoor arts and crafts fairs long before you plan to participate in one yourself. Check out other artists' prices to get a feel for pricing. When visiting an arts and crafts fair, pay attention to what people buy and how other artists promote their works.

About the Author

As a native Californian, artist, journalist and published author, Laurie Brenner began writing professionally in 1975. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. Brenner graduated from San Diego's Coleman College.