I don’t know why but it used to be that every time I made a piece of art I would spend the last few hours scrambling to come up with a good name. As someone who paints several pieces a month, it wasn’t long before I learned some reliable strategies for titling a new work of art. There are so many great ways out there to name something and everyone is going to have a different opinion about naming your art, so please keep in mind that these are just the tricks I use for my own art. I’m just here to inspire, not to tell you what to do!
With that, let’s dive in!
Tips for Naming Your Art
Subject of Painting
If your painting has a clearly defined subject then use that to inspire your title! This is an especially good idea if it’s a specific subject that your audience might be searching for — particularly animals and landscapes.
Inspiration for Painting
More abstract paintings benefit from using the title as an opportunity to comment on their inspiration for the painting. That could be everything from a place to a time of day to a film or song!
Our title is another way to communicate with our audience and, sometimes, we want the focus to be on them! Think about the ways in which your title can reflect the type of person your audience wants to be.
Inspiration for Naming Your Art
Most of the artists I know paint A LOT. That’s not to say that we don’t love every minute of it but, usually, we are onto the next painting before the first one even gets a title. That makes it easy to fall into bad habits and just throw a name on something without thinking much about it! The title of your painting certainly isn’t the most important part, but if you’re hoping to sell your work then it’s nice to make a good first impression. The titles of your art can say a lot about you as an artist as well as the type of messages and feelings your art tries to communicate.
If you’re struggling to find meaningful titles that will resonate with your audience, then keep reading.
Emotions & Values
When in doubt, use the name of your artwork as a way to tell your audience what you hope it will make them feel. To do that, start with naming the emotion or value you think your piece conveys.
Sure, you could just name your piece “joy” but I like that word a lot and would probably name 60% of my pieces something similar.
I try to take that emotion to the next level by naming the piece after an experience that my audience might have had in order to evoke more personal feelings. Below are some examples. I encourage you to take time to really experience the feelings that these phrases bring to mind.
- Morning at Grammy’s
- Frozen Lake
- The First Kiss
- Lemonade on the Beach
- The Unforgiving Sea
- My Porch Swing at Night
- Dad’s Pancakes
- Anniversary Bouquet
Other works of art
When I’m really struggling with naming a piece I will turn to songs, poetry, and books. Usually, I will go through my list of emotion and value words and find one that I want my viewers to experience. Then I will go look for songs and poems with that word in the title. Eventually, I find a word or turn of phrase that encompasses the same concept of my art and use that to create a title.
Here are some of my favorite phrases that come from songs and poems:
- Weaves of a web
- Raveled Threads
- Lovers heart
- Whispering world
- Ocean Tides
- Look to Love
- Hope is home
Outsource Naming Your Art
Sometimes we are just TAPPED OUT by the time it comes to give a name to our piece. In those situations, reach out to people you trust! Ask your audience, your friends, and your family what they think of when they look at your piece. Maybe you’ve been seeing it as a starry night sky the whole time but they all tell you they see an underwater landscape. That’s fine! Choosing a name that matches what your viewers see can be a good thing!
What NOT To Do When Naming Your Art
As with anything, there are a few practices to avoid when naming your art.
- DON’T leave your work “UNTITLED.” If you want your audience to see your art as something you put time, thought, and effort into. Leaving it untitled communicates that you stopped caring at some point and just called it good.
- DON’T get too complicated. If you did a scene study of a lake then it’s better to go with “Morning at the Lake” than something pretentious and complicated title like “7am Existentialism on the Shores of Heather Lake.”
- DON’T be boring. Your goal for naming your art should be to connect with the people who want to buy it! Would they rather buy a piece of art named “Untitled #29” or “Kiss Me at Midnight?”