( This article was originally published in 2016. It has been updated with some minor edits in 2020. The author : Naina Redhu, has since, also launched her online art shop where she sells hand-painted brooches and each brooch is also accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity. )
Till about three weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of a “Certificate Of Authenticity“. Definitely not in correlation to artwork or photo prints. But then I had my very first photography exhibition to setup on-ground and suddenly felt quite clueless. Jai, who is a painter and an artist, and someone I’ve known for a while on Twitter, generously gave me a crash course on running an exhibition at 1 a.m., the morning of the exhibition, via Twitter DMs no less. Without my even asking.
One of the things he told me about was the Certificate Of Authenticity and how it was invaluable to include as part of any sale of an artwork. I had fourteen pieces I would be displaying and based on a template Jai shared with me, I modified my own, on my Naina.co letterhead, and within a couple of hours, had created and printed a CoA for each of the canvas prints.
I do not recommend this approach, however. I was short on time and having these print outs was much better than having absolutely no Certificate of Authenticity. Here are some things you should consider when creating your own CoA.
Download a Template. Customize it.
To pay it forward, this blog post include a JPG template based on the one I used – it’s the most comprehensive one I could come up with, based on additional research I did after the exhibition and after the research I did online for this blog post. I do not use this exact template – the layout is different. I do not recommend you sharing your CoA publicly. More about that towards the end.
Include a Photograph of The Art.
A simple photograph where the artwork is clearly visible. Ideally, if you cab have it on a white background, that would be perfect because it will leave no doubt in anyone’s mind what the artwork actually looks like. A cluttered / busy background, especially of an artwork photographed at a gallery, for example, might confuse the buyer and affect future re-sales.
Print it on good paper stock.
It should feel like a piece of paper that needs to be stored safely. My letterheads have a print of my photographs on the other side and are printed on Mohawk’s SuperFine 130 GSM stock. There’s a certain heft to the paper and you can still use it to print additional details using your home/office printer. ( I would’ve liked the feel of recycled paper but the texture makes it hard to predict print quality using a home/office printer. )
Keep Envelopes Handy.
Once you’ve signed and dated the COA, you can neatly fold it into the envelope and hand it over to the buyer alongwith the art work.
Numbering the Certificate of Authenticity.
This is useful if you’re doing limited edition print. I numbered my CoAs using the numbering system I use on my invoices. So the CoA also acted as a kind of invoice. It is, after all, also specifying the amount of money paid for the artwork. ( Artwork here can mean a photo print, a painting, or even a sculpture. As long as it can be defined and identified – and I highly recommend including a photo. )
You have to physically sign each COA to make sure they have some value. Photocopies are worthless and increase the likelihood of being misused. Use a different color ink for your signature – I used blue. Once you have your COA ready, DO NOT share the original online, EVER. sharing it online with your signature and the exact layout of the certificate opens it up to forgery.
Your Contact Details.
Also include your contact and address details on the Certificate of Authenticity. Ideally your permanent address and maybe even a link to an online page where you’ve written about the artwork – to further establish that this artwork belong to you and that you are the creator.
A Seal or Stamp.
Think of getting an embossed seal / stamp made that you can then use to stamp your artwork ( if it’s a photograph for example ) or stamp your Certificate of Authenticity. Currently, I’m using a rubber-stamp that I had made with my logo and brand name and I stamp this on each Certificate of Authenticity.
Right click on the above image and save it to your desktop. The image is not editable. You can use this as a reference. To make your own, you’ll need a word-editing software – or if you have Adobe Photoshop or Adobe InDesign, you can create a template there. Following is editable text for you to copy-paste :
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
This document certifies that the artist declares the piece of artwork mentioned below, to be an authentic, original and unique piece of art of her/his own creative efforts and executed by her/him, the undersigned. The artist retains all copyright. Artwork may not be reproduced in any way or form, without the artist’s consent.
Medium & Edition _____________________________________________________________
Original / Reproduction ________________________________________________________
<name of artist>
<title of the artwork>
<what is the artwork made of & edition details>
<specify whether original or reproduction>
<height / width / length / weight / depth etc. >
<year the artwork was created>
Ownership of this edition of the above titled artwork, no. _______________________
has been transferred to ( NAME ) _______________________________________________
( ADDRESS ) ____________________________________________________________________
( MOBILE NO. ) _________________________________________________________________
for the sum of ___________________________________________________________________
paid as an advance toward the total price of ____________________________________
on ( DATE ) ______________________________________________________________________
All information and statements contained herein are true & correct.
Signature of Artist ________________________________________________________________
Place & Date ______________________________________________________________________
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Here’s a good and short example of another Certificate Of Authenticity on the Saatchi Art website. They have a downloadable PDF as well. All the best for your very first exhibition or display!