Fine Art Vs. Commercial Art - What’s The Difference?

Let's get started on our favorite topic of all time: Fine Art vs. Commercial Art. This topic will never get old!

For many of us, both types of art seem similar, but there are many noticeable differences between them, which is why we're here to discuss them today in a fun and easy way.

Before comparing the differences between each art type, we must first understand the purpose behind their creation.

fine arts vs commercial arts

What Is Fine Art?

Fine art is basically part of the visual arts, which showcase creativity, expression, and aesthetics. It includes traditional forms like painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, digital art, and video installations.

Fine arts definition differs from applied or decorative arts. It is valued for its creative talent, uniqueness, and cultural relevance and frequently transmits emotions, thoughts, or messages.

What Is Commercial Art?

Commercial art is also called advertising art or applied art. It is basically a visual art form created to serve the core purpose of selling or marketing a product, service, or idea.

As we already explained above, fine art mainly focuses on aesthetics, creativity, and intellectual expression, whereas commercial art is more focused on advertisements, packaging, marketing materials, and other promotional media.

what is commercial art

The ultimate purpose of commercial art is to influence consumer behavior and increase the commercial success of the promoted product or service.

What Is A Commercial Artist?

If you’re wondering what a commercial artist is and what he does, then he’s someone who uses their creative skills to produce appealing and persuasive visuals that attract consumers and convey specific messages to target audiences.

They often work in fields such as graphic design, illustration, photography, and multimedia design.

Famous Commercial Artists

  • Philip C. Curtis
  • Ted DeGrazia
  • Lon Megargee 
  • Merrill Mahaffey 
  • Dyana Hesson
  • Ed Mell
  • Frank Ybarra
  • Joe Sorren

A Historical View

Fine art and commercial art were clearly differentiated in the early centuries, as both served different purposes and audiences.

Fine Art:

  • Fine art, as we all have read above, serves the purposes of intellectual exploration, aesthetics, and human expression. This tradition started way back in history.
  • Fine art has always been linked with societal and cultural importance because it reflects emotions, values, beliefs, and different time periods.
  • Back in the 1990s, there were many wealthy patrons and individuals who used to worship art and always valued it significantly. Therefore, they used to buy fine art masterpieces for their own value rather than commercial needs.
  • You will often find fine art in public spaces like art galleries, museums, and cultural institutions because of its intellectual depth.
  • Fine art's major goal was to provoke thinking, evoke emotions, and question societal standards, and it frequently addressed issues that went beyond commercial considerations.

Commercial Art

  • Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, the need for commercial art started emerging and became more useful for brands and businesses.
  • As mass manufacturing and advertising increased, visually appealing designs were in high demand in a variety of sectors, including product packaging, posters, publications, and commercials.
  • There came the commercial artists, who took advantage of the growing demand and started creating appealing graphic designs, illustrations, typography, and visually compelling and persuasive artworks that were used to tailor the market's needs.
  • The market for commercial art became so popular that the field expanded with the exposure of new technologies, including photography, computer graphics, and digital media. 

Example Of Commercial Art

Have you ever brought a cereal box? Well, chances are, you must have. So, do you see those appealing and eye-catching, vibrant illustrations or photographs of the product on the box? 

  • The commercial artists create vibrant cereal bowls with fruits on top to tempt you into buying them.
  • You must have often noticed that the brand logo and name are prominently displayed using creative typography and colors to help people notice them quickly. You don't realize that, but this is what commercial artwork does.
  • In addition, the box will have appealing images and design aspects that appeal to the target demographic, such as children or health-conscious customers.
  • This is not it. It continues at the back of the box, where you'll find additional infographics, nutritional value, ingredients, calorie count, and serving portion suggestions to lure you into buying that product. At the end of the day, we all at least wish to eat healthy. 
  • In some real boxes, you'll also find fun games or puzzles to entertain the children, which ultimately leads the parents to surrender to their wish to take it home.
  • The entire design will be meticulously developed to stand out on shop shelves and compete with similar items in the market, drawing attention to crucial features using color psychology and visual scale.
commercial arts example

Example Of Fine Arts

Painting - "Laughing Donkey Painting" by Migue Camarena

example of fine arts

Painting Source

"Laughing Donkey Painting" is one of the most famous and iconic paintings in the history of fine art. It was created by the renowned Arizona artist Miguel Camarena. 

As you can see here, the painting depicts a humble creature (Donkey) on the field with greenery in the background and a bright sun spreading its rays. 

Key Features You Should Notice: 

  • Brushstrokes: For fine art paintings, artists use different strokes like cross-hatching, hatching, dry brush, flat wash, scumbling, stippling, etc. If you notice carefully, the artist’s style is bold, powerful, and expressive, giving the picture movement and intensity.
  • Color palette: As the fine art artist wanted to portray the nature and humbleness of a donkey, he precisely used earthy tones and soft colors to portray the sense of emotion and energy in the donkey's movement.
  • Space and Texture: If you notice the painting, you'll see that the fine art artist is focusing more on the shape and texture of the painting which is one of the core elements in fine art.

Not just the entire donkey collection, but Miguel Camarena's whole art gallery is a heaven of art masterpieces. You'll find emotional and spiritual depth in his paintings as the creativity and aesthetics overflow. 

Fine Art Vs. Commercial Photography

Fine art photographers have complete creative control over their photos. They have the freedom to make their images as abstract or as clear as they wish, while commercial photographers do not. Though there is room for creativity in commercial photography, the photographer's primary responsibility is to capture the picture that the client desires.

fine art vs commercial photography - example

Fine Art Types

  • Painting
  • Drawing
  • Sculpture
  • Printmaking
  • Photography
  • Mixed Media
  • Performance Art
  • Installation Art
  • Digital Art
  • Conceptual Art
  • Textile Art
  • Mosaic
fine art types


What is the difference between fine art and applied art?

Fine art is visual art that cannot be used commercially or practically. Applied art, on the other hand, refers to artwork made for a proper result, such as design or decoration (for example, cloth design).

What is the difference between fine art and craft?

There are several distinctions between crafts and art, one being that crafts are created from the mind and have a practical purpose, whereas art is more of an emotional expression. Crafts are often done within a specific time frame and are structured, whereas art has no boundaries and is unstructured.

What does a commercial artist do?

Commercial artists may create a wide range of marketing and promotional items, such as corporate logos and print ads for magazines and brochures. They usually work for advertising companies, newspapers or magazines, graphic design businesses, or marketing departments.


To sum it up, we've tried our best to help you understand the clear difference between fine art vs. commercial art. Fine art welcomes individual creativity, emotional depth, and cultural exploration, while commercial art meets particular needs and serves the purpose of marketing and advertising. Fine art truly helps you understand human expression better, while commercial art enhances your brand's appearance, brings sales, generates curiosity and awareness, and communicates messages effectively to your audience. 

There is absolutely no doubt that both art forms have great value in culture, creativity, and history. Not to forget, these art forms have been in practice for ages. 

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