How do you price your art? There are many conflicting viewpoints on this subject and no true ‘right way’ to do it. I believe it comes down to finding a formula that you are personally comfortable with. There are, however, some variables you should consider. I’ll share with you a few of those variables followed by some great insight from a few of my favorite working artists.
First things first, here are six tips to follow when pricing your artwork.
1. What exactly are you selling?
Are you selling original works, limited editions, or Giclee art prints? Perhaps you’re selling a fine art painting on canvas or, a digital download of your work.
The market shows that art collectors expect to pay more for an original painting than for reproductions of fine artworks. Your originals should always cost more than your reproductions. Prints, however, can be a little tricky to price. Consideration should be given to the quality of paper and the standard of the process used to reproduce the work. A good rule of thumb is to price limited edition prints, ie. those with a low numerical run count of 25 or less, at a higher price than that of a standard print run with an unlimited number of prints.
In art, there is an assumed value in exclusivity.
2. What did you use to create it?
Calculate the costs of the materials you used to create, finish, frame, and package your artwork. What are your overheads? How much money was spent on materials such as art supplies, canvas, photo tiles, paint? How about shipping and packing materials or Bubble wrap. These costs should be incorporated into your final price for the artwork. Always consider your overheads.
3. How much time did you spend creating it?
How much time did you spend creating the piece? Calculate how many hours were spent (including research, preparation, creating and finishing) and set yourself an appropriate hourly rate. Your hourly rate should be an amount you are comfortable with that reflects your level of experience and one that does not price you out of your own market. For more on this, read on…
4. What is your market value?
What is your market value? Are you an emerging artist or do you have a more established career? Your market value should be determined by considering the following. How much experience do you have? What, if any, shows have you participated in? Have you won any awards or has your work been published or featured in a reputable art magazine? Do you have a consistent track record of sales?
If any, or all of the above apply, you are either already an established artist, or on your way to becoming one. A good exercise, in either case, is to find an artist, or artists, that work in a similar medium, size, and genre, and see what their work is selling for. What are their pricing techniques? Do your research and take action accordingly. It is always a good idea to know what your peers are doing and make smart, informed decisions.
5. Be consistent
While the objective here is to set a price point for your art today, you should always be looking towards the big picture. That of building a successful and maintainable art business. In order to do this, you will need to nurture relationships with both current and future clients and collectors.
If I’ve learned one thing, it is this… art collectors want consistency.
That means that if they purchase a piece from you for $2,000 and later see a piece of similar style and materials, they should expect to see it at the same price or higher. If they see that work priced lower, you may lose that client for good. Wherever your work is available for sale, it should be in line with your existing pricing strategy. There is an exception to this rule and that is working with galleries or art reps. More about that now…
6. Where are you selling?
Are you selling at a local craft fair, art gallery, or art market? Perhaps via Social media? Galleries, fairs, and art event producers play a big role in delivering clients to artists, therefore, it is only fair that they are compensated accordingly. If you are working with a gallery or other outlet, be sure to ask what the commission structure is and adjust your pricing accordingly.
For example, if your pricing strategy has a work of art priced at $2,000 and the gallery takes a 50% commission, the gallery price for that piece should be adjusted to $4,000.
6 Artists Share Their Pricing Tips
Now that you have considered these variables, here is some golden insight from 6 artists that are successfully selling their work both at in-person art exhibits and online.
Suzanne Scott – Oil Painter, New York City
Pricing your artwork can be so tricky as an artist. It’s the part that’s done after the work has been made and can seem arbitrary at first. I feel it should be based on a defined formula, which can then be applied to all future works you make. Maintaining an equation of pricing helps me to eliminate guesswork and maintains a level of equality amongst the work for buyers. Personally, my prices vary in consideration of the size of each canvas, the smaller the work the lower the price and they go up from there; it’s based on square inch.
It’s important to initially determine a bottom line that you’re comfortable with, keeping in mind that when you show with a gallery they will add their 50% commission on to your price. Honestly assess what the market can hold and where you fit within it based on your experience and exposure. For instance, the NYC market is a different market than say, Kansas City; make an honest evaluation of how your work compares to work of similar nature on the market.
The initial prices set will be an important launching point, consider that you need to cover your material cost and time. A lot of artists factor only these two items in but I think it’s vital to consider the years of experience one has. Consider your work and life as one, your personal life experience that you’ve absorbed which integrates you with your work, there’s real value in that, it’s what makes your work unique. After your baseline is set and you are finding that collectors are purchasing your work, always maintain the highest price of the last piece sold.
It’s unfair to your past collectors to lower your pricing to try to gain new collectors. I have lowered my prices in the past only to adjust to a failing economic market in which the effects were felt nationally.
These are the methods and equations that I employ to determine my pricing, which is one of my least favorite aspects of being an artist. Therefore, I tried to develop a practical formula that I can always apply.
Stephanie Steiner Jacobi – Painter, San Francisco, CA
There are many methods people use to price art, and it comes down to not one formula fits all, but there are two golden rules. Firstly, never price your art emotionally, and secondly, keep your prices consistent by size and material.
My method for pricing is based on size per square inch, where I multiply the painting’s width by its length to arrive at the total size in square inches, then multiply that number by a set dollar amount for my level and the materials I use. How I came to that set dollar amount was to look at art that is similar to mine, the materials used and if they are at my level.
I then work backward to calculate their rate like, say, $1.50 per square inch. Make sure the amount you come up with also covers the costs for your materials and have a range for those materials so you can explain that to the client.
For example, working with resin is difficult and costly, so those pieces are priced higher than without it. If you are still relatively unknown to collectors and have few credentials, such as juried shows, gallery representation or published work, then you cannot be compared to those that have.
Also, when starting out try to be competitive so you can offer collectors a cheaper version of a style, while still making sure to cover your costs and make a small profit. Lastly, take into consideration any commission a gallery will take from sales and price that in if possible. Above all, be consistent with your pricing so you develop credibility.
Andrew Kochie – Trompe L’Oeil Artist, Dallas, TX
One of the best things I did early on in my career was looking at all my costs as an artist when pricing my work. Artists have quite a few costs between studio leases, time creating, gallery commissions, materials, insurance, shipping, exhibit costs, print media, advertising, transportation costs, and many more. I sat down and broke it all down and came up with a standard where I charge by the square inch. This gives equal value to your work and makes it easy.
Linda Frueh – Encaustic Artist, San Diego, CA
The best advice I received when starting to sell my work was to choose a formula based on size and apply it consistently. I price my work by the square inch, which is common for painters.
The rate is influenced by the venue, if other artworks are being sold for very high or low prices, and somewhat by medium. Oil paintings are priced higher than acrylic, generally speaking, and encaustic- which is expensive and labor intensive- can be higher.
My target formula is $2 per square inch. For a small 12×12” piece, that is $288. For my larger 4×4’ pieces, the price would be $4,608. I tend to lower the rate for the large sizes, however, to keep them affordable.
In one non-profit gallery that supports local causes, my work sells for closer to $1.1-1.25 per inch. I price it lower there because I believe in the owner’s philanthropic approach. For standard gallery sales, the average is closer to $1.5. Remember that galleries take 50% commissions on artwork so the artist only gets half of the price you pay! That’s an important factor when pricing your work for sale. The most important point is to be consistent so when a client asks, the reply is objective and fair.
Elom Bowman – Wearable Art, New York City, NY
For me, since my work is in the wearable art category I tend to price my product on a few different factors. One is the amount of time that I estimate will go into a project. This includes prepping the item that the art is being done on, be it shoes or handbags (remember, it’s wearable art so I have to make the artwork have a certain amount of durability), the actual custom work (applying the actual design theme), and then sealing the work onto the item.
Obviously, the more detail required for the requested theme, the more the cost will be (I usually have an idea of how long a project will take). Another is the cost of the actual canvas (or the base shoe/purse/handbag). In some cases, the client will supply their own item to be customized but in most cases, I will supply the base item so the cost of the base is included. Then finally there are shipping costs. Normally for domestic shipping, I’ll have that included in the price already but international shipping may be a little extra and depend on destination.
Devon Reiffer – Charcoal Artist, Philadelphia, PA
There is an art to understanding the business side of an art career. Pricing is one of the biggest challenges for artists. Over the years I’ve navigated through countless trials and errors to learn how to place a numerical value on creations made out of my charcoal covered heart and soul.
Of all the lessons I’ve learned, the most important was learning how to base prices on facts, not emotions. In the beginning, each of my works felt like children and I had to learn how to detach from those feelings. My first sale was at a gallery in 2014. It was an 8 ft. x 6 ft. canvas drawing that was listed for $9,000 but negotiated down to $6000.
Of course, I wanted to make as much money as possible, but for me as a new business person, I realized the collector’s connection to the work (which had been my favorite piece at the time) was more valuable than the money. This piece took over 120 hours to create and the gallery was taking 35%. At the time, with little experience and fresh out of school with my MFA, I determined my hourly to be $25/hr, considered the size/detail, and factored in the number of exhibitions this piece had previously participated in.
I used these facts to establish what I considered to be the lowest acceptable monetary offer and this experience became a large part of the pricing technique I still use today. I base my prices on size, detail, a rough estimate of hours, exhibition/awards pertaining to the work, and I research the surrounding market range of works comparable to my style and experience.
Once a piece has shown in its first exhibition, I keep the price consistent moving forward. I only make adjustments if the gallery percentage changes or I sell directly from my studio. It’s important to find the range in which your work is priced reasonably but not too low that it devalues your artistic-worth. The best advice I can share? Be consistent, be open, and base your prices off of what’s most valuable to you as the business person, not the emotional artist.