Pricing Your Artwork

Determining your prices can be one of the most critical aspects of your art business planning. To make this task a little easier, you may want to take off the artist hat and start to think of yourself as a producer/manufacturer…. Once you have completed a new work of art, you have produced something that can be taken to market, but before you can do that, a price/value has to be set. Pricing artwork can be tricky for artists at first. If they charge too much, buyers may recoil, which can negatively affect the growth of their patron base. If they charge too little, it implies that the work itself is not worth that much, and therefore not worth buying. Artists need to strike the pricing chord just right so that the artwork is deemed valuable by the patron and well worth the price.

As a general rule, when most artists are just starting out, they price on the lower end of the spectrum. They charge enough to cover the supply and marketing costs that they incur while producing and selling their work. The lower prices at the start of an artist’s career encourages business and grows the patron base while the artist is establishing themselves and advancing their technical skills. As the patron base grows, more demand is created for the artist’s work. This initiates the business truth of supply and demand, which drives up the art prices. As the art prices go up for newer works, the older works start to appreciate in value. This trend in price increase can continue for the artist throughout their working career and especially post mortem. Look at how much Sotheby’s gets for an original Picasso or Van Gogh: millions. The artists are dead, yet the demand for their work is still very high and since they are no longer able to produce, the price continues to increase year after year.

Other things that affect art prices:
  • The artist’s reputation, which has to do with where the artist has studied and/or with whom, exhibition experience and sales history.
  • Time – All art takes time to create.
  • Materials – Good art supplies that are archival can be quite costly for artists, so if you’re using the best medium available, that can be a great point to highlight in your marketing. (People like to know that what they’re buying is going to last and not fall apart in 5 years.)
  • Complexity – A more complicated piece of work will take longer to create and this is often reflected in the pricing of the piece.
  • Size – Two pieces of artwork created by the same artist that are the same size may not be the same price based off of the time and materials it took to create one work vs. another.
  • Marketing – Artists use business cards, brochures, postcards, and websites to help promote their work, which are considered overhead/business expenses.
  • Commission Fees – If an artist is showing at a gallery or retail space, they are charged a commission of 30% – 50% for each work sold, so this needs to be factored into the pricing as well.

Using Pricing calculations

I use a formula/calculation as a guideline to help me set my prices. If a painting came together really fast, I may charge less, if a painting took a long time to complete, I may charge more.

Length x Width x price per square inch = price of painting.

Example: 18 x 24 x $.55 = 237.60 or 18 x 24 x $.70 = 302.40 or 18 x 24 x $.85 = 367.20 or 18 x 24 x $1.00 = 432.00

Other Pricing Points To Ponder…

Is my work priced too high? Have people commented that they can’t afford my work? Have I sold anything in the last year? – If nobody is buying your work, that may indicate that it’s a little overpriced right now. Try going a little lower and see if you start to sell.

Is my work priced too low? Do I have trouble keeping up with the demand for new work? If you’re selling faster than you can produce, you may be priced a little lower than what you should be for your current market right now. Try going up a little on your prices now that you’re in demand.

Be consistent…

Your prices need to be the same across the board. It’s considered “good business” to have your prices the same no matter where your work is displayed, unless you’re having a sale. In that case, the sale needs to be advertised well with every venue that displays your work….you don’t want them to hear about it through the grapevine. Example: Let’s say that you have the painting ‘Oak Tree’ in Gallery A and have it available on your website as well. Your prices need to be the same at Gallery A and online. If you offer your artwork cheaper at your website or somewhere else, you will appear to be competing with the Gallery A and if/when word gets around to them, they could stop doing business with you. It’s best to play it safe and stay consistent with your pricing.

More art business tips coming next week :)


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