How Much Should I Charge for My Paintings?
Whenever an amateur artist starts trying to sell their paintings, they often ask the question of how much they should charge for a painting or piece of original art. Although there is no specific answer to this question, there are some guidelines that you can follow to decide on your prices as you start and continue to sell your artwork.
The price that you decide to charge needs to reflect how much you value your work as well as the kind of price that you think might be acceptable in the particular market you are selling.
What Type of Artist Are You?
So you need to think about what to charge for your paintings, and you are wondering where to start. Have a think about some of these factors to start with:
Firstly, are you selling your art to actually make some money or are you selling it because you just want someone to buy it, which gives validation that the work you are doing is something that people like?
This is quite an important question that you may not have thought about. What I mean by this is, do you want the recognition and affirmation of someone buying your painting and is this what you crave? The fact that someone is willing to pay money for a work of art that you have created may mean more to you than actually getting the money for it that it has cost you to make (or indeed, making a profit from it). This is sometimes all that people want, and so this leads to a completely different pricing structure.
Or perhaps you have been painting for a while, and you have a lot of artwork crowding your home, and in this case, you need to shift some of this work so that you can make space for more creative ideas that you have. In this case, maybe you will not set a high price on your artwork so that you can sell it quickly to make space.
So the third type of artist, and the one that I am really addressing in this article, is an artist who wants to start selling their work on a regular basis and price it according to what it should be worth to an actual buyer.
Van Gogh's Sunflowers
Criteria for Deciding Prices
So, to give you a few ideas on setting your prices, here are some basic points and things that you need to take into account:
- When you are starting out you will probably need to start with a reasonably low pricing structure as you do not have the reputation and number of sales behind you to justify high prices.
- Consider how long it took you to create the painting but do not use this as the overriding criteria. For example, if you want to make a living out of selling your art and a piece takes you two days to create, then think about how much you would need to earn in those two days to be able to survive. Base this on a 20 working day month. So say you want to earn $1,000 a month and the painting took you two days in total then you would need to charge at least $50 for it. This doesn't take into account numerous other factors but just think generally about it.
- Consider the cost of materials that you have used in the painting. Some paintings may use additional more costly materials so there may be a degree of difference in the paintings you sell.
- Charge prices that relate particularly to the size of the painting. Personally, I have a spreadsheet that calculates the cost of the painting according to a formula that involves the surface area of the painting involved.
- Consider whether the painting is a one-off or if you will do further copies of it. You need to think about a cost for the 'idea' of the painting. If you are only going to create the painting once, then that idea or design is gone, and you need to come up with something else for the next painting. This needs to be factored into the cost.
- Do you have to pay for studio space, are you paying commission to a gallery or do you have to pay for space at an exhibition? All of these costs need to be taken into account.
- You may have to ask yourself how good your painting is? This can seem to be a strange question, and you may not feel that you are the best person to answer it, but if your competition is offering paintings that may be more accomplished than yours, perhaps they have been painting for a long time, then you may need to adjust your prices accordingly. Conversely, if the competition has what you consider to be an inferior product then up your prices!
Do Some Research
If you are unsure about pricing, then go along to some art exhibitions and fairs to get a feel for how much other people are selling their paintings for.
If you are just starting out, go to local art club exhibitions and see if your work sits alongside those pieces and how much they are charging. But again, you need to consider that many people who are members of local art groups are not necessarily doing it to make money.
If you are starting out as a professional, then go to bigger exhibitions. There are many held in large towns and cities throughout the year so perhaps the year before you may be ready to exhibit, go and see what is on offer, how it is presented and what prices artists are charging.
Deciding on prices for your artwork is a very difficult and personal decision. Some people say start high, and you can always bring the price down. However, if you price work too high you may not sell it, it is so difficult to judge.
From experience, there are a few things that I can say for certain, no matter how you price your work:
- You will always get someone who says your paintings are too expensive.
- You will always get someone who says your paintings are too cheap.
- If you don't charge enough, then people will not value your art as they will think you do not value it either.
- If someone loves your painting and wants to buy it, then you can always negotiate a price that they can afford if it is beyond their budget.
- Keep your pricing as consistent as possible (even if you increase each year) so that existing clients don't for example suddenly see your paintings selling for less elsewhere.
If you are selling consistently to the point that you can't keep up with demand then obviously you need to increase your prices.
If you are not selling then that may be due to a number of things—are you marketing your art to the right people and in the right locations? You may need to get objective feedback from somewhere to find out why your art is not selling.
Price is really only one factor in selling art so don't think that it is the be all and end all. Obviously, if you want to make a living, you need to charge a decent price, but you also need to make sure you have what people want to buy.
Questions & Answers
If someone is commissioning a painting from me and making special requests, should I raise the price?
Pricing is really up to the artist but I would say that if I paint something that is going to take me more time than my usual paintings and/or there are special requests involved that would take more time/materials then I will certainly adjust the price accordingly.Helpful 5