Marian (a.k.a. Azure11) has been working as a professional artist since 2006 and has sold over 600 paintings in that time.
Pricing Paintings to Sell
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 you 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 in. In other words, the best price takes into account both the artist's and the market's perception of value.
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:
Why are you selling your art?
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?
What's more important: earning validation or earning money?
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.
How much inventory do you have?
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.
The artist I am really addressing in this article is one 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.
Considerations for Deciding How Much You Should Charge for Your Work
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:
- Your experience: When you are starting out, you will probably need to start with a reasonably low pricing structure as you do not yet have the reputation and number of sales behind you to justify high prices.
- Time spent: 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.
- Cost of materials: 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.
- Size of painting: 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.
- Singleton or series: 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.
- Overhead costs: Do you pay for studio space? Are you paying commission to a gallery? Do you have to pay for space at an exhibition? All of these costs need to be taken into account.
- Talent and skill: 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 are more accomplished than yours, 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!
A Formula for Pricing Artwork by Size
For total square inches, multiply width by height, then multiply by a dollar amount (see below) and add 2x the cost of materials (so that the buyer is paying for materials, not you).
Which dollar amount should you use in the equation? It depends on your experience and reputation. An experienced artist selling in galleries might charge $8+ per square inch, while a new artist might start with $3 or $4 per square inch.
Example: An 11" by 14" painting has 154 square inches: Multiply that by three ($462), then add twice the materials cost ($80 x 2), and you get $622.
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You could price it at $600 or $650.
A Formula for Pricing Artwork by Hours Spent
In this formula, the artist decides how much they need to get paid per hour.
Example: Say the artist wants $30 per hour and works 15 hours: That's $450, plus $80 x 2 for the cost of materials (so the buyer pays for materials, not you) = $610.
You could price it at $600 or $650.
Look at the Comps
If you are unsure about pricing, then go to some local 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 art club exhibitions and see if your work could sit 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.
Does the medium matter? Should an acrylic be priced differently than an oil painting?
You should take the cost of the paint into account when pricing your artwork. Because oils are more expensive than acrylics and also last longer and are more difficult to work with, oil paintings tend to be more expensive, too.
How much should I charge for an acrylic (or oil, or watercolor) painting?
Every artist has different needs, costs, and skills, so most artists have their own particular formula for pricing paintings. Above, I list many of the considerations you should take into account. There are several formulas to choose from when calculating a price. Above, I share two: one based on the size of the work, the other based on an hourly rate.
How does location affect the price of art? Are there certain places or venues where art sells for less or more than others?
Certain places have hotter art markets than others, it's true. For example, in general, you will see bigger price tags in New York, New York than you would in Muncie, Indiana. Also, hidden venue costs like overhead, commission, and entrance fees may also affect pricing.
For an 11" x 14" painting, what is the common price to charge?
As stated, every individual artist has individual needs, costs, and talents, so there isn't a simple one-size, one-price rule. If they used the formulas I describe above, a less-experienced artist might price this painting in the $600 to $650 range.
If you're selling art online, should your prices be different than if you're selling on site?
It's important to keep your prices consistent. Buyers and gallery owners will be upset and confused by different prices in different places. If you sell your painting for less at your studio than you do at the gallery, you're basically punishing the gallery and those who shop there. Try to keep your prices consistent.
Should I consider shipping costs and commission? How do I take those into consideration when pricing my art?
Yes. Don't sell yourself short! Take shipping and commissions into consideration when pricing your artwork the same way you consider materials costs and your time and effort.
Where can I sell my art?
- From your studio
- Online at sites like Etsy, Amazon, FineArtAmerica, etc.
- In a gallery
- At an art or craft fair or other marketplace
Too Expensive, Too Cheap: Finding the Right Price
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 it increases each year) so that existing clients don't 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.
What if My Paintings Aren't Selling?
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
Question: If someone is commissioning a painting from me and making special requests, should I raise the price?
Answer: 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.
Marian L (author) from UK on October 02, 2012:
Thanks Thelma, I think that is a great idea for you to sell your husband's paintings. I think as artists we can sometimes be almost a bit embarrassed to ask for what the painting is really worth so having someone else do it works well!
Thelma Alberts from Germany on October 02, 2012:
This is a great hub and useful as well. It is always difficult to give price to the paintings my artist husband painted especially when they are friends. I´m the one who sells his paintings. There are many things to consider. So, I thought that I should not sell out cheap if I want my painter to have a recognize name in the art world. Thanks for sharing. Shared in fb.
carol stanley from Arizona on August 03, 2012:
Anything to do with art fascinates me. You have some good ideas here, and of course the art market fluctuates with the economy. Very good hub.
Vanderleelie on July 09, 2012:
An emerging artist should keep prices reasonable. You can always raise your prices as your career progresses, but it's hard to reduce the value of original work. You should also aim for a more objective method of pricing than simply basing a value on how many hours were spent in the production, or which work you like best. In a commercial gallery setting, I always used a factor system relating to the size of the work (height +width) x factor. The factor was set according to the experience of the artist, their exhibition history, formal education, awards or special recognition, etc. An emerging artist might have a factor of 10, while an established, mature artist would have a factor of 50. Using this method, prices are consistent with the size of the work. When the artist becomes more recognized, or more in demand, the factor is raised.
Marian L (author) from UK on January 03, 2012:
Thanks herrannick it is a tough thing to decide but I'm glad I can be of some help :-)
herrannick from Miami,Florida on January 02, 2012:
This is a great article, I've always had trouble deciding whether or not the prices for my pieces were reasonable or if they were outrageously overpriced. Thanks for posting this, it's always great when artists decide to help their fellow art community.
Lizzie on October 04, 2011:
Yes, helpful article. Thank you
julie webber on January 08, 2011:
I think the rule of duplication and originality is a sticky one.Think about etchings ,lithographs,screen prints and so on.As for pricing look at how many millions Warhol's prints auction for.....and they were all printed more than once by definition.
Marian L (author) from UK on January 07, 2011:
Hi Julie, yes I think you are right, there is no comparison between decorative painting and the masters, hope I didn't imply there was.
What I was trying to say about photographs was that I can't think of how you can have an 'original' photograph in the same way that you can have an original painting - in that only one person can own that original (painting) and anything else will be a copy, whereas many people could own the same photograph as it can be printed as many times as you want it to be. I'm not saying it takes any more or less skill (just different skills) to take a photo or create a painting but the distribution of each leads more to the possibility of higher prices being achieved by paintings when you factor in this originality.
Julie webber on January 07, 2011:
Sorry first word was meant to read 'I'.
Julie webber on January 07, 2011:
U certainly believe good 'decorative painting ' is an art itself but can never be compared to the work of the masters.It is a new art form made to suit modern interiors.
Have to disagree about the way you classify photographs just because there is an ability to reproduce them.
Marian L (author) from UK on January 07, 2011:
Thanks for your comments Julie, all opinions are welcome and equally valid. Yes, there are some photographs that are worth as much or more than paintings but I would say that it is difficult to class a photograph as original - barring only printing one copy and destroying the negative/file etc.
And yes, there are some hugely talented photographers that have the insight, knowledge and skills to get better photographs than anyone could get just with a bit of training.
So maybe the great painters never considered matching their paintings with sofas but then in those days the commissions were more for portraits than anything to match the furnishings (ok so that is probably a bit of a generalisation) and a large number of great painters took commissions for portraits to pay the bills and maybe that is what we all have to do at the end of the day, pay the bills. I'm not in any way comparing myself to a great painter but I do believe that 'decorative painting' is still art at the end of the day, it's just that in order to make a living as an artist you have to strike a balance between commercial and personal work.
JULIE on January 07, 2011:
Totally disagree that a painting is worth mote than a photograph .Just look at some well know photographers and their work merits the high prices it commands.(Warhol ,Martin Parr,Sally Mann and so on)
What painters feel ,in my opinion is that painting are more 'Unique' than photographs and therefore automatically worth more.
With all good 'ART', it is the concept and idea behind it that most people are paying for.
This could get you into a definition of what is 'Art' and what is decorative painting.
The great painters never considered matching their painting with sofas.
And Spiker for you to state 'A photo displays truth indeed but a truth anyone can obtain with a camera and some practice,' is quite arrogant and naïve.Study some great photographers and do the same.You'd soon be a millionaire if it is as easy as you say!
Marian L (author) from UK on November 28, 2010:
Thanks for your comments Spiker, I totally agree with you. I certainly feel that a painting is worth more than a print of a photograph - unless of course you are guaranteed that photo will only be printed once (unlikely) and it is something special. I think sometimes the buyer does not realise that they are buying the creativity of that piece, not just the paint and canvas.
For sure if you want to make your name as an artist, if you have the skill and you have built up a following then you should be able to charge high prices for your work. The only thing I object to is people going straight in with high prices when they have no reputation. I think this should build in time, but each to their own really.
Spiker on November 28, 2010:
This comment is only about "originals".
Here is one way to look at it.
Perhaps you have seen some of these pictures people take with a camera and print them out in very large sizes, some of these selling for well over $1,500.
Ask yourself , is a painting worth as much as a photo?
A photo displays truth indeed but a truth anyone can obtain with a camera and some practice.
However an "Original" painting is a piece of you and not everyone can simply paint the same thing or aswell.
So for this fact alone I believe a painting is worth more than a picture or print right?
For some of us a painting is a piece of ourselves and very hard to put a price on.
Should you perhaps paint something you feel is for lack of better words a masterpiece why would you charge that of a plumber?
Surely a plummer offers a service but its a service anyone can do almost and therfore is in no way relivent to the wages one might receive from creating something original and amazing.
But then again there are some artist who are whilling to discover their worth as an artist by not selling paintings based on an hourly wage or materials plus time and creativity but instead make a leap as an artist .
Naturally there are differences in skill , for example if no one had new that painting of sunflowers was from Van Gogh well I myself wouldn't even pay $50 for it.
I guess what I,m trying to say is if your sure your ready to make your stand as an artist, don't sell yourself short.
I myself have sold paintings as small as 16X20 for $1,200 simply because what was painted cound most likely never be recreated and even if it was would be a copy.
Integrity as a painter is very important for you and your buyers.
Another thing to note is cheap paintings sell fast and the artist rarely can break this cycle once started.
If you intend to make yourself a name as an artist ....DON'T SELL OUT CHEAP!!!!
If you place you paintings for high prices and they don't sell perhaps its not the price , but the price for the skill.
Some people just don't deserve as much for a painting, some paintings just arent that good.
If you find you cant sell your paintings for more than materials plus min wage for time and space than perhaps you should just go be a plumber.
Marian L (author) from UK on October 29, 2010:
Hi Christine, thanks for your comments. Yes, it is such a dilemma and even after 4 years of selling I constantly reappraise my prices depending on many factors! And yes, if someone has already chosen to buy 2 of your paintings then that is great but even harder I think if you have to agree a price subsequently - good luck!
Christine on October 28, 2010:
Hi--your piece was v. helpful. I m new to selling and am unsure what to charge-- the customer has chosen two of my paintings so obviously wants to buy them but i am scared I might frighten him off if I ask too much, but on the other hand he might not attach value to them if I ask for too little What a dilemma!