How Do I Price My Art?
Pricing your art is right up there with finding your art style. It can be a very confusing and frustrating process, one that leaves you slightly unsure if you made the right decision and understandably so. Art is such a unique thing to price out. It’s not as simple as a notebook, or a cup of coffee, it’s a liiiitle bit trickier than that.
Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder
I’ve seen documentaries where Banksy experimented with selling his art on the streets of NYC to random people for $10-$15 dollars. And guess what? They bought it! Yes, Banksy, an artist who typically sells his work for millions of dollars sold work for less than the price of dinner!
To those buying, the paintings they purchased piqued enough interest for them to stop, inquire, and purchase. Why? Because it moved them in some way. And also because they thought it was worth $10-$15, so they happily paid the asking price.
The Netflix documentary, “Made You Look” highlights the reverse of that. A random and relatively unknown artist was painting fake Rothko’s and Pollock’s that were being sold for millions of dollars.
Makes you scratch your head a bit, right?
Perceived value and beauty are in the eye of the beholder.
There are a whole host of ways you can price your art. I’m big on keeping things simple and consistent. Pricing your work doesn’t have to be this outrageously overbearing task. It also doesn’t have to be a complex equation. It can be as simple as a formula, which you’re about to learn. Where things get tricky is when emotion comes into play. Pricing art should be highly objective. For now, leave the emotion up to your viewers and clients - let’s get logical!
Straightforward Formula to Price Your Art
Length X Width X Price per Square Inch = your art asking price
Let’s break that down…
Length x Width
Length and width is easy to come by. You just need to measure your substrate (canvas, paper, etc) and multiply those two numbers together.
For example, let’s look at a 24x24” canvas.
24 x 24 = 576 (total square inches)
Okay, so we’ve got most of the formula down. Now onto the price per square inch!
Your price per square inch will be dependent upon which phase of your art career you are in. In an effort to keep things simple, let’s look at the visual below as a guideline.
Note: This is not science. This is just simply my opinion on pricing structures to help as a guideline and reference point.
If you’re reading this, chances are you fall in one of three categories:
- Budding Artist
- Beginner Artist
- or Emerging Artist
Let’s focus on those three categories.
- Budding Artist: You have bought various supplies, and are mad experimenting with them. Your best friend, partner, or family member has asked to purchase your very first work in an effort to support your artistic endeavors, and you feverishly rushed to google and found this article. That’s freaking awesome and kudos to you! Keep painting and keep reading!
- Beginner Artist: You’ve sold your work to friends and family and are starting to take your art pretty seriously. You’re receiving weekly encouragement to “start an instagram for your art” and “omg you’re so talented with art, how do you do that!?” types of comments from those closest to you. You’re gaining confidence and want to really hone your pricing to feel confident and comfortable committing to your art in a more serious way to future clients.
- Emerging Artist: You’ve been successful in your art career thus far. You’ve not just sold to friends and family, but also to several strangers that have become regular clients of your work. You’ve likely been commissioned to one or several pieces, and you can say with confidence your art hangs in multiple peoples homes, likely in various states. You’re gaining confidence, attention from different supply companies on instagram, and gaining a name for yourself as it pertains to your art.
Your Prices Should Give You Confidence
You should feel like your prices are both realistic and structured. When clients ask how you price your work - you should be able to provide a confident answer that you can stand behind. This takes the pressure off of you as an artist, and also off of your client. No client is willing to purchase something from an artist if they have four paintings, all of which are the same size but the pricing varies drastically from one painting to another.
Keep Your Pricing Consistent
Look, these are your little brain babies. It’s so incredibly hard to part ways with some of your work. I’ve known artists to charge outrageous prices for their “masterpieces” that are the same size as other paintings. When a potential client asks “why is this one more expensive?” The artist answers emotionally, stating - “This one is my masterpiece”
Do. Not. Do. This.
Keep it simple, keep it consistent!
Having a consistent structure to how you price and present your work makes you much more professional as an artist. Simplicity and consistency in how you price your art will give you confidence over time as it takes the emotion out of the conversations around your art pricing. When a potential buyer inquires about your pricing of your work, you glow explaining how you price instead of cringing.
Using a formula to price your artwork takes care of any inequalities that could arise from one painting to another. Keep it simple, and you keep it consistent.
Increase Your Prices if You’re Selling Out/Often
If you are consistently selling out of your releases, or selling often over an extended period of time, you may want to consider a slight increase in your prices. This is especially true if you can no longer keep up with the growing demand for your work.
If this is you, you should also do a happy dance my friend! Your work is positively impacting people - good for you! Keep doing what you’re doing. You will know when you’ve reached a point to start increasing your prices.
Price for breathing room
Don’t price your work so affordably that you cannot offer discounts or sales. You want to have enough margin so that you can comfortably discount your work during the holidays, or your biannual studio sale.
Some artists believe you should never discount your work as it cheapens or devalues it. That is a bunch of malarkey! There are a select few designer brands that never discount anything ever. You are not those brands, and neither is your art.
If you wanna list some paintings for sale to free up some space in your studio, knock yourself out! I think it’s a fantastic idea, and one that should never be frowned upon. Promotions and sales work, and you’re going to want to participate in them. Make sure you have the margin to do so! Otherwise, anytime you offer a sale, it will be at a disservice to you which defeats the purpose.
Conclusion and Considerations
How you price your art doesn’t have to be a negative or stressful thing. It truly can be as simple and straightforward as a formula.
Keep it simple, keep it consistent and you’ll be able to grow confidence in pricing your work but most importantly, you get to focus on the fun stuff which is staying creative!
Was this helpful? Let me know in the comments below :)
FREE Resource - Art Pricing Calculator with drop down menu spreadsheet using this exact formula, below:
Very generous of you to help the struggling and starving artist. Thank you.
Thank you ! This really has helped me feel safe and confident on my pricing. I have over 30 Book Journals to price and I wasn’t sure how to price them. This made it simple and a no brainer for me. Thank you again sincerely.
Extremely helpful always had a problem pricing my artwork.now I have something to work from thankyou.
I recently agreed to paint a 16” X 20” oil of a New England home good a friend. My estimate was fair. When I saw the photo I was to work from the home had a ton of windows with many mullions and surrounded by trees. Your price per inch formula worked but it too over 60 hours. Still, I loved the work, learned a few things and greatly pleased my client and his friend. I would not change a thing but will ask to see the image before I offer a quote next time. Sure he would understand.
Jamie – this makes me so happy! Congrats on your success thus far and for all your future success!