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The definitive guide on how to price your art

Portrait of Symposia author Ian Duffy
Ian Duffy

Mar 14, 2022

 | Max 


 min read

Woman thinking about how to price oil paintings
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Selling your artwork can be an essential revenue stream for you as an artist. It can help you support your work, spread the word to new audiences, and grow your practice overall. Within the context of capitalism, it can also be a way of legitimizing your work. If people pay for work, it might be perceived as more valuable.

If you're an artist who wants to sell your work, one of the first challenges you'll encounter is figuring out how much to charge for it. Trying to figure out pricing for each piece in an ad hoc way can be exhausting and stressful.

If you're selling artwork, you need to know why you're pricing a piece the way you are. We recommend building yourself a system or framework to help you price your work. That way, you can move forward with more confidence and ease.

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Factors that go into pricing fine art

Pricing artwork in the art world is not always logical or reasonable, and determining your art prices can be difficult. The cost of a work may be affected by a variety of things:

  1. Materials used to make the work and other related expenses
  2. Time spent on the production
  3. Size of the work
  4. Motive and story
  5. Quality of the work
  6. Quantity of an edition
  7. Your experience and education    
  8. Who collects your work and whether it was part of a notable exhibition

Understanding what goes into the work itself is just half the battle; the market ecosystem also dictates the value of your work. There are a few factors to consider.

Be aware of your audience

Typically, people in bigger cities like New York spend more money on art than customers in smaller towns.

Consider your pricing as a marketing tool that must correspond with your brand and target audience. One of the most common reasons people don't purchase artwork is because they are unsure about what to buy or how much to pay for it, so don't make it too difficult for them; it should feel fair for both parties.

Higher prices may also attract more affluent buyers, and if you price your art too low, it will convey the message that your work is of little value. It's not a simple equation to solve, but you'll get better at it as you make sales.

Creating a genuine connection between the buyer, the artist, and the work; adds value. The more connected a potential customer is to your narrative, background, process, message, and artistic concepts, the more they value your work.

Women talking about their art work

How do you determine how to price your art?

Remember that a visual artist is a professional entitled to appropriate compensation for their work.

Artistic work is a creative work that necessitates particular talents and training. As a result, the cost of the artwork should reflect that of a demanding specialist job.

To understand at what price to sell art, consider the costs of the time spent on each stage of work and the expenditures incurred in producing the work. The artist's level of education and experience has an impact on pricing. We recommend emerging artists keep proper records of their working hours for billing purposes.

The process of pricing artwork can be pretty tough, but having a method in place is essential so that you can price your work confidently. Here are some factors to keep in mind:

Pricing Based on Materials and Labor

Rather than pricing a single piece by the costs to make, approach it by how many pieces sales you make in a month, then subtract your expenses and divide the remainder by the number of pieces you reasonably can make that can give you an excellent place to start.

Additional expenses that may be incurred while making an artwork

  1. Cost of materials
  2. Cost of the studio (even if it's a home studio)
  3. Equipment and software
  4. Accounting & taxes
  5. Indirect expenses such as social security
  6. Contributions and insurance
  7. Health care and well-being at work

For example, if the cost of materials is $100 to make a piece and you can make five pieces in a month, in addition to your other expenses, maybe $750, your costs are about $1,250.

If you subtract that from your monthly income goal, let's say $5000 (based on the hours you put in to make those pieces), the average price for your pieces should be able around $750–that is to say, larger works at $950 and smaller pieces are $550.

It's better to sell work and give it more exposure worldwide. Selling ten pieces for $750 over a few months to 5-10 collectors is much better than selling one piece for $7,500; the economics of scale are in your favor. More customers mean more potential return sales. This doesn't mean devaluing your worth, but selling at fair and realistic prices is much better than not selling at all because your prices are too high.

Pricing based on an hourly rate

Depending on the type and length of the task, artistic work can be charged either hourly or monthly.

Symposia's minimum recommended hourly rate for working artists, who have a degree related to culture and arts subjects, or who are doing demanding specialist tasks is as follows:

  • In a large metropolitan area like New York or LA, $23–30/hour
  • Elsewhere in the United States, $19–27/hour
Professional artist thinking about high prices

Price structure Based on Your Peers

Your art community of fellow artists is your most significant source of information to learn how to price your art, as it happens with many aspects of your life as a creative person. We encourage you to share your knowledge with your fellow artists openly.

Talk to similar artists about how much to charge for their work. They've already been in your shoes and have faced or are currently dealing with the difficulties associated with determining how much to price artwork.

Keep this in mind the next time you're looking at all the artists similar to you: Your prices will, of course, be different from those of other comparable artists in your region. If you charge less than others do, you'll be undercutting them. And that undercutting might result in prices and perceived value for your work and theirs declining.

When comparing other artists, consider additional criteria beyond size and materials.

In particular, consider looking at the following:

  1. At their résumé, or if the artist is well known
  2. How long have they been practicing and selling work?
  3. What distinctions have they received, or where have they done residencies?
  4. Have they shown their work at other galleries or museums?
  5. Have they received press for their work?

Even if the works are of identical size and materials, established artists will charge more than up-and-coming artists since they will have a more considerable following and market for their work. It would be best to compare costs with someone at about the same point in your career.

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Researching art fair or gallery prices

If you're a young fine artist without a track record, the first step in determining your pricing strategy is to look at comparable work. While you won't find a perfect match, look for something similar in size and materials.

Commercial galleries are usually more informed about current art market rates than artists are, so if there's a gallery that sells work comparable to yours, see them frequently and try to establish a connection.

It's also worth checking out art fairs. If the prices for pieces are not published, you can request to see them. And there is a slew of internet sites devoted to art sales that can offer even more data for your study.

Formulas for Pricing Art by Size

There are dozens of formulas that many artists swear by to price their work, such as the "square inch" method, though Symposia doesn't recommend this as a baseline method. As outlined in this article, there are way too many other factors to be an effective strategy to price art.

If you choose to use a pricing formula, you should by no means take it as the ultimate method. It's merely a tool that may help you calculate relative pricing structures and is more often useful early in your career when you don't yet have a sense of prices.

Price ranges to consider

You will likely land in these ranges after factoring in the various aspects of making your work to price your art. This is just a good starting point since there are many additional elements to consider.

Small: less than 18" x 24" :

Starting out: $50–$500 | Emerging: $100–$1,000

Medium: 18" x 24" to 36" x 48":

Starting out: $500–$2,000 | Emerging: $1,000–$4,000

Large: more than 36" x 48":

Starting out: $2,000–$5,000 | Emerging: $4,000–$10,000

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Remember to always be flexible, and to consider all the factors involved in pricing your work.

Selling art based on market venue

Pricing with galleries

If you have gallery representation, ask for their assistance in determining prices for your work. You'll have a sense of what current market rates are if you've done your research, so you can evaluate their advice as needed.

If you disagree with their pricing recommendations, offer your price and defend it by pointing to your productivity, the cost of materials, or the prices of other artists.

Also, remember that when you engage a professional gallery, you are building a business relationship. Every art dealer has a style of selling based on their personality. Some are cautious and set prices low then raise them gradually, while others take chances and go for it boldly. There are no hard-and-fast rules to follow. In-depth discussions about pricing can help you understand how they calculate all the factors that go into the work.

When you work with galleries, the trade-off is that they take a cut of what the gallery sells your work for—they are a business, and collectors prefer to buy through them vs. artists directly. The industry standard is 50% unless it's a commissioned piece, in which case artists frequently obtain 60%. Non-profit galleries commonly charge lower percentages, usually between 10% and 30%.

You don't want to raise your costs to compensate for a gallery's fees since you're essentially outsourcing the difficult task of selling while you concentrate on creating more work.

women looking at digital art on their own website

Pricing for art commissions

Art commission prices are especially tricky, there's usually some personal connection involved, so it's hard to turn down the work. Know that it's ok to say no; simply stating something like, "I'm not accepting commissions at the moment, but here are a few pieces I have for sale you may enjoy" is perfectly fine.

It would be best to decide whether and when to take commissions as you undoubtedly will be losing money compared to your regular sales. Some artists have a limit they set, such as one every three months.

Many aspects of the arts industry are based on trust. Still, it is essential to have everything in writing as much as possible. It's simple to accomplish this by e-mail.

Pricing for group shows vs. solo shows

If you're in a group exhibition, submit art within the same price range as the rest and comparable artists in the show. If you enter the most expensive piece, you don't want people's first impression of your work to be a sticker shock.

You want your work to stand out for artistic reasons, not financial ones. Before you submit, find out what the show's price range is and what price range sells best generally.

Pricing for art prints as editions

A print or photograph in an edition of ten may be less expensive than a one-of-a-kind work by the same artist. Furthermore, if you produce twenty-five pieces instead of five, each print should sell for a lower price than if you made only five prints.

The beginning price of a job at the start of an edition will be lower and rise toward the end. This is partly due to supply and demand and a method for rewarding the first buyer for taking a chance on the work before it has been proven valuable. In addition, the increasing price may be a motivation to purchase as potential buyers notice that the edition is selling out and the price rises.

Create a set number for photographs and prints or other editioned items—many artists overlook this, but it is essential to collectors and dealers. Some artists keep one print or two from each batch as an investment in hopes that the price will rise.

Pricing online vs. in-person

Online sales have multiple factors to consider, such as shipping and commissions for the platform if it's not a direct sale.

If you're selling art online on your website, don't display artwork that has already been sold alongside art still available for purchase. Showing sold art with still-on-sale painting isn't effective in increasing sales.

Always be transparent and show your prices, especially online. Based on data collected by Artsy sales, galleries that were transparent about their prices had a 4x higher likelihood of making a sale.

Price Consistency and Personal Feelings

The pricing should not be discretionary and should instead be based on measurable characteristics such as color or quality. If an artist wants to charge based on size, it must be the same for every piece. For example, if you charge $5,000 for a painting that's 36" × 48" and $6,000 for another painting of the same size and subject matter, it's easy to lose credibility with a potential collector.

Personal sentiments, attachments, and sentimental value are intangible, non-transferable, and incalculable in monetary terms. Artists must maintain a consistent selling price. Although you believe your pricing structure is logical personally, sales may suffer if it does not make sense to others. Collectors appreciate straightforward, easy-to-understand price structures.

Pricing your art in a way that makes sense

What are the most you can reasonably charge for your work?

It would be best to try not to go past $5,000 for most pieces.

Look at what purchasers are ready to pay to find out what the pricing should be. Here are a few examples:

  1. The average amount online customers spend on art is $5,000 per year. The average price for current artwork in art galleries in 2021 was $10,685.
  2. If you're selling your work directly from the studio, expect buyers to assume it's half the price they'd get from a gallery.
  3. 70% percent of the art sold at auction houses is valued at or below $5,000.

Even for the most avid art collectors, their ideal price range for an up-and-coming artist is generally around $6,000–$7,000.

When to raise the prices of your artwork

You've probably established a pricing framework if you have a track record of selling. However, if you go in a new direction with your work—perhaps using different materials—you might have to adjust your prices and give your collectors time to adapt.

When your art sells regularly, you've been selling regularly for more than six months to a year, ideally longer, you have a show where at least half of your art sells, or you're selling all of your art within several months, or so after creating it, those are the good times to raise prices.

It's acceptable to raise prices between 10-25% percent, closer to 10% if sales are strong and consistent, up to 25% if demand is high, and your constantly selling out of work.

Very rarely more than that. Keep in mind that each time you jump in pricing, you essentially have to acquire a new set of collectors because you likely have out-priced your previous ones.

Be able to justify your price points

Don't increase prices just because you're in a good mood, what another artist charges, or because you believe your fees have been the same for too long.

Always give a compelling reason for your price increases, say you've won an award or recently had a solo show with a prestigious gallery. Be cautious not to alienate your collector base by becoming too costly too soon; keep in mind those loyal followers who have been buying your work and supporting you the longest.

When discounts are appropriate in your art career

Galleries frequently provide special offers to loyal clients (10 percent is typical), and museums may get as much as a 40% discount.

You shouldn't be discouraged by the fact that you're making less money on a sale—while you may not make as much, it shows that someone has valued your work and is starting a market. And if they're a serious collector, that'll boost your reputation and exposure.

Make affordable alternatives available. Also, some of your most loyal supporters may not have a large budget to afford the price of an oil painting. They might be among your biggest fans, so give them a chance to buy a piece such as little watercolor paintings, a print, or a drawing.

When to negotiate the price of your art

You may wish to charge more for your work than you desire in compensation for negotiations. As a result, you have room to negotiate and keep your prices within an acceptable range. A price boost of 10% is sufficient to accommodate most negotiations.

It's not uncommon for negotiations to occur during the sale of art. Depending on the environment (studio sale, gallery sale, etc.) in which you're selling, buyers will typically try to lower your asking price. After all, the prices are essentially immaterial.

Furthermore, the more prestigious the buyer, collection, or institution is, a gallery may justify the more significant the discount. A 20% reduction is not unusual when a work of art is sold into a good collection.

The foundation of a successful art business is made up of dedicated collectors; you may indeed make a solid living with only five regular collectors.

When negotiating, keep in mind the possibility of losing a sale and, in turn, a returning customer. If you've previously sold pieces to them, you're more likely to see them return for another piece.

Price art per square inch

Challenges to Pricing Your Artwork

The most challenging aspect of pricing artwork is that it's hard to assign a price to your creative output. If you're expressing yourself creatively and honestly, how can you put a price on it? How do you quantify your intellectual, emotional, and aesthetic vision?

Artists are used to being underpaid for their labor or asked to work for free. It's difficult to determine how much individuals will pay for your work when society devalues art. Alternatively, it's also hard to know how much people would offer for it.

This gets even more complicated for artists and faces structural barriers to success or money. Black artists have historically been underpaid and underrated, as have other non-white artists. It also applies to LGBTQ artists, female artists, and nonbinary artists.

Final Thoughts

There is no established formula for artwork prices for visual artists. It differs significantly by so many factors, as outlined in this article. To discover how comparable works are priced, you'll have to use your initiative and hard work.

You can avoid making costly mistakes like over or underpricing your art that may harm your future sales by comprehending how the larger market is impacted by collectors' and galleries' interests. Determining your prices is also an excellent chance to take a step back and consider the trajectory and pace of your career as an artist.

  1. There is no perfect formula for pricing your art, as it varies significantly by artist and situation.
  2. Consider all the expenses that go into managing your art practice beyond the materials and time to produce.
  3. Price consistency and the removal of personal attachment to the work are essential for good relationships with your collectors.
  4. It is 10x better to sell more art for a reasonable price than make one giant sale.
  5. Always be transparent about your prices, and never increase your prices to accommodate a gallery's commission.
  6. It's essential to know how the market at large impacts your work and career when pricing art.
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