11 Tips for Pricing Your Art

I wish I could pull a number out of the hat and tell you how to price your art.

It’s not that easy, as you’ve surely discovered. Every artist’s path to their sweet spot for pricing is different

I’ve come to know that there isn’t a single art market that you can look to as an exact model. There are many art markets – each with its own pricing structure.

Here are a few guidelines to begin with.

©Jack Keirnan Hale, Lime Green Seaweed. Layered fabric, hand embroidery, beads, 14 x 11 inches. Used with premising.

©Jack Keirnan Hale, Lime Green Seaweed. Layered fabric, hand embroidery, beads, 14 x 11 inches. Used with permission.

Art-Pricing Guidelines

1. Your first step is to research your market. Look for artists who do similar work using similar materials and who are at a comparable point in their careers.

Whenever you compare your prices to those of other artists, make sure you know that the work you’re looking at is actually selling. It doesn’t do you any good to look at prices from an artist whose work isn’t moving.

Many artists have adopted a formula for square-inch pricing. This is fine, but it must be based on something. You can’t pull a number out of the air. Follow all of the tips here and your formula will be well grounded.

2. Start lower. It’s easier to start on the low end of the scale and raise your prices than it is to lower your prices later.

However . . .

3. Never undervalue your work. Selling your art too cheaply means you’re probably not getting paid what it’s worth.

©Alexis Lavine, Red Hat Ladies Share a Secret. Watercolor on cold pressed paper, 17 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

©Alexis Lavine, Red Hat Ladies Share a Secret. Watercolor on cold pressed paper, 17 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

When you devalue your art, you devalue the art of every other artist who is trying make a living – many of whom genuinely need the money.

The dangers in pricing your artwork too low are:

  • You end up not paying yourself enough for the work you have done, the materials you have used, or your overhead costs.
  • You find it difficult to raise prices dramatically once you discover you’re losing money because the audience you created will no longer be able to afford your work.

On the other hand, the danger in pricing your artwork too high is that you may price yourself out of your market. This is why you must …

4. Understand your profit margin. If you have plans to seek galleries or consultants to help sell your art at some point, you must build in a profit margin to account for their commissions. For most artists, this is 50% of the retail price.

Editioned bronze sculptures are at least triple the foundry price, with 1/3 going to the foundry, 1/3 to a gallery, and 1/3 to the artist.

©Cara Gulati, Magna Cum Laude. Quit, 60 x 36 inches. Photo courtesy of Gregory Case. Used with permission.

©Cara Gulati, Magna Cum Laude. Quit, 60 x 36 inches. Photo courtesy of Gregory Case. Used with permission.

Pricing giclées is another matter. Barney Davey’s book, How to Price Digital Fine Art Prints, offers these options: price by a percentage of the original piece or by a multiple of the production cost.

Of course, your print prices would be grounded in all of the other research you have done so that you’re not making up numbers.

As my clients often hear me say: Do. The. Numbers.

5. Enjoy your pricing freedom. If you don’t have a gallery and don’t want a gallery, you have more pricing freedom than other artists. Even then, I stand firm against pricing your work too low.

6. Never undersell your galleries. You have one price for your art, whether a gallery sells it or whether you sell it from your studio.

When a gallery gets wind that you sold at a lower price – especially to one of their clients – they will drop you like a hot frying pan. When the word reaches other galleries (and it will), you’ll be treated like toxic waste.

7. Consider your output. If you work faster and are prolific, your prices might be lower than an artist whose work takes months to complete. Or they might not be. Because you must . . .

8. Assess your inventory – if you sell it as fast as you make it – it’s probably time to raise your prices.

I didn’t retain a lot of what I learned in my Econ classes, but I do remember the law of supply and demand.

9. Bear size in mind. Larger works are usually more expensive than smaller works.

10. Account for the materials. Works made from higher-priced materials have a bigger price tag on them.

Works on canvas often command more than works on paper. But then there’s that whole framing thing. You have to frame works on paper and account for those expenses in your pricing.

Likewise, bronze sculptures have higher prices than carved wood. (See profit margin above.)

11. Know your audience. Artists who sell in smaller or economically depressed communities have found it difficult to ask for prices similar to artists in larger cities.

But keep in mind that if you try to sell online, your audience is much larger than your home base.

You Will Still Question Your Pricing

Even with this list, you may continue to struggle with pricing – especially if your art isn’t selling. Pricing continues to haunt artists at every stage of their careers.

Please know that you are not alone in this dilemma. There is no such thing as foolproof pricing for art.

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42 comments to 11 Tips for Pricing Your Art

  • I ran into information that spoke to me about art, spirituality, and business. The suggestion is to have all 3 working together to have a successful art business. For me I have spirituality and my art is sellable. But I have doubt and had to delete sputtering about the postive affirmation I have gotten. My art can improve, but isn’t that why “studio time” is the priority? I also am looking at professional scanners. Without business, you have a hobby and are giving your work away, which I don’t want to do anymore. My client list is building, just by paying attention to the comments, “likes”, and followers on social media. Now, I’m working on where to sell my work. I’ve applied to sell at a local, highly respected Holiday Art Market. I am thinking of pricing and I got some ideas for my arsenal from this post.
    On my computer the credits for the painting with website links are working, but the pictures aren’t coming up.

  • Hello all! I don’t paint on canvas, well rarely. I paint on stemware, rocks, ceramic tile, wood, card stock, and even concrete step stones. I price my work based on the crowd. Folks with small children aren’t spending much, so I keep my prices lower, always have a “hook item” appealing to kiddos and folks looking for unique and practical art. I rarely take home exactly what I started out staging my table. High-end shows, the prices go up accordingly. Anyone spending $150 on a bottle of fine wine, will gladly pay $40 for a hand painted wineglass. Also, I’ve learned to paint what I LIKE, not “wonder if this will sell”, paint a bunch and still have the same inventory a year later. Listen to your customers, observe what is selling and not. Network with other artists. One “artist” told me I wasn’t a real artist until I put brush to canvas. Showed her an 11 x 14 canvas of a white cat on black, resting on a dark red afghan, which sold for $250, unframed. Being critical of fellow artists, especially at a show, is rude and unprofessional. I have a great following, thru social media, word of mouth, and of course the website. Paying attention to the “likes” on social media has generated many a sale. Y’all have a better day!

  • Thanks for your insight on selling your work at the right price. I’ve found that 40% for is the most common request from galleries for sculpture. They recognize that foundry and production cost are significantly higher than a painters cost including framing. A good gallery will tell the artist when their price is too low and suggest an appropriate price point for the gallery’s collectors. That happened for me when I first got in with a seasoned gallerist. They sold consistently for me.

  • Thank you Alyson for posting this article exactly when I needed to read it. I am showing my work in an art walk this weekend. I am a serious artist and have avoided booth shows in the past. I hope I can get the prices I usually get at this type of event.

  • The other thing I’ve found is that when a piece isn’t moving and I lower the price, it still doesn’t sell. When I raise the price back to the original, it sells. I have no explanation for this, just can tell you that it’s happened a few times.

    There is a potter in our area who sells his work so cheaply that even I (a potter) am tempted to buy it. He’s the nicest guy, but he hurts the sales of the rest of us. I’ve talked to a few potters who say they stopped doing any show that he’s at bcs he kills their business. My work is different enough that I can still do okay, depending on the crowd. I asked him how he can sell it at those prices and he said it’s bcs he’s fast, plus he has those hungry apprentices working for him, too. His work is dip-and-fire stoneware, mine is majolica with labor-intensive decoration. My niche is small, it is the people who understand and appreciate it and often don’t like the other standard stuff.

  • Elaine Gabriel

    Yet another timely and helpful topic from Art Biz Blog! I’m now fairly confident in my pricing for shows, but recently I found an affordable studio to rent in a building downtown (dream come true!) and I work, teach classes, and offer some of my work for sale in the studio We live in an economically-depressed area, but we also get tourists coming through, so I have two audiences to try to figure out. I’m experimenting to find the right balance of items and price points so that there’s something for everyone. For now I have some small to medium-sized originals, some fine art reproductions, and some notecards for sale. My mailing list has grown by leaps and bounds, and I’m getting more interest in my classes, but I’ve only sold one original (8″x10″) and some notecards and notecard sets so far. I’ve been wondering if offering a payment plan might make owning original art more of a possibility for the locals without my having to lower my prices, and if offering shipping might help encourage the tourists. I’ve also wondered if perhaps in the summer I should emphasize items for tourists and during the rest of the year cater more to the locals. It’s probably too early in the game yet to know what works for sure. This new adventure is so exciting, but a huge learning curve! Thanks for all the food for thought!

  • Your article couldn’t have come at a better time. So very useful, but at the same time frustrating for me. I’m a bronze artist and will be showing in Sausalito in a few weeks. I’ve never been in a gallery and if I priced my work on the scale you suggested I don’t think I’d sell a thing. As priced now (double my foundry costs) if I am picked by a gallery I’d get nothing in the 1/3 scale. Any suggestions other than all the “pearls” you have just shared.
    Thank you for all you impart. Your generosity and wealth of information are so appreciated.

    • Yes, Karen. Don’t worry about it right now. If and when you get your work in a gallery, you can have that conversation with them about raising your prices. But even if you added just 10% more right now, you’d be on your way.

  • This is a very interesting and helpful article. Because I work in fiber, the market is a little different (in my experience). One thing I did was have one piece appraised. They looked at my previous sales but also what the market is for my type of art to give me a number.

    One issue I struggle with–maybe because so many fiber artists are in the over-60 age category–is what do we do with our art if we can’t sell it? I understand how under-pricing devalues everyone’s work. But does that mean that what I don’t sell before I die will end up in the landfill or as dogs beds at the humane society? I think I need to lower my prices to what will sell. Other thoughts on how to deal with this will be appreciated!

  • Hardpressed

    Great topic and one I always struggle with. I appreciate your thoughtful insights.

    I’m always confused about pricing when a commission percentage is involved. Say, if I would like to make $200 for a print and a gallery or show takes a 50% commission, do I then price my print at $300 to accommodate the commission and still make MY $200? However, if $300 is now the price I list to allow for the commission, will the gallery take $150 (50% of the $300.), rather than $100 which is 50% of the original $200 asking price. If that’s the case, I would need to really raise my price to $400, in order to make the $200 which I value the print at.

    How do you price work when a commission is involved?

  • I get the point of this article, especially after a plein air event that is a not too well off area this past weekend. I know the value of my work and what I sell it for and price accordingly but the majority of artists are not regularly exhibiting artists nor regular plein air artists. The local artists are practically giving their work away which hurts those of us who are trying to make a living selling our work. Those of us who do the plein air route here know what we can sell our work for at almost every other venue we paint at but what happens when we come to this particular event we all agonize over our pricing just to sell one painting. I don’t think there is anything to be done about it for this event. The trade off is it is a great place to paint. I just wish I had less stock of work from there.

  • Is it ok with you if I translate your blog into french for my friends ?

  • What is your feeling about publishing prices online? I have a fairly nice website and will launch a Facebook page and figure out Instagram in the near future. I am torn when it comes to whether or not to post prices. I have had lots of traffic to my website, but no inquiries for sales. I wonder if people are wandering away without buying because they figure, with no prices given, that it would be too expensive anyway. My instinct is to put price tags on them and see…but what do you think?

    • Diana: If it’s for sale, put a price on it on your website. You can do the same on a FB business page – but don’t do on FB personal and jury is still out on whether or not you want to do it on Instagram.

  • Walter Hawn

    An accountant can help with some pricing aspects. Overhead is an item that seems nebulous to most of us, but an accountant can nail it down so that it becomes a standard part of a pricing formula. Overhead includes such things as lights and heat, telephone and internet access, rent and, very importantly, depreciation of equipment. An accountant can probably offer help on some other stuff, like production and materials cost and — especially important for landscape photographers like me — the cost of getting the shot, along with marketing costs. All that is to provide a basis, a floor, for costing so that a fair and reasonable wholesale price can take into account all that an artist puts into a work. The accountant will even include the fee for accounting work as part of the overhead calculation. That made me grin.

    A lot of people (me, too) have had difficulty with the wholesale/retail direct sales thing. What helped me understand what’s what, is to realize that, when I sell directly to a collector, I am the gallery and am entitled to a gallerist’s profit. So, now I set a wholesale price that includes an artist’s profit, and double it with the margin attributable to me, the gallerist. When I place an item with a gallery, I then forgo that half of the income, as I’m no longer taking the retail risk and its associated costs.

  • Hello all…

    I’m an artist from the uk. Great article Lisa thank you. I’d just like to add a couple of things.

    Firstly: not only does selling your work too cheap devalue the work of professional artists like myself for whom art is their only source of income, it also devalues YOU! If you dont put a fair price for your time materials and overheads, the message it gives to the buyer is ‘it’s not any good’. If YOU don’t think your work is worth much you shouldn’t expect other people to part with their hard earned cash for it!

    Secondly: PLEASE don’t ever drop your prices. Not only does that devalue your work even further, it will also upset the people who have bought your work before because they have trusted you to prove your work was a good investment. If you drop your prices or offer ‘Sale prices’ they won’t buy from you again or if they do they won’t want to pay the full price. Prices should only ever go UP!! I have found that as my prices have steadily gone up so have the number of collectors and the number of sales.. people want to buy work from an artist who appears successful and ‘going places’! …Be that artist! xxx

    • Absolutely, Sarah.

      I don’t agree 100% with your second point. I do believe you can offer discounts, but your previous collectors have to have first crack at that. There is a way to do it that is in alignment with your projected path.

  • laurie

    Thnx…. regarding giclees, what I have done is … for example….
    Original was $650
    Giclee (signed) to print was $200 so I charged $300
    I have not printed more than 10 copies of an original ever
    Thnx – good read!
    L

  • Great advice! And very fitting according to my experience. We have a local artist who is selling way too low in many artists’ opinions. She advised me to sell my mini paintings cheaper than I wanted. I tried her suggestion, sold all my paintings and then I decided to raise the price by $5. I have sold 10 mini paintings since (2.5″x 3.5″) at the new price. I started out pricing my 6x6s too high, which was actually half of another market’s prices. Then adjusted way too low and this year I raised the price to somewhere in the middle where my 6x6s are actually selling. Next year I am going to raise the price for that size by $5. Prices are something I am constantly analyzing. If you sell too low then people get the impression the piece is of low quality. (I am an acrylic painter.) When I find the price where items are actually moving and at gradually higher volumes, then it is time to raise the price. My larger paintings’ sales have been a few. But I price those by materials cost, size and I also consider a little bit of emotion in each painting. I am just coming out of being an emerging artist, so none of my paintings are more than $600. My prices will increase as I become more accomplished.

  • On Aug 10, 2017, at 1:48 PM, Kelly Borsheim wrote:

    Hi Alyson… once again, a good newsletter.
    Some feedback:
    1) In my experience the rule for bronzes of 1/3 each to gallery, foundry, artist is obsolete. Many years ago a well-known gallery in Carmelo told me that they can no longer survive on 33%, so they demanded 40% for bronzes…my current dealer wanted to go up to 50%, but thus far, I have kept him down to 45%, but it really means that slowly, I will be removing my sculpture from his gallery. I cannot afford not to, because if the price does not go up to accommodate, where does that leave the artist? The foundry certainly never reduced its income on the sculpture.
    2) your number 5…. the reason artists should not price their work cheaper when not selling in galleries is because there is ALWAYS a salesman! To make a sale, someone works with the buyer and organizes the shipping, etc. If an artist sells directly, he IS also the salesman. If other artists are like me, I also pay to photograph or have scanned my artwork, create my site, my blog, and much of the publicity materials, plus the social media marketing…put together applications to exhibits / contests. I do all of that way more than my galleries market for me. So, it may be the same person in some cases, but the client is really paying for TWO services.. the art production AND the customer service. Artists should never negate that they EARN the sales commission, especially when they have no other dealers. A discount means that one of their “hats” is not being paid for.
    3) regarding number one in my list: reminder that the foundry gets money before the art leaves the foundry, sale or no sale… all overhead [mold] is money the artist pays up front [and way more expensive than painters expenses]. the gallery gets the sale money soon, but may not pay the artist for two months .. .or worse [but another topic], so the artist MUST consider that huge problem of cash flow! save accordingly, price accordingly.

    • Thank you for sharing this, Kelly. I appreciate the update in bronze pricing. Sounds like both artists and gallerists are getting priced out of that market. I guess straight to collector is the best route.

      Walter (above) agrees with your point about you being the salesperson. Me, too, by the way.

  • pat

    Spot on, Alyson! There are other considerations that some artists may want to consider. Undoubtedly undercutting a gallery can cause bad blood. And, like individual artists, gallerists will discuss an individual artist with another gallerist. Additionally, an artist who undercuts their galleries may (depending on the law in their state) be breaching their gallery contract. It’s a weighty legal consideration that everyone should consider, besides the ethics and personal value of engaging in this practice.

  • I thought your article was well stated and provided some great reminders (and new info) on pricing work. I’ve recently started my fine art business and have been researching the market trying to determine my price point. As I consulted with some industry experts, I realized I was too low and set my price higher. We’ll see how it goes, but your article reinforced what my gut and research were telling me.

  • Hi Alyson. Do you have any guidelines for pricing jewelry (sterling silver & semi-precious gemstones)? I’ve found different formulas that give vastly different prices for the same piece. I launched my website 2 week ago, had 3 sales the first day, but 2 were to friends/family. Not a single sale since then. I know you say never lower your prices. I only found the formula that gives me the lower prices after I launched though. I’m wondering if my prices really are too high.

  • Either the Mac using Safari can’t handle it but trying to link to: “https://www.artbizblog.com/2012/05/art-not-selling.html” was impossible. In any case I create steel sculpture and focus somewhat on Public Art. Here price is a given; either you want it or not. So setting a price is not needed. But, doing ‘private’ work is the same for me as for any artist. Galleries just don’t get it. They expect a 40 to 50% commission. Outrageous ! Steel is expensive, tools are off the wall, large industrial spaces are needed yet they don’t get it so, I sell by word of mouth and personal relationships. It saves untold dollars, is a lot slower making sales but I get 100%. I’m happy.

    • Jerome: Sorry about that link that was in your email. We changed our link structure mid-week, so I promise it’s a one-time thing (for now).

      I’m happy that you found a way to sell on your own – without the need for galleries. Good work!

  • Yes, pricing. I just came back from an arts festival in San Diego. Some people were saying ‘ooph’ after asking the price of a big oil painting. The price was very reasonable. I started to think I was too expensive until I went around and looked at other artists prices. I turned out to be more on the cheaper side, but still somewhere in the middle. So, instead of constantly changing the prices, I just stick to what I feel good with and certainly not too cheap. I work too hard for it, 7 days a week.

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