How to Price Your Art: A Guide for Artists

By Milan Art Institute on November 25, 2020
How to Price Your Art: A Guide for Artists

Turning your passion for art into a profession requires more than artistic ability and creativity. You must also sell your art. But when you tirelessly pour your heart and soul into every brushstroke on a painting, pricing your masterpiece can seem like a puzzle. Successfully selling artwork requires understanding art prices and applying that knowledge to price your art strategically.

Pricing art bridges the gap between artistic pursuit and sustainable success. Your asking price reflects the value of your creative effort, but it can also be the difference between a thriving art business and a struggling one.

This comprehensive guide delves into the nuanced world of art pricing, including the factors influencing art prices. We’ll demystify the art pricing process, give you instant access to a free guide that teaches how to create authentic art that sells, and empower you to confidently navigate the art market so you can nurture a successful art career.

Assessing the worth of your product is fundamental in any business, including the art industry. When you use the following five-step process to price your art, you'll determine a reasonable price that covers your costs, reflects the value of your talent and hard work, and makes sense to potential buyers.

Step 1: Understand Your Costs

Crafting a piece of art is a labor of love, but love doesn’t pay the bills. That’s why it’s vital to calculate your costs—including the work and time you invest in creating your art—so you can price your artwork for profit.

List and calculate the costs involved in creating your artwork. Start with the time you invest in each piece of art. While it's difficult to put a price on your creative process, establish a reasonable hourly rate for your work. This rate should reflect your skill level, experience, and the complexity of your artwork, ensuring you’re fairly compensated for both your time and talent. Adding this to your direct costs will give you a baseline price that compensates for both materials and labor.

Don’t forget to factor in indirect costs in your calculations. Things like studio rent, utility bills, and marketing expenses all contribute to the cost of creating your art. They should be factored into your pricing to ensure your business is sustainable.

Most artists don’t calculate the costs for each art piece because it can be tricky with materials like paints, but a clear understanding of your average and overall costs will ensure your pricing covers your expenses and allows for a profit margin.

Step 2: Research the Market

Market research is essential to setting the right price for your artwork. You need to understand where your art fits in the broader market based on medium, size, and style.

Look at art prices in various platforms where art is sold, including galleries (both brick-and-mortar and online), art fairs, and online marketplaces. When searching for artists to pay attention to, focus on those with similar experience level and genre or medium type as yours. For example, if you’re a new professional artist who paints in oils, a colored pencil artist with over a decade of professional experience is not a good comparison to help you determine how to price your artwork.

Your geographic location can affect the pricing in your market. If you plan to sell locally, pay attention to artists represented in local galleries or at local art fairs. If you plan to sell your art online, geography may not affect your prices as much. You can use an art price calculator to get an idea of what other artists charge for their work.

Market research provides insight that helps you avoid setting your prices too high or too low.

Knowing your position in the art market also helps you understand the market’s expectations, who your ideal buyers are, and what they’re willing to pay. For example, your unique blend of impressionist style and vibrant colors might resonate with young urban professionals in the art community. By identifying this niche, you can tailor your marketing efforts to this demographic and price your art competitively.

You can also create your own market. This option offers greater flexibility than an established market and allows you to keep the money you make instead of splitting profits in gallery sales.

Stay informed about pricing trends and adjust your pricing strategy as needed to remain competitive and fair in the ever-changing art market.

Step 3: Consider Your Career Stage and Reputation

Your art career stage and reputation significantly influence how you should price your artwork. As a beginner, your prices might start lower to attract initial buyers and build your portfolio. However, as your skills improve, your name becomes more recognized in the art community, and you establish a precedent of sales, your prices should reflect this growth.

Take a realistic look at where you stand in your art career. Are you just starting, with few sales and little recognition? Or have you been consistently selling and gaining attention with a growing list of exhibitions and accolades? Your pricing strategy should evolve as your career progresses. As you gain more exposure and your work becomes more sought after, it's natural and justified to increase your prices accordingly.

Remember, your reputation isn't just about your skill level but also the perceived value and demand for your work. If your pieces are consistently selling and you're receiving positive feedback and coverage, these are indicators that your market value is rising. Adjust your prices to reflect your current standing in the art world, but do so gradually to avoid alienating your existing client base.

Consider conducting periodic reviews of your pricing strategy to ensure it aligns with your current reputation and career stage. This approach will help you maintain a balance between being fair to yourself and accessible to your audience.

Step 4: Price for Profit

A strategic pricing formula will guide your pricing decisions and ensure you price your artwork fairly, consistently, and profitably. The pricing model you choose will depend on various factors, including your market, the size and style of your artwork, and your target audience.

5 Art Pricing Strategies

A cost-based pricing structure considers the materials and time you invest in creating your art to ensure you price your artwork for profit. However, most artists find this model difficult. For example, calculating the precise amount of each paint color you use to create a piece is nearly impossible.

A market-based pricing model aligns prices with the current market rates, demand, and trends for comparable artworks. In both the world of art and business, demand takes precedence. Consider increasing your prices if your artwork is popular and you struggle to keep up with the high demand.

Value-based pricing focuses on the perceived value of your artwork to the buyer rather than the costs incurred during creation. Consider factors such as the emotional connection the piece creates with the buyer, the uniqueness of the artwork, and the cultural significance of your work. A strong personal brand and a unique artistic identity can enhance the perceived value of your work.

Tiered pricing strategies resemble stairs, offering multiple price points for different levels of exclusivity or complexity. For instance, you could have:

  • A lower tier for small, simple artworks
  • A higher tier for large, complex pieces
  • A lower price point for unlimited prints
  • A higher one for limited editions

Offering multiple price points caters to a wider audience and maximizes your sales potential.

We recommend the square-inch method—the established market's preferred pricing method largely because of its consistency. Most artists set canvas pieces at one price per square inch and paper pieces at 20-50% less. One reason for this is that time is not an accurate indicator of value—a painting that took the artist six months to complete doesn’t mean it’s of higher value than one that took an artist six days to complete.

To calculate the price using the square-inch method, multiply the length and width of the artwork to get the total square inches. Then, multiply this number by a dollar amount that reflects your reputation and the market value of your artwork. We recommend starting at $2–$3 per square inch as an emerging artist for a gallery. If you create your own market and sell directly to a collector, start at $1 per square inch.

With each pricing strategy, the characteristics of your artwork, such as size, medium, and style, will also influence your pricing. For instance, a large, detailed oil painting will naturally be priced higher than a smaller, simpler sketch due to the difference in material costs and time invested.

Step 5: Be Consistent but Flexible

Pricing your art comes down to knowing your worth, asking for it, and staying consistent. You must justify your prices—know why and how you price artwork and stick with it. Consistency is essential to position yourself as a professional and build trust with collectors and galleries.

A consistent pricing strategy, such as the square-inch method, allows you to create a set price list to send to galleries and helps you confidently state your prices to your collector base and audience. When people want to know how much you charge for your pieces, a printed price list makes it easier to stick to your guns if they try to get you to lower your prices. You can simply point to your price list and politely remind them that this is what you charge. This is a good tactic to employ when you’re not as confident about your work and your prices.

Consistency is crucial, but stay flexible enough to adjust prices for different formats or series that may require a distinct pricing approach. For example, limited edition prints will be priced differently from original paintings. Or you might consider occasional discounts or promotional pricing for special events, but ensure these do not undermine the perceived value of your work.

Check out this interview with professional artist Rita Vicari on The Light Movement Podcast: How to Price Your Artwork to Get More Sales. You’ll learn about common mistakes artists make when pricing their art, how you can avoid them, and how to choose the right pricing strategy so you sell more art and increase your pricing over time.

How to Handle Negotiations

Negotiations and commissions are integral components of the art business. Whether negotiating a price with a potential buyer or calculating a commission when a gallery sells your work, these interactions require professionalism, flexibility, and confidence.

A set price provides a reference point, but being open to negotiation can lead to more successful deals. Determine the lowest price you're willing to accept for a piece. This price is the baseline for negotiations and should cover all your costs, including a profit margin, to ensure you don't compromise the value of your work.

Clearly articulate the factors contributing to your pricing to justify your price and alleviate concerns from potential buyers. If a potential buyer is hesitant about the price, consider offering alternatives such as installment plans or additional perks. This flexibility can make your art more accessible while preserving its perceived value.

While flexibility is necessary, maintain firmness in your negotiation stance. Be open to compromises, but know your limits and ensure that the final price aligns with the value you place on your art. Declining a deal that compromises your artistic integrity or fair compensation is okay.

Price Your Art to Sell

Pricing art is both an art and a science. By implementing the principles and strategies in this post, you can price your artwork fairly and profitably.

No matter how strategically you price art, if the piece is undesirable, it won't sell. So, before pricing your art, you must create art that people want to buy.

In How to Create Authentic Art That Sells, you'll learn what's trending in the market now and how to capitalize on those trends while remaining true to your artistic voice. Download this free resource now to start selling work you love to create!


Milan Art Institute
Milan Art Institute

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