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Art Marketing / business of art / Pricing

How to Price Your Original Artworks

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Circle of Life 6 x 4 Painting (c) Drew Brophy 2010 (2)

Circle of Life Original Painting by Drew Brophy

Even though I’ve been managing the art career of my husband Drew for over a decade, it wasn’t until recently that we established a solid pricing structure for Drew’s original artworks.

A couple of years ago when a collector would ask “how is Drew’s artwork priced?”  I didn’t have  a good answer – there was no real structure to our pricing.  Now, there is, thanks to Lori Woodward’s wisdom.  Now when someone asks, I can confidently say “we charge $1.50 per square inch plus frame costs.  Commissions start at $2.50 per square inch.”   When you have a structure that makes sense in a collector’s  mind, they are more confident in buying your art.

One of the hardest decisions that artists have to make is how to price their works – pricing depends on so many factors:  the popularity of the art, the medium used, the complexity and what the buyer is willing to pay.  But there are some guidelines that you can follow.

How to Price your Artwork:

1 – Research galleries:  Go out and see what’s being charged by artists that are at your level of work.  Use that information as a guideline.

2 – Structure your prices:  Once you have a structure that makes sense to anyone, pricing your work comes easy.

There are many ways to structure pricing.  Some artists do it by size (i.e. a 16″ x 24″ is priced at $1800.00) and/or by medium (Oil paintings priced higher than acrylic).

The method that works for us is to charge by the square inch and then add the cost of the frame.  This method is explained in the article below, written by Lori Woodward.  Her wisdom helped me tremendously with pricing.  And I hope that it helps you, too.  I highly recommend it!  (I also recommend visiting FineArtViews blog for other articles on pricing art.  Click here.)

REPRINTED COURTESY OF FineArtViews

Today’s Post is by Lori Woodward, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. She is also a contributing editor for American Artist’s Watercolor and Workshop magazines and she writes “The Artist’s Life” blog on American Artists’ Forum. Lori is a member of The Putney Painters, an invitational group that paints under the direction of Richard Schmid and Nancy Guzik. Find out how you can be a guest author.


Learning From My Professional Friends

Years ago, when I first started selling my work at outdoor shows, I looked to my friend,Monique Sakellarios for advice on pricing my artwork. After all, Monique had been selling her work successfully for several years at both outdoor shows and galleries; she was, and is, making the kind of income many of us only dream of. At the time, Monique priced her work by size. When she had a good selling year, she boosted her retail prices by 10%. If the economy was slow, she opted to maintain the same price scale she had used the previous year.

I asked Monique if she priced some of her best works slightly higher, and she said absolutely not — because she had observed that her clients would sometimes fall in love with a work she didn’t like very much, and if she priced some lower than others of the same size, collectors wondered if something was wrong with the less expensive painting — it would sit there unsold.

Knowing that Monique is an astute business woman, I followed her pricing procedure when it came to my own work. Of course, I did not price my works as high as hers – she was a well known artist in the New England region; I was not known at all.

More Than One Way That Works

If there were only one standard way to price artwork – there would be very little confusion around the issue of setting prices. Galleries generally have the artist set the prices, but whether you’re working with a gallery or selling on your own, pricing by the square inch is sometimes the easiest way to get started while showing consistency. When you’re first starting out, it’s a good idea to make your work as affordable as you can while being able to cover your costs and make a small profit. Don’t charge so little that you don’t break even.

OK, without further ado, here is how many artists price their work using a square inch method. Generally, they increase the dollar amount for smaller paintings and decrease it for very large paintings. So, let’s begin with pricing a medium sized painting – we’ll use a 16×20 work as an example.

First, multiply the painting’s width by its length to arrive at the total size, in square inches. Then multiply that number by a set dollar amount. I currently use $6 per square inch for oil on linen paintings. A 16”-x-20” painting: = 320 square inches.

I price my oil paintings at $6 per square inch. 320 x 6 = $1,920.00 and I round this down to $1,900. My frame, canvas and materials cost me $150.00 (I buy framing wholesale). I double this cost so that I’ll get it all back when the painting sells at the gallery. Otherwise, I’m subsidizing the collector by giving him or her the frame for free. $150 x 2 = $300

Then I put it all together: $1,900 + $300 = $2,200 (the retail price). When the painting sells from a gallery, my cut after the 50 percent commission is paid comes to $950 for the painting and $150 for the framing and materials, for a total of $1,100.

For much larger pieces, I’ll bring the price per square inch down a notch … maybe a dollar or two lower so that I don’t price my work beyond what my reputation can sustain. Alternately, for smaller works, I’ll increase the dollar per square inch because small works take almost as much effort as larger works, and I need to be compensated for my expertise, even when the work is miniature.

This is not the only way to price artwork, but it’s one that keeps my prices consistent and keeps me sane. By the way, my prices were much lower 10 years ago when my artwork was relatively unknown to collectors. When I began working with galleries, I had to increase by 20% or so in order for my prices to be in line with the other works in the gallery. When I have a great selling year, I raise my prices by 10 percent. When the economy is poor or my sales are slow, I don’t raise prices at all.

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http://fineartviews.com/blog/17649/art-pricing-strategies-3

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73 Comments How to Price Your Original Artworks

  1. justice k Grey

    what if l creat a painting by my own design? and if a client order a painting his/her design, there different on prices?

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Justice, great question. Pricing should be the same regardless of who directs the design – unless the client requests a much more complex design tham you usually do, in which case, you might want to charge more to compensate for the extra time involved.

      Reply
  2. Joanna

    Thx this is very helpful , if I do copies of my oil paintings how would I charge that? I don’t do frames with paintings

    Reply
    1. Maria Brophy

      Hi Joanna,

      Pricing art prints can work the same way, per square inch. For example, charge .70 cents per square inch. An 18×24 is 432 square inches. .70 x 432 = $302.40. You could charge $300 for an 18×24 using this example.

      Reply
      1. Kendreek Mitchell

        Hey my name is Kendreek ,

        I want to know how do I find the measurement of the square inch of the size paper I’m working on. For example, the regular size 8×10? Because I have a tough time pricing my work or commissions when people ask. Another question, is there a way I could make a price chart or do I need a website for that, instead of people asking all the time what’s my prices?
        Please let me know!

        Thanks,
        Kendreek Mitchell

  3. Dee

    I always thought of pricing my paintings in terms of hours I put in. If I spend 6 hours on a 16″ x 20″, and were to charge by the above formula, it would come to $366/ hr. (including frame, canvas, etc.) It may be how I view the process, but I feel that’s high (I would charge about 1/2 that). Then again, no one formula works across the board for everyone and adjustments must be made for whatever level an artist is at. Obviously Scott Christensen charges more for a 16 x 20 than I! 🙂

    Reply
  4. riza

    Hi.

    I’m Riza from Indonesia. I had a beautiful abstract painting left from my granma’. We want to sell it because the size is too large for our livingroom.

    Kind Regards.

    Reply
  5. Merci

    I do not know anything but I paid $660 for a 5×3 ft painting is that good or did I pay too much? Please I need to know. Thank you!

    Reply

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