Written by Alison Newth ~ Northeastern BC, Canada
It's Time to Look Inward: Self-Reflection Key to Correct Pricing
Pricing art is difficult. There are no two ways about it. Especially if you are a new artist, who is just starting to sell your artwork. Prepare to sweat a little and perhaps develop stiff muscles in your neck. A slight headache? We have all been there.
The problem is that there is no one right way to price artwork. Depending on who you talk to, what you read and hear, you will soon see that there is not a one-size fits all method.
And there are many factors to consider. MANY factors. In the end, you have to do what feels right to you but don't give your art away for pennies. Does a 'starving artist' come to mind?
I have gotten some good advice from others. Here it is in a nut-shell:
On pricing artwork...
Either give it away for free or sell it to make a proper profit.
Never sell your artwork cheaply or people will think you make cheap art.
Before you can determine a price, you have to step back a bit and think if your art is even sellable. No matter how reasonably priced it is, if there isn't a market for it, it won't sell. And I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but really...come on now.
Compare your art to other artwork out there. This feels funny to do but you must critique your art and imagine walking in someone else's shoes. The waters get a bit murky if you ask friends and family about this. They want to encourage you and offer positive comments...but are they willing to be honest and risk hurting your feelings? You need family support but you also need a critical eye.
Ask yourself some tricky questions. How does your art stack up? Is it unique? Could it catch someone's eye? What makes your art stand out? Why choose yours over someone elses? Who would potentially buy it? What kind of buyer?
The good news...most art is sellable. You just have to find the right market, buyer and price for it.
If you are interested in finding out 3 easy methods to pricing your art, you are in the right place--keep reading.
Factors to Consider When Pricing Art
Personally, this question was my biggest stumbling block, the main reason I didn't sell my art earlier in life and the only reason I used to refuse to do commissioned work despite being asked many times...I didn't think mine was good enough when I compared it to other artwork out there.
I thought I would disappoint people and embarass myself.
Yet, everyone around me was saying how much they liked my art. Why didn't I believe anyone? So, I had to give myself a break and just go with it. No, I wasn't Robert Bateman, but I was me. And maybe that is enough.
If you are still in doubt, I would say to just go for it anyways. Better to try and fail than not try and wonder forever.
Now that you have determined that your art is sellable...you have to determine a fair price.
Price too low and people will think your art is cheap.
Price too high and you could price yourself out of the market.
After all...your art is worth what others are willing to pay for it. This is especially true for new artists. Once you have a following and have established a reputation, then you will re-evaluate your pricing and could potentially charge more.
Common Mistakes New Artists Make
Some Pricing Methods for New Artists
I am going to give you THREE simple and accepted ways of calculating prices for artwork.
Keep in mind that these methods are for original artwork or commissioned pieces that you are selling yourself.
*If you are going to sell prints, you will charge less per print.
*If you are going to be selling at a gallery or online shop, you will have to adjust pricing as the gallery or online site will have their own pricing guidelines and/or base prices to consider.
The 3 methods I am going to explain include Time/Material, Price Per Square Inch (PSI) and Linear. Here we go...
METHOD #1: Basic Time and Materials Cost
Basic time and materials. This is a good method of pricing your artwork. However, this doesn't work for me because I don't really keep track of my time. In fact, I often get lost when I paint and the hours slip away. I don't feel comfortable charging someone for the hours that actually go into a painting...the price would just be too high. Also, this method allows for too much fluctuation in price, depending on the hours it takes. I prefer a more black and white pricing method. However, for people who spend a lot of time on a painting and want to make sure they aren't working for peanuts, this method might work.
How to calculate basic time and materials cost:
METHOD #2: Price By Size (Square Inch)
This is another nice, basic method to price your artwork and it covers everything (material cost, time, labour), but not packaging or shipping. Keep in mind that if you price by size, you will likely want to charge less per square inch (PSI) for larger paintings and more for smaller ones.
For people who spend a LONG time on paintings, you might not like this method...but your customers will.
Pricing based on size was my preferred method of pricing art (I am talking originals or commissions here, not prints) because it is easy and straight-forward...no surprises. Here it is:
What did I charge? I charged on the lower end because I was early in my career but I need to make enough to cover the cost of materials and some of my time. So, I charged between $1.50 and $2.00 per square inch. This was a good starting point for me but I moved on after about a year and started trying a new pricing method, which I will tell you about next.
METHOD #3: Price By Size (Linear Inch)
This is the final method I am going to discuss...the linear method. In this method, you add the height and the width and multiply that number by your predetermined price per linear inch (I have heard of as low as $5, up to $30+). Think about (h + w) x $. Because I create in a lot of different sizes, I find that linear pricing is more sensible and keeps the prices more similar between sizes. I used to use the price per square inch (PSI) method but found that the price would vary too greatly depending on sizes. Using the linear method, pricing in more consistent.
My current pricing for commissioned artwork is $8 per linear inch.
For example: 10"height + 10"width = 20 linear inches x $8 per inch = $160
For example: 10"height + 20"width = 30 linear inches x $8 per inch = $240
For example: 20"height + 30"width= 50 linear inches x $8 per inch = $400
Where to Sell Your Art Online
Now that you know how to price you art...have you thought about where to sell it? If you want to try selling online, I have done loads of research and have found what I consider to be the top 3 shops to sell online.
Find more comprehensive lists of online printing shops and websites at Where to Sell Art Online or Taking Out the Middle-Man: Finding Print Shops that Don't 'Do-It-All'.