How to price your art
You already have a lot to think about as a creative, so when it finally comes down to selling your work, where do you begin?
Here’s a guide for pricing art, since the question, “How much should I charge for my artwork?” comes up all the time on this site.
Hopefully these tips will be helpful to both established artists and those of you just getting into the field. If you have sold your art before, that’s obviously an excellent place to start, although you might have overlooked something of value that you can apply to future sales.
What’s your art worth (to you)?
It sounds like begging the question, but it’s good to start off thinking about what your art is worth to you. At this stage don’t worry about adding up the price of materials, the amount of time you spent creating your piece, or anything so granular.
Instead, think how you feel about your piece of art. Are you connected to it? Would you rather give it away to a friend or someone in your family than sell it? How would you feel if you gave it away to someone as a gift, or if you sold it to a stranger?
Not all art can sell, and not all art should sell. That being said, since you’re reading this article, you’ve likely come to the point where you’ll happily (or maybe grudgingly) trade your art for dollars, euros, rupees or what have you. With that in mind, let’s get into the nitty gritty.
Do the math
This is the easy part, really. Add up all the material costs for your artwork, including things like the price of the canvas, paint, pens, brushes, paper, etc. If your work is digital, a photograph, or something similar, you should factor in a percentage of the price of the programs and tools (i.e. your tablet, computer, camera etc.), and the price of printing. Write down all your costs to help yourself from overlooking any expenses.
Don’t forget: time is … well, you know. Often you’ll have spent more time on a piece than you can make back comfortably in the sale price, but again, that depends on many factors. Some people create faster than others, but at the end of the day what’s important to the client is the final product. If you spent thirty hours creating something that doesn’t catch the eye of potential buyers, you’re going to have a tough time making a good hourly wage.
Also, add in any costs you expect to accrue advertising your work, whether it’s purchasing online ad space or displaying your work in an art fair. Finally, make sure that you consider any gallery fees, such as commissions, and figure that into your final price.
Research similar art
Sometimes you can get a ballpark figure on what your art is worth by searching other, similar art and artists. Of course, there are much too many variables to make a one-to-one comparison between your art and another’s, but if you really have no idea where to start with pricing, it’s a good place to begin.
How & what to search
Browse over to your favorite online art gallery. The site should have a good search function so you can narrow your results to art that’s similar to what you’re selling.
Basically what you’ll be searching for is art that’s the same medium (oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas, photograph on archival quality paper, digital giclee print, etc.), a similar subject, and a similar size. If you can narrow the search down by categories, start with that, then search by keywords related to your art.
Ideally you’ll look at a number of similar pieces of art by different artists and get an idea of the average price. Again, though, pricing art is subjective, and there is no absolute dollar amount for any piece of art. If your art is unusual enough that other artists aren’t creating anything in that style, then you might look for something as close in style as possible, or skip this step altogether.
Useful tip: Add the keyword “sold” in your search. If artists have updated their portfolios you can get a real-world price to factor into your decision.
When you have a handful of prices, find the average, and see if it looks reasonable. If the price seems low, then raise it. You can always lower the price, but once you’ve sold your art there are no retroactive price increases!
Identify the “you” factor
Let potential buyers know who you are, where you came from, and what your art is all about. Make a personal connection with people you meet in the ‘real world’ and with your online visitors.
You’re hot stuff, definitely, but who knows it besides you? If that sounds harsh, remember that when you put your art, and by extension yourself, out there, it will be judged. If you start from scratch, without any relationship with potential buyers, they will have only your art to tell your story. Sometimes that’s enough, but what if your work is good, but not different enough to really stand out from the crowd? Bob Ross style landscape paintings, for example, may not pique people’s interest nowadays. That’s when networking and an engaging narrative can help you out.
Make sure that your artist bio (whether it’s online or printed on a card) is up to date, interesting, and sincere. Where did you come from? Why do you create art? What are you trying to convey with your creativity? If you have a difficult time meeting potential buyers around town, and don’t have hours to spend typing to possible clients online, your bio and piece descriptions are all that a viewer has to go by. Make your best impression! People generally like to buy art that reaches them on an emotional level, and often times knowing something about you or something special about your piece can connect them even more with your work.
If you’ve already made somewhat of a name for yourself in the art world – even if you haven’t sold a piece yet – factor that into the price of your art. If there’s a buzz about your work, you stand a better chance of earning more money. That’s not to say that if there isn’t buzz that you should under price your work. Refer back to Step 1 and make sure you’re comfortable with your valuing decision.
Original art vs. prints
There’s a reason that museum gift shop posters of Monet’s Water Lilies don’t sell for millions a piece. People pay a premium for original works, or limited run prints, which is something to think about when pricing your art. You don’t want to let go of your original for too little, and you don’t want to price an unlimited print run too high.
Just go for it
“The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.” – Meister Eckhart
If you’re still having trouble nailing down a precise amount for your work, why not settle on something reasonable, based on what you’ve learned following the steps of this guide, and put your work out there? Local coffee shops, galleries or other stores might agree to hang your work for a cut of the sales. Online art communities/galleries like Foundmyself also offer a low-risk way to put your art in front of more eyes. After you sell your first piece you’ll start to get a feel for who is interested in your work and what they’re willing to spend.
Useful tip: Look first for free venues to display your work for a low-risk way to assess interest.
With an auction you can let people decide the price for you. Make sure your starting price is on the lower end of the spectrum. If you’re worried about your piece going through the auction and actually selling for that low price, set a reserve. A reserve is hidden from bidders, and allows you to maintain a minimum sale price.