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, and it's important that you find it if you want to make a living from your art.
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.
Guidelines for Pricing Your Art
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.
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 to survive.
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.
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.
>> Get my comprehensive guide for pricing your art <<
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.