Pricing Your Art

Pricing Your Art

One of the most common questions I receive from artists interested in selling their work for the first time is, "How do I price my art?" This is a great question and one that usually elicits confusion from artists beginning their journey.

My response to this question is based on three sources: 1. my 15 years of experience working within a art gallery system. 2. Years of discussions with gallery owners and reviewing the work of gallery insiders. 3. Discussions with many professional artists like myself regarding this question.

The consensus from these three sources is that an artist should price their work by the square inch. This is an easy system to use and assures that smaller paintings will not cost more than larger paintings. Let's look at an example of this system in action. Say you have a 10"x10" canvas: 10 inches high x 10 inches wide, which equals 100 square inches total. If you apply a cost per square inch of 35 cents, then the cost of the painting is $35 ($.35 x 100 sq. in.). A 10"x12" canvas would be 120 square inches, and applying the same 35 cents per square inch formula ,the painting would cost $42 ($.35 x 120 sq. in.). Simple, right? Let me emphasize how important it is that all of your pieces utilize the same pricing strategy. You cannot charge different prices for the same size painting, regardless of how much time you have invested in it's creation or how much you love it. Pieces of the same size must cost the same amount!

Okay, so we are using an easy formula, but how do you determine the cost per square inch? Now it becomes a bit more cloudy. My advice is to begin locally in your community (because that is mostly where you will be selling your art initially). Go to art exhibitions and look at the work of others whose work appears to be about the same quality as your own. Try to seek out work whose artists have a similar experience and skill level that you have and see what they are charging for their work. The downside is they may not know what they are doing with regard to pricing!  

When determining a price per square inch, make sure you factor in the cost of materials that you typically use to create the work including the canvas, paint and framing if your work is framed. You must also think about an hourly wage based on how long it takes you - on average - to paint a particular size piece. Keep in mid however, that when you are beginning you can't charge for 40 hours of time if it takes you that long to paint a piece. Be reasonable, and choose an average amount of time to charge for. Factor in time, materials and what others are charging locally to determine your price per square inch.

My advise is to start LOW. Do not price your work too high in the beginning. Your main goal at first should be to get your work out there into the world. If the quality of your work is low and the prices are too high, savvy buyers will not purchase the work. You want to get your work out of the studio so that it can begin a life of it's own where others can enjoy it. If your sales are good after the first year then increase your prices 10-15% the following year. It is also important for me to mention that your prices should be consistent across all of your sales channels - meaning that wherever you sell your work, the prices are the same. Prices on your website, in shows, in galleries, etc. must all be the same price for the same size and pieces of art. 

The per square inch pricing approach is the industry standard and considered the industry best practice. Every professional artist that I know uses this system. Use it for your artwork to show consistency and professionalism.

If you would like to learn more about pricing your art or making better art, then please join me for a workshopjoin one of my online courses, or get an Individual Art Lesson.