How to price artwork


Putting a price on something one has painstakingly created out of nothing is a difficult thing to do.  Unfortunately if you are an artist, then that is something you just have to do.

When it comes to pricing artwork there are a few things to consider;

  • Do not price with your emotions- When pricing with ones emotions it is not uncommon to price oneself out of the market (by either pricing too high or too low).  Having  created a piece of art that has been emotionally or mentally taxing on you as the artist, does  mean that you deserve a higher financial reward for it.  Think of it this way, we don’t expect to pay our accountant more just because s/he had an extremely frustrating time figuring out our accounts.  We also don’t expect to pay more for our lunch order because the waiter is having a bad day.  If you have become exceptional close or involved with one of your creations, it might be best to keep it off the market and keep it in your personal collection.
  • Keep in mind that pricing reflects your position and reputation within the art community.  If you are an unknown artist with little or no sales, then keeping your prices at the lower end of the scale will be a smart move.  In time and with steady sales you will be able to up your prices.
  • Remember to take in the bigger scope of what artists are creating.  Consider how the artworks are being produced, how they are priced and how they are marketed.  How does your work fit in with that?
  • That being  said, do not compare your art directly with others to justify high prices.  To put it simply, you might think your art is as good as Picasso’s (and you might be correct). So does that mean you can get away with charging millions for it? No, it does not.  You need to be able to justify your pricing to collectors.
  • Do not fall into the trap of thinking that your art is unique and therefore you can not (or will not) put your art within a certain pricing bracket.  All art is unique.  All artists are unique.
  • Remember to have something for everyone.  There might be someone out there who loves your work, but simply can not afford some of your bigger pieces.  Try creating art with a range of prices, this is an easy way of generating loyalty and support.

I know what you are thinking, “Great advice, but how do I go about pricing an actual artwork?”.  There is more then one way to go about this, but  here are two formulas that you can use.  Use whichever one feels right to you.

Decide on an hourly rate that you feel you deserve and start from there.  For example, you have decided that you are happy with R40 an hour.  It takes you 20 hours to complete an artwork.  R40 x 20= R800. Also keep the cost of materials in mind.  You need to be able to cover those.

You can also charge per square centimetre (or inches) if you prefer.  Measure the width and the length of your canvas and multiply them together to get the area of your canvas. Eg 40cm 30cm = 1200cm2

Then decide on an amount to charge per cm2 for your paintings. Let’s say you decide to charge R2 per square centimetre, your formula will look like this:

R6x1200= R2400

If you sell your art fully framed do not forget to include that in your retail price. Take your framing costs, double them and add to your final costs.  This will be your retail price. (This formula assumes you are framing your works at wholesale prices).
Eg. It costs you R500 to frame your artwork.

R500x2 = R1000

R2400 + R1000 = R3400.

Keep in mind that this is your retail price.  It should cover all your expenses, such as your materials and framing.  If you are selling through a gallery keep the commission costs in mind.  This cost differs depending on the gallery and can range from 20-80%.  However the most common is about 50% .  Your retail price should cover this cost as well if you are planning on selling through a gallery.

*These figures are examples only.  In order to create a realistic price for your work, you will need to research costs in your area.




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