A Painter’s Guide to Pricing

92-pricing.jpgPricing our paintings can be a confusing issue. These are our creations and, unlike a basic manufactured widget, we have an emotional attachment. Analyzing a few marketing factors and sticking to a pricing system can help.

Cost of manufacture: The expenses involved in the production of a painting are many. There is the cost of materials, framing, continuing education, and marketing. All of these have to be factored in at some point. In the beginning, monies will be all going out as you invest in your painting education. As the paintings improve and sales occur, you will start recouping these expenses.

Know yourself: Every one of us has a different sense of self worth. Some artists think so little of their efforts that they under-price, while others have an inflated sense of worth, asking grossly inflated prices. If you fall into either of these categories, seeking the advice of gallery owners and other artists you respect can be invaluable.

Know your market: Just because your painting is good doesn’t mean it will sell for what it is worth. Markets vary from region to region just like home prices. Understanding your market will place you in a better position to sell, providing money that can be reinvested in materials and continued education. As your ability grows, so will your market. With time, you will be displaying in higher-priced venues and receiving the true value of your labors.

Equal pricing across markets: Some venues require no sales commission; others ask for a moderate percentage; and prominent galleries often require as much as half of the selling price in commission. As hard as this can be to accept, it is the reality of higher end representation. They have their overhead and it is wise to remember they are a business, not a museum. Over the long term, they can do a lot to bolster your reputation, leading to higher prices and a greater profit margin. Keeping an even price across multiple sales venues can be an issue. It is advisable to have a standard price no matter what the commission discrepancies may be. If you vary your pricing based on the commission percentage, a patron that paid a higher price at one venue will be understandably upset when they see a comparable painting for sale at a reduced price in another.

Size pricing: Most artists’ price by size using a cost by united inch or square inch. For united inch, it is length plus width then multiplied by a value. Square inch is length multiplied by width then multiplied by a value. Here’s an example of square-inch pricing: A 16×20 painting (320 square inches) at $5 per square inch equals $1,600. The cost per inch goes down as the size increases. This is due to the fact that a smaller painting can take as much, if not more, effort than a large painting. Since I work in a series of sizes, I have created commensurate pricing which I apply to all markets. If a frame costs a little more, a slight adjustment can be made without creating a huge discrepancy.

Emotional pricing: We all have our “special” paintings. This often leads us to place a higher value than on a comparably sized painting. When a prospective client sees this discrepancy, they sometimes question the quality of the lower-priced paintings. So, when that “special” painting comes along, it is better to hold it back. Keep it for your enjoyment or enter it in competitions instead of inflating its price. When you produce your next best, favorite, “special” painting, place your old favorite back into circulation.

My best advice to any artist when asked, “What should I ask for my work?” is to reply: “For what would you be willing to part with the painting?” When it is all said and done, it is between you and the purchaser. If you are happy and they are pleased, it is a successful “win-win” transaction.

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One thought on “A Painter’s Guide to Pricing

  1. Gary Baughman

    When you price a piece of art too high and it doesn’t sell, in effect you have bought the piece yourself; the artist has become
    the highest bidder. Better to set the price lower than your expectations, and get the piece sold. Over time your prices
    can be increased, especially if your work gets better with
    more time and more practice as it should.