Pricing paintings

Q. What’s the rule for pricing your work? I’m afraid I might be charging so much that I chase away my clients. My friends say I’m charging too little. How do I know when I’ve reached a happy medium?

A. Please be aware of this one general truth: You almost always underrate the value of your work and how it should be priced. By the time you get ready to sell, you’ve invariably paid great dues, labored for years in obscurity, and made sacrifices that most people wouldn’t even consider making.

Unfortunately there’s no specific formula for pricing your work, but there are some general rules. When you’re in the younger stages of your career, say 27 to 35, you’ll command less than when you’re older and more accomplished. Never mind if you’re a master by the time you’re 27 (normally we aren’t). What collectors pay attention to are the juried shows you’ve been in—especially outside your region—the clients you’ve garnered and the commissions you’ve completed.

Regarding pricing, the process is simple. Visit three or four galleries that carry work that’s similar to yours in terms of medium and execution. Determine an average of the prices those artists are getting—assuming their age and accomplishments are similar to your own—then determine what’s fair for you. The prices you charge at art fairs or out of your studio should be the same prices galleries would charge if they were carrying your work.

Here’s a basic breakdown for oils and acrylics on canvas or panel that have been framed. These apply to artists varying in age from 27 to 40, of varying levels of accomplishment:

12×16: $950 to $1,400
16×20: $1,100 to $1,900
24×30: $1,800 to $2,600
24×36: $2,600 to $3,600
30×40: $3,100 to $4,200

I have artists who sell above these levels, and a few who sell below, but this is the current mid-range. If you’re on one of the two coasts, you can lean toward the higher end of the scale because of the inflated cost of living. If you paint in watercolor or pastel, your work will likely fetch a lower price—which is unfair, but that’s the reality of the market. So please: If you’ve been undercharging, it’s time to stop.


Learn more about selling your art:

  • Complete Guide to Selling Your Work Online
  • Quick & Easy Guide to Photographing Your Artwork
  • Read more articles about selling your art
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