Updated: Jun 5
Pricing your own artwork is one of the trickiest things any artist has to figure out. While there's no hard set rules for how to do this, I want to tell you 5 things that I considered when pricing my paintings.
The 1st thing I considered were the cost of my materials: canvas, varnish, paint, wire and screw eyes. The wire and screw eyes are very cheap, almost negligeable. With paint, it's difficult to gauge the cost of it if you don't use a large fraction of the tube for that one painting. So I find it's easiest to add the cost of the canvas, 1/3 of the cost of the can of varnish and then $5 to cover the cost of everything else (paint, wire and screw eyes). Canvas varies greatly in price depending on size and if you decide to go for studio wrapped or gallery wrapped canvas. Studio wrapped canvas are those ones you see at like the paint and sip nights that are 3/4 inch thick, they run cheaper than the gallery wrapped canvases which are 1.5 inches thick (those or the fancy shmancy ones you see in the high end galleries) but seriously they're like WAAAY more expensive than studio wrapped.
The 2nd thing I consider when pricing my art is the potential shipping and packaging costs for it. Again, this will vary greatly depending on the size. But, at this current moment in 2022, $50 will cover the cost of a box, bubble wrap, tissue paper, tape and shipping for a 16 inch by 20 inch painting in the United States.
Alright so those first price considerations are pretty straight forward and not super exorbitant. So how then, do some artists get away with charging thousands of dollars for their work? That, my friends, comes down to the 3rd consideration, popularity and demand.
Popularity and demand usually go hand in hand but not always. It's possible that an unknow artist creates one amazing piece of work that goes for thousands, but usually an artist that sells their work for high prices is well established, has shown their work in many places and has grown a considerable fan following. When lots and lots of people love a particular artist, the demand for their art goes up and that artist can charge an arm and a leg for their work (even if their art is totally something Joe Smoe could do in their own garage). That popularity is key. So, you can go ahead and charge a super high price for your work, but unless you have the popularity and demand to back it up, it probably won't sell.
Now you're probably thinking, ok Lance that was less than helpful, I'm not popular yet so how much do I charge? Maybe I can keep track of the time I spend on the painting and charge hourly. That's not a bad idea, but, it might not work. Depending on your painting style, it could take you literally days, maybe weeks to finish a painting or you can finish it in less than an hour. That's a huge difference. Lets say you spend 330 hours working on one painting for like $10 an hour and you do another painting in 1 hour, based off of time alone that's a price difference of $3290. And for the record the painting that took only an hour to do could easily fetch hundreds of dollars not just $10. So basing the price of your art off of the time spent working on it, isn't always the best way to set the price. But do what you will with that information.
The 4th consideration is how willing you are to part with your art. Many artists have a hard time letting go of their works, it's kinda like your baby in a way. I told myself a long time ago, that it's better for my art to be out in the world being admired by others than sitting in my room, with only me looking at it. Having said that, I do have a handful of my paintings that are special to me that I'm not keen on parting with. Take this one for example. This is a portrait I did of one of my favorite work friends.
It's also one of my earlier portrait pieces when I was still painting the skin white. I love this painting. For me, it's my Mona Lisa, you know? So I'm only willing to part with it for a dollar amount that will fill the hole in my heart after that painting is gone. And that number is definitely in the 10's of thousands.
The 5th consideration, is really just advice and the most helpful I've found. Go to art shows, galleries, county fairs and art festivals. Take note of the prices the different artists are charging. You will see a wide range, but you will start to notice trends and a correlation between dollar amounts, the quality of the work and the artists' reputations. This will give you a good idea of where to start your pricing. Once you pick a starting price, it gets easier. You'll have to make some tweaks here and there as time goes on and your career evolves.
Ok, so I've given you some solid advice for how to price your art, if you're still new and just totally not sure what to charge here's a decent number to start with. For a 12 inch by 12 inch painting $50 dollars is good, that comes out to a little over 34 cents per square inch. You can take that number and apply it to a 16 inch by 20 inch painting or a 5 inch by 10 inch painting and get a decent starting out price for it.
I hope this was helpful and gave you a good jumping off point to start pricing your art.