Pricing artwork isn’t easy, because it’s an attempt at estimating its value. This to say, some collectors might think a piece is not worth the asking price, while some might think the price is fair or even a bargain, depending on how much they value it. All an artist can do is give each piece a price and hope for the best. But this doesn’t mean that an artist should just pull a price out of a hat. There are some things to consider.

Price Low at First

When starting out it’s best to price low. You can always raise your prices later on, but it’s not nice to lower them. It may seem nice to lower your prices, but lowering prices will lower the value of the artwork that your collectors have already purchased, which ruins your market value. In other words, if you drop your prices collectors who hope to gain a profit won’t be able to do so.

Price Consistently

I like to average the price of my artwork by size and medium. This to say, the smaller the size the lower the price, and traditionally works on canvas are priced higher than those on paper. For example, all 9” x 12” oil paintings should be one price, and all 5” x 7” oil paintings a lower price, and all watercolor paintings on paper should be priced less than oil paintings on canvas of the same size.

Mathematical Equation

I use a mathematical equation that keeps my prices consistent. The equation has me first add the height (h) and width (w) of a piece, then I times this number by the rate (r), which gives me the price (p). The rate, by the way, is a number that represents the medium. I can choose whatever number I like for the rate, but my oil paintings should have a higher rate number than the rate number for my watercolor paintings, because the higher the rate number the higher the price. And again, works on canvas tend to be priced higher than those on paper.   Here’s the mathematical equation that I use:

(h + w) x r = p

Choosing a Rate

When choosing a rate for a medium, I aim for a number that results in a profit that is 50 percent or more after expenses, simply because this amount satisfies me. Keep in mind that a lot of time and energy goes into making and selling artwork — I purchase the materials, set up a still life or observe other subjects, make thumbnail sketches and value or color studies, prepare the canvas, paint my final, and maybe photograph my artwork for promotional purposes. The whole process takes days or weeks, depending on the artwork’s size and medium. And then there’s the packaging and shipping when the piece is sold. Anyway, here’s how I figure it out:

Rate Examples

Lets say that I decide to make 14 the rate number for my oil paintings, and 6 the rate number for my watercolor paintings. This would mean that a 9” x 12” oil painting cost $294, because (9 +12) x 14 = 294. But a 5” x 7” oil painting would cost only $168, because (5 + 7) x 14 = 168. And a 9” x 12” watercolor painting would cost $126, because (9 + 12) x 6 = 126. And a 5” x 7” watercolor painting would cost $72, because (5 + 7) x 6 = 72. After I have the price, I can factor in my costs to see if my profit is 50 percent or more.

The Cost of Materials and Shipping

I usually just estimate the cost of materials, because I can’t say for sure how many times I sharpen a pencil, use an eraser, reach for another piece of paper, or squeeze paint from a tube and so on. However, I can roughly guess how much it cost to make a work or art. Lets say I estimate $40 for the cost of materials needed to make a 9″ x 12″ oil painting, which might require not only a high-quality canvas, but paper for making preliminary sketches, medium to prime the canvas, and enough paint for both the color studies and final painting. Lets also say that I include in the sale price $28 for the cost of packing and shipping the painting within the United States, which brings my total cost to $68.

Profit Percentage

To determine the profit, I can subtract the cost of materials and shipping from the price of the sale, then multiply by 100.  For example, if I sell a painting for $294 (not including sales tax if applicable), and the cost of materials and shipping is $68, I can subtract $68 from $296 to discover that my profit is $226. To determine the percentage of my profit, I can take the profit amount and divide it by the price, then multiply by 100. For example, (226/294) x 100 = 76.870 percent. This percentage makes me happy. And if the collector who purchases the piece is pleased with the price, then we’re both happy!

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