Guidelines and Methods to Pricing your Artwork

Pricing your artwork fairly and persistently will make you appear more credible and consistent.

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by E. Y. Smith

Whether you’re a new artist or switching mediums, determining a fair price for your art can pose a challenge. One would think that, after spending days, weeks, or months on a piece, an artist would know their work’s value. However, countless artists find themselves unsure what to charge. Creativity, beauty, and a work’s personal value are difficult to quantify, and the art industry’s constantly-changing trends often influence a work’s value as well. Furthermore, an overpriced work might deter many potential buyers, but an underpriced work might have sold for tens, hundreds, or even thousands of dollars more.

Pricing your artwork fairly and consistently will make you appear more credible and consistent. Fair pricing will also give buyers reasonable expectations for purchasing or commissioning your work, which will likely help you increase sales and commissioned pieces. Although appraising your own artwork can prove a difficult task, this guide covers how to do so fairly and effectively.

Research Competitors

Researching your competition is a necessary part of the pricing process. Search popular, art-based websites for the sale prices and hourly rates of artists similar to you. The buyers who search for the work of these artists will likely see your work as well, so your pricing will need to appear comparable. Otherwise, these buyers will likely consider you overpriced or underpriced.

When comparing yourself to other artists, consider your similarities in the following areas:

  • Aesthetic. Some aesthetics become more popular than others, and thereby increase the prices for those artworks.
  • Materials and Medium. If an artwork consumes more materials, then it may cost more. Additionally, the art market has valued some mediums above others, such as large sculptures over canvas, and canvas over paper.
  • Originality. Original works often receive greater notice, and therefore, likely sell for more than unoriginal works, such as reprints.
  • Quality of Art. Work of a higher quality generally sells for more than work of a lower quality.
  • Reputation. Emerging artists tend to price lower than established artists.
  • Size of Work. Larger works generally have larger prices than smaller works.
  • Venue (e.g. Gallery, Digital Art Marketplace, Art Fair, etc.). Some venues will have higher price points than others. For instance, open studios often sell less expensive works than commercial galleries. Keep in mind also that artists may include a venue’s fees or commissions in a sales price.
ARTmine, our online resource of art.

Some digital art marketplaces make some of these criteria available as search parameters, which will make your research a lot easier. 

Agora artist Susana Bergero in her studio

Reflecting on these criteria will help you determine how far above or below you should price your work compared to these other artists. For instance, you might charge more for your work than an artist who matches all of the above criteria but appears to work in a smaller size than you, as smaller sizes often consume fewer materials and less time. The more criteria you have in common with an artist, the more closely your prices and that artist’s prices should match.

Take notes on your work and the work and prices of these artists as you research. You will definitely want to record sale prices for artworks as well as similar artists’ hourly rates. Additionally, consider using the average hourly wage from the US Department of Labor Occupational Statistics ($27.66 for fine artists, as of May 2017) as the absolute baseline for your hourly rate. Take detailed and clear notes, as they will provide the range of your sales prices and your hourly rates.

Calculate Costs

Accurately track the price of your materials purchased for and used in your artwork’s creation. If you have a thorough record of these materials, then include them in the sales price of your artwork. Likewise, if you’re selling through an agent, gallery or digital marketplace that charges a commission, include that commission in your sales price. Including the cost of materials and commission in your sales price will, at least, allow you to break even when you sell the work.

If a client has commissioned your work, then make sure that you keep a thorough and accurate record of the time, in minutes, spent on their project. By maintaining a detailed and organized record, you will appear professional and lower the likelihood of mistakenly over- or under-charging a client. 

Putting It All Together

After you’ve researched similar artists and calculated the costs of materials and commission attached to your work, you will need to return to your notes on those artists to determine a fair price for your artwork. Your price should appear similar to the prices or hourly rates of the artists most similar to you and should exceed the cost of your materials and commission. Incorporating both of these elements into your price typically ensures that you turn a profit when you sell your work.

You can use this general price, in combination with other pricing methods, to predict the prices of new works. For instance, you might multiply your hourly wage by the number of hours spent creating the work, then add that amount to the cost of materials. You can also price your artwork per square inch.

Additionally, the prices of the works that you sell from your studio should match the prices of the works that you sell through galleries. Selling artwork from your studio at a lower price undercuts your galleries’ marketing efforts and ability to earn income.  This tactic also may cause galleries to refuse to show your work or decline to work with you later.

You also might consider negotiating your prices. Although you generally should avoid discounting your work, if you plan to negotiate, set a price that leaves enough room to turn a profit. A good rule of thumb is to raise your prices 10-20% or several hundred dollars. Alternatively, you might offer services, such as shipping the work or faster completion, instead of lowering the price. You might also accept the buyer’s goods or services as a complete or partial trade for your work. 

Overall, a formula for pricing your artwork with an hourly rate might look as follows:  

[Median Hourly Rate of Fine Artists Similar to You, or, If Such Hourly Rate Unclear, U.S. Department of Occupational Labor Statistics’ Hourly Rate for Fine Artists] + [Cost of Materials Purchased for and Used in Artwork’s Creation] + [Cost of Agent, Gallery, or Digital Marketplace Commission]

If you prefer not to price your artwork with an hourly rate, then price your artwork like artists similar to you, as these prices may already include the cost of materials and any commission payable to an agent, gallery, or digital marketplace.

As you become more established, you will want to charge more for your work. The occurrence of any of the following may justify raising your prices:

Changing Prices

As you become more established, you will want to charge more for your work. The occurrence of any of the following may justify raising your prices:

  • Significant Awards. Winning major prizes demonstrates your skill and expertise in your field. Winning such awards also improves your reputation. For both of these reasons, buyers will pay more for your work.
  • High-Profile Shows. High-profile shows similarly demonstrate your ability as an artist. Furthermore, the buyers at high-profile shows will generally spend more on artwork.
  • Selling out of Current Stock. Selling out of current stock means there’s great demand for your work at its current price. Consider raising your prices to see if you can earn more from your current audience.

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Related Article: Promoting Artwork: Context, Context, Context

Generally, gradually raising your prices after an extended time of constant success will avoid surprising buyers and increase the likelihood that they will purchase your work. If you sell, within a six-month period and each year, half your inventory, then annually raise your prices 10-25%. Difficulty selling generally means that you should restructure your pricing. However, ensure that your work still maintains a high level of quality. In doing so, you will protect your reputation and assure buyers that they will receive great art.

Looking to enhance your career and build a presence in New York? Submit your portfolio to us and get the opportunity to present your work to a broad range of national and international art collectors and buyers.

Share your story with other aspiring artists by commenting in the section below! Have questions? Write to us at blogs@agora-gallery.com


E. Y. Smith’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Portland Review, and The Brooklyn Review, among other literary journals.

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