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Pricing All Your Original Art
- Choose which one of the three pricing methods you'll use for your business
- Price out any existing originals
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In this lesson, we’re going to cover how to price 2D art like drawings and paintings.
First, I want to make a distinction between selling prints of your art and the originals.
If you’re looking for how to price your prints, go to the lesson on Pricing Print and Dropship Items for how to do that.
In this lesson, I’m going to show you three pricing methods for how to price original art and any commission or custom orders you might make for a client.
If you’re an artist in business, the bulk of your income is going to come from selling prints. And that makes sense, because most people aren’t going to be able to afford paying much higher prices for your original painting. Prints and reproductions are an easy way to decorate your home in an affordable way.
Having said that, collectors and some of your biggest fans are going to be the people who buy your originals. So having a relationship with your followers is going to be important.
Here’s the first method for pricing your original art and commissions.
You would take your materials, add your labor or the time you spent creating that piece of art, and just total the two together to come to your final price.
So for example, you’ve spent $25 in materials. That might be for the canvas, paint and maybe a frame you got at a discount at Michaels.
Assuming you’ve set your hourly wage to $20, and it took you 30 hours to make your painting.
That’s $25 plus $20 times 30 hours. Your final price is $625.
This idea is simple and gets your art priced really affordably. I’d only recommend this if you’re just getting started, you have zero or very little following and you need to establish yourself first.
To me, personally, this method of pricing doesn’t account for growth, scaling up nor is it sustainable. This method is basically saying that you’re trading time for dollars. You’re only getting paid for the time you spent painting, nothing more. That to me, sounds a lot like being a prisoner or slave to your business.
So let’s explore the second method.
This method is a little bit more complicated, but it’s not hard.
It works like this.
You would figure out the square inches of your painting. Multiply that by a pay rate you give yourself for per square inch. We’ll talk more about that through an example. Then you add that add with the cost of materials times two. That will give you your final price.
Here’s an example. Say you painted some abstract art on an 8 by 12 inch canvas. Multiply 8 and 12 and that gives you 96 square inches.
Your pay rate per square inch could be a number between $2 and $6 depending on your skill, your reputation, how established you are, whether you’ve won awards or have been featured by really well known publications or if you’ve done any showings in popular and galleries and so on.
Then assuming your materials cost you $25, you’re going to multiply that by 2 to get $50.
Putting it all together, you’ll take the 96 square inches, multiply that by $4 which is what I’m using in this example as your pay rate per square inch. Then add $50. The total is $434, or you can round it up to $450.
This is actually a pretty common way I’ve found fine artists to price their originals or anytime they’re putting together a custom painting.
This method still doesn’t necessarily account for growth or scaling up as well as I’d like. You can keep raising your per square inch rate to profit more per painting, but that’s a very conservative way for growing your business.
Let me know you my favorite pricing method.
So this is going to look very familiar to you because it’s the exact same formula we use for pricing physical handmade products.
I’ve worked with fine artists who’ve used all sorts of different pricing formulas and I’ve still found that this formula is the best one, even for artists.
So what you’re going to do is start with adding materials and your labor together to figure out your cost.
Then you’ll take your cost and multiply by 2. This will give you your wholesale or, in more relevant terms, your gallery pricing, should you decide to sell in galleries.
Then you take your wholesale or gallery pricing and multiply again by 2 to get your final retail price.
Here’s an example. You’ve got your $25 in materials. Your $20 per hour rate. And you spent 30 hours painting.
Let’s put that all together. You’ll take $25 and add it to your labor, which is $20 per hour times 30 hours. The total cost is $625.
Then you’re going to take $625 and multiply that by 2. You’ll get $1,250. This is your gallery pricing.
Take the $1,250 and multiply by 2 again. Your final retail price is $2,500.
That might sound high to you, but bear in mind that you’re selling an original painting that took you almost a week to paint. When you think about established artists that you admire. They don’t sell their originals for a measly few hundred dollars. They usually cost thousands of dollars. This is normal and expected when it comes to fine art originals. You only have the one original to sell. It won’t sell right away because of its high price point, and that’s why your reproductions will probably bring in more consistent income.
This is my favorite method because it accounts for growth, scaling up and selling in galleries where they often take a 50% commission. And an advantage this formula has over the other two is it accounts for business expenses and costs. Your time spent on social media and managing your email list and building your audience is not free. When you take continuing education art classes. It’s not free. When you set up a booth at an art fair. The booth fee is not free, nor is your time managing your booth. The other two methods pay you based on the time you spent painting, and that’s it. It doesn’t pay you for running your business. And that’s how a lot of artists fail in business. They don’t treat it as a business because they aren’t accounting for 80% of the time you work which is mostly spent on running the business and not creating art.
So here are some final pricing art tips that I’ve got for you.
Keep in mind that your prices will vary according to the medium, size and complexity of your painting or drawing. Especially for size and complexity, these attributes can easily be valued by your customer. They’re going value a larger painting than a smaller painting. They’re going to value more details in their painting, than less, generally speaking. I mean, it’s not about how much white space you can paint over. But customers who aren’t artists themselves need physical attributes like size and detail to quickly make decisions on if your price seems worth it, too expensive or too cheap. So price accordingly.
You also want to keep consistent. If you choose Method number 3 for pricing your work, then stick with it. If you changed it around all the time, your pricing between all your different products are not going to make sense as a collection.
And finally, it’s always easier to raise prices than it is to drop them. So if you need to, start low when you’re just getting started with your art business. Then work your way up. I like doing this because it helps build your confidence as an artist as well. We’ll talk more about confidence in the next lesson, but for now, let’s do a recap.
At the start of this lesson, we talked about selling prints and originals and how that works out.
I walked you through the three pricing methods for original art. The first was just adding your materials and labor together. The second was using a square inch rate and then adding your materials. And the third is the same formula you would use for pricing physical handmade products.
You need price proportionately and according to several attributes, like size, medium and detail or how complex your painting is.
And keep things consistent when you price any and all of your paintings.
I’ll talk to you in the next lesson.