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7 Ways to Price a Painting (Depending on Your Personality)

Different approaches to putting a price on your art.


Getting a painting to the stage where you’re satisfied with it is hard, but putting a price to it can be even harder. Under-price yourself and you may make your art look worthless, as well as lose money rather than make it. Overprice yourself and you risk never selling anything. How you decide to approach it depends somewhat on your personality, experience, and stage your art career is at. Here’s how I judge the options:

1. The Simple Approach: Price Determined by Standard Sizes

Pricing a painting by size
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans
All paintings that are the same size all have the same price tag, regardless of the subject, how long it you to finish it, or how much you happen to like it. Your price list set out by size, with an additional set premium for commissioned paintings over finished paintings.

2. The Accountant’s Approach: Recover Your Costs

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans
Decide on a percentage profit you want to make over your costs. Then add up the cost of everything that went into making a painting, add the percentage, and you’ve your selling price. The costs calculation can be basic (materials + labor) or comprehensive (materials, labor, studio space, lighting, etc.). Every painting has a different price, based on what went into creating it.

3. The Capitalist Approach: Make the Price Market Related

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans
Do your homework by visiting galleries and studios in your area and target market(s) to see what similar type of art is selling for. Price yours to compete. If you’re selling directly only (not through a gallery), offer "special deals" to make people feel like they’re getting a bargain. (If you’re also selling through a gallery, never undercut their prices as you’ll undermine your business arrangement with them.)

4. A Mathematical Approach: Price Calculated by Area

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans
You decide on a price for a square inch (or centimeter), then multiple the area of a painting by this, then round it up to a sensible figure. Most people will use a calculator for this approach, but if you can do it with mental arithmetic then you never have worry about a client who wanted to buy the painting off your easel getting bored standing around while you hunt for a one.

5. The Collector’s Approach: Increase Your Prices Every Year

Art gallery
Image: © Arthur S. Aubry / Getty Images
Some people who buy art do it for investment reasons, and they want to believe the value of the painting they have of yours is increasing. Read enough financial news to know what the current rate of inflation is, and be sure to increase your prices annually by at least this much.

6. The Creative Director Approach: Sell a Story, Not Just a Painting

Photo © Mel Curtis / Getty Images
Have a good tale to tell with every painting, hinting at it in the title, to create a sense of buying a little bit of the artist’s creativity, not just a product. Write or print it out on a little card to go with the painting to its new home. (Be sure to put your contact details on it.) Hide your prices in the small print because it's so uncreative to talk about money.

7. An Instinctive Approach: Suck a Price Out of Your Thumb

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans
Not recommended as a long-term approach, but to be considered if you’re faced with a possible sale of a piece that’s in a new medium/ground for you or totally different to your “usual” style.

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