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Readers Respond: How Do You Price Your Paintings?

Responses: 23

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How do you decide on what price to put on a painting? Do you have a formula that's based on the cost of materials and time, or do you work it out by the square inch? Share your tips on pricing your paintings here.

Pricing Art

Most of my work is sold through galleries. Although I could state a selling price, I believe that it is much better to allow the individual gallery to set a price. I believe that the gallery owner will be well aware of the value of the painting and will base this on the prices he can get from other paintings of similar size and quality. If displayed for sale at an exhibition my pricing will fairly similar to the average price my painting would be offered for sale at a gallery. In the case of a private sale where no commission would be deducted I ask for slightly less.
—Guest Derek Young

Pricing Work

I still have trouble figuring out how to price my work adequately. I've been told I price too low but I like to have my work in people's hands, and I'm well aware that budgets are limited and art is a luxury item. Most of my work is small, as well, which I have to take into consideration. It's a tough call. I do art because it's therapy for me, but I would like to be able to at least pay for my supplies with what I make.
—rhodyart

Keep Your Prices Stable

This is so true, when your pricing varies, the value of your work is lessened. Why should one person pay, say $150 for a painting that next week will sell for $125? Or more likely, how will one client feel, when they pay $150 for a original painting, and then see another by you for only $100? They will feel that got taken. This has happened to Us at a gallery, were we offer an artists for for a set price, but she will undercut the price, having "sales" and giving special prices. This plays havio with gallery sales, and makes her less desirable as an artist. Never undercut your gallery!
—StarrpointHost01

Sustainable Sales

As a gallery owner I viewed this article with interest. I love working with artists that respect how much work is involved in hanging and promoting work. The commission charged reflects this as I do not charge artists to exhibit (which is another model -- putting the onus on the artist). If it is brought to my attention that artists I support are selling directly and undercutting the gallery, I will be less keen to continue a working relationship with them. In the long term these artists will need to decide whether the merits of selling privately outshine the opportunities offered by gallery sales. It is all about long term relationships and sustainable business. From my perspective -- look after your gallery and it will look after you.
—Guest Gallery owner

I Pay Myself

I start with a (very low) hourly rate for myself, then add my materials cost - which is very low, because I recycle a lot. After that, I will add the gallery commission, plus shipping and handling, as needed. If I ever have a "regular" gallery, I will maintain prices that they help set. At present, I work independently, and raise my prices a bit each year.
—Guest Karen Lockert

Size and Story

Usually, I multiply height x width for a price. Since I write too, having a story for each painting is a fun "extra" for the purchasing patron.
—Guest Babs

Pricing My Paintings

I don't price by time. I don't time myself when I paint. However long it takes, it takes. I get so engrossed in painting that I lose track of time. I don't paint to sell, I paint because I love it. Selling to me is incidental. If someone wants to buy my work, then we negotiate the price, if not then the buyer usually pays what I ask anyway. That is enough for me.
—Guest Flora

I think the Capitalist Approach is Fair

I think the capitalist approach is the fair one. Selling too low is suspicious, tagging paintings too high may turn off potential buyer. Going with the flow and be aware what other similar paintings sell for is better approach.
—Guest Veny

I let the Customer Decide

I paint because I wanna, what happens to the work afterwards is of less importance. I am flattered when someone wants it enough to pay me for it. When asked if this or that is for sale I say "sure, wanna make an offer?" Potential customers are always shocked; they say they know nothing about pricing and do not want to insult me, "Ok, so make an offer you think is fair!" On the other hand there have been people who really wanted a painting but would not be able to afford it if I priced it "fairly". At this time in my life, I don't really need to make a lot of money, I always let the customer decide, if the price were insulting I could simply say "uh, no" but that has yet to happen. I have always been pleasantly surprised by the amounts offered.
—Guest pricing paintings

Minimum Price Per Painting

I've worked it out that the minimum cost of a painting these days should be £300, regardless of work effort, type of work, use of materials and who you're selling it to. This is because the minimum take-home pay these days is roughly £200 per week. It has to be remembered that whatever the painting you do has to be treated like a working week, bearing in mind weekly bills, food etc that you have to pay for. Many people of course won't pay that much for a painting whether or not they realise these facts. That's why the affluent sector is such an easy target when it comes to marketing.
—Guest Mike Reed

How I Price

I take a lot of factors into consideration, my target audience, the effort it takes to do the painting, not necessarily the time, the size, what paintings go for in my area. I also factor in the cost of art materials, and whether or not the place I am exhibiting in charges a commission. That can really cut into what you get. I keep in mind that this is art, it's not a commodity, but a subjective thing. I also sell my work privately. We usually agree on a price, and I'm happy with that. If a painting sells, fine, if not, then that's fine too.
—Guest Anne

Pricing by the Hour

I charge by the hour like any professional. If my time is worth $200 an hour and it took me five hours that's what I charge.
—barre2bb

Pricing Paintings

My method is a combination of the suggestions: I start with the price by size, then take into consideration the quality/difficulty of the work, not necessarily the time it took to do it.
—Guest pegbead

Pricing Tricky, Material Input Bad Guide

I believe as artists we convert basic paint, canvas, brushes to create visually appealing work -- it is this process of conversion that should guide the pricing. That is, how much do we value our "appeal creation". Time spent is also not appropriate. My most expensive painting I did within an hour!
—Guest Jimi Munowenyu

A Practical Approach

We all begin by deciding whether we want a given piece to represent our skills to the world. If it makes that cut it must justify our time and materials in this and other less successful work, then it must be rated for quality by the artist, keeping in mind the market value of paintings of equal or similar quality. Then there is the absolute last thought "Would I rather have this painting or $X?" Your choice will dictate the advisability of your chosen price. There is also the problem of presentation - adding the price of the framing and the gallery fee plus any shipping costs to your total. That's how I do it.
—jrjarvis

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