Pricing Your Artwork Doesn’t Need to be Scary
*Disclaimer: This post is based on personal experience and may not work for every artist. The formula used takes into account US pricing and may not translate to international markets.
Do you know the value of your artwork?
Let’s say you’ve just created a masterpiece. You think “I should really try to sell it and give this artist thing a try.” Then you begin to wonder, “what is it worth?”
Art prices are an odd thing. Pieces that take days of work like intricate landscapes and lifelike portraits can sell for $50 at a flea market. Pieces that look simple and take less time to complete can sell for thousands in galleries. Travel to another part of the world and the reverse may be true. Mind you, regardless of perceived monetary value, all this art still involves skill, technique, and creativity, and thus deserves respect. (Read: What is the True Value of Your Art?)
Art is a fluid idea. Its value changes depending on who is looking at it, where you are, the history of the artist, the story of the piece, and more. There really isn’t a universal monetary value to what you create. Which makes assigning a dollar amount to your work very frustrating, and sometimes confusing. I’ve been there.
I’ve put a lot of guesswork into pricing my art over the years. Trial and error. Haphazard market testing, if you will. I’ve been using a common formula with some added calculations for my pricing. It’s not an exact science. It might not work for everyone, but it’s a place to start.
If you are already an accomplished artist with many sales under your belt, this post probably isn’t for you, but I would love your feedback on the formula to see it if is accurate to your experiences.
The Basic Formula I Use For Pricing Art
Length x Width x Price per Square Inch
This formula is really common in the art world, but figuring out the right price per square inch can be a bit confusing.
How to find the Right Price Per Square Inch
Using a variety of factors, I have created five artist ‘levels’ with price ranges that include discounted prices, regularly priced pieces, and premium priced pieces.
All artists have to start somewhere. Even if your skills are out of this world right at the beginning, you likely will undercharge until you grow a following and establish your brand. Unless you can be patient and just set a high price and wait for the right buyers. If you can make sales immediately at a high price, kudos to you! Get that money.
For the rest of us, we will likely need to work our way up until we can charge enough to make a living. Think of new musicians before they are recognized by a large label. I bet they are playing shows in a dingy bar and getting paid barely enough to cover gas. Making a creative income often involves proving your worth and being willing to start at the bottom
My Price Per Square Inch Ranges in USD
Keep in mind that this is my personal method for pricing art and these numbers could be absolutely meaningless to you. This post is just to give you a starting point.
Artist Level Definitions:
- Level One: You’re an art dabbler. You don’t really know your style yet, but love to create. Maybe you do this as a hobby and don’t really need to make sales. You don’t have a following yet and you will maybe try selling on Etsy or at a local flea market to see if people like your art as much as you do.
- Level Two: You want to be a professional artist, but maybe just part time. Maybe you’re okay with just making enough to pay for art supplies. You’re likely selling to family and friends at the moment. You have developed your skills, have started to find your style, have made sales, and are pushing to grow your online following. The world is your oyster! Chase those artsy dreams!
- Level Three: Your style is cohesive and practiced. Your social media and in-person following is solid and you do this full time or hustle on the weekends and evenings. Participating in juried art shows, selling at events, or getting regular online sales is common for you.
- Level Four: You’ve made a lot of sales and your social media presence keeps growing. You apply to more prestigious art fairs and show at galleries. You’ve developed your unique style and people recognize your work upon first glance.
- Level Five: You’re a seasoned artist and can pretty much charge whatever you want according to what your audience is willing to pay. You’re likely displaying in galleries quite regularly and have many sales under your belt. Or maybe you’re dead and your family is profiting off of your artistry. (Just kidding! lol kinda…)
How to Determine Your “Artist Level”
The levels I created are intended to assess where you are in your career based on a variety of factors, and not just how skilled you are as an artist or how ‘good’ your art is.
To determine your level you’ll need to evaluate quite a few variables like: What kind of artist are you? Where do you plan to sell your work? How common is your art style? How big is your following? How many successful sales have you made? How skilled are you? How unique is your style? What kind of art does the market want? What is your audience willing to pay.
When I first created this chart, I priced according to Level One. I had no following, very few art sales under my belt, and I lived in a rural area with little demand for modern art.
I was selling 11″x14″ pieces for around $60 which means I charged less than $0.40 per square inch.
At Level One price per square inch, people will tell you over and over again that your prices are too low. Likely because they are, but if you’re like me, you’re okay with making some money rather than no money.
As of March 2022, I still use this table. My base pricing is $1-$3 per square inch, which places me between Level Three and Four.
Does the formula work for you?
Let’s Test It Out
Figure out which price per square inch you will use to price your most common pieces and enter it into the formula: Length X Width X Price per Square Inch
Once you know what your average piece will cost, slide up and down the scale to price your most expensive pieces and your lowest discounted prices.
If you frame your work, add this fee on top of the calculated price above. If you make your frame, factor in the labor and also add that on top. This calculation only determines the base price of your raw piece of art.
How do the numbers look to you? Do the artist levels feel limiting? Or are they accurate to you?
Additional things to consider:
These tools are just to help you get an idea of how to price your work. I’m not trying to definitively tell you what your art is valued at. I want you to test out one of your pieces in the formula above and review the next few points.
Are your costs covered?
Estimate the material costs or your piece (paint, paper, canvas, etc.). Does this formula cover your investment AND leave a decent profit? If not, you may be in the wrong level, or you’re spending WAY too much on art supplies at the moment.
Does the price match up to what artists similar to you are selling their work for?
Check out events that you want to sell at. Talk to other artists. Research listings on Etsy. The economy and market saturation of similar products will have an effect on what you can charge for your art. You may need to adjust your formula a bit to account for this.
Keep your pricing consistent.
If you start out selling your work at craft and art fairs, and then upgrade to a gallery and have to increase your prices to account for the commission fee–this is your new base price per square inch. Even outside of the gallery. Consider it like reaching a new milestone. If you do another art fair after successfully selling at a gallery, apply a visible discount to this price instead of just lowering it to account for the market shift.
Beware of under-pricing your work once you’ve moved into a new level.
I have attempted to give my art away. When I first started out, I undervalued my work drastically, because I was desperate to make sales. Once my following started to grow, I received a lot of “You don’t charge enough for your work,” types of comments. It seems odd, but you can actually miss out on sales, because a low price might indicate low quality. (At the time I just really wanted my art out of my sight, so no regrets.)
Beware of over-charging for your work to match other artists.
Your work may be similar to another artist with a larger following, but you may have a harder time selling at the same price point. Larger artists have spent a lot of time building their brand, their style, and a sense of trust with their audience. It takes time to get out what you put into your art, but be patient.
Price your art to be able to apply discounts without sacrificing profit.
When I started selling online, I decided what my base price per square inch should be, but I knew I couldn’t sell my work for that price where I lived. It was predominantly blue collar town. Art was appreciated, but I can’t force people to justify paying their rent vs buying a new piece of art. So, I created discount labels that still display my regular online store price, but made it clear my customers were getting a deal. This also helps your sales for those events. You create a ‘buy now or miss out!’ type of urgency.
If a customer feels like you treated them really well with the first discounted purchase they made, they are much more likely to save for your higher priced pieces.
You can also make the choice to never discount your work. Now that I am more established with my work, I don’t discount my work like I used to, BUT my work is also drastically better than it was in the past.
As long as you can explain your prices, you’re good.
When can you increase your prices and establish a new price per square inch?
Play around with your pricing for about a year at a time. If your art style, following, or sales numbers don’t change much in that time you may not be ready to adjust pricing. (This could also mean you may be priced too high or you need to evaluate your self promotion tactics). Even though pricing is subjective and fluid, you still want to be able to explain the changes and not scare off customers.
If you suddenly have so many requests for art that you can’t keep up with demand–it’s time to increase your prices.
I hope this was helpful for any new artists out there! Since I started using this formula, my life as gotten easier. I wrote this post in 2018, and as I update this now in 2022, I can say it’s still a useful tool.
If you think my calculations are wildly off base, then do some Googling and see if there is another formula out there that fits your needs better. Really anything goes with pricing. Evaluate your variables, pick a price per square inch, see how it sells, adjust as needed. Easy 😉
Let me know your thoughts on the formula below! Do you feel it was accurate? Did it give you an idea of where to start? Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post.
P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.