As both a professional artist and custom framer, I get a lot of questions from artists and photographers. These folks run the gamut from hobbyists to professionals. Nearly every single one of them wants to know how to price art right off the bat. The answers I give them about how to price art apply regardless of their skill level. That’s because my primary focus on how to price art is on sustainability. But not in terms of the environment. Rather, my model is all about sustaining a business. In fact, how to price art even applies to some craftspeople as well.
What follows about how to price art focuses on original artwork. It can be modified for reproductions, but this is the starting point. It is by no means absolute law. Rather, it’s a solid place to begin evaluating the minimum standards or beginning point for how to price art for original works. Again, this applies to hobbyists and professionals alike, as well as everyone in between.
How to Price Art for Sustainability
The first thing I tell folks when it comes to how to price art is to change your thinking. Everyone wants to know, “How much should I charge when I price art?” But I say the more effective question is, “How can I price art I have created for sustainability?”
Here’s the quick answer:
[(Cost X markup) + (cost)] + (time involved X total hourly value) = How to Price Art for Sustainability
“But how do I price art to include commissions for galleries?” you ask. No problem. We’ve created a simple cost calculator that will help you factor in all the above variables plus commissions for when you price art.
- Cost = Anything that costs you money.
- Markup = Mark up your costs. Banks don’t lend money for free, so why should you borrow from yourself for free? In other words, you are loaning money to yourself to create a piece of work. Therefore, you should markup your costs. Between 15% and 65% should do the trick, but you may consider more on very low-cost items and less on really high-cost materials.
- Time = Anything that requires you or someone else to make any progress on a piece. Driving, collecting, painting, studio time, scanning and printing, etc.
- Hourly rate = I can’t tell you what your time is worth. But you should consider breaking it up into several categories: You are the artist and the time spent actually making the work is the highest rate; tracking time for lesser skilled things (like stretching canvas or something like that) you might consider a lesser hourly rate); I can’t tell you what your time is worth and everyone is different. The main idea is to think about all the time invested into a single piece.
How to Price Art: Filling in the Blanks
I’ve explained the basic model for how to price art. But here are some practical applications. If you haven’t already done this, begin tracking your costs in a given calendar year. Recall that a “cost” is anything that costs you money. That includes materials, brushes, supplies, electricity for the time you are in the studio, etc. Basically, anything you can think of that qualifies as a cost for producing your work needs to be added into your equation.
Next, determine (on average) how many works you produce in a year.
You will also need to track how much time you spend on various tasks.
Once you have each of these numbers, you can practically asses how much it costs you. Your assessment can be in terms of square unit (inch or foot according to your preference and style) pricing. Alternatively, you can create a solid hourly rate for painting time that now includes all other factors listed above (costs, markup, time).
How to Price Art Example
Let’s say you spend $100 on materials in a year and that you make 100 paintings per year. You determine that you spend five hours preparing and gather materials at $15/hour. And then it takes you 10 hours to actually paint the original piece of artwork at a rate of $60/hour. Your costs are about $1 per painting. Your time is (5 hours prep x $15/hour) + (10 hours painting x $60/hour) = $675.
Next, add costs times the markup. Let’s say your costs are very low, so you mark them higher at a rate of 65%. Therefore, $1 (costs per painting) x 65% = $0.65 PLUS your cost ($1 per painting) = $1.65. Now, add that into your hourly rate figured above ($675 + $1.65) and you arrive at $676.65. So, let’s just round this up to $677. For this How to Price Art Example, $677 per painting is what you need to charge for sustainability.
NOTE: This how to price art example uses simple averages over the course of a year. Most scenarios will not be quite so standard. But once you have some basic numbers, you can simply plug them into the cost calculator. And don’t forget about commissions! Unless it’s a simple 50/50 split, those can get complicated. The calculator factors in commissions correctly so you can be certain you are making what you need to be sustainable. Make sure to download the calculator! It’s a simple Excel spreadsheet that anyone can use.
This article focused on how to price art for artists and photographers. If you have further questions about how to price art, the business of art, or selling prints, check out a post from a workshop I conducted at O’More College of Design, email me, or call 615-815-6015.