Guest Post

Read this before pricing your art!

A Layered Onion Guest Post all about pricing artwork by Alexis Arnold, artist and founder of Art Connective

A viewer evaluates pieces of artwork hanging on a gallery wall. One is colored faces of a woman, another piece is a giant painted dollar sign. An illustration on pricing artwork - very literal.

Before you price your art, read this.

Are you an artist looking to make some money from your artwork? It can be tricky to know how to price your artwork and ensure you get a fair return for your hard work. In this blog post, I will provide some helpful advice on where to start before you begin crunching numbers. Don’t worry if you’re feeling overwhelmed – I will make it easy to understand!

Pricing your original and limited-edition artwork can be a challenge for most creatives. Where do you start? Do I price higher or lower? Should I offer sales or discounts on my work? This artist is similar to me; should I just copy their pricing?

I’m sure at some point, you have had at least one of these questions run through your mind. Know that this is completely normal, and the majority of artists struggle with pricing. Unfortunately, this is normal because there is a lack of open discussions and information sharing around pricing artwork.

How you price your artwork equates to how you value it but, more importantly, how the collector will value it. Too often artists are pricing from their emotions and connection to their work. This is one of the worst things to do.

Need help pricing art? Price your art? A string of emojis - hearts, dollar signs, and dollar bills is here for emotional support.

Artists will price too high because they “love” the piece and essentially don’t want to sell it. They may also price too high because of the time spent to create it. On the flip side, artists price too low with the thought that the lower price is what will sell the artwork. An artist may think, “Who would pay $800 for this painting?!” If you think it is too high and you wouldn’t spend that amount, why would anyone else?

These thoughts and rationale will only hurt you in the long run.

The first thing to remember, you cannot become attached to the work. When you do, you price without a method and toss numbers out there, hoping they will attract the right buyer. You may get lucky and have some sales from this method, but what happens when you keep selling at this price point and soon realize you are not even breaking even? You may then suddenly raise your pricing to cover costs, but now you have lost your collectors because they are accustomed to your work being at a certain price point.

Let’s take an example regarding this that we all will understand. Let’s say you get coffee from your local coffee shop weekly, and you order the same thing, a large vanilla latte for $5. You are used to this; you know it will be close to that price each time you come in. The coffee shop has created loyalty with you by being consistent with product, price, and service.

Now let’s say you go in to get your weekly vanilla latte, and when the cashier goes to ring you up, she says, “That will be $15.” You would be shocked and most likely tell her she can keep the drink and walk out!

Fifteen (15) dollars in five dollar bills laid out. Can you imagine a fifteen dollar latte?! 
Illustration of sticker shock re: pricing art or pricing your artwork.

This is the same concept when you abruptly change your pricing for your artwork. It shocks your collectors, and they are left confused. Understand that you should be increasing your pricing by around 10% each year, but this also is dependent on how well you are selling for the previous year. Before we can talk about pricing options for your artwork, you need to sit down and figure out what you are spending on supplies, framing, marketing, packing materials, travel, etc., for your art.

Serene image of clean paint brushes on an indigo background with a white stripe at the bottom. The brushes are of various sizes.

Yes, you need to make a budget for your art business. It’s time to know what is coming in and what is going out. This is essential for any artist seeking to do this as more than a hobby. Create a monthly expense log and start recording what you are spending on the things I listed above. That is a short list – of course, you may have more or fewer items on yours.

This is your primary starting point. It is often an eye-opener for artists who realize that it costs them $50 to create an 8×10 canvas painting only to then sell it for $65. You have “earned” $15, which doesn’t cover your cost of materials nor the time it took you to create the artwork. You would have needed to sell it for closer to $200 to cover the costs of your materials and for you to pay yourself a small amount. These numbers will vary from artist to artist, which is why it is important for YOU to figure out what works for you.

Start here, figure out what you are spending monthly, then log what you sell monthly. Seeing the numbers on paper or your computer screen is the first step towards taking control of your creative business.

Once you have this figured out, then it’s time to decide if you want this to turn into your main source of income or if it is a side income that provides you with some extra spending cash.

If you are ready to learn more and establish a solid foundation to grow, you can enroll in the Building Blocks for Becoming a Successful Artist online courses now until June 11th, 2023. The first online courses of its kind helping artists understand what is needed and expected of them. By having a solid foundation, you can open the doors to more opportunities.

Learn more here:

Logo for the Art Connective.

Alexis Arnold is a working encaustic artist as well as the founder and president of Art Connective, Inc, a non-profit art organization dedicated to helping artists thrive. She created the Building Blocks online courses to give artists all over the world access to learn how to become more successful doing what they love. You can follow her on Instagram at either @theartconnective or @scorpioencaustics.