How Do You Price Art For Beginners?

A-collection-of-21-artworks-that-celebrate-the-power-and-symbolism-of-the-US-dollar-went-on-sale-at-Sothebys-on-1-July-2015-—-including-Tim-Noble-and-Sue-Webster’s-sculpture-“”-2001.-660x400
A collection of 21 artworks that celebrate the power and symbolism of the US dollar went on sale at Sotheby's on 1 July 2015 — including Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s sculpture “$” (2001). | Image source: wallpaper.com

So, you are an emerging artist, and you are not entirely sure how to price your original art? Don’t worry. We are here for you! Pricing art is one of the more difficult things to do, and for obvious reasons: how to put a price tag on a product of emotion and imagination? The answer to this question exists, and it isn’t half as complicated as you might imagine. In the art world, commission prices vary depending on various factors, such as art types, styles, materials, and overall popularity. 

This article covers a general way to price artwork in a range that would satisfy potential art buyers. Like any other, the art business usually needs a level of research to make sure that the price is right, plus an initial investment to deliver a finished product. To avoid underselling your artwork and to make sure the buyer isn’t turned away by an expensive product, you’ll want to:

Research The Market

Market research is where your inner detective gets to shine! You should discover your competitors and explore their work. Thankfully, we live in a time where we have all the information we need just a click away, so this part has become much less tiresome. It has shifted from walking through art galleries, open studios, or art fairs or searching the newspapers and catalogs, to merely searching the web for the type of art you need and discovering hundreds of relevant examples in only minutes. Most established artists have already set up prices somewhere on their website pages, and some have set up profiles on specific art-centric websites where you can find more relevant t indicators of their rates. 

To be sure which artists you should research, you need to know what you want to sell and then compare your prices with those of other contemporary art, as there are various ways you can sell your artwork. The diversity of art styles is incredibly complex as it can be divided in many ways, which can change the pricing completely. For instance — we can differentiate artwork by splitting it into physical and digital, then obviously by the size of the piece, or by medium — if it is done by watercolor paint, oil paint, acrylic paint, for paintings for example. 

While researching the market, keep in mind the type of art you are creating. If you are selling art that is created traditionally, for example — watercolor painting, oil painting, or acrylic painting, or sculpture etc., the prices of digital art are much less relevant. The best way to find these traditional fine art artists is over online platforms such as ARTDEX, which showcases their work and connects artists and art collectors; or community forums and sites such as Reddit.

After considering all those elements and exploring your competitors’ prices, you can start developing an idea of a price range that would benefit you and be relevant to  your art buyers. Knowing your audience is a crucial factor in selling your art. What is your audience’s age, which gender is the most represented, where do they come from, do they follow similar creators — all of those questions are relevant. They pave a path towards understanding what your audience wants and what they can afford.

Although, even after the research, your price might change slightly after you:

Artist Yoko Kubrick sculpting at her workshop in Pietrasanta, Italy. At right is a sculpture titled “Tides” (2019). Image credit: Diego Mayon | Image source: nytimes.com

Consider The Expenditures

Depending on the type of art you do, being a visual artist, the expenses might vary. For instance, if you are creating a digital painting, your base expenses to set up the workstation are great, as you would need to invest in a good computer and a drawing tablet. On the other hand, if you’re creating traditional art, there is a constant need for supplies — color materials, canvases, brushes, and other various tools and equipment. Apart from the quality and type of your art, these factors also need to be considered. The final price of a product is an amalgamation of all the elements within its project. 

When calculating your expenses, make sure to tally up all the relevant aspects of your current project. For example, if that work is created digitally — think about how much you would price the usage of a drawing tablet in the process, how much you pay for software that you used during the process, etc. Many factors are often overlooked by young artists, who then end up underpricing their work.

An example of expenditure many can overlook is time. When working on commission, you should always calculate how long it would take you to do it. Let’s say you value your time as an artist at $20 per hour, and you believe it would take you at least three hours to complete a specific piece. Therefore, you would set the raw price at around $60. As you decide on the cost by yourself, you can play around with these numbers and make them more in line with your art audience and personal goals.

Usually, putting value to your own time by yourself is not always a good idea, as we can have a lesser picture of ourselves than it realistically is. And yet, knowing that putting a price tag on time is challenging to do, there are ways of doing that. One of them is to find the average hourly pay for living standards in your country and use that as a starting point. If you feel the rate is too low — raise it slightly; if it feels too expensive, try to cut it down a bit. An important thing to note here is never to make substantial price swings, especially not downwards. A sudden price rise could push away a segment of your audience, while a sudden drop could create a too big demand to fulfill. The ideal price correlates with the amount of work you are willing to do. If you are ready to work long hours and mass-produce commissions, then a slightly lower price than the market average could get you a more generous amount of sales.

Another thing many forget to price as a resource is — their experience. The time it took you to learn to create art of a particular tier is, in a way, also the time you have invested into the piece you’re working on. If you have been drawing for years, that experience should count in the final price, as you have worked hard to get where you are now.

The final often overlooked element is more relevant to traditional art, but it could also be useful to keep in mind if you are a digital artist. That would be the following — don’t just price your time and materials used but also the piece’s general size. A small piece is valued less, while a large piece can get a higher price, especially if the request is more complicated. 

After taking into consideration all the factors mentioned above, you can finally:

Andy Warhol “Dollar Sign” prints | Image source: wallpapersafari.com

Choose The Selling Price

After giving thought to all the relevant factors, you are now ready to put yourself out there — into the art market.

To start making plans for fixed prices, think — how much do you value an hour of your work, how much of the materials are needed to create a specific piece cost, and how much could potential art buyers afford? The material cost of a single physical piece is higher than the price of a digital copy. Simultaneously, an intricate rendered digital work is valued more than any other more straightforward piece. Putting value into different aspects of work is vital in understanding your price range.  

In the end, it all boils down to your audience and what they are ready to buy. While the internet is a fantastic tool allowing us to reach the entire world, we have new elements we need to count as pricing factors. Let us say your audience is, for example, mostly Japanese, and you are from France. To sell artwork to your audience would mean knowing the average price of art in Japan and not France. Additionally, if selling fine art or art prints, you would most likely need to send them through a postal service, which adds another factor to the overall price.

However, by now, you should have a good idea of how pricing artwork is done, and you are ready to start working on becoming an established artist!

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