View Full Version : Edition Sizes and Pricing

08-15-2003, 05:42 PM
Would anybody like to offer opinions or experiences about choosing an edition size and pricing it?

Of course many printing techniques have a limit to the edition size by the complexity and work involved in the production as well as the durability of the plate. However, I work mostly with serigraphy (because its cheap) which can easily be editioned in the hundreds (though I have never made an edtion over 50). I also accasionaly use Giclée which has the potential for thousands though again I think my largest edition was 112.

Personally I think that too large an edition devalues the work, putting it into what might be called "fine art graphics". But what do people think is too large? 50, 100, 150 etc?
If the edition is too small it is harder to get a decent financial return without pricing each print too high. Then again a small edition sells out faster which adds value, yes? Anybody made a small edition which sold out so fast they wished they had charged more or made more prints? Or like me do you still have 30% of the prints left to sell after 5 years or more (although I like to put that down to lackadaisical marketing rather than poor demand!). Any ideas on an edition size that would typically sell out within a year? How long should it take to sell out and is that a good marketing strategy?

As for pricing is it as simple as deviding the number of prints by what you hope to make? Or is it more complex than that? Anyone found a magic $ figure that sells better?

I hope that most of you aren't working in media that only allow for editions of 10 or less - or you will all think that my long list of questions is pretty silly:D

08-16-2003, 03:05 PM
First off - giclees are just reproductions. So the rule for pricing them is just double the cost price for your wholesale/trade price. The galleries usually then double that. Reproductions are just a 'bonus' on top of the price of the original. Your materials, overheads, hourly wages, etc. are figured into the cost of the original.

Now on to the real original prints...
My pricing is taking the time involved (for research, carving or producing, and printing) at a base wage, plus adding in materials costs, then a portion of overheads. Divide it by the number of prints in the edition. Then double it for your wholesale/trade, double that for your retail price. Of course, you can be flexible because you might not want to mark up that much. Personally I've stopped doing large editions, but that was my system.

There are some good formulas around. They come up quite a lot in the business forum if you want to try a search on pricing over there. I got mine from a printmaking book....but I can't remember the name! aaaargh. I'm sure I recommended it in an old 'favourite printmaking books' thread here though. :)

I think most original prints are editions of less than 200. 150 is pretty large and I know a few etchers who do around 120 or 150 for their popular plates. Collographs tend to be much more limited because the plate wears down so they tend to be between 10 and 50. I dont know serigraphy??? What type of plate is that? Curious! :)

None, and I mean none, of my work is based on what I'd like to make. You can make a painting and just think 'oooh, I'd love to make $1000 for that!' ;) My hourly wage reflects that, which is then worked into the cost of each piece. (although in my case that cost is worked out by size based on averages) I can raise that as my sales improve.


08-18-2003, 11:38 AM
I use the same system that timelady uses in pricing. I no longer do large pieces. Mine are no larger that 6x6" or 6" round. I keep my editions down to 25 at max. That is a personal descision. Remember that the fewer there are in an editon the more valuable they become down the years. I have people that follow my work, and buy on a fairly regular basis for that very reason. You have to realize that being known is different from being obscure in the art world. The better known you are the more you can charge, like giving yourself a raise. For a 6x6" piece I usually get $200 or more depending on the amount of work that went into the plate. It has taken me years to get to this point though. I did a lot of shows, gathered a following, and now can relax a bit. Marketing is essential, and you have to know the market you are targeting at each and every show. For small local shows I will do less detailed work so that I can sell at a lower price. For gallery shows my work is more detailed and the price goes up according to the customers that will be purusing the work.

08-18-2003, 02:38 PM
Thanks Guys, though your replies lead me to some more questions and an observation or two.

First, Timelady I disagree with the notion that Giclées are "just reproductions". Giclée is a print media that is most often used for reproductions but can also be used for original editions (you could say the same about lithography or screen print). Digital artists for instance might use this method to product even a 1/1 edition. OK I know that this section of the forum is really focused on the "Craft" as well as the Art of printing so I understand that giclée might not really count (but I wouldn't say that too loud next to a dye-sub press technician who takes his work seriously).
I thnk I'm digressing from the point - perhaps we could take this particular debate on to another thread.

What is Serigraphy? Sorry that is simply screen print - serigraphy being the "artsy" term that tends to be used in my neck of the woods.

On to my further questions... I think perhaps I should have been more specific about where I am coming from.

My "real" job is as a freelance illustrator and commercial artist/designer. I have been creating my own work (to keep my sanity) for some time, but in all honestly I have never had the time to really do any marketing. Besides, the number of pieces I have is limited by the spare time I can get to produce them. To date, I have placed the pieces in group shows, juried shows, and in the odd retail space.
Reaction to my work has been very positive, when I do get it up there it has always sold, and I have won a couple of jury prizes (though I doubt that really stands for much). I am at the point with my work where I am seriously considering trying to make a go of it "for real". Which is the actually the root of my original question. I think it is possible with some more focused marketing (though a little more than scary with 4 kids at home ). I'm trying to get as much information as I can so that I make as few mistakes as possible. My question I guess is aimed at other printmakers who are making a living, but might not regard themselves as "stars" in the art market. Are there price points and edition numbers that just seem to work better than others? I understand the basic system that Timelady and Sassybird have recommended. I have used it and I think it is a great way to get a starting point when there is nowhere else to "hang" your numbers. However, in the long term I don't think it is a satisfactory system. I know from running my Illustration/design company that pricing in theory would be set the same way, but in practice... I set my prices by intuition really, I know my market and have a good feel for A. What fair market value is, and B. What can my client afford to pay. Isn't art the same - as Sassybird says "The better known you are the more you can charge" isn't that saying that you charge what the market will bear (which is a long way from a simple pricing formula based on hourly rates).

One of the reason I asked my question is because the editions I do have are all over the map, and I'm finding pricing a headache. As I said at the start of my thread I produce both serigraphs (screen prints) and giclées (original prints!) and edition numbers range from 10 to 120. That range is what throws me - should I really be charging 10 times as much for the small editions? I think that is more than the market will bear. Also the Giclée issue - The hand pulled screen prints are more valuable of course, but I use giclée when my image is too complex to screen print (more than 30 colours). To the untrained eye, you wont tell the difference between the two media - stylistically the look the same, except the giclées look like more work because they are more complex. If I use the formula suggested the Screen prints are worth a LOT more than the giclées but that feels inconsistent to me - I'm not sure the buying public would understand the price difference. My only solution is to keep the hand pulled prints in small editions (less than 20) and the giclées in large editions. unfortunately that seems to ignore my intuition over individual pieces that might sell better than others.
For the record I am charging between $75 - $150cdn (c.$50 - $100us / c.£25 - £50) Which definitely ignores the suggested formulas. It seems to work for me though the edition numbers are still an issue. I am also very nervous of trying to raise my prices, because for the most part I feel I have no idea what I am doing!!

Am I being way too retentive here?

Also if if you folks think I should move my question to the business forum I would happy to do that (I just though I would catch more printmakers here).

08-18-2003, 05:02 PM
The only comment I can make really is that the pricing system I mentioned is the one that myself and all the other full time artists I know use. The trick is moving yourself from the random system slowly into a more structured one. Yes, old editions may be all over the place so just decide on new editions with more selling in mind. Do keep in mind that it could take a long time for an edition to sell out, perhaps years. And that's okay. Price them according to the system but also so you know that you'll make enough per print to be worthwhile in the shorter run. :) Any formula has to be flexible. Prices should be based on your past sales. If you feel the price is more than the market can bear then don't price them that high! Simple. Slowly raise your prices if you feel the market will bear it and you're selling out quickly.

Also, I would not recommend called an original digital artwork a giclee because of the confusion you've seen happen here! Customers are slowly learning that giclees are, on the whole, reproductions. Digital work has a hard enough time. :( By the way, there's a few other digital printmakers here at Wetcanvas, I think they might hang out in the digital forum mostly? Have a looksie over there. :) I wouldn't move your thread to the business forum because you might still get answers here later on. But I can copy the thread over there if you'd like?


08-19-2003, 01:53 AM
Thanks Tina, I appreciate the feedback. You are confirming what I already knew but was trying to avoid - I need to consolidate my edition runs so that they don't create inconsistent looking prices.

I'm glad to know its OK to take a long time to sell an edition. That is certainly my reality though I was thinking of reducing my runs for a while in order to have some editions sell out. I would think that would help to generate a little more interest in subsequent editions? Also is it OK to "withhold" a portion of an edition from the market (30% say) for later release. In other words can the artist speculate on future value or is that not "done".

08-19-2003, 05:38 AM
Sure! withhold what you like. :) Actually, most of the printmakers I know don't print the whole edition at once either. Just an idea to keep in mind. Often they print enough to go around their galleries then print more once those are sold. That's still within the edition of course, I just mean that they only print a dozen or so at a time of an edition of 100.


08-19-2003, 05:40 PM
I read somewhere (I wish I had kept the article) that original print editions had to be kept at no more than 250. That's many would give me a headache, so I keep my editions to 5-100, depending on what I think is appropriate for the image. You might think about a tiered system, where the first third goes for x number of dollars, the next third goes up 25% or so, and the final third is another increase. This may get some clients to commit, I would imagine.

09-08-2003, 07:33 PM
Just found this site, lots of info! Still in awe that a moderator over a print forum would not know what a "Serigraph" is.

From the Latin "seri" for silk and "graph" to draw or write, serigaph may also be know as silkscreen or screenprint. Each color from one to hundreds is added to the paper individually as it is pressed through silk stencils with a squeegee.
Serigraphs are usually identified by the expanses of flat or evenly graded color. The color is a uniform layer of pigment coating the paper. This is a painstaking process and usually results in small editions. A single print may take as long as 25 days to complete. Many experts feel this method holds true to the original. This, coupled with the fact that this process takes so much longer, usually means these prints retail at higher value than a lithograph.


09-09-2003, 04:22 AM
Well, we moderators are just volunteers. (meaning we are slightly insane) I'm mod in the business forums too but wouldn't claim to know everything about art business. ;) There's so many types of printmaking I do admit I haven't tried it all. Some because I've never heard the term (like serigraph), some because the European term might be different (I do know what screenprinting is ;) perhaps we don't say serigraph over this side of the pond?), some because I just wasn't interested at the time (like sugar-lift etchings, stone litho, etc.), and then others because I don't have the money for more classes to try them even though I might like to now (like screenprinting). Time is a factor too. Painting is my full time job and I find less and less time for printmaking. :(

But that's the great thing about printmaking - there's so much variety! :D Something for everyone.