View Full Version : Questions on Pricing

10-08-2000, 09:45 PM
Posting this here instead of Art Business because pastel isn't as popular a "buyer" medium. I think that has a lot to do with how we set our selling prices.

I'm very torn about how to go about setting realistic prices on my portrait paintings. I've visited several web sites -- many of pastel people here -- and, unfortunately, it varies a lot.

I mean, I've visited the site of one person who does absolutely awesome pastel portraits that seem to me to be way under-priced. She's far better than I am and I had intended on pricing my stuff much higher than hers. I can't do that now without feeling like a hack.

What do you base your pricing on? Time and complexity? Skill? Entry level? What others do? What will sell? All of the aforementioned?

I was thinking of starting my horse portraits in the $250s and working to the $350-400 range. I don't think I'll have a problem there as that's my forté. Human portraits, however, I'm at a loss on. I'm not near as good with people as I am with horses.

Heh, almost sounds to me like the better you get, the faster you go, the more you charge, the more money you get back. (I won't say "money you make" because that almost implies a profit and I doubt I'll see that for a looooooooong time :P).

Any advice?

"Am fear a ghleidheas a theanga, gleidhidh e a charaid."

10-09-2000, 02:26 PM
I would say that your planned pricing sounds fine. It is hard to judge though. I have recently started oil portraits and generally get $600-$800 for a 30"x40".

Just trust your own judgement. You will know it is not too much if you have clients that are willing to pay you. That is my thought anyway.

Think of it this way...How much time do you put in? If it at least 2 hours, as a professional, I would pay myself at least $50 and hour. Plumbers make AT LEAST that much!

The more work you recieve and the better quality of work you produce, the higher your prices should go.

Good Luck! This part is never fun!


10-10-2000, 03:12 AM
Usually one charges what the market will bear...
Seriously now, compare yourself with other artists, try to be objective and go from there. I charge by size, as most of the professional artists do, and not by time spent. I could spent 3 hors on a pastel and 15 minutes on an other and most of the times the one I do in 15 minutes is much better that the one I spend 3 ours on. So, if they are both 11x13 and they are both of a selling standard (the ones that are not of selling standard I trow away) they are both priced let's say at 400 dollars. This is because I know that my pastels will sell at that price. 3 years ago the same size was selling for 275.It's important to start low and increase the price gradually according to demand. You should never lower the price. I mean if you price today at 400 and you realize that your work doesn't sell that much, you should not try to sell tomorrow at 250. The other way around works much better.
Hope this helps and good luck!!

10-10-2000, 07:57 PM

Hrm it takes me at least 6 hours to paint something -- I get a lot of interruptions. At 50$ an hour that would make me very uncompetitive locally. However, I could use that idea if I can remember the old formula I used to calculate web site charges (3 page, 4 page, and so on) I can use that to determine price by size and complexity.

I would definitely raise the price as I get better and get more business.

You're right, of course. The problem I'm having is web pricing vs local pricing. I'm pretty sure I can get decent prices locally and I'm not counting on getting much web business -- I don't think I want it. Shipping pastel is a PITA and I'd rather hand-deliver if possible.

However, I feel I should at least allow the possibility of getting SOME customers over the web. I really can't seen how I could honestly have different pricing re: local vs web.

Another question, for either of you, do you have different pricing dependant on subject? If so, how do you justify this to clients? I know that if I did one 24 x 30" portrait and one 24 x 30" horse I would charge more for the horse. It will be 100% better. How does one explain that without having the portraits appear to be sub-par?

As for comparing myself to others, aye, there's the rub :P I have and the pricing on the web is all over the place. Locally, I haven't been able to compare to anyone really. I'm new to the area and don't have the time or means to get out to galleries and stuff to look. Sigh.

I really have to get this sorted out because I have two call-backs to possible new portrait clients that are referrels from "low-cost" or "freebie" clients.

I know I'm going to go with what Rita advises -- charge as low as I can and bump it up from there.

"Am fear a ghleidheas a theanga, gleidhidh e a charaid."

[This message has been edited by Roan (edited October 19, 2000).]

10-11-2000, 05:51 AM
I know that if I did one 24 x 30" portrait and one 24 x
30" horse I would charge more for the horse....

you shoud not do that. People portraits usually are higher price than any other subject for the same size.(they should al lest be that same price). If you feel that your (people) portraits are not of a good standard, wait until you can do them better. Don't sell anything sub-standard. It will hurt instead oh helping your artistic careeer.

10-11-2000, 08:23 AM
This is the pricing formula I use and it works for me. As I become more well known, I just raise my hourly wage, and/or my profit margin.

{BTW: This is not my hourly rate, etc. It is only an example}
I use a formula that was originally in the Craft Report.

I have a pretty good idea how much time I spend on each size picture, and what I do is
average it out with several works in the same size. Then after using my formula, I check what the market will bear for my work.

I first figure in my indirect costs. This is done by taking all my indirect costs from the
previous year (show fees, studio fees, electricity, advertising, travel, etc) and dividing by the number of hours per week you actually work (including time at shows or hanging shows, and paperwork, etc.)

example: All my indirect costs amount to say $15,980 for 1999. [this is not my costs,just an example]I then figure out how many hours I work/week.

Lets say 50 hours. I multiply 50 hours x 52 weeks/year and arrive at my yearly #hrs worked in a year. I then divide the #hrs/year into the indirect costs to get an hourly figure for indirect cost of goods.

$15,980[indirect cost] divided by 2,600/hours per year [50 hours/week x 52 weeks]= $6.15/per hour indirect costs.

Now lets say one of my standard sizes is 20" x 24" and I know that on average I spend 32 hours creating a piece that size. I figure my hourly labor cost should be $20./hour.

And lets say my cost for materials for that size amounts to $54.00. [paint,paper,framing, etc.]

Now I have to decide how much profit/per hour I want to make. I personally use a profit of $5./hour.

So the formula works out as follows:

20" x 24" size
32/hours working on the piece x $20/hourly labor cost = $640.00

32/hours working on the piece x $6.15/indirect costs = $196.80

32/hours working on the piece x $5.00/profit for work = $160.00
total $996.80
then I add the cost of materials to that $54.00
The minimum wholesale I should get for a piece 20" x 24" is $1,050.80

Retail for this piece would be: $2,100.00 rounded off.

Now of course everyone else's numbers will be different based on your costs, your level
of recognition, how long it takes to make a work, how much per hour you pay yourself, how much profit/ per hour you wish to make.

Also, be aware that you should NEVER have different prices for different areas. Your price should be the same whether you are in Reno or Oshkosh. As for shipping via the internet, you add on shipping and handling fees.

http://www.artdebut.com/arlene0.htm (http://www.artdebut.com/arlene.htm)

[This message has been edited by arlene (edited October 11, 2000).]

10-11-2000, 08:26 AM
Originally posted by AggieL:
If it at least 2 hours, as a professional, I would pay myself at least $50 and hour. Plumbers make AT LEAST that much!
That's fine if you're a well known plumber in demand, but if you're a starting artist, better to be in the $10-$15 per hour range and then raise your prices accordingly as you get better.

I sell lots, (over 100 of my fing flowers so far this year) and I can tell you I am nowhere near the $50/hour range.

http://www.artdebut.com/arlene0.htm (http://www.artdebut.com/arlene.htm)

10-11-2000, 05:17 PM
I quickly began to rethink my comments shortly after I replied the other day.
I have to admit that I only agree with this perspective on a few levels. I have some work that took me very little time, that I consider to be some of my best and I value it at a higher price than some of my paintings I have spent weeks on.
The comment about the plumber was bad. I really didn't mean for it to sound like that. All I meant to say was that an artist is a specialist and should pay him/herself accordingly. I do understand that that can't apply to everything.
Honestly, I am very new to this as well and I probably should not have replied at all.
I apologize.

10-12-2000, 12:55 AM
Arlene: Just checked your website. Those paper sculptures are wonderful; I've never seen anything like that before. I didn't find any pastel paintings there, but I was wondering: do you really spend something like 32 hours on a pastel?


10-17-2000, 08:22 PM
Thank you.
While I've played with pastels in the past, I find they're not for me...when I'm not working on my paper sculptures (umm, can't remember the last time I wasn't) then I play with colored pencil...so no I don't do pastel, but the formula works for any medium.

Oh, and I don't work 32 hours on a drawing or a pastel, but some of my large sculptures take even longer.

Of course you should reply. If for no other reason, than to start a discussion. Please don't ever feel your comments are uncalled for. And if I came off sounding flip, then I apologize.

http://www.artdebut.com/arlene0.htm (http://www.artdebut.com/arlene.htm)

[This message has been edited by arlene (edited October 17, 2000).]

10-17-2000, 10:25 PM
I am just plain stuck.
I have actually begun selling my pastels to clients. I am trying to charge more than I think they are really worth ( read.."I am worth" because I am struggling with the self esteem thing a lot) but am selling! That is the point. When I was saying, "well, I am new" and "I want to try" and "...please, HELP" the prices were low and I would keep thinking lower. The second I set a price and started ... well, to put it simply, TELLING people what it was, strangely enough they either said yes or no! I NEVER made the commitment so I NEVER found out if it worked.
I just began telling people they need to let me know by Halloween if they want pictures for Holiday gifts. Everyone is thinking and they MAY do it or they MAY not, but NOW they are thinking.
I will let you know, but it was the hardest thing I did to just say YES, I am selling it.
For what that is worth!

10-18-2000, 10:47 PM
Keep in mind that pastels are considered to be less valuable than Oil paintings in most markets. I paint both in pastel and oils and my oils always sell for more. My market is very cheep in North Florida., which is always a problem.

www.lindablondheim.com (http://www.lindablondheim.com)

10-19-2000, 11:07 PM
Blarg. Sorry for being AWOL but my family toured a pre-school two weeks ago and both my daughter and I came down with a bad cold. I haven't been sick in years and Deirdre has never been sick at all. Poor kid. Now she has a cold AND her first ear infection. sigh.

Anyhow, I've done a lot of thinking and planning on this subject -- it's easy to set a price for one size of painting and style, harder to account and justify larger sizes and more complex subject matters. I think I've found a workable solution and I'm hoping it'll help others as well. Here we go:

Reading Arlene's post gave me a dandy idea: since the consenus seems to be price by size, complexity, ect., then why not a base rate per square inch of painting and a rate for ranges of complexities? Eg:


So, for example:
<DD>1) A 13 x 13.5 portrait, one subject, landscape
Base rate .55 per square inch = (13x13.5)= 175.5 square inches
One Subject = .01 + .55 = .56
Landscape background = .02 + .56 = .58
Okay, so we have .58 per square inch, so .58 * 175.5 = $101.79

<DD>2) A 24 x 24 portrait, two subjects, poor photo, painted from digital and digital editing required:
24 x 24 = 576
Base rate = .55
Two sub = .02
Studio Back = .01
Photo Quality: Digital = .01 Bad Photo = .01 Digital = .01 Edit: .01 = .04

So that gives us a base rate of .55+.02+.01+.04 = .62 per square inch and the total would be: $357.12

I think those are more than fair prices and having a formula to work with gives me a great piece of mind.

Those numbers can be played with, of course, and once you get up and running with galleries., etc, it's just a step further to incorporate costs such as Arlene has indicated.

Whatcha think?

"Am fear a ghleidheas a theanga, gleidhidh e a charaid."

10-19-2000, 11:53 PM
Thought I'd better give a little more information on the items I have listed for charges. They're not exactly self-explanatory :P

Okay, in item #2:

A 24 x 24 portrait, two subjects, poor photo, painted from digital and digital editing required:

Poor photo: photo is one of those tiny contact sheets, 2"x3" and has 4 people in it. Only two of the people were to be portrayed and they, of course, are on opposite ends to each other and sitting at different heights. So, I scanned, cut them out, stuck them on a neutral background and adjusted placement so they looked natural. Since the picture was so small, I did the painting from my monitor rather than my usual "photo thumb-tacked to my drawing board" method.

Hope that explains it.

Also, if the reference had been better, the portrait would have only been .58 base rate for a total of $334.08. I round that down to $330. There's a difference of about $30 between the previous and this one, which, imho, is about right for the extra work I did.


01-20-2005, 06:09 AM
your prices are your art! don't sell yourself short, if you don't stand your ground, you will be riped off, believe me i know, like the rest of the artistic world, this is where the problem lies, people under qoete themselves just to get the job, but they don't realise they have started a snowball effect, the customers think that they can play people of against one another and the cheapest will always win that is true, but i will bet my drawing hand on the fact that the price these cheap people are working for no matter how good they are, are either working for free, or have a husbund supporting them, no profit needed and are just after personal gratification, and have all the time in the world to practise, personaly these type of people make me sick to the core of my soul , but i will again bet my drawing hand on it that these people are not making a living out of it, i will bet my life that someone is supporting them finnantialy, i don't mean to be an ******* but you have to ask yourself how good lookin are these young ladies you are talking about, i garentie someone is supporting them

Bill Foehringer
02-07-2005, 05:20 PM
Two bums sittin' on a bench sharing a cigar butt.
One says to the other. "How did you end up sleepin' in the park?"
The other said, "I was always low bidder."
I don't have the problem of setting prices but I hope too someday, LOL BillF