View Full Version : how can you decide about a price for your painting

11-07-2005, 04:14 AM
I am a newcomer.this is my first post.but i have been a very frequent visitors of wet canvas.in fact i have learnt all about pastels from this site only. i have never attended any school or workshop,i always wanted to paint.i failed miserably with water color,but with pastels my work was appreciated .when took my work for framing ,the person incharge asked me if i would like to sell,due to money problem i said yes,if its good enough. he said its good and asked me what kind of price i am expecting.i was tongue tied .i said this is my first painting so i dont the criteria for pricing. he first qouted 250$ and then with every visited he decreased it and then stopped at 50$.same thing happened with my second painting.he asked me what i was expecting for my second one .i told i dont intend to sell it, but after that this question is bugging me. how do you come to know " for how much is your painting worth"

Kathryn Wilson
11-07-2005, 11:32 AM
Hi Pavalli - Welcome to the Pastel Forum!

I am going to move this to the Pastel Talk forum where you should get some comments - the Pastel Library is for past posts that are deemed "keepers" for reference purposes.

You pose a very good question that all of us face - so this should start a good discussion.


11-07-2005, 11:33 AM
always cover your materials and time????

11-07-2005, 12:30 PM
This is an issue I've just been struggling with lately as well. If you look at this thread I started: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=303919 you will see a great update from PeggyB about the issue of pricing. Unfotunately it doesn't give a formula for exactly *what* your 'x' multiplier should be. I guess you have to think about that yourself for your own market - but at least you can then come up with something consistent. I've looked at at websites for some artists - and seen two similar pictures that are the same size, and one will be priced at $135, for example, and the other at $185, and I've always wondered why.

So being consistent in price for a certain size seems to make sense to me, and then consider adding a certain something for matting, framing, etc.

11-08-2005, 01:16 AM
Debbie's got it right. Take the emotion out of the pricing by keeping the same sizes a similar price. The difference can be the price of the frame and matting, but the actual artwork is always priced the same for the same size.

I can't give a formula for the pricing because part of that "factor" I mention is how much experience you have as a painter, how many paintings you've already sold, how many exhibitions you've had, how many juried competitions you've had work accepted into, and how many awards you've received. In other words, how well known are you in your community as an artist? It can include your educational background, but given artist so often don't have formal training and somehow manage to create beautiful work by studying on their own or through a series of workshops or with a mentor or two I don't know that has to be considered seperately from the "how much experience you have as a painter" part.

Start low just to get your work into the hands of collectors, and as you sell more, paint more, and exhibit more raise the price slowly. Your existing clients will feel they have an investiment that is growing in value, and if you don't raise the prices too quickly they will want to buy more before you "get out of their range" - so to speak.

Good luck, and I hope this has helped.


11-08-2005, 10:39 AM
I find this very useful. Where I have the biggest problem, though, is understanding what "starting low" implies. I'm not quite sure what a starting point would be. Of course I know it can vary from country to country, and region to region, but I'm just looking for ballpark figures. Take an 8x10 soft pastel by a beginning artist. What sort of price range would be considered "low" for a work like that? Is $10 low? Or is $75 low? The only point of comparision I have is my sister who just began trying to paint and sell some artwork after 25 years of raising a family. She has sold 2 paintings so far- the only two she has sold in her life! And one sold for $380 and the other for $640! Now to *me* that sounds incredibly high for an artist who has never sold a single work before.

So that is why I'm still trying to get a grasp on what a starting "low" range might be considered reasonable.

11-08-2005, 03:06 PM
Oh Debbie I do so understand your dilimma! I guess part of what I should have included is the truth that pastels are still a hard sell in many parts of the country so my question to you would be - what medium is your sister using and what size is the work? If they are pastels I'd say she is either very lucky or very talented or just happened upon the right clients at the right time - or all three! This still isn't an easy or good answer to the question, "how low is "low"? After figuring out the square inches of the piece, in this area .5 is low. i.e. an 8x10 pastel would sell for $40 plus the frame and matting price (which in many cases could be as much as $100 more! so it doesn't appear as though you are selling on the cheap). 16 X 20 without frame would be $160 and 11 X 14 - $77, but I'd round it to $80 cuz it looks better to me to have prices rounded to 10s, etc. The factor in your area may be lower or higher. True you might be making minimum wages at those prices, but if they sell then what are you loosing? The more you sell the faster that factor goes up! One can store only so many of one's own work before one must find a storage shed... :D


11-08-2005, 07:41 PM
Get some feedback from trusted artists and those who know art about how your work compares to others in your area. a fair rule of thumb is a good but unknown artist who is just starting out with their career can charge 1x the sq. in + 10%, With more experience and an intermediate caliber charge 1.5 x sq in_ 10% and the better more experienced artist charges 2 to 2.5 x sq inch, from there it goes up and up. Dianna Pointing charges somewhere around 6.75 per sq in. It all depends on what quality, and what the market will bear in your region. Currently my pastels are priced at 1.5 per sq in + 10% my scratch art is priced at twice the sq in. I have an art background, some formal training and at this point my work is intermediate; As I improve more and as I get collectors, the price will increase about 10% to 15% a year. But all this depends on your region , ultimately it boils down to what will the customer pay?

11-09-2005, 12:14 AM
Well thanks so much! LOL, so far the customers are not paying anything for my paintings, though two of my paintings, both 8x10, sold at a charity auction on Saturday for $40 each, so I guess that is about what my market will bear for now. :) I was at the auction too, and so many people told me how much they loved my paintings, but that didn't translate into big bucks to buy them!

I don't have any real way to get my art in front of the public at this time, so I suppose that is one issue. I work full-time 40+ hours a week so I can do things like pay the bills and the mortgage, LOL. And I actually like my job a lot. And in the hours that I am not at work I take art lessons once a week, voice lessons once a week, choir rehearsal once a week, sing in the choir on Sundays once a week, have a 2-3 meetings a month I attend - plus try to paint and take care of my house and pets and run my life - so I don't actually seem to have a lot of spare time right now to try to "promote" my art - if I even knew how and where. So at this point any mythical sales would just have to fall into my lap somehow - like my voice teacher talking about commisioning me to paint a portrait of her friend's parakeet for Xmas, which may or may not happen.

My sister works primarily in oils which still seems to be "king" though her pix are generally not big ones, anywhere from 6x9 up to 16x20, with 9x12 seeming to be an average size for her. She just began painting this seriously this summer after about a 25-year lapse - but she does have a big art background - about 170 hours worth of college-level fine art credits though she never got her BFA as they were were from three different schools, though 100+ were from Virginia Commonwealth U. in Richmond which she dropped out of after her Junior year to marry her college sweetheart and raise kids - but she later went back to school and got an Associate in Fine Arts from the local community college, and then a B.S. in Business Administration and Organizational Management - and has worked in arts-related fields for years. Some 6+ years in an art gallery and framing shop as a professional framer, and handling retail work for the gallery, several years as a Program Director for the county's Arts Council, organizing art shows and running summer Art Camp for the kids, and several years as Art Director for the Boys and Girls Club, teaching art to kids - so her art-related experience is far greater than mine. Plus most of her husband's family are professional artists, and one owns a gallery, and she is close friends with the woman who owns a gallery that she used to work with. So as soon as she began to paint her friend took 3-4 pictures for her gallery, and her sister-in-law look three pictures for her gallery as well. And so far each gallery has sold one painting of hers.

Since I work in the computer biz my friends are mostly all techies, not gallery owners, :D. But this has been a great thread and I hope Pallavi has learned some good stuff from it too.

11-09-2005, 12:58 AM
Well that answers all the questions for me Debbie. Makes perfect sense to me why your sister has had the sales and you haven't. She has long time fine art industry contacts and work experience while working in oil, and you don't. However, the $40 that your work sold for at auction seems very low indeed if they were framed! If unframed, they fall right into my .5 X sq inch factor. As Tj said, it all depends upon your market. Generally oils do sell at much higher prices than any other medium no matter what part of the country you are living in.

This has been an informative thread, and a fun one to participate in.


11-09-2005, 11:06 AM
Peggy, your advice has been wonderful. While I absolutely adore pastels there are sometimes I wish I *did* work in oils, or acrylics, as these seem to be more "acceptable" mediums. I have tried acrylics a couple times, but was not happy at all with what I accomplished compared to my pastels - and oils are too slow for someone with my short attention span, LOL.

My sister is indeed quite lucky to have the network she does. I imagine it is pretty unusual for someone who has been painting seriously for less than 6 months to have pictures in multiple galleries already. :)

My sister's work is far more abstract than my own, as you can see if you look at her website at: http://home.earthlink.net/~amyvoorhees/index.html - but I feel I'm still too much of a newbie to be this abstract, as I have this feeling you have to have a good basic understanding of what you are doing first before branching out into abstract, etc. Right or wrong or in-between, I don't know, but that's just my feeling.

But maybe next year I'll have to try to push to see if I can get included in the "Voorhees Family Art Show" (See http://handinhandgallery.com/VoorFamArtShow.html from my sister's links) as a member of the "extended family" :D

11-09-2005, 02:31 PM
its great to have such response.thank u some much all of you.
if formal education and attending workshop is one of the criteria of having good acceptance of my painting then i know i will never get it.my family will never allow me to train myself formally, but whatever information i got from here has been really valuable.
i also wanted to know "Is the use of many colors in a painting(of course relevant use of colors)also a criteria? In that same gallery I saw a painting .it was oil,abstract, had few impasto effect and it was huge.I think it could be 1metre x 1.5 meter and it was 3000 dollars.I asked why was it so costly,he gave me many reason and one of them was that just look at the use of colors.Truly it had many colors i couldnt figure what was the painting about.i still have to learn to appreciate really abstract art :o
i would again like to thank u all for he help.
bye till the next question

11-09-2005, 04:45 PM

Let's start with a quote :

«I asked why was it so costly,he gave me many reason and one of them was that just look at the use of colors.» This seems more like a portuguese saying :« I know as much about this painting as a bull looking at a palace». If you catch my drift.
In my opinion there cannot be an allround formula. One cannot compare two paintings with same size when one takes 10 hours to complete and another one takes 50.
I must say that I'ver never sold a painting or have tried to.
I will give you the following advice ( which is only my opinion) : Look around in galleries for works that you may find of a quality similar to yours. Then talk to the person and ask if it's a well known painter or new; you have to compare yopur prices with painters with your experience / market name.
I know that you may even have better works than many artists who sell paintings for hundreds or even thousands. But that's the way it works.
Then price your works accordingly or a tad bit lower.
Don't start arguing the price of your works, you're not at the flea market. Your painting was done with effort and you deserve respect for it. If the person at the gallery wants to pay a mush lower price than you think it's deserved just tell them you'll have to decide. DON'T be rude. They know the market and can ruin your name before you even have one.
I hope this was of some help.
Take a look at this link :




11-09-2005, 08:07 PM
Your advise is sound Jose, although I'd argue with you regarding the relevance of how long it takes to do the work as being a factor in how much one should charge. [Quote] One cannot compare two paintings with same size when one takes 10 hours to complete and another one takes 50. [Quote] Are you suggesting that an experienced painter who may work faster should charge less for the same size painting as a painter who works more slowly? I don't think the speed at which one works makes that much difference between a successful painting and an unsuccessful painting. I know highly successful professionals who work very slowly, and highly successful professionals who work very fast (and all command big prices for their work!).

Pallavi - don't worry about getting a formal art education. Continue to get the instruction you can here on WC and elsewhere. Time and practice will lead you in the direction you need to go. I think what the gallery director meant when he said "look at the use of colors" wasn't so much that the artist had used many colors, but rather that the artist knew how to apply the colors in a meanful way. This can be accomplished with many colors or few colors.

Colors produce an emotional response in the viewer, and there is a whole field of study related to what is commonly called "Color Theory". Color Theory is way more involved than just knowing that blue and red make violet or that complimentary colors relate to one another in a certain way or that warm colors "move" forward and cool colors "receed" or any number of other pieces of information color gives to a painting. I wish there was an easy way to explain more about color theory, but there isn't. Whole books are written on the subject. Many years ago, I studied the Josef Albers method of color theory, and I'm still learning! :)


11-10-2005, 09:36 AM
Hi Peggy,

I was mainly referring to works from same artist, but it can also be referred to works from several ones.
I know that this is all relative. And of course that the same work can be done faster by a more experienced artist. That's why I think that this opinion is more relevant within works from the same artist.
A work that takes longer can even not be as good as one that takes less. It all depends.
However, independently of all the opinions that may exist, I do believe that a painting with lots of work like a classical realistic painting sure deserves more than a work with splashes of paint. And I don't leave this opinion :-)

Kind regards,


11-10-2005, 03:22 PM
Oh now I understand Jose. Yes, the same artist who has two different prices for the same size work confuses the public. That's one reason I believe in the formula that I've presented. Then again, maybe this is a formula that is more appropriate for an experienced painter. Most of them will spend approxmitately the same amount of time painting similar sized work so the "hourly" factor isn't all that relevent to them.

I got a chuckle from your statement, " I do believe that a painting with lots of work like a classical realistic painting sure deserves more than a work with splashes of paint." For a professional, you'd be surprised at just how much work/thought can go into those "splashes of paint". As is said, beauty (and "worth") is in the eye of the beholder. I believe that is a good thing because the world would be pretty boring if we all liked the same thing. :)


11-10-2005, 04:35 PM
Hi again Peggy,

I understand that alot of work may be implicit in those « splashed paint» works.
I don't mean to say that those paintings don't deserve credit. It's just a matter of taste. But I believe that most people prefer something more «tangible».
But let me bad and ask you this : Is the majority of the painters who usually does those kind of paintings, capable of painting a classical one, like Sargent or Vermeer ?
Now the opposite, does a classical painter has the skill to paint an abstract painting ?



P.S. I know that I'm taking the side of someone who prefers realistic painters.
I know that Dali, for insteance, painted Surrealistic and I like his works. But one
sees his works and knows that he's capable of doing almost anything.

11-10-2005, 10:54 PM
This is a very good question Jose, and not in the least bit "bad". LOL

As you noted, it really is a matter of individual taste. Personally, I like both abstract and realism, but I don't like all abstract or all realism.

In my own opinion (that and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Dennys - a low end chain cafe in the U.S), a good abstract painter needs to know how to paint and/or draw realistically, and needs to have a good understanding of color theory and design/composition as well. I've been told that abstracts are more "cerebral" - what ever that means, but I think it means that abstracts are supposed to engage the viewers mind and emotional responses to color and design in a nonobjective manner. For instance: some abstracts make me feel happy just by the way the artist used the colors and marks - others are upsetting to me for the same reasons. If I like the abstract, it is a little like "remembering" a good dream - the memory is there, but nothing specific is sharply remembered. Some realistic work is technically perfect, but I find it dull because the artist has used too much information and my own ideas have no room to exist in that painting while others are not so perfect (photographic?) and I enjoy them more. The old masters were technical experts at telling a story - they didn't have cameras to do it for them - and I enjoy most of them. We have cameras today, and the realistic work of today that I most enjoy is that which is more impressionistic or expressionistic, not photographic.

The "abstract/ realist" debate can go on and on. I'm not an art historian so I'm not very good at that debate. However, as I said to begin with I like some of both styles of work, and don't have any problems whatsoever if others like only one or the other. I figure if my best friend can have a Thomas Kincaid print on her living room wall, and I haven't thrown up yet while at her house, I can look at almost anything. :rolleyes: :) btw: I've seen original work by Kincaid at his original gallery in Placerville CA, and he really is a very good painter when he isn't trying to market that "Master of Light" marketing technique.


11-10-2005, 11:21 PM
My Grandmother always fought to find the right words in English (she was Italian) when trying to describe why she liked certain colors she said "IT SPEAKS", I have always thoght of those words when seeing some of the wonderful art work here in this forum

11-11-2005, 03:05 AM
"NT" - what a great way to describe how colors appeal to someone. "IT SPEAKS" - I'm going to remember that phrase.

BTW: after visiting Italy last fall I must say the Italian people are very good at finding ways to communicate even when we don't speak the same language. While walking around Cortona one fine day at noon, my friend and I came upon an elderly woman who was enjoying the sounds of the ringing church bells. My friend speaks fluent Spanish, I speak very limited Italian, and somehow we managed to understand one another. We came upon her again as she was returning to her home which had a wonderfully artistic door. We knew we'd gotten the message across when she gave a huge grin and invited us in - we graciously had to decline since we were expected by others very soon thereafter. We hoped she understood our pointing at our watches and saying "amico aspettare" (friend wait) - I told you my Italian is very limited! :)