View Full Version : pricing work

01-04-2006, 05:20 PM
Hi everyone!
I need help! I posted in the art business section, but to no real avail. It's my first art show in a couple weeks and I'm wondering what to do. I've NEVER done this. (besides high school... that was different) It's a HUGE step for me. I'm selling alot of my work (mostly what's on my site right now) and I have NO CLUE what to price it at. I stepped back and evaluated each piece. I think they're some of my best. Now, pricing. It's my best stuff. That doesn't account for anything. What is GOOD? I don't know if people are interested in my style or if they'd hang it on their wall.... hhhhmmmm.... any suggestions?????? :confused:

The show will take 15% commission from all sales and I'm going to frame everything. So, please help me decide? Oh, also, I'm in California, where everything is overpriced!

01-04-2006, 05:56 PM
You need to visit shows in your area to see what the going rate for your type art is. It's almost impossible for any of us to set prices for your art!

A 'general rule' is "one dollar per square inch of finished painting" i.e.= a 16"x20" = 320 Sq. inches, hence $320.00. A 24"x30"=720 Sq in. =$720.00

Of course the Pros like Deborah and Peggy B will get substantially more for their work because of the outstanding caliber of their paintings! Just trying to give you a broad picture of what you are facing! Good Luck with your show!

01-04-2006, 06:16 PM
thanks bluefish. I don't think I'd price nearly that high, just because I am just starting to put my stuff out there. I was thinking more like $150 or so. And at that I'm worried it's too much and people won't buy it.

01-04-2006, 06:52 PM

Price it as you feel it should be - if you sell out in 10 minutes, you know you priced it to low - if you don't sell a thing, it's priced to high! I looked at your site and you will sell! You have very nice 'stuff'! Again, the best of luck to you - I'm glad I don't have the tent next to you to compete with such beautiful art - although I love Southern California!

01-04-2006, 07:48 PM

I can't be of much help since I've never tried to sell or even show my works to a gallery.
I hope that you can sell a painting to Schwarzneger. Have you sent him an invitation already ? :-)



01-04-2006, 08:31 PM
You need to visit shows in your area to see what the going rate for your type art is. It's almost impossible for any of us to set prices for your art!

A 'general rule' is "one dollar per square inch of finished painting" i.e.= a 16"x20" = 320 Sq. inches, hence $320.00. A 24"x30"=720 Sq in. =$720.00

Of course the Pros like Deborah and Peggy B will get substantially more for their work because of the outstanding caliber of their paintings! Just trying to give you a broad picture of what you are facing! Good Luck with your show!

Well thanks Bluefish - you pretty much said what I was going to suggest. Since we are all the worst judges of our own work, pricing by the square inch takes all the angst out of deciding which are the "best" and which are "ok", and is the easiest method for me. I believe there is a thread somewhere here that already discusses this question, but I have no idea where or how to look it up so am repeating what I said then - sorry to those who've already read it. You can start as low as you want to because next time you can always increase the prices and your first time customers will think they got a bargain. However, lowering the price the next time around is not so good for obvious reasons.

I price the paintings by the square inch, and then add the costs of the framing to that (I round up to the nearest $10). That way if someone wants the painting, but not the framing I can tell them I'll change the frame to their liking, but they will have to pay for it at my price or they can buy the work unframed, but I won't refund anything if the framer they choose destroys the work. If the sale is through a gallery, they make the decission as to whether or not they want to make this offer to a prospective client. So far all the years I've painted I've never had anyone buy an unframed pastel, but then I have professional experience framing too.

You mentioned a very low commission you will be paying. Commissions are something one must take into consideration before pricing the work. You should find out what a more reasonable commission is in your area (most of the metropolitan areas are in the range of 50% in California and Washington with only a few at 40%, and a very few exclusive ones at 60%). Once you know the actual "going commission rate", price your work based upon that rather than the lower one you will have this time. You can consider any sales based upon this commission will give you a "bonus". Once you get into gallery representation, you will find they don't take it kindly if your work is being priced differently from time to time.

I hope this has helped you. If you have more questions, please ask.

BTW Bluefish, thanks for the lovely compliment. My face is :o , but my heart is :) .


01-04-2006, 09:03 PM
The October 2005 (issue 40) Pastel Journal has a useful article on pricing. It outlines several different systems-- including the very popular square inch approach. Definitely worth tracking down if you can-- if not for this show then for the future. Hope that helps.

01-04-2006, 10:21 PM
Thanks everyone! I definitely will take this all into consideration. I think it's going to be rather a trial and error this time around. I will go with the square inch one. Thank You!!!!!!!!!!

K Taylor-Green
01-04-2006, 10:41 PM
Just make sure you don't underprice. It tells potential buyers that you don't value your work.

01-05-2006, 01:25 PM
I use the square inch pricing method and think it is one of the best ways to price. Where you fit on the scale depends on your style and your level, and should be compared to others of your same level and style. I agree you should not start out too high, it is so hard to later lower your prices. Those that bought from you at a higher price won't appreciate it.

Another thing to consider is your framing. Be sure to double the price of your framing, so when you pay the commission, you will still have money to pay back your framing account. This is of course, relevant to the 50% commission charges. Previously I was pricing my artwork, then adding the framing. When the gallery paid me, I realized I was only getting 1/2 of the cost of my framing back in my part of the deal. So . . . essentially the gallery was making more money on my art than I was.

And . . . Peggy told you valuable information -- try to figure what the going commission is and price your work according to "having" to pay that commission. Just because you are in a situation where the rate is lower, that is just a bonus for you. I price my work like there will be a 50% commission even though one gallery takes 45% and another one 40%. This way, when I get in a higher end gallery that is taking 50%, I don't have anything to change. And, when I sell a painting from my studio, it is also the same price -- I just reap the benefit of the extra percentage. This keeps everything very consistent.

If you sell out, then you know that the next show you can increase your prices slightly. They (who is they?) say that if sell out, that is always the time to increase! If you don't sell, don't necessarily think you priced too high, it could be that the targeted audience was not the right one.

Be sure to let us know how your show goes!

01-05-2006, 01:40 PM
Marsha, Kate, Peggy and Bluefish, and Brad, You are all so great to give me advice! Thank you. I think I will definitely do the "square inch" method, and thank you for pointing out I should still price as if it's a 50% commission. Kate, that is very true, I don't want people to think I don't value my work, but at the same time not over value my work. Phew, what a crazy world! This is such an exciting time for me, I can hardly sleep!

Bill Foehringer
01-05-2006, 02:01 PM
Timely thread as I'm just now trying to come to grips with what I should ask for my work if anything comes of my library show.
I was thinking of $100 framed for 4x6 and 5x7.
$150 for 8x10
$175 for 9x12
and $225 for 11x14 all framed with basic Florida Frames frames.
I have some in much nicer frames that add about $75. to cost above 'standard' frames. I'm still not sure how much to charge for labor.
If I deduct just the cost of the standard frames for unframed works it doesn't amount to much. How much should I charge for the labor of framing? I like the idea of doubling the cost of the frame to account for framing cost and labor. Might have to increase my prices a little.
I did sell 5 so far 4 9x12 unframed for $150 and the fifth I sold 12x9 framed at $150.00 (The frame cost was inconsequential) since the customer drove an hour to meet me to buy the painting.
Of the four I sold unframed it came back to me that the people spent about $60-$75 at a professional framer to frame my work (South Texas Prices). I think the frame mouldings cost about $30?
So that tells me that in South Texas I should charge $210-225 for framed 9x12s. Up here too?
I think this is where we find out how much confidence and surety of our work's worth. Not neccessarily in what sells but how we price. I'm pretty confident at the prices I've been mentioning because I know what did sell before. BillF

01-05-2006, 03:49 PM
Hi there, Celilia and all

This is an interesting thread .... particularly as I have always found pricing very difficult. I had not heard of 'pricing by the inch' before but interestingly enough when I work out what I have sold paintings before in the past it DOES actually come close to:

"dollar per inch" + "framing cost" + "commission on sale" (in NZ dollars, of course, and not doubling the framing cost)

This appears to have worked well for smaller works (8" x 12", 12" x 18") but not for my bigger pastel paintings of 18" x 24 " or over. These have not sold although have been priced similarly. I suppose this is because this brings their price up close to $1000 and I think that for many people that may be too much - at least around here!

Strangely enough my acrylics on canvas sell for about the same price as my framed pastels ........ but no framing costs! So selling one of these now and again helps to defray framing expenses on the pastels.

Looking at your lovely work, Cecilia, I don't think you will have any trouble selling your paintings ...... so follow the pricing advice from Marsha, Bluefish and Peggy and you won't go far wrong.

Good luck with your show - I know it will go well.

01-05-2006, 04:35 PM
Hi again! Okay, so, if I sell say the "Cowboy" painting... here goes... it's about 12x16 or so, that's approx. $145, then the framing (doubling it) $60, then commission %15 is about $25 = $225 for "Cowboy". Does this seem a reasonable price?

01-05-2006, 04:35 PM
Thanks for the compliments Lesly!

01-05-2006, 05:42 PM
If you are comfortable with selling the artwork at this price, then by all means do so. One of the comments about the "value" of your work being perceived by someone -- i.e., lower price, lower value, higher price, more value -- is also sometimes in play -- but whatever you do, don't equate high price with "high quality" and the same goes for low price and "low quality".

It is always easier to sell something, and be proud of doing so, than to sell nothing and wonder why! You can always raise your prices slowly.

01-06-2006, 12:36 AM
Cecilia ... pricing for Cowboy at 15% commission should go like this:

size 12 x 16 = 192
framing cost (doubled) = 60 total = $250 (rounded to nearest ten)

To give you $250 in the hand after 15% commission is deducted you need to do the following sum:

Price you want divided by 85 then multiplied by 100

250/85 x 100 = $294 (let's say $295 .... it looks better!)

Put another way, 15% commission on $294 = $44 dollars .... leaving you with the $250 you want.

And I think that $295 for such a nice painting is a very reasonable price!

01-06-2006, 04:51 PM
Lesly, you make me blush! Thank you... I'm writing this down for future reference. I already posted my prices for the tags. $250... well, I'll learn next time. Hope I didn't underprice anything. We'll find out in a couple weeks!

01-06-2006, 05:22 PM
Cecilia - no need to blush at all! I did exactly the same when I first put up some paintings for sale - an easy mistake to make.

best of luck with your show

01-06-2006, 05:30 PM
Just make sure you don't underprice. It tells potential buyers that you don't value your work.

I love these pricing threads, even though I have never sold a thing. I like the idea of the square-inch method, but I admit I have no idea what might be considered underpricing. My pictures are usually about 11x14. That would be 154 square inches, so at $1/square inch that would be about $150. But friends I have talke about pricing with say they like my art but would never dream of paying that much. $.50/square inch would be about $75. Same friends say they think this is a more realistic price. That's just for a picture - not framed. But I still have no really clear concept in my mind of what would be "too low" or "too high".

Only paintings I have "sold" were two I donated to a church charity auction, and they sold for $40 each, framed! One other parishioner also donated a piece of his original art which was very nice, but I didn't think it was really "better" than my own, but his piece sold for $220! Yet I had several people tell me they loved my paintings so much but once the price hit $40 it was way too much for them!

So I'm still trying to get a handle on the whole "underpricing" thing. :)

01-06-2006, 07:34 PM
I am on a tear about "giving" our work away. Consider this: It has taken a life time of experience both with art and with the rest of your life events to create the painting. It takes special talents and skills not given to everyone. It is more than a manufactured thing. It is an expression of your very soul. If you don't value it why should anyone else? The by inch method helps reduce the emotional factors. Rule of thumb: beginners in the market or in the medium charge $1/ssq. in x 10% plus 2xframing costs x.50% for gallery. Once you show in galleries all your work has to have gallery pricing. It's not fair to compete with the gallery by lowering the price. For that same reason you set your price for the highest commission you expect to pay.For intermediate ability raise it to $1.50/sq in, For more advanced work raise it to $2. As you gain in skill and begin to have a following raise the prices by 10% to 20%. And eventually by $/sq in. I am about to raise my clayboard etchings to $2.50 a sq in or maybe to $3. One of my colleagues doing no better work than I do charges $5 an inch. Cecilia, I would consider you an intermediate artist, not a beginner. One way to make your work more affordable is to frame in "presentation" frames rather than custum decorator frames. I haunt the Dollar stores and Box stores and buy inexpensive framed prints. I tear out the print and fix up the frame. Some of my pieces have been custum framed. My average frame cost is about $28, regardless of size. I have a friend who doesn't need the glass and gives it to me, I haunt junk stores and friends for free frames.
Just because your friends can't afford your prices doesn't mean you are priced too high---unless you are painting just for them. Maybe they can buy prints instead or note cards. Consider instead your overall market population for your region and what do they buy at what price.
It's my belief that if we paint well, price at value they will come sooner or later. I priced my work believing that no sales did not reflect on the quality and if my work couldn't sell unless I lowered it below it's worth it maybe shouldn't be on the market. In other words I set a bar with my price and made my work come up to it and put my work out every place and every chance until it got noticed. It took a 7 months but is now selling at my price which I can now raise.
It's a hard thing for every artist I know---to price our work. Good luck in the endeavor, and don't forget to have fun and remember that there are smart marketeers who get people to buy solid black canvases for thousands of dollars so you ought to be able to sell genuine work for a few hundred.

01-06-2006, 10:31 PM
Well said, Aztrillium!!!! - but its still hard to believe in oneself (and one's pricing) when things do not sell. Yet when I think about it I am selling for around the same amount as I was 3 years ago!! So that can't be right! ... although we have moved around such a lot that i have never had a chance (until now) to start to build a "following" (if I should ever get such a thing!)

Debbie .... I have to be cruelly honest and say that I consider your friends to be real cheapskates! Here in New Zealand you have to pay at least $80 for a crappy framed print from The Warehouse (Red Shed). Your work deserves far more than a measly $40 .... personally I would only knock maybe 10% off for friends if they were interested in buying. I do sometimes gift my paintings to friends but that is a totally different thing.

I know its hard to price one's own work but please DON'T sell yourself short! That goes for us all.

01-06-2006, 10:42 PM
LOL, well I think my friends are probably really more clueless about "real" art. I have seen cheesy prints for sale at $200+ and better, that's for sure. But then again the cheesy prints have a market and my paintings don't! At least not yet. :)

01-06-2006, 10:55 PM
Debbie - did not mean to insult your friends, you know! Its just that people do often seem to expect something for nothing! My yardstick in the past has been that I refused to sell anything I had painted for less than a price of reasonable quality shoes! How much would that be in US dollars?

I have heard some pretty terrible comments while doing my turns at the entrance table to art shows, etc., ... very often about the "high" prices (but even more often about the art itself)!! This is a dreadful experience if it happens to be your own work!

However, to get back to the subject in hand, I do think it's very bad if artists put in work priced very, very low. As Kate said - its sort of telling the viewers that its not worth looking at!

01-06-2006, 11:25 PM
Well of course Cecelia says she is selling lots of her stuff, but I have never sold a single thing (except the two that sold for $40 each at the charity auction) and don't even have a clue how or where to sell it. The only people who ever see my work are my friends and co-workers so I hoped *maybe* to start with a few of them.

But I don't want to wind up like my sister. My sister is a very gifted artist who just began painting seriously again in 2005 after 25 years of raising a family. She is a "real" artist, LOL (took art classes all through high school and majored in art in college) and her husband's family are mostly all artists, and they have a "family" art show twice every year. This year she participated in the spring show for the first time, and when she brought her paintings to the show her husband's mom and sisters and brother all told her she had her stuff *way* underpriced, and made her change all her prices, so the prices for her paintings ranged from something like $500 up to $1200. Well it seemed like a lot to me, but they are oils, and some fairly large. But that's why I said maybe I don't quite have a grasp of what is acceptable and what is underpriced, as it seems like a lot of money for someone who had never sold a piece of their art before.

I love my sister and I love her work, but I could never pay those sorts of prices for art when I have enough trouble paying my bills each month. :D I could spent $100 for a "splurge" purchase but never $1000!

Anyway, she did not sell anything at the art show, though later she did sell two paintings via two art galleries - one owned by a close friend and one owned by her sister-in-law.

But then came the family fall art show, and this is usually a biggie as it is held in a fairly "arty" town, and again the show lasted three days and by the third day everyone in the family had sold something but my sister. This time her husband's mom and sisters said, "Well, gee, maybe your prices are a little on the high side".

My sister sort of flipped, and said, "High side? You three are the ones who *made* set me prices here and forced me to go higher!" But she had to leave the show early and after she did her MiL slashed the prices on her paintings, and one of them sold. But as you say, suppose one of the people who bought one of her higher-priced paintings later saw her stuff selling at about half the price? That would be awful.

But Cecelia, I sure hope *your* show is a rousing success!

01-07-2006, 12:42 AM
hmmmmmmm yes well .... it just goes to show what a minefield this pricing lark is, Debbie!!! You are right to feel bemused, - but we are not talking 1000 dollars and more here.

I still think to price any original painting under 100 dollars is probably not a good idea. However, if your friends think around 40 dollars would be OK, and you would be happy to sell for that price, then who am I to say don't do it?

Debbie you are such a sweet and modest person, and you art is very good - just don't sell yourself short.

01-07-2006, 01:52 AM
Wow, everyone has so much to say on this subject. It is a very important one! Well, no going back for me right now. I priced my paintings and the tags are being made.
Debbie, you're very kind, but I really haven't sold that many paintings, and surely not for over 100$. They've all mostly been gifts, and the ones people would buy, I don't want to let go (until now). So, this is my first, I'm a virgin at this too.
TJ, thanks, I hope to God I'm not a beginner. I've been painting for over 22 years! I just haven't picked up a medium in over 2 years. It's hard getting back the skills I once had.
And Debbie, I know what you mean, that's why it's so hard for me to sell so high (low to some) I wouldn't pay that much for any painting! I simply don't have a dime to spare!! :-)
Lesly, that's a huge fear of mine!! Overhearing someone say something bad about how high I priced "that" piece of art!

01-07-2006, 02:40 AM
I can't stay out of this. Art is a highly personal commodity. some will like it some won't. some will think the price is worth it. some won't. You might not have seen a piece yourself that so moved you that you were willing to save the pennies and make payments until it was yours, but people do just that, just as they do for sofas and stoves and dresses and certainly for shoes. I like that notion of not selling for less than a pair of shoes. I see little flimsy sandals selling for $100 that will be fashionable for only one season for heaven's sake with no one questioning the price. Also I think it is a mistake to think about selling at your first show or for that matter at any show. Great if you do but no tragedy, and no comment on your work if you don't. There is only so much art that will be sold at any one show. It takes a lot of exposure to sell your work. People talk about selling out a show. That doesn't happen often. I've been hanging art in my Association's gallery since May. I have sold one piece, despite a lot of fine praise and six ribbons won. This holiday, I began to sell work like mad (scratch art) because people saw me develop them and became intrigued. Now they are becoming interested in my pastels, the same ones that haven't been selling. It takes time and lots of exposure. So pick a realistic price that reflects the true value of your beautiful work and stick to it. It will sell. The farm equipment folk used to say there was a seat for every butt. Well there is a person for every painting, but it takes time to get the two together.

01-07-2006, 02:56 AM
This is a very interesting thread. I tried the $ to the inch method, since reading about it on WC. Found my set prices fairly accurate. I charge a lot more per inch for a commissioned work than I do for paintings that I put in shows. My commissioned works are all portraits, therefore very personalised. For a while I had no commissions and felt my prices were too high, even though it didn't pay for my time. I had more time to experiment and do my own work which sells sporadically. Paintings are such a luxury item that if the economy is feeling the pinch they seem to be the first thing not to sell.
Yes, it is very hard to lower prices and important not to underprice too. Tricky one. Some people tell me I am too cheap, but I feel I can't charge more in my market. Incidently, I have about 10 commissions to do now and no time to do my own work.
I hope you sell lots at your show and gain a following.

01-07-2006, 04:30 AM
I can't stay out of it either TJ, Simply because I like learning. I'm not expecting to sell. I tell my husband that every day now. I'm mostly doing it for the exposure to this type of exhibiting and to get my name out there a bit. I'm a cheap person. I don't like even cutting my hair because I find $30 for a haircut rediculous (sp)! My boss says, "I'm not cheap, I'm froogle". LOL
I shop at payless, and have 2 pairs of shoes. Tennis shoes and work shoes. It's hard entering a world that I'm not even a part of. :-)

01-07-2006, 01:20 PM

There's a lot of money out there! You live in an area of very wealthy individuals - but, it takes money to make money! If you want to be successful selling your art @ tent shows it has to be gallery quality! Buyers come to outdoor shows looking for good art at prices that are good buys, if not they would go to a gallery,with air conditioning, soft music and trained sales personel! I can't believe someone would put their work in cheap plastic frames or garage sale frames and try to be a pro artist. Use rag mats and good quality frames from a frame wholesaler/distributor. Forget all the 'gallery' talk above for now - you have to crawl before you can walk. Do some outdoor shows, win some awards, establish a following and then the galleries may be interested. Forget your frugalness when it comes to framing your art - we told you, you were good - listen to what we're telling you and you will be surprised how successful you will be!

Also, watch that $ rule, it works fine for small paintings but when you get into the 30x40 size you are talking $1200 - O.K. for galleries but to high for outdoor shows! It all depends on how many paintings you want to sell - I'm very prolific and turn out a lot of work and want to move it - I would rather sell a hundred pieces for, just pick a figure, say $800 than five @ $5000. Hope this helps!

01-07-2006, 01:59 PM
I can't imagine putting my work in cheap plastic frames either! The Dollar Store and Box store frames I buy are wood or metal, nicely finished. The prints are put in with staples which I remove. I clean the backs, install my works with framing brads, a good backing board and cover with a dust cover. They often resemble the molding my framer carries and look just as professional. Garage sales don't have just junk nor usually do my friends. If you look well you can find beautifull, once expensive frames, often custom or even antique ones that just need a bit of sprucing that often takes no more than 20 minutes to do. Doing something inexpensively doesn't have to be cheap. That's terrific if you sell 100 paintings at $800 in a year. I don't think many are doing that. But your thinking on the math is right. Better to sell many at the lower price than a few at the "prestigious" price. Also one does need to consider the market they are in. My region can't charge what they charge on the California coast for instance. And, of course you don't charge gallery prices at a tent show, but if you also show in galleries you can't drop the price much below the gallery price.I personally paint some of my works directed at galleries, and some directed at a show market. Obviously a piece going into the gallery for big dollars will have a gallery frame job. Good point about the $/in formula. It should just be a starting point and adjusted as needed to fit circumstances. I have a 24x36 piece that if I stuck with the formula would have to be priced close to $2000 and even in a gallery it isn't worth that. I've priced it at $995 and several people have expressed serious interest. I was a successful artist in Santa Barbara, Calif. for many years, close to 20 before something happened in my life that shut down my art for 25 years. I've just gotten back into it this past year. The principles of the art world haven't changed much in those years. The tough thing is that what it takes to market is so different than what it takes to produce the art. Two different sets of skills and mindsets and I think that is the real struggle for artists trying to sell---how to be two completely different people. Like Cecilia says trying to break into a world in which she doesn't participate.
Cecilia, take all of our advice, process it and come up with your own pathway. You will do just great. It really is different strokes for different folks.