We often have artists ask us how much they should price their prints for, which usually leads to a larger discussion of how much to charge for their originals in relation to prints and giclees. While there are no hard and fast rules, it is a good idea to have a formula that makes sense to you. Inconsistencies in pricing based on your feelings about a particular work of art can look unprofessional. They can cost you sales or alternately, they can mean that you are not paying yourself enough. So, how should you price your artwork?

There are two main theories for pricing originals.

1) Price by the square inch. Research similar artists who are in approximately the same place in their career. Using their selling prices, determine an average price per square inch and see how that would apply to your artwork. Unit prices for smaller works would often be priced slightly higher and larger works slightly lower. So for instance, anything 8″x10″ or under is priced at $1.25 per square inch, anything over would be $1.00 per square inch. This formula may work well for you if your artworks are similar in technique, no matter what the size. Often materials used will be part of your determination. Graphite on paper may be less expensive than oil paints with real gold leaf for instance.

2) Price by materials and labour. If you feel you can spend just as long on a small work as on a large one because your style changes, you may be better off pricing by what you spend on time and materials. Materials: Keeping track of the price of the price of the paper or canvas you paint on is likely pretty straight-forward. But, since it’s not likely that you would buy materials like paint and brushes and use them up on a single painting, you would be better off estimating approximately how many tubes of paint you use per painting and then charging the average cost of a tube of paint. Don’t forget to factor in brushes, pencils, or anything else that gets used up.

Labour: At the beginning of your career you would likely pay yourself a modest hourly rate, and as you become more well known, increase that based on your major career milestones and how well your work is selling. Some artist/advocates recommend calculating materials and time and then adding 10 – 20%.

Some things to consider if you are pricing based on material and labour are whether or not you will also include overhead in your cost calculation. Do you rent a studio? Have you given up part of your house for your art practice? Power, heating, and insurance might also be a consideration. In regards to labour, are you going to add in the time you spend sketching out preliminary ideas, or the time you may spend meeting with a client for commission work? What about the time driving to the art store?

 A good exercise is to work out some sample prices using both models and then check the feasibility of your figures. What will the market bear? Are you willing to pay yourself a bit less if it means making sales?

Selling in galleries. What if you are going to put your work in a gallery? Most galleries will add 40%-60% of what they pay you to determine their retail price. Generally speaking, they will not want you to be selling similar paintings at half the price from your studio. You would need to decide if you can raise the prices of pieces in your studio to match the gallery, or alternately, lower your wholesale prices and accept that you will make less per piece on work sold by the gallery in the hopes that the volume of sales will make that worthwhile. Be aware that some galleries would want all sales to go through them and not through you at all.

Most artists find that it is easy to have a decent profit margin when selling prints. Doubling the cost of the prints and adding 10% to 20% for the creation of the image gives you a reasonable profit and usually means that even when selling to a gallery or store, the prices can be doubled again without making them too pricey. If you can sell cards or press prints directly to your customers the profits are even better. You can sell at retail prices, but all of the profit is yours.

Once you get going with prints, take advantage of our great discounts for volume. Your per unit costs can be substantially less and your profit margin greater if you order in larger numbers.
A final recommendation for prints is that you divide your initial set-up costs into the total edition. For instance, if you are planning a final edition of 50, divide your scanning and calibration costs by 50, add that to your per-piece unit cost and then double that amount to arrive at your selling price.
For more ideas on pricing your artwork check out the Artbusiness.com blog.