How to Set Art Commission Prices: A Quick Guide

how to set art commission prices

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Setting a price for art is always a bit … awkward.

After all, art is a fully subjective thing. Some people may like a certain piece of art so much that they are willing to give up all their wealth for it. But, other people, looking at the same piece of art, may not even be willing to spend a penny on it!

What’s even more awkward than setting a price for artwork is setting a price for your own art.

Especially if you want to do it regularly in the form of art commissions.

Should the price change based on the demands given by the buyer? How much should it change? What is the base price? Should it be more or less expensive than other artists at the same level? Or, should you match the pricing of your fellow artists?

Get an answer to all these questions in the guide below:

5 Quick Strategies for Setting Up Art Commission Prices

Although there will be a more in-depth tutorial on setting up art commission prices below, If you want a quick and easy solution for setting up art commission prices, then the following list should be the most helpful for you!

To simplify the whole process of learning how to price art commissions in-depth, we’ll be referencing the video posted by the experienced artist, @Nadiaxel on YouTube. She posted a tutorial series for commissions several years ago, and it has become one of the most popular reference materials for artists looking to do commissions ever since!

Method 1. Hourly Wage

The first quick method of setting up commission prices is to set them based on an hourly wage.

how to price art
(Image Source)

We’ll talk about this in more detail later, but the rough idea is to price each work of art based on how much time you spend on it.

calculating hourly rate

According to the example in the image above, following this hourly rate method, if you spend 2 hours drawing a portrait painting and count each hour’s effort as $12, then the total price is $24.

How should you decide the hourly wage? You can decide this yourself by researching current market trends or base it on the local hourly rate for creative artists in your area.

Method 2. Per-Element Pricing

The next method for pricing art commissions is the “Per-Element Pricing Method”. This one is pretty straightforward. How much the painting costs is based on how many key elements are involved and the complexity of said elements.

per-element pricing

For example, a portrait painting is worth $10, whilst a half-body is worth $20. Each counts as one element. So, if you were to create a composition with a portrait up-front and a full body in the background, the total cost would be $30.

Method 3. Per-Square Inch

The previous pricing strategy we talked about is based on the key elements in a piece of art. Strictly speaking, such a pricing method is best suited for digital art, because there are no extra material costs based on the size of the artwork.

The “Per-Square Inch Method” we’re recommending here accounts for size so that you can work with your preferred medium at ease (e.g., oil paints, acrylic paints, etc.).

As for how this works, it can be inferred from the name. The price of the art is based on how many square inches are in a certain artwork. The larger the painting, the larger the square-inch count, the more expensive — as it will require more time and materials to complete.

Method 4. Market Comparison

The next method of pricing is based entirely on market trends research. Now is the time to put your internet skills to the test to see if you can find other artists with similar levels and similar art styles to you. Once you find someone, check if they’re doing commissions and you can have a reference to start working from.

market comparison

Of course, you have to be open to adjustments. For example, if you successfully found an experienced artist doing commissions with the same art style and skill level as you, BUT then, you realize that their fan base is much larger than yours, you should make a comparative adjustment and change your price to be more competitive.

Method 5. Art Commission Packages

This next method for pricing your art is best if you’ve done commission work in the past or have found artists with similar skills doing commissions.

Basically, it applies the previous method and then adopts the practice of “set it and forget it”. That is, after you’ve researched the average cost of commission packages, you can go with the same pricing model for similar work in the future.

You can also put some example images of your packages so that your potential buyers can see exactly what is offered in the package.

How to Price Art Commissions? Step-by-Step

If you are interested in selling art to bring some revenue to your art career, the tutorial below should tell you everything you need to know:

how to price art commissions?

Step 1. Analyze the Commissions of Other Artists

Before anything else, it’s important to understand how commissions generally work. To do this, we recommend checking out the art commission posts of other artists on social media.

analyze the commissions of other artists

Especially those who use similar art styles, have similar skill levels or participate in the same general communities you do. Doing so will allow you to pass through the following steps more easily as it will help you understand the market.

If you don’t know where to look for similar posts on your social media, you can check out job-hosting sites like Fiverr, there are plenty of examples there.

Step 2. Review the Factors that Affect Art Commission Prices

Next, it’s time to start actually calculating the price! Of course, there’s too much involved in this process to go into it all at once. So for now, let’s review what you may want to factor into your art commission prices.

review the factors that affect art commission prices

For your reference, most artists include the following factors when pricing commissions:

  • Time: How many hours were spent to complete the artwork?
  • Experience: What is your skill level as an artist? Can you compare with other experienced artists who price their commissioned art for sky-high prices? Or are you relatively inexperienced?
  • Complexity: How complex are your commissions meant to be? Are they relatively simple? Or do they take a lot of time and effort?
  • Materials Costs: How much did it cost to complete the painting in terms of materials?
  • Self-Value: How valuable do you think your artwork is?

Step 3. Calculating the Base Price = Time

Alright, let’s start talking about calculating a fair price for your commissions.

calculating the base price = time

For those selling art, the first thing they usually consider when deciding how much to ask for is time. How much time do you usually spend to finish a certain painting?

art pricing

You’ll notice that most artists incrementally set their pricing structure. For example, the pricing structure in the image above separates the available commissions into three forms: portrait, half-body, and full-body.

According to common sense, a portrait takes less time to complete than a half-body painting. A half-body painting takes less time to complete than a full-body painting.

In order to start calculating a cost price for your artwork, you should estimate exactly how long it takes you to complete certain types of paintings. After doing so, factor in the hourly wage of creatives in your area and you now have the first value needed for your pricing strategy.

Step 4. Calculating the Base Price = Time + Material Cost

After calculating the first value based on hourly wage, it’s time to account for materials cost. How much did it cost you to create your fine art?

calculating the base price = time + material cost

For traditional artists, materials usually include things like paper, canvas, pens, pencils, paints, etc. There’s also the cost required to send the painting to your client.

For digital art, you can consider the cost of printing art prints of your digital artwork. Art prints are generally the go-to for selling digital art as commissions. However, you can skip this process and directly sell digital art as an image file the client can use as they wish.

PRO TIP! Some artists also like to sell digital art commissions in the form of GIFs or short animated films. There’s no limit to what you can or cannot sell.

Step 5. Calculating the Base Price = Time + Material + Complexity

When pricing art based on the base cost, the most difficult thing to account for is the level of complexity required in a commission.

calculating the base base price = time + material + complexity

Artist @Nadiaxel described this ‘complexity’ as “references” or “level of detail”. Speaking more directly, it’s the factor involving the needs of potential clients.

Different clients have different needs for the same ‘general category’. A client may give you a request for a portrait and provide a photographic reference for you to work from. Whilst another may give you textual reference that describes the character they want you to paint.

Obviously, it’s easier to work off of a picture than a description that may or may not be accurate.

When calculating the cost price, this has to be carefully accounted for so that you don’t short-change yourself and your client!

Step 6. Decide Whether or Not to Sell at Cost Price!

Now that you have the ‘base’ price, you can stop here if you want. Most beginners do commissions in order to get more practice and participate in the art world more closely.

decide whether or not to sell at cost price!

So, a higher price is generally not factored into their strategy.

BUT! If you’re a more experienced artist or an artist with a higher skill level than most, you can add in other factors so that your art commission prices reflect the value of your artwork perfectly.

Step 7. Evaluate and Account for Your Experience Level

The first step in setting art prices outside of the base cost is to estimate your experience or skill level as an artist. The art market pays close attention to the skill level of an artist when they look at art commission prices.

account for your experience level

Generally, the more experience the artist has, the higher the price of their commissions!

how to price art commissions

So, how long have you spent practicing your skills? Are you a beginner who has only been painting for a year or a master who has been painting oil paintings for ten or twenty years?

Think about it, then set your art commission price to include this experience level.

Step 8. Evaluate the Value of Your Art for Your Client

This next step is what many artists, especially new artists, tend to struggle with when deciding their art commission prices.

evaluate the value of your art for your client

It has to do with self-criticism and determining the value of their work, which has been and always will be a difficult subject for artists.

What do we mean by value? Simply put, we’re talking about how unique your commission work is compared to others in the market. Whether in terms of your skill level, your art style, your ability to make complex designs, etc.

Do you stand out amongst the crowd? Can you create something others can’t?

The key to evaluating this factor is to be HONEST. And! Be objective!

pricing artwork

Look at previous examples of your art and compare prices accordingly. After following the previous steps, you should already have a base cost + bonus experience cost in mind. Now’s the time to look at it, then look at your painting examples.

How does the art compare? Do you think it’s worth that price? Should it be higher or lower?

PRO TIP! This step may seem difficult, but it’s actually not that complicated when you think about it. After all, whatever you decide is right. Your pricing strategies will never be able to satisfy all art enthusiasts. So it’s better to do what you want to do.

(BONUS!) Be Open to Adjustments

Now that you have a fixed price, you can begin competing on the same stage as fellow artists.

But you have to remember that your current commission pricing is meant to lay a solid foundation. It’s not a strict pricing formula for every and all commissioned artwork that you do.

be open to adjustments

As an artist who does commissions, you have to be open to adjustments at all times! This doesn’t just include accounting for extras in your work (e.g., extra figures, more complex designs, etc.)

You can also consider things like discounts to attract more potential customers. OR, you can adjust the price list based on your current workload (i.e., increase prices when there’s higher demand and decrease prices when there’s lower demand.)

FAQs

How Much Should I Charge for Digital Art Commissions?

Because digital art doesn’t require any extra material cost outside of a drawing tablet for painting, the pricing model chosen by most creatives is based on hourly rates. Counting upwards from the minimum wage and multiplying it based on the number of hours of work, you have a quick and easy solution for selling commissions online.

how much should I charge for digital art commissions?

How Much Money Do Art Commissions Typically Earn?

The average amount of money that an artist who does commissions makes is around $25 per hour. Of course, the more commissions you do, the more you earn. Your earnings depend heavily on the number of orders you can get on a regular basis.

How Do You Get Art Commissions?

Popular artists search for buyers by themselves by posting commission orders on their social media or website. You can do the same if you want a relatively free working experience. You can also find regular commission work online through websites like Fiverr — where there are plenty of clients waiting for you to choose from.

How To Negotiate Art Commissions?

To negotiate art commissions, the most important thing is to be open and honest. The more open and honest you are with the buyer, the smoother the experience will be.

how to negotiate art commissions?

Should You Have a Contract for Art Commissions?

Yes, it’s a lot safer and more hassle-free to have a contract when negotiating an art commission. This way, you won’t have to worry about the other party going back on their word or holding back on payments.

Also, contracts are legally binding on both sides. So, not only you but also your buyer can feel more comfortable and safe during the proceedings if there’s a contract.

Of course, you don’t have to overcomplicate the process too much. You can find free resources involving this matter online, including the website lawdepot.org, which offers free legal documents and forms that you can use for your commission work.

Should I Use PayPal for Art Commissions?

PayPal is the most convenient payment processing platform online. Most people feel comfortable using it, so there’s nothing wrong with you asking for PayPal payments for your commissions.

how to get paid

Of course, for extra convenience, you can also consider other options (i.e., domestic transfer, site currency, etc.) so that you can attract clients who are unable to or prefer not to use PayPal.

The Bottom Line: How to Price Art?

Putting a price on artwork has always been one of the most difficult things to do for an artist who wants to start their career.

Don’t worry too much if you don’t get the hang of it at first. Take your time and check online for resources that can help you work through the problem. For example, you can read a quick article, spare a few hours every day to read a book or watch a few educational videos. Whichever works best for you!

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