How do you price your art? Are you charging too much? Or too little?
Every artist has faced these questions in their career, and they’re daunting.
Too often, we artists underestimate our work and abilities but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered…
In this article, you’ll discover the perfect formula for pricing your art, whether you’re an acrylic, oil, or digital painter.
So you never have to struggle, as I did, to price your work fairly.
Let’s waste no time, and get started…
- The Art Pricing Formulas That No Longer Work
- The New Art Pricing Formula
- 4 Steps to Fairly Pricing Your Art
- No More Art Pricing Confusion
- Art Pricing FAQs:
- Pricing Artwork
The Art Pricing Formulas That No Longer Work
According to professional artist Stephanie Weaver, in her guide, Art Pricing Secrets: Ethically Pricing Creativity. The Formula That Works, 3 widely-used formulas should no longer apply to artists and their original works:
- Square Inch x Dollar Amount = Amount You Should Charge
- (Hourly Wage x Hours Spent) + Cost Of Materials = Amount To Charge
- (Height X Width) x Multiplier = Amount To Charge
Each of these formulas share a common flaw: they rely heavily on assumptions. For example, what should “Dollar Amount” be? What’s your “Hourly Wage”? How do I determine my “Multiplier”?
They can only be solved if a based assumption is made for one of the variables.
Weaver breaks this down further by defining assumption as a thing that is accepted as true without proof, based on a feeling; a vague and irrational belief.
My question for you is, “Does it make sense to use these formulas when your feelings vary? Where is the fairness or accuracy in that?”
More about this soon…
Her formula (revealed in the next section) helped me realize that I’ve been underpricing my artwork for years.
After implementing her advice, I achieved confidence in my skill set, as the pricing solution directly reflects everything I’ve learned and created in the journey of my passion.
I’m now pricing my work fairly, and it’s easier to convince my clients to follow through with a commission because the price is calculated using unbiased, mathematical formulas.
The New Art Pricing Formula
Let’s dive right into the exact, two part formula that will help you determine what to charge for your artwork (write this down!)…
This new pricing formula shifts the art pricing dynamic from how you ‘feel’ about your artwork to being priced by a stats-driven, mathematical formula.
Let’s look at the formula in detail and break down how to price your painting…
Art pricing guide retail price pricing consistent
4 Steps to Fairly Pricing Your Art
Step 1: Determine Your Skill Mastery
According to the Dreyfus & Dreyfus model for skill acquisition, there are 7 phases of skill acquisition that everyone goes through as they progress in their skill sets (although most articles only list the first 5). In relation to Weaver’s art pricing method, they are:
- Novice: When you’re training to become an artist (meaning you have minimal or ‘textbook’ knowledge without connecting it to practice).
- Advanced Beginner: When you’re steadily gaining experience with impact and creating 50 pieces of artwork.
- Competent: You have sold or completed up to 10 paid commissions/pieces of artwork for non-relatives.
- Proficient: You can cover monthly artist expenses of business with extra income
- Expert: You can create clients by invitation or referral only, has repeat clients
- Mastery: You can create clients wherever you choose by releasing pieces, or you currently have a waitlist
- Practical Wisdom: You can take extended vacations and create income while you sleep
Determine which levels sound most like you before moving on to the next step. If you’re still unsure, Stephanie provides more detail in her book.
Step 2: Determine Your Experience Factor and Base Wage
According to several art retail sources, the average markup for a painting should be 200% of wholesale (or 4x the wholesale cost).
But your experience factor plays a part in this; your proficiency means that you are able to create art pieces in less time.
Your expertise is from years of study and development; your pay should reflect that.
In other words, a novice painter shouldn’t mark up their works the same as someone on an expert or mastery level.
Here’s a direct excerpt from the book explaining more about this concept:
The art pricing formula I created has divided the ‘4 times retail factor’ among the experience levels. This is called the Experience factor.
This experience factor is then used to calculate the hourly wage.
The hourly wage range is based on the Bureau of Labor in 2021, where the minimum amount earned was $9.34 and the maximum hourly rate was $60.54 for visual artists.
With the knowledge of 60.54/hour I could then derive a pay grade shift between the 7 levels to align with the Mastery Levels.
1. Mastery Level: Novice. Training to become an artist (minimal or ‘textbook’ knowledge without connecting it to practice.
Experience Factor: 0.57
Base Wage: $9.34
2. Mastery Level: Advanced Beginner. Gaining experience with impact and have created 50 pieces of artwork.
Experience Factor: 1.14
Base Wage: $16.64
3. Mastery Level: Competent. Has sold or completed up to 10 paid commissions/pieces of artwork for non-relatives.
Experience Factor: 1.71
Base Wage: $23.95
4. Mastery Level: Proficient. Can cover monthly artist expenses of business with extra income.
Experience Factor: 2.28
Base Wage: $31.25
5. Mastery Level: Expert. Can create clients by invitation or referral only, has repeat clients.
Experience Factor: 2.85
Base Wage: $38.56
6. Mastery Level: Master. Can create clients whenever you choose by releasing pieces or have a wait list.
Experience Level: 3.42
Base Wage: $45.86
7. Mastery Level: Practical Wisdom. Can take extended vacations and create income while you sleep.
Experience Level: 4
Base Wage: $60.54
This may seem like a lot to take in, but stick with me. You’ll find out how this all fits together below.
Step 3: Calculate Your Hourly Wage/Rate
With each passing year in your business, you are growing steadily more skilled. Therefore, it’s important to reward yourself for each year you’ve been at your current level.
Plug your base wage into this formula for each year you’ve been at this stage:
(Base Wage x 0.2 = Amount To Increase Base Wage).
To determine your hourly rate based on experience:
(Amount To Increase Base Wage + Base Wage = Calculated Hourly Rate Based On Experience).
Step 4: Put It All together – Calculate Artwork Prices
Now that you have all the information you need review the art pricing formula and input all the information you have gained from the previous steps:
Let’s look at a working example…
Art Pricing Formula Example:
Let’s say you created a 16” x 24” family portrait in Acrylics.
You worked a total of 8 hours on the project, and your cost of materials includes:
- A stretched canvas,
- The acrylic paints (maybe about 20 dollars or so worth)
- The acrylic gloss varnish you used to seal it.
In this example, you shipped the painting for free…
Because you are an advanced beginner, your experience factor is 1.14, and your base wage is 16.64. In this example, you’ve been at this level for 3 years.
So in order to calculate the base wage in terms of experience level, we must first calculate the yearly increase in wage (base wage x 0.2 = amount to increase base wage). Let’s break this down into years:
Year one: $16.64 x 0.2 = $3.32 (base wage increase)
$16.64 + $3.32 = $19.96 (new base wage – year one)
Year two: $19.96 x 0.2 = $3.99
$19.96 + $3.99 = $23.95
Year three: $23.95 x 0.2 = $4.79
$23.95 + $4.79 = $28.74 (final base pay)
Ok. Now that we have the base wage figured out, let’s plug it into the two-part formula:
Part one: (8 hours x $28.74) + $28 (approximate cost of materials) = $257.92 (wholesale cost)
Part two: $257.92 x 1.14 (experience factor) = $361.08 (price you should charge based on experience level)
According to Stephanie, the last calculation we have yet to make is the “wiggle room” factor.
It’s calculated by subtracting your wholesale price from the amount you should charge based on your experience factor.
$361.08 – $257.92 = $103.16 (wiggle room).
By knowing [your] “wiggle room” you have the following abilities:
- ability to negotiate, should you so choose
- put pieces on sale, should you so choose
- offer friends and family discounts, should you so choose.
I say ‘should you so choose’ because this is your art business.
There are many artists who say that discounting your work “devalues” your work. Then there are others that offer discounts or provide loyalty/collectors programs to make additional income.
The art pricing formula allows the greatest flexibility and information so that, depending on your stance, you can price art with accuracy.
We’ve now got a given formula for calculating how much we should price our artwork, and to make remembering this super easy, Stephanie includes a downloadable spreadsheet with her book.
No More Art Pricing Confusion
The art world is a confusing place. There is so much debate on how to price your artwork, and its hard to find a ‘one size, fits all’ approach within the art community.
But this formula works in all use cases:
- Whether you’re a fine artist, or one of the many emerging artists just starting out in their art career…
- Whether you’re looking at selling art in an art gallery or at art fairs…
- Whether you price oil paintings, fine art prints, acrylic paintings, watercolor paintings etc…
Pricing your art means that the art market no longer involves:
- Comparing prices to all the artists around you
- Your “personal value” in relation to fair pricing
- What someone else considers as a “reasonable price” (Your now pricing based on your experience)
- Calculating costs per square inch
- Whether or not a watercolor painting or an oil painting should be kept the same price if the canvases are the same size…
What made art difficult to price before no longer applies.
Art Pricing FAQs:
Should You Sell a Painting That Holds Sentimental Value to You?
This is totally up to you. There’s a certain sentimentality to all of the paintings you create, so there’s a bittersweet reaction to selling a painting (and this is totally normal).
Think of it this way; you’re making more room in your studio/art corner to create more paintings and continue your passion.
How to Begin Selling Your Art?
The best place to start selling artwork is on Facebook, in the various Facebook online marketplaces (sell locally), or in groups.
Steadily grow your following in the meantime (promote, promote, promote!)
Help attract customers by creating your own website, and present it as your online portfolio.
How to Price Your Artwork for Better Sales?
With the current well-known formulas, artists will either undersell or oversell their work.
Using the above two-part mathematical formula (and showing the process to potential buyers) guarantees they’ll feel more secure in the sale (and you’ll land their business).
How Much Should I Charge for My Oil Paintings?
Material cost should play into how much you charge for your oil paintings. Plug in those costs to the first part of the formula mentioned above.
How Much Are Other Artists Charging for Their Work?
Should you compare apples to oranges? Although it doesn’t hurt to compare your prices to the artwork created by your artist friends or the other artists in your particular market, it won’t benefit you because prices vary. But if you are curious, check out where other artists have their paintings for sale.
Either way, use the formula above to price your work fairly.
How Much Should the Final Price of an Artwork Be?
Ultimately, the final price of your artwork is up to you. If you use the formula above and you feel the final price is too much…use the “wiggle room” factor mentioned in the example above to “discount” your work or “strike your client a deal.”
Pricing your artwork doesn’t have to be a tumbling hill of diverging “he said, she said” sources of the internet.
Whether you’re deciding how to price acrylic paintings, digital art, or how to sell art of any medium in general, this formula works for any and all kinds of artists.
Stephanie’s two part art pricing method is the ONLY formula you need moving forward: Hard numbers. Well-earned asking prices. No feelings involved (base assumptions).
Now that you know how to price your artwork, are you convinced this is the right move for you?
If you want to take the guesswork out of pricing your art (along with a bunch of tools and resources to make it far easier), I highly recommend purchasing Stephanie’s book here: