How Much Should I Charge For My Paintings?

Selling Paintings

Whenever an amateur artist starts out in trying to sell their paintings, they often ask the question of how much they should charge for a painting or piece of original art. Although there is no specific answer to this question, there are some guidelines that you can follow to decide on your prices as you start out and continue to sell your artwork.

At the end of the day, the price will have to be what someone is willing to pay so think about your buyers and start from there!

Van Gogh's Sunflowers

Van Gogh's sunflower paintings have fetched tens of millions of dollars at auction.
Van Gogh's sunflower paintings have fetched tens of millions of dollars at auction.

What Type of Artist Are You?

So you need to think about what to charge for your paintings and you are wondering where to start. Have a think about some of these factors to start with:

Firstly, are you selling your art to actually make some money or are you selling it because you just want someone to buy it? This is quite an important question that you may not have thought about. What I mean by this is do you want the recognition and affirmation of someone buying your painting and is this what you crave? The fact that someone is willing to pay money for a work of art that you have created may mean more to you than actually getting the money for it that it has cost you to make (or indeed, making a profit from it). This is sometimes all that people want and so this leads to a completely different pricing structure.

Or perhaps you have been painting for a while and you have a lot of artwork crowding your home and in this case you need to shift some of this work so that you can make space for more creative ideas that you have. In this case maybe you will not set a high price on your artwork so that you can sell it quickly to make space.

So the third type of artist, and the one that I am really addressing in this article, is an artist who wants to start selling their work on a regular basis and price it according to what it should be worth to a true buyer.

Criteria For Deciding On Prices

So, to give you a few ideas on setting your prices, here are some basic points and things that you need to take into account:

  • When you are starting out you will probably need to start with a reasonably low pricing structure as you do not have the reputation and number of sales behind you to justify large prices
  • Consider how long it took you to create the painting but do not use this as the overriding criteria. For example, if you want to make a living out of selling your art and a piece takes you 2 days to create, then think about how much you would need to earn in those 2 days to be able to survive. Base this on a 20 working day month. So say you want to earn $1,000 a month and the painting took you 2 days in total then you would need to charge at least $50 for it. This doesn't take into account numerous other factors but just think generally about it.
  • Consider the cost of materials that you have used in the painting
  • Charge prices that relate particularly to the size of the painting
  • Consider whether the painting is a one-off or if you will do further copies of it. You need to think about a cost for the 'idea' of the painting. If you are only going to create the painting once then that idea or design is gone and you need to come up with something else for the next painting. This needs to be factored into the cost.
  • Do you have to pay for studio space or are you paying for selling your work for example a table at a craft fair?
  • You will have to ask yourself how good is your painting? This can seem to be a strange question and you may not feel that you are the best person to answer it but if your competition is offering paintings that may be more accomplished than yours, perhaps they have been painting for a long time, then you may need to adjust your prices accordingly. Conversely if the competition has what you consider to be an inferior product then up your prices!

Summary

Deciding on prices for your artwork is a very difficult and personal decision. Perhaps the best way is to go to an art fair or gallery and see what other paintings are selling for and gauge your prices accordingly. If you are selling consistently to a point that you can't keep up with demand then obviously you need to increase your prices. If you are not selling then that may be due to a number of things - are you marketing your art to the right people? But if you think that everything else is right then you may need to decrease your prices. There are no right answers! I have had people say to me if you are not selling then double your price so really the price can be an open book. If someone likes an artwork and wants to buy it then it is really up to their judgement as to how much they are willing to pay for it and this is also such a personal decision.

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Comments 17 comments

Christine 6 years ago

Hi--your piece was v. helpful. I m new to selling and am unsure what to charge-- the customer has chosen two of my paintings so obviously wants to buy them but i am scared I might frighten him off if I ask too much, but on the other hand he might not attach value to them if I ask for too little What a dilemma!


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 6 years ago from UK Author

Hi Christine, thanks for your comments. Yes, it is such a dilemma and even after 4 years of selling I constantly reappraise my prices depending on many factors! And yes, if someone has already chosen to buy 2 of your paintings then that is great but even harder I think if you have to agree a price subsequently - good luck!


Spiker 6 years ago

This comment is only about "originals".

Here is one way to look at it.

Perhaps you have seen some of these pictures people take with a camera and print them out in very large sizes, some of these selling for well over $1,500.

Ask yourself , is a painting worth as much as a photo?

A photo displays truth indeed but a truth anyone can obtain with a camera and some practice.

However an "Original" painting is a piece of you and not everyone can simply paint the same thing or aswell.

So for this fact alone I believe a painting is worth more than a picture or print right?

For some of us a painting is a piece of ourselves and very hard to put a price on.

Should you perhaps paint something you feel is for lack of better words a masterpiece why would you charge that of a plumber?

Surely a plummer offers a service but its a service anyone can do almost and therfore is in no way relivent to the wages one might receive from creating something original and amazing.

But then again there are some artist who are whilling to discover their worth as an artist by not selling paintings based on an hourly wage or materials plus time and creativity but instead make a leap as an artist .

Naturally there are differences in skill , for example if no one had new that painting of sunflowers was from Van Gogh well I myself wouldn't even pay $50 for it.

I guess what I,m trying to say is if your sure your ready to make your stand as an artist, don't sell yourself short.

I myself have sold paintings as small as 16X20 for $1,200 simply because what was painted cound most likely never be recreated and even if it was would be a copy.

Integrity as a painter is very important for you and your buyers.

Another thing to note is cheap paintings sell fast and the artist rarely can break this cycle once started.

If you intend to make yourself a name as an artist ....DON'T SELL OUT CHEAP!!!!

If you place you paintings for high prices and they don't sell perhaps its not the price , but the price for the skill.

Some people just don't deserve as much for a painting, some paintings just arent that good.

If you find you cant sell your paintings for more than materials plus min wage for time and space than perhaps you should just go be a plumber.


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 6 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for your comments Spiker, I totally agree with you. I certainly feel that a painting is worth more than a print of a photograph - unless of course you are guaranteed that photo will only be printed once (unlikely) and it is something special. I think sometimes the buyer does not realise that they are buying the creativity of that piece, not just the paint and canvas.

For sure if you want to make your name as an artist, if you have the skill and you have built up a following then you should be able to charge high prices for your work. The only thing I object to is people going straight in with high prices when they have no reputation. I think this should build in time, but each to their own really.

Thanks again.


JULIE  5 years ago

Totally disagree that a painting is worth mote than a photograph .Just look at some well know photographers and their work merits the high prices it commands.(Warhol ,Martin Parr,Sally Mann and so on)

What painters feel ,in my opinion is that painting are more 'Unique' than photographs and therefore automatically worth more.

With all good 'ART', it is the concept and idea behind it that most people are paying for.

This could get you into a definition of what is 'Art' and what is decorative painting.

The great painters never considered matching their painting with sofas.

And Spiker for you to state 'A photo displays truth indeed but a truth anyone can obtain with a camera and some practice,' is quite arrogant and naïve.Study some great photographers and do the same.You'd soon be a millionaire if it is as easy as you say!


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 5 years ago from UK Author

Thanks for your comments Julie, all opinions are welcome and equally valid. Yes, there are some photographs that are worth as much or more than paintings but I would say that it is difficult to class a photograph as original - barring only printing one copy and destroying the negative/file etc.

And yes, there are some hugely talented photographers that have the insight, knowledge and skills to get better photographs than anyone could get just with a bit of training.

So maybe the great painters never considered matching their paintings with sofas but then in those days the commissions were more for portraits than anything to match the furnishings (ok so that is probably a bit of a generalisation) and a large number of great painters took commissions for portraits to pay the bills and maybe that is what we all have to do at the end of the day, pay the bills. I'm not in any way comparing myself to a great painter but I do believe that 'decorative painting' is still art at the end of the day, it's just that in order to make a living as an artist you have to strike a balance between commercial and personal work.


Julie webber 5 years ago

U certainly believe good 'decorative painting ' is an art itself but can never be compared to the work of the masters.It is a new art form made to suit modern interiors.

Have to disagree about the way you classify photographs just because there is an ability to reproduce them.


Julie webber 5 years ago

Sorry first word was meant to read 'I'.


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Julie, yes I think you are right, there is no comparison between decorative painting and the masters, hope I didn't imply there was.

What I was trying to say about photographs was that I can't think of how you can have an 'original' photograph in the same way that you can have an original painting - in that only one person can own that original (painting) and anything else will be a copy, whereas many people could own the same photograph as it can be printed as many times as you want it to be. I'm not saying it takes any more or less skill (just different skills) to take a photo or create a painting but the distribution of each leads more to the possibility of higher prices being achieved by paintings when you factor in this originality.


julie webber 5 years ago

I think the rule of duplication and originality is a sticky one.Think about etchings ,lithographs,screen prints and so on.As for pricing look at how many millions Warhol's prints auction for.....and they were all printed more than once by definition.


Lizzie 5 years ago

Yes, helpful article. Thank you


herrannick profile image

herrannick 4 years ago from Miami,Florida

This is a great article, I've always had trouble deciding whether or not the prices for my pieces were reasonable or if they were outrageously overpriced. Thanks for posting this, it's always great when artists decide to help their fellow art community.


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks herrannick it is a tough thing to decide but I'm glad I can be of some help :-)


Vanderleelie profile image

Vanderleelie 4 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

An emerging artist should keep prices reasonable. You can always raise your prices as your career progresses, but it's hard to reduce the value of original work. You should also aim for a more objective method of pricing than simply basing a value on how many hours were spent in the production, or which work you like best. In a commercial gallery setting, I always used a factor system relating to the size of the work (height +width) x factor. The factor was set according to the experience of the artist, their exhibition history, formal education, awards or special recognition, etc. An emerging artist might have a factor of 10, while an established, mature artist would have a factor of 50. Using this method, prices are consistent with the size of the work. When the artist becomes more recognized, or more in demand, the factor is raised.


carol7777 profile image

carol7777 4 years ago from Arizona

Anything to do with art fascinates me. You have some good ideas here, and of course the art market fluctuates with the economy. Very good hub.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

This is a great hub and useful as well. It is always difficult to give price to the paintings my artist husband painted especially when they are friends. I´m the one who sells his paintings. There are many things to consider. So, I thought that I should not sell out cheap if I want my painter to have a recognize name in the art world. Thanks for sharing. Shared in fb.


Azure11 profile image

Azure11 4 years ago from UK Author

Thanks Thelma, I think that is a great idea for you to sell your husband's paintings. I think as artists we can sometimes be almost a bit embarrassed to ask for what the painting is really worth so having someone else do it works well!

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