Are Your Paintings Overpriced?

There is a method that many artists use to price their paintings. This method is a great starting point for deciding how to price your artwork, but I want to propose a little problem some artists might run into when using it. Remember I’m not bashing this system, but rather bringing up a trap that some artists might be setting for themselves without even knowing it. I’ve used this in the past and still do.

The Method

The common method used to price paintings goes like this.

  1. Add up all the expenses for producing the piece of art. This included the canvas, stretcher bars, turpentine, photo shoot expenses (did you hire a model or rent costumes) etc. It can even include a fraction of the rent for your studio and a fraction of the brushes and paint. I say a fraction because you’ll be using the brushes and paint for more than one painting.
  2. Decide your hourly rate and multiply by the time you spent on producing the masterpiece.
  3. Add it all up and that’s your price.
  1. Let’s say your canvas and stretcher bars cost you $30 (you’ve decided that only the best quality linen is good enough). You’ll add another $15 for all the other supplies and another $100 for a photo shoot with the local mailman. You work in the garage, so you decide not to add any rent expenses.
  2. Your time is valuable, so you work for $30/hour. The painting took you 25 hours to complete…That’s $750.
  3. Let’s add it all up.  $30 + $15 + $100 + $750 = $895

Nice! That’s a great price! You’ve put a lot of time and effort into that painting and you won’t give it up for anything less! woops…

The Problem

If you’ve been in the industry for a long time and your paintings are selling, then you already know how to price your artwork. I’m talking to the new artists. My up-and-coming comrades that are just starting.

Your painting is worth that much to you, but is it worth $895 to someone else? If nobody knows who you are and you’re still taking classes because you “just can’t find that perfect skin tone color”, then consider re-pricing your painting. I know… I’m mean.

Compare yourself to the work that’s out there. Are your credentials and skills really sufficient enough to  put you in the same price range as other painters. Try to find artists at your level and see how they price their work. But make sure that they’re selling. Since, they might be overpricing!

The problem with this method is that it gives you complete control over your hourly rate. You could come up with pretty much any price depending on what you set your hourly rate at. Many artists will use the formula and then adjust the hourly rate until they get the price they wanted in the first place.

Don’t let your ego set the hourly rate. Consider setting it at minimum wage. Instead of $30/hour, adjust it to $8/hour and price your painting at $345. Or take away the hourly rate altogether and just try to break even. Then slowly add an hourly rate. Breaking even is better than not selling at all. Your studio can end up being a storage unit.

Sometimes you gotta take what you can get. Early on in our careers we should still be considered students and any losses are the cost of our education. If people spend 100K on college, then this is nothing…

If you’re trying to make money in art, then you can’t just paint for yourself. You have to paint for your audience too. Your painting must be as valuable to someone else as it is to you, if you want them to pay big money for it. So, when pricing your painting, think about what it’s worth to others, not to you. You’re not the one buying it.

Don’t set that trap…your paintings are too expensive…you don’t sell…you get discouraged…art becomes a side project….

Don’t set your prices too high too early… Let your prices grow with your skill.

This website has some more great info.


Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on new content.