Sunday, April 29, 2012

How to Price Your Art

"Summer Slumber" Watercolor on 140 lb. paper. 15x22

Have you ever wondered why art costs so darned much? The price for my watercolor paintings is $1.60 per square inch. Where does that price come from? Here is a breakdown of exactly how that figure is born. If you are an artist, feel free to steal my formula to help you price your own work.

1. Start with your most common sized work and base your estimates on that. Most of my paintings are 22x30.

2. Figure out material costs. For a 22x30 piece, I estimate that I use $40 in supplies. I take into account layout supplies, photocopies, watercolor paper, disposable synthetic brushes, drawing gum, paint, etc. Don’t leave out anything. If you bought a $150 brush (Yes, believe it or not, art supplies can be that expensive!), and you figure it lasts you through about 100 paintings, add $1.50 to your supply costs per painting. If you supply framing, then figure that in too.

3. Figure up your labor. It takes me between 16 and 30 hours to complete a 22x30. The average time is about 20 hours. I have decided to pay myself $22 per hour to paint, which is a fair to low rate for a skilled worker. Therefore, a 22x30 painting costs $440 in labor to produce.

4. Take your labor costs and add them to your materials costs. For me, this comes to $480. If I sell my painting for anything less than $480, then I just lost money. This is an important figure to remember.

5. Add profit. You want to make a profit on your work, not just break even, right? I add $50 to the amount that I have already calculated so that this happens, especially since I sometimes have to deal with unexpected costs. This figure makes sure that I make some money and also provides a cushion.  

6. I now know that $530 is a fair price for my painting. That makes sure that I pay for my materials and labor and have $50 left over for profit. But wait... If I sell my painting at a gallery or show, they are going to take half of my money... And what about taxes? Darn it. If that happens, I am back to losing money! To make sure that I make money instead of losing it, I need to double that figure. I am up to $1060 for a 22x30 painting.

7. Now that I have my base price, it is time to figure out the price per square inch. A 22x30 painting is 660 square inches, so I take $1060 and divide it by 660. I get 1.60606061. Round that down, and I get $1.60 per square inch. This means:

5x7 costs $56
8x10 costs $128
11x15 costs $264
16x20 costs $512
15x22 costs $528
20x26 costs $832
22x30 costs $1056 (Yes, I lost a few bucks when I rounded down.)

So there it is, folks. That is how my prices are calculated. Do you have a similar or different method of pricing?


  1. Thanks for posting this. It's a great calculation and helps people respect art a little more. Though I must say $22/hour for your labor is too low. You are good enough to up that some.
    also you didn't mention other expenses like health insurance or benefits that a typical company job would cover.

    1. Thanks, Lynn. :) You are right. There are some things I probably left out. It is something to consider.

  2. It is so great that you break your pricing structure down in such a straight-forward manner. Too many artists that I know shy away from a calculator and think making a profit is just way, way to bourgeois. And as Lynn said, this is good for non-artists and collectors as well.

  3. YEARS ago a successful, talented friend said to me,"I make sure I pay myself $100. an hour."

  4. Thank you for the valuable info..