How to price art?
Question: “I have a question about pricing my drawings. I have attached a drawing I did of [good mutual friend] from his wedding. I have about 4.5 hours of work in it. Now I have no intention of charging [good mutual friend] for it, [my wife] told me I was to do their portraits as soon as she heard they were getting married. But I have been asked what I would charge to do a portrait of someone. I do not wish to part with my originals. I do what amounts to lithograph like process and product hi res prints on my printer. Would a price of $100 for an 8.5x11 print on art paper be out of line? Too low? Too high? I understand ‘get what the market will bear’ and I have floated that figure to a couple of people for reactions. So far, most have said that it is reasonable and some said it was maybe too low. I value your opinion as an artist and am looking for some feedback.”
Answer: “As far as pricing, fine art goes for more than photography, so bear that in mind first. Whether right or wrong, people think that there isn’t much work or knowledge that is needed to press a button and capture ‘what already exists’ so people will pay less for photography than a drawing, painting or the like.
“That being said, if we’re talking just prints, I would normally sell open edition for $20 to $75, depending on the size and what it is printed on (obviously some papers are much more expensive, up to and including canvas prints). That, however, assumes open editions; I would charge more for limited editions - between $75 and $300 (again, depending on the market and other factors). It may be very hard for you to do limited editions, because most people just want drawings of people they know - so I wouldn’t bother doing a limited edition of a portrait (unless it’s a famous person). However, if you draw other things - cars, landscapes, historical monuments, etc., then I would suggest trying the limited edition route.
“Finally, if your drawing is a special commission, you should charge more. A skilled laborer is going to make at least $12 to $15/hour and when you consider you put at least 4 to 5 hours in each piece of work, $50 is the lowest I would go, with $75 to $100 sounding more reasonable. This is definitely going to vary by your market, how much you’ll enjoy making the piece, whether or not you’re allowed to sell prints of your work when you’re done to others (some people want their commissions to stay private), and the complexity of the piece.
“Interestingly, I’ve been dabbling with different price structures myself. Traditionally, most of my open edition prints (8” x 10” matted to 11” x 14”) have been going for $35 at art shows (usually they take 35 to 50% commission). However, recently I’ve lowered my prices for both open edition and limited edition (11” x 14” matted to 16” x 20”) to test the market and they’re not going any faster. Sometimes you just have to figure out a way to find a sweet spot, LOL, there’s no exact science for all artists…”