How to Price Your Art

How to Price Your Art by artist coach, Mary Edwards, Ph.D.

How do you price your work, especially at the beginning of your career?  Artists often look for a shortcut, a simple way to figure out pricing, like adding up the cost of materials or charging so much per square inch or counting the number of hours it took to create the work.

While it is useful to know the cost of your materials and how long it takes you to make a work of art, that isn’t how to establish your prices.  You have to shift your perspective from your own process to the wider world.  You need to understand how the art market places value on works of art.

At first, the art market seems completely random.   A 36” by 24” landscape painting might sell for $800 or $8000 or even $8,000,000.  Yet there are rules underlying the system.  Whether your name is Picasso or you’re still unknown, your prices are a function of your visibility and credentials as an artist. 

So where do you begin?  First, try to understand your local art market.  Unless you are already an established artist with a national reputation, your first sales will happen locally.  If you live in a small town, your art market extends to the closest major city.  Visit galleries that show emerging and mid-career artists.  Find nonprofit art centers that offer juried shows of local and regional artists.  All of these venues should have price-lists for the artists they are showing.   

Now narrow your focus.  Identify artists whose work is similar to your own, and note their prices.  Find artists who make work in the same medium and subject matter, such as landscape painting, abstract photography, or ceramics.  Pay special attention to artists whose work is selling well--notice the little red dots! 

When you’ve found comparable artists whose work you respect, learn about their background.  You can usually find a biography or resume on an artist’s website or on their gallery’s website.  Check their educational background and exhibition history.  Have they had any solo shows?  Museum shows?  Try to see the relationship between their accomplishments and their sales prices.  How does their background compare to your own?

Now you’re ready to take a look at the wider art world.  You can do most of this research online.  Both UGallery ( and Zatista ( offer a wide range of original art for sale.  Find artists in your own category whose work you admire, and note their selling prices for works of similar size or complexity.  You can assume that these are retail prices, where the gallery is taking a 50% commission.  The relevant price for comparison purposes is half of that, known as the wholesale price.  You can also check prices on the websites of home décor retailers, like Crate & Barrel, who sell both original art and prints in a category called “wall décor.”     

If you are a maker of handmade goods, you can also find prices online.  Go to the e-commerce site, and look for items that are similar to your own in terms of materials, originality, and skill, and see what they are selling for.  Then check the artist’s profile to find out about their background.  Use this information to determine whether your art should be priced at the low end, in the middle, or in the higher “one-of-a-kind” category.  

Now you are ready to establish your own prices.  Start by pricing your largest and most complex work.  Based on your research into the art marketplace and your own sales history, what would a fair price be?  A good way to check your estimate is to imagine walking away with a check in that amount.  Are you smiling or disappointed?  Do you think you’ve received fair compensation for your effort? 

Then price medium-sized and smaller works so that they make sense in the context of your highest priced art.  You might want to provide a range within each size category so that you can have some variation in price for works that are more or less complex.  If there are works that are so important to you that they don’t fit into your price structure, consider marking them NFS (not for sale), so that your prices remain consistent.

Create a written price list.  This is an actual document that you have available for events in your studio or other venues where you sell art.  Each item for sale is listed by its title, materials, dimensions, and price. You can also add a thumbnail image for each work.  Always include your name and contact information on the list, and have multiple copies so that people can take them away.

Writing down your prices helps you talk with potential buyers without stumbling or apologizing.  A written price list also protects you from people who always want to negotiate.   A published list makes your prices more official.

Your goal is to establish consistent and credible prices that make sense in terms of your background and accomplishments.  The next time a buyer asks “how much is that?” you will have a clear and confident reply because you know the value of your work in the art marketplace.

Mary Edwards, Ph.D.

Mary Edwards is a Career & Life Coach for Artists, based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She works with artists across the United States and all over the world.

Mary has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and received her coach training from the College of Executive Coaching.  She brings a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to her practice.

To receive Free Tips for Artists (twice a month), visit and click on “Mailing List Sign-Up.”  If you would like to schedule a time to talk, see “Contact Mary.”


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