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How much should I charge for my art?

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  • How much should I charge for my art?

    In another digital art forum a common question popped up again, "How much should I charge for my art?"

    I thought following response by John Shiflet was well written and sought (and received) his permission to reproduce it here at RetouchPRO.

    John has considerable personal selling experiences in the field of antiques, (including occasional works of art), but the principles he outlines here apply to selling anything which does not have rigidly set values.

    Feel free to add your own comments, thoughts and/or experiences.

    Happy reading...


    "How much should I charge for my art?"

    Pricing art has long been a complicated matter because what constitutes art has always been in the eye of the beholder. Realistically, your work is worth exactly what someone is willing to pay for it.

    I will assume you're a beginning-level artist. If that is the case, then you may want to look first at how much time you have put into each work, the cost of canvas, art board, frames, printing supplies, and so forth to come up with a reasonable pricing strategy.

    Most artists also intuitively know which works are their best. "Best" usually is a work which most closely realizes the artistic vision you had when you created it. It would be logical to price those works in the "best" category somewhat higher than those which perhaps did not fully realize your vision. Subject matter and the medium/media employed also determine price. Obviously, if you employed some method which utilized gold leaf in your work, then you would have to price it accordingly. Same for sculpture and/or some other types of media.

    To get a feel for your local art market, try first to visit an art show and observe the price ranges being asked for works by artists with roughly the same recognition level as your own (and working in the same medium/media). Well-known local artists nearly always command a premium over someone new to the market -- unless he or she is an art prodigy.

    It never hurts to put a higher price on your work at opening and then negotiate a better price later with potential customers. If you find your sales are very brisk at the opening, then you probably could have raised your prices without losing many sales.

    On the other hand, sometimes there just aren't that many buyers around for the kind of art you are selling. Whatever you do, never let your works go for "give-away" prices. It's better to pack up your unsold work and store it for the next show than to "dump" it.

    Research, research, research!!!! See what IS selling at the show and why. Talk to other artists who share a genre-medium similar to your own. You'll find most are willing to discuss pricing strategies that work for them.

    Art is in many ways like music. The music that sells best is popular music. By popular, I mean music that appeals to the greatest number of people -- the general public. Only very well established artists can get away with selling "high-brow" abstract art that many laymen cannot fathom. Picasso started out painting Harlequins/Clowns/Jesters and established a solid artistic reputation before he moved on to more avant-garde Cubism and Abstraction. The closer to mainstream popular subject matter your work is, the more likely it is to sell, especially if you are new to the market.

    To the extent possible, try to learn why your customers like the works of yours that they buy. You may realize that certain aspects of your work are highly prized. If so, emphasize those aspects in future works.

    As a side note: You've probably seen the "starving artists" shows advertised at your local motel conference centers, convention centers, etc. By now, most people realize that the paintings being sold in these "shows" are mass-produced in countries like Mexico, Taiwan, and Indonesia.

    An original is often created by a master artist and then student artists mass-produce copies (sometimes hundreds) of that particular work. It's all done very fast with no artistic vision involved. These works are priced accordingly and are bought by people with limited art knowledge mainly as something pretty to hang up on their living room or kitchen walls. You never want your art to be confused with the kind of "art" mentioned above. There are a lot of talented artists "out there", but the most financially successful are those who work hard at it and besides having artistic talent and skills, they have a lot of marketing savvy as well.

    John Shiflet
    Saint Joseph, MO
    [email protected]

  • #2
    I recently began selling "photo-art" manipulations to raise money for our church. The manipulations I've done so far were rendered using methods / styles very similar to ones I've used on images uploaded in the Turning Portraits into Digital Sketches, Oils, Watercolors forum.

    Since (a) I do this for a hobby and, therefore, don't have to take labor into consideration and (b) the objective was to raise funds (I am donating all money collected directly to the church) I priced 8"x10" head/shoulders manipulations printed on HP paper by an HP printer at $30.00. So far there has not be one single gripe about that price point, in fact I got a follow-on order for three additional manipulations.

    So, draw your own conclusions from my experiences and use this information for what it's worth.

    Happy selling...



    • #3
      I hope you don't mind me asking Danny Do you sell your work framed or unframed? Any tips on marketing? This is something I'm thinking about doing myself but I have no idea where to start


      • #4
        Hey Pam maybe we should share a website and go into business ourselves, a uk business! ***wink***


        • #5
          Hmmm, could be a good idea ! What should we call ourselves


          • #6
            Well we best keep footie out of it, as it be a man u and liverpool fc match, LOL but i have an idea, i shall email you later, i got to nip out at 10am. Shall be back at 11.30am. Elle xx


            • #7
              Originally posted by PamSav
              I hope you don't mind me asking Danny Do you sell your work framed or unframed? Any tips on marketing? This is something I'm thinking about doing myself but I have no idea where to start
              Don't mind at all. Unframed, right out of the printer. After drying I put them in plastic sleeves.

              re: Marketing
              I started out doing this as a church fund raiser (all proceeds to the church). Word of mouth from happy moms has resulted in some business.

              I also did a few promotional (as in 'free') pieces for some socially active parents at my childrens' school. That strategy has generated some paying business, too.


              • #8
                Thanks a lot Danny - every little tip helps


                • #9
                  My problem is printing, i got epson r300 but i don't have a clue on what paper to print pictures on.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Legacy~Art
                    Hey Pam maybe we should share a website and go into business ourselves
                    Hello All,

                    I'm interested in any feedback the talented folks here might have. About six months ago, I started a business called "Pictoart" ( With very limited marketing, this business has grown to a point where I can no longer keep up with demand. I've had to occasionally "turn off" advertising when I get too many orders. I'm currently doing nearly all of the artwork myself.

                    I was wondering if people here might be interested in working as independent contractors by providing artwork based on photos submitted by Pictoart Customers. I would continue to handle all the mundane business aspects (getting orders, working with customers, printing the artwork, packing and shipping, advertising, etc.) and anyone who was interested could do the actual creative work and I'd pay them.

                    I'd set up a collaborative web environment nearly identical to the one here at RetouchPro where people can create personal profiles, view available orders, post threads, and submit their work. In a way, it'd be much like the mini-challenges that are posted here, but people would get paid.

                    Keep in mind, I'm not talking about life altering amounts of money. But for those of us that love this form of artwork and do it as a hobby, this would be an opportunity to make some money for doing something you would likely do for free anyway.

                    Starting Pictoart has been very rewarding. Many of the orders we receive come from people whose lives are truly touched by the artwork we provide. We've gotten wedding photos, pictures of loved ones who have passed away, requests for family portraits created from photos of individuals from separate photos, and a wide range of other subjects.

                    I welcome you to explore our website to learn more about what we are doing. We'll be making some fairly major modifications to our site in the next few weeks and building this portal so that others might participate is among the things I'm planning to add.

                    I wanted to throw this out to the folks here and perhaps gague the potential interest. The folks here have amazing talent, and for those of you that don't already make an income from your work and don't have the time and energy to do the upfront work to start and run a business, this could be a very low pressure way to provide a service to people who will greatly appreciate it, and make some money on the side.

                    Bill Jacobson


                    • #11
                      re-posted from thread dated sept. 17 2005

                      Bill -- how many orders are you actually getting? what kind of marketing are you using? Press releases? Pay-per-click? For those of us trying to get our own businesses started, any tips on where to find the business would be most appreciated!!

                      Thanks much!


                      p.s. Most of my recent "challenge" work is over at Innographx(, although I'm always browsing around on Retouch as well. If you go over to Innographx and look up posts by BIGKIDJR, you'll see a sampling of some of the recent photo-art challenge work I've done.

                      p.p.s. I checked out your website. It is very professional looking. Out of curiosity, which of your styles would you say are the most popular? Is there much of a demand for the "Warhol" style?

                      Thanks again for the info!
                      Last edited by bigkidjr; 09-24-2005, 03:05 AM. Reason: I left something out that I wanted to ask


                      • #12
                        Thanks for the kudos. Actually, I am quite surprised that no one style is significantly more popular than any other. There are two or three styles that have only generated one or two orders so far, but I expected those to be less popular anyway. The Matrix Pop style (the Warhol one) is among those that have been quite successful.



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