Pricing Paintings: The ultimate guide

Learn essential strategies for pricing paintings

Pricing paintings is an essential skill if you want to sell art online. But if you're just getting started, it can create a lot of questions. When I started I had so much internal dialogue about pricing paintings:

  • How much should a print be?
  • How much should an original painting be?
  • Because other artists are charging $20 for a print, does that mean I have to too?

There are rhyme and reason for everything. Which is what you'll better understand when you learn how to price your art.

Of course, there are the basics of pricing art. For instance, taking into account how much you have to generate in revenue every year to meet your cost of living. Also, paying attention to how much time it takes you to make your art.

In this guide about pricing art, you're going to learn:

  1. Why you shouldn't let what other artists are charging influence your price
  2. Specific pricing recommendations
  3. How to Generate more revenue through price anchoring
  4. The rough math of selling your art online
  5. Psychology and pricing: How to create more sales

Why you shouldn't let an “art market” determine how you price your art.

We've all been there.

We uploaded a new art product on our site. A print or an original. But before we tell anyone about it, we start browsing around the internet to see the prices of similar works.

Looking at and comparing our art to those of other artists.

Trying to “gauge the industry average”. So we “price our work right”.

Comparing your art prices to those of others doesn't take into account some important factors. You see, what you charge depends on a few factors:

  1. Where you're selling your art online
  2. What your costs are
  3. Your audience numbers: How many people are subscribed to your art newsletter

Where are you selling your art online

There are essentially two places to sell your art online:

  1. On popular art market sites. Such as Etsy, Society 6, Fine Art America, eBay, etc…
  2. Or your personal website.

The problem with selling your art on community art sites is that you're forced to play the pricing game.

You're stuck in a sea of thousands of other artists selling the same type of art products.

Charging “low” so you have “competitive” prices. Or being forced to charge exactly what everyone else is charging.

It's an exhausting way to run your art business.

When a collector is on a community art site looking at all the art. It would be strange if one artist charged more than the other for the same type of product.

Also, on these “art mall” type of website, your potential collector is comparing your prices to those of other artists.

It's also a competition for keeping your potential collector's attention. At the bottom of each page or in the sidebar, there are thumbnails showing the work of other artists who make “similar” work to yours. Making it easy for someone to click away from your work.

These art mall websites are too competitive and exhausting.

When you focus on selling your art on your art website. You have the ability to establish the value of your art. Never again competing on price with thousands of other artists on art mall websites ever again.

What are your costs for making your art?

When you're pricing art you have to consider your costs. Apart from your materials, you have to factor in your time.

The best investment you will ever make is investing in yourself. This often translates into investing time in education, practice, and making more work. Time benefiting your art business.

Money is essentially stored-up time. The more money you have in your savings, the more time you can reinvest in your art business. So when you factor in time to your price, you have to think about your future. Not just covering costs in the past.

What are your audience numbers?

Artists who have a massive audience can make thousands of inexpensive prints that sell for $20 USD each. Mimicking the prices of artists who have massive established audiences won't benefit you during the early stages of your art business.

In the early stages of your art business, your audience is going to be small. So the few sales you do get will have to matter and make an impact.

So how expensive or inexpensive should you price your art?

Specific pricing recommendations for selling art original art

Originals are one of a kind.

Most people already perceive originals as valuable.

There's only one!

Which is why it makes sense to charge more for them. But determining what to charge for originals depends on how much time you put into each work – and your costs.

Remember, money is pent up time you can reinvest in your art business and life.

Let's say it takes you a month to create one original.

What you charge for this original should cover your material costs to make the painting. All your monthly expenses. Plus at least another month of expenses to create another painting. This is generally how you figure out your pricing foundation. It's different for everyone, but this is a great way of thinking about your original pricing.

There has to be a reason behind what you're charging. It has to support your art business, your livelihood, and future work.

Selling more expensive works are easier when you hit upon more psychological triggers. Triggers you hit during as you use storytelling in your marketing. Such as videos, sending out regular weekly newsletters, and personal interactions with your audience. (More on this in a few days in an upcoming lesson.)

If you're working on a painting for 6 months and you only make two paintings a year, then charging $20K – $30K USD for painting makes sense.

For some artists, it would make more sense to charge $3,000 for an original. It all depends on your output and costs.

How much you charge also largely depends on how much effort you are willing to put into the marketing part of your art. The more expensive (over $5,000 USD) the more time and effort you're going to have to put into building your audience and personal brand as an artist.

Each sell at this level will be more hands-on. It'll also be based on a personal connection you have with the collector.

Generally, I wouldn't sell a small original drawing from my sketchbook for less than $2500.

But this is for me. How I live my life, my expenses, audience size, and other factors make this work for me. I'm also emotionally attached to my originals and don't really try to sell them.

Which is why I focus on selling prints as the main art product.

Specific pricing recommendations for selling prints

Selling prints can feel daunting because it requires upfront costs, but not always.

If you're just getting your feet wet with selling prints, I recommend using a print on demand service. My favorite is Printful. They integrate with your website to automate the printing and shipping of your prints. No upfront costs. And it doesn't take people away from your site.

The only drawback with this is that you can't hand-embellish or sign the prints.

If you're just starting out, this is a great way to get started selling prints online without any upfront costs.

Use Printful to earn $500 – $1000 and then invest in your own Epson printer. This way you can be in complete control of making your prints.

Once you're making your own prints, I recommend pre-selling them. Doing a launch once or twice a year where for 24 hours – 9 days, you're offering a print to collect. Making it clear you're only producing the number of prints that people buy during this small window of time.

This style of launching makes it so you aren't stuck with a few hundred prints stacked up waiting for new homes.

I recommend $100-$300.

I know prints are going for less, but you should charge more. The amount of marketing required to sell a $20 print is the same for selling a $100-$300 print.

Price anchoring: Generate more revenue

Nothing is cheap or expensive by itself, but compared to another price, they do.

Once you’ve seen a $5,000 original painting, $100 sounds reasonable for a limited edition print, right?

This mental process has a name – it’s called price anchoring.

Anchoring plays a huge factor in pricing your art.

By offering differently priced tiers during your art launches, you'll notice an increase in art revenue.

Here’s a quick example of this pricing in action based on a famous study. The study used beer to illustrate why 3 pricing options are the most effective, here's how it went –

People in a restaurant were offered 2 kinds of beer:

  • premium beer for $3 (the most sales)
  • bargain beer for $1.50
  • Close to 80% of the people picked the more expensive $3 beer.

So by adding a second more expensive option, you would already dramatically increase your art revenue! Then, a third beer was introduced, a cheap beer for $1.25 along with the previous two.

  • premium beer for $3
  • bargain beer for $1.50 (the most sales)
  • cheap bear for $1.25

Now, 80% bought the $1.50 (middle) beer and the rest bought the $3 beer.

Nobody bought the cheapest $1.25 option. Third time around, they removed the cheap $1.25 beer and replaced it with a super premium $4.00 beer:

  • super premium beer for $4
  • premium beer for $3 (the most sales)
  • bargain beer for $1.50

Most people chose the $3 beer, a small number $1.50 beer, and around 10% picked the most expensive $4 beer.

(You’ll soon find out there will always be people who will always choose the most expensive option, no matter the price.)

You can influence people’s choices by offering different options.

When you are offering different price points, people are comparing your prices with your own prices. Not with some other artists' prices.

Establishing your art pricing strategy

You can combine this pricing strategy into a single pricing structure.

Create 3 different pricing packages, and focus your intentions to sell mainly the middle one.

The first package is kind of a decoy. It’s similar to the middle option but offers visibly less value while costing almost as much.

The second option, the one you want to focus on selling, offers great value for money.

The third option is to serve as a contrast to the middle one, it’s role is to anchor in a high figure. Make it much more expensive than the middle plan. You don’t actually intend to sell it, but remember there will always be the type of collector who wants the most expensive art product price point.

Here's an example with prints of different sizes:

  • 8” x 10”, Edition of 100 – $100 each ($10,000 potential)
  • 13” x 19”, Edition of 50 – $250 each ($12,500 potential)
  • 24” x 30” Edition of 10 – $2,400 each ($24,000 potential)

$46,500 total potential when all of the prints are sold.

Here's an example of two prints of the same size but one is hand embellished:

  • 13” x 19”, Standard Print – Edition of 100 – $100 each ($10,000 potential)
  • 13” x 19”, Hand Embellished Print – Edition of 50 – $300 each ($15,000 potential)

$25,000 total potential when all the prints are sold.

Here's an example of art book options:

  • Standard Hardcover Art Book – $45 each
  • Custom Drawing on the Inside of the art book – Edition of 50 – $250 each

It’s important to point out that by offering multiple packages you aren’t excluding customers. If you only offered one price point at a high price, you will exclude a lot of revenue.

Offering your work at ALL price points will increase your art revenue.

Get creative in how you offer different pricing packages to your audience during your launch. But make sure the higher-priced options have an actually added value.

How many art sales can you expect to make selling art online?

Here's the rough math, if your art product costs:

  • $50 or less you can usually turn 3-7% of your art newsletter subscribers into customers.
  • $50 to $200 you can usually turn 1-3% of your art newsletter subscribers into customers
  • $200 to $1,000 you can usually turn 0.5-2% of your art newsletter subscribers into customers

The reason this works is one thing: Distribution.

With an email list, you have direct access to a group of people that have signed up to your email list because they're interested in your art.

How much art you sell depends on a few things:

  1. Number of people on your email list
  2. Quality of your relationship with the list
  3. How good of a fit your product is for your list
  4. How good of a job you have done prepping your audience for the product
To start, I recommend focusing on growing your list to 100 people, then do a test launch.
Then to focus on growing your email list to 500, then doing another launch.
Then 1,000 people, and on and on.
10,000 subscribers is a great goal. By the time you hit 10,000 email subscribers, you'll know what sells best with your audience during launches and the money you earn should make a significant change in your life.

It takes work and it takes TIME to grow your email list.

Psychology and pricing: Why people make a decision to buy

Selling your art online is nothing more than a conversation. It’s an authentic and engaging way for you to let someone collect your work.

As humans, there are psychological reasons behind every purchasing decision we make.

Simply sharing your creative process and offering traditional art products (originals and prints) naturally taps into sales psychology.

First, let’s change our frame of mind on selling. Instead, let’s think of selling as launching.

Launching your art further amplifies your bond with your audience. Creating buzz, mystery, anticipation, and urgency. Key psychological triggers you need to hit upon as you’re building up to selling your art.

The psychology of launching

There are a handful of powerful psychological triggers you need to think about when you launch your art.

These psychological triggers are nothing new and they’re behind everything decision we make. Even at the grocery store, these psychological triggers are at work.

Here are the main psychological triggers we are going to touch on in our art launch:

  • Reciprocity
  • Curiosity
  • Anticipation
  • Community and social proof
  • Scarcity and Exclusivity
  • Urgency

Remember: The more expensive your work is, the more of these you have to touch on.

Reciprocity

Reciprocity is an urge to give back to those who’ve given to us.

For example, when someone surprises you with a gift. Innately, we feel the emotional urge to reciprocate by giving them a gift.

This is reciprocity.

When you’re selling your art online, you’re tapping into the reciprocity with your audience. By openly sharing your creative process consistently. All the glimpses into your art studio, your stories, inspirations, the images and videos of your works in progress.

These are all gifts to your audience.

As you’ve been sharing your content, you’ve never once asked for anything in return.

So when it is time to invite your audience to collect something new you're offering. You're giving them a chance to become a part of your artist journey.

Your true fans will be excited to give back to you.

Curiosity

Have you ever seen a teaser movie trailer?

It’s much different than a regular movie trailer.

It’s shorter and often ambiguous.

These shorter teaser trailers do so much.

It piques your curiosity. Making you ask yourself so many questions about the movie.

During your regular emails, you can touch on curiosity by dropping hints. Hints about the art you’re about to make available to collect.

Anticipation

Launching your art turns buying your art into a scheduled event. It happens at a specific time.

Anticipation is a natural side effect of establishing an event. There is a countdown to it.

If you create proper build-up during your launch your audience will anxiously wait for your scheduled launch day.

Community and Social Proof

We approve of what others approve of. How often do you read the testimonials on Amazon before you buy something?

When you share photos of your art hanging in your collector's homes. When others see other people talking and sharing your art. It tells your audience you're “approved” by others.

This may not seem important, but when you emphasize a community around your work –it nudges people to collect your work.

These visual testimonials act as social proof to help others make their decision to buy.

Scarcity and Exclusivity

The perception of scarcity is a powerful element during an art launch. Scarcity is one of the main driving forces for increasing sales on your actual launch day. It helps to have an incentive to buy that is only in effect on the launch day for a short period of time.

You can also tap into scarcity and exclusivity by limiting the number of art products. Selling any kind of art there is usually a limited quantity, whether it’s limited edition prints or original works.

Urgency

The main problem I see when artists are launching a new art product is not giving the potential collector a reason to buy NOW.

Just listing your work in your online store isn't enough. An obstacle as little as not having a credit card ready by the computer can prevent a buy for weeks, months, or prevent it from even happening at all.

That single moment of purchasing is sensitive.

It’s easy to think, “Oh if they don’t buy now, they’ll come back later and buy it.”

Sorry, but this is often not true.

To solidify your revenue during your launches, each art sale needs to happen on your terms. Not the collectors. Implementing urgency is the way to do that.

Types of urgency

When launching your art there are three main types of urgency you can use:

  1. Discount the price
  2. Add a bonus
  3. Limit sales

You can also combine these for crazy results.

Remember, it’s important that you give a reason for your audience to buy right now and not put it off.

You need to enforce urgency within a small window of time. Having your launch go on for weeks and weeks doesn’t work well. It’s giving people more than enough time to put off buying.

So if you say, “I have this awesome bonus if you buy anytime in the next two weeks!” you risk your launch being put on the back burner.”

When it comes to enforcing urgency, a shorter time frame is better. 24 hours to one week.

In order for urgency to work, people have to know that something has a limit. Limiting time and quantity is the best strategy.

Sending reminders of the urgency

In order for the urgency to work, people have to know about it.

The entire point of adding an urgent deadline is so your audience knows a limited offer is about to expire.

Adding urgency to your art launch is by far the most efficient way to drive your art revenues up during your art launch.
Using these psychological triggers during your art launch

Each of these psychological triggers has the most impact when we touch on many of them at the same time.

So take your time to share your creative process and story. On a consistent basis. This is what makes launching so effective.

We are creating a different experience surrounding the collection of our art.

Using story. A story we will deliver through conversational emails to our audience.

Key points for how to price your art

  • This first lesson is all about changing your mindset on pricing to have more confidence.
  • Don't compete in a sea of thousands of other artists on popular community art sites. It's a marketing game that competes solely on pricing.
  • Have the confidence to charge more when you're starting out. It'll help you reinvest in your art business and set the stage for your future.
  • The price you charge for originals should reflect the costs and time it took to make. Plus the amount of time it will take you to make another one.
  • Prints should be at least in the $100-$300 range.
  • Launches generate more sales because of things like exclusivity and limited time to buy.
  • Offering art products at different price points will increase your overall revenue
  • There are many creative ways to offer your art at different price points.
  • The more expensive your work is the more psychological triggers you have to tap into.
  • The more expensive your work is, the longer it takes to build-up to launch. Often once or twice a year.
  • Storytelling is key to building rapport with your audience and selling your art online. (Launching your art)

Final thoughts on how to price your art

This guide is based on my personal experiences from selling art online. They're by no means the only approach or “right” way for pricing art. In my toolkit, Art Launch Blueprint, I share exact email scripts and steps to establish your art business online.

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