As artists, we’ve been lied to our whole lives. We’ve been led to believe that art and money don’t mix. We’ve been told that artists are too creative and too right brained to really understand the complexities of business models and price structures, and that real art is above such petty things as price.
Let me say this loud and clear. You don’t need a business degree or a degree in mathematics to price and sell your art. You can do this, and honestly, it’s not that hard. You just have to realize what it is exactly that you’re putting a price on.
How Do You Put a Price On Your Creativity?
The simple answer is, you don’t. Creativity is not a commodity, a thing to be bought or sold. Creativity is a mindset. When you tap into your creativity, you become a creative being. As an artist, you don’t charge for who you are, you charge for what you make. What you make has value, and the value of what you make can be measured, quantified, and ultimately assigned a monetary value, or price. So how do you do that? Well, first consider these 5 tips, and then follow the pricing guide below.
Tip 1: Price Your Originals High
If you have to choose between pricing your originals too high or too low, err on the side of too high. Pricing your work too low creates an impression that your art is low quality or that you aren’t confident in your artistic ability. If you price your art high, you may sell less, but your profit margin will be higher. I’d much rather sell one drawing for $300 than three drawings for $100 each. The lower price point means you have to sell your work to three people instead of one, which takes more time selling and leaves less time for drawing. Add in the extra shipping costs and you’re having to work harder for less return. So price high, but be reasonable, and never ever lower your price.
Tip 2: Price Your Art So That You Are Making a Decent Hourly Wage
The US Department of Labor lists the average hourly wage for a fine artist as $23.22/hour. If you’ve been drawing for three years or more, this is a good starting point for calculating your hourly rate.
Tip 3: Calculate Your Expenses
Add up your cost of materials, rent or portion of rent if you draw at home, and any other associated costs. These costs represent your expenses. Double that amount.
Tip 4: Do Not Donate Your Work Ever, And Never Trade Your Work For “Good Exposure”
When someone asks you to do work for them for free because it will be good exposure, smile and say no thank you. Or better yet, ask them to provide their services to you for free, and promise you’ll expose their brand to all your friends. I’ll bet they won’t think it’s such a good deal then.
Tip 5: Price Your Prints Low
Print prices should be calculated based on materials cost. If you’re making your prints yourself, calculate the cost of paper and ink, and the time it takes to print. Double that amount to arrive at your low end print price. This price is probably way too low, so feel free to adjust this price to be competitive with other prints in your market.
If you’re having your prints made by someone else, double the amount you paid to have the print made. Again, adjust as necessary.
Here’s the strategy I use to calculate the price of all of my original art:
1. Decide on my hourly rate
Based on my experience and quality of work, my hourly rate is $30/hour.
2. Calculate the time it takes to complete a drawing
On average, each of my 11” x 17” drawings take 25 hours to complete. Naturally, some take more and some less, but 25 is a good average.
3. Multiply my hourly rate by my average time
My hourly rate is $30/hour, and the average time it takes me to complete a drawing is 25 hours. So $30/hour multiplied by 25 hours equals $750.
4. Add my expenses
I’ve calculated my average expenses per drawing to be around $50.
5. Add the results from steps 3 and 4 to arrive at a final price
In this case, the price for an 11” x 17” original drawing is $800 per drawing.
To calculate the price of smaller works, I use the 11” x 17” price and figure out cost per square inch.
To calculate the number of square inches in an 11” x 17” drawing, multiply the width times the height.
11 x 17 = 187 sq in.
To calculate the price per square inch, divide the total price ($800) by the number of square inches (187)
800 divided by 187 = 4.278
Let’s round that down to $4.20, which represents the cost per square inch.
With those numbers in hand, I can calculate the cost of any work at any size. For example, the cost of an 8” x 10” drawing would be
8 x 10 = 80
80 x 4.20 = 336
So, for an original 8” x 10” drawing, I would charge $336.
This is Very Important
Once you know your price per square inch, you should charge the same price for every work of a particular size. So in my case, every 11” x 17” drawing I do costs $800. If it takes 50 hours to make, it still costs $800. If I love it and think it’s my best work ever… it still costs $800. Every 11” x 17” I do is the same price.
One More Thing
Your skill, your talent, your vision, and ability are unique. You. Are. Special. Please do not undervalue the work you do, or the impact your work has on others. There’s only one you, and you are worth more than you give yourself credit for.
What have you been charging for your art up to this point? After reading this are you going to start charging more? Or do you still have questions? Let me know in the comments below.
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I’ve been charging very little compared to what these tips suggest, I think I’m definitely going to raise my prices though. You’re 100% right! I would rather get more $ from fewer people than a little from a lot. One thing I’m not sure on now is how to go about getting exposure since you warn against making things for free for exposure. My instagram account has many followers but i have under 50 followers on the site I’m going to be concentrating on more (for a more relevant audience).
Ryuu, most artists, especially in the beginning, charge WAY too little for thier work! Being personally familiar with the work you do I can say for a fact that you should be getting hundreds of dollars for your full size, full page drawings. As for getting exposure, it’s a complicated answer that would require multiple posts to cover in any really useful way. Let me see if I can post an update to this post to find out if the rest of the copicmarkertutorials community has the same question. In the meantime would you please provide the link to your other site so I can get a better idea on how to help you?
Furaffinity.net/user/ryuu1818 is where I believe I’ll have a more relevant audience. Since interacting with many members of that community, I’ve already gotten a few commissions and general interest in my work. The only way I know of to gain exposure right now is interacting with more people in the community over time, which is how I developed my following on instagram. Of course I don’t expect to gain tons of exposure over night, but any advice is greatly appreciated.
Ryuu, these are excellent questions! You’re thinking all the right things :) It seems like you understand the basics.
To get exposure you have to network across as many different social media platforms as you can. Targeting super relevant platforms like the one you linked me to is exactly right. It’s best to build relationships by being active on other members’ pages, liking, commenting, and being helpful if they’ve asked for help. When you’ve shown yourself to be friendly and helpful, people are way more likely to engage with you. Building an audiance really isn’t that hard but it does take time, so the more places you’re doing it the faster it goes.
But getting exposure is only the first step. Once you have an audiance you need a place to take them so you can interact on a more personal level. Like I’ve done here. You found me on Instagram, we started our interactions there but can build a better relationship here :)
It’s easy to get exposure on social media but harder to sell from those sites because people are there to escape the day to day consumer driven grind. So having a dedicated site for your art and building real relationships on your art site will turn followers into customers.
Again, this is a super deep topic and I built this site to show you guys exactly how to do it, but to get through it all is gonna take time. Your art skills are top notch and it would help you to know the rest faster than I can blog about it. I wish I could just download the information from my brain to yours! But since I can’t I would be willing to do personal consultations with you over email, Skype, or phone to help you get selling as fast as possible. Would you be interested in that?
I have an Instagram account dawnmarieu07, there I have all my work posted.
I have been charging $60 for an 8×10 pencil/conte or charcoal portrait. That’s my lowest.
The most I’ve charged was $300 for 16×20, sold 3 at that size and price. (I’m just starting out at all this, “selling side of things,” I’ve never known what to price my work at to sell .) When I mention 300 for 16×20 I get, that’s to much! I’d like to just paint or draw, and get paid for it. Be at home, or in our back yard (including the area of which we live!)
Great post! Very actual for me now. I still have a question. When you say “On average, each of my 11” x 17” drawings take 25 hours to complete.”, does it include the time to develop an idea, finding references, sketching thumbnails etc., or only the making of the final drawing? And, how do you track your time? I’m working from home with kids, so i rarely have big chunks of time to work, so i steal here and there some time and don’t really know, how long a drawing took. Do you have tips how to track your working time effectively? I would love to hear your thoughts on it!
Hi Morgana :) thank you for the awesome question! The 25 hrs includes thumbnails, research, line drawing, preparing my line drawing for coloring by converting it to blue line, and then the actual coloring process. I usually don’t use reference, at least not in the traditional sense. (Probably ought to do a post some day on how I use reference) Again, it’s important to realize that 25 is an average for me. Some drawings need no research and I get the thumbnails right the first time so they take 20 hrs or so, other drawings come harder and take up to 50 hrs. But my price per hour is pretty good so I don’t mind when they run over :) Also it’s important to realize that the prep work goes pretty quick for me because I’ve been doing this a long time. If your prep work takes a lot of time you should still charge for it but you may need to start at a lower hourly rate to keep your pricing in line with your experience. Does that help?
As for tracking your time it takes some due diligence. In your situation I think I would start and stop a timer over the course of a few drawings. Really keep track and then figure the average. It will be tough but once you have your average you’ll never have to do it again and you will have all the info you need to price any work you make.
Perhaps find a small timer to keep with your drawings and use ONLY for timing your drawings?
I love the way you write and even Im not an artist I can relate to what you say and I get it :) Im a papercrafter and color digistamps for cards I make with copic markers. I was attending and trief to sell my cards and other papercrafts and we sold really bad exept my fantastic family and friends who really support me. They see it just as a hobby but they are proud of me and it makes them happy to see that Im using my creativity again and that it makes me happy :) My grandfather was an artist and we think I got some og his genes ;) Anayway, I love to color with copic markers but want to do more than just color up a digistamp to put on a card to sell to ordinary people who think its been printed and derfor I have to underprice it more than I should for anyone to want to by. When I make cards with other materials and not hours of details I can price them in a whole other range and then proppe want to buy, so thats the upside for me. but the more I color the more I want to learn, progress and give other the chance to learn, to inspire and share what I know but when I just color up small stamps for my small cards I feel like its not enough, not big enough and I want to do more but I Havent been drawing on my own since I was a child and I always draw things I looked at. I didn have the fantasy to make up my own thing so I feel stuck with loving to make cards and want to learn and play with new teqniuqes as for my coloring I want more than to place it on a card to sell for under half price of what its worth with all the soul I have laid in it. I think that I want to make cards, just not color on those I sell at small prices and do something bigger with my copic coloring, I just dont know what when I can’t draw. I know there is something in my coloring I cant give up on. It makes me happy and people like it. But as I said, its just a small thing on a card I have to sell cheap for anyone to by it. I learned at this christmasfair that no one Even noticed the coloring Even when they read the sign about it next to the card. But Im not giving up ny skill just because the world Don’t see art as more than a hobby either. I have small problems selling my cards to a reasonable price, its just my coloring Im struggling with not knowing what to do. I feel like if I cant draw something from my own imagination Im not gonna get anywhere with it. It will always just be a hobby with no income. Do you have any advice? :)
Hi Marthe, thank you for sharing so openly, I really appreciate it. Let’s see if I can do your questions any justice shall we? :) First off you are right, most people don’t recognize good coloring at cons or fairs. They will buy what they love regardless of the quality. This was a hard lesson for me to learn but the truth is you COULD put in half the time and still sell. I still put all my effort into each work I do but it is a personal choice because I love to color.
As for making original work without being confident in your drawing skills, well that’s a hard one to solve. My recommendation would be to realize that you really DO want to be good at drawing and start drawing at least 10 min a day. For now you can just copy the line drawings for the stamps you color until you get the hang of it. In the meantime while you’re getting better at drawing you could start combining two or three of the stamps you have into your own unique compositions. You could also use tracing paper and trace for example, an arm, on one of your stamps and then move it to a new position to create a new drawing. These are just “band aid” solutions until your drawing skills improve. Hope this helps, if you have more questions please don’t hesitate to ask.
Hi again :) Thank you for taking the time and answer me so soon. Really appriciate it. I don`t want to put less effort in my coloring or crafting because I love to do it but I know now that ordinary people doesn`t “see” it and didn`t buy so I learned a lesson too ;) I love disney and animation so I could start there with the drawing, thanks for the tip :) My challenge has always been to draw something from scratch without something to look at, that`s why I wanted some tips :) I always have to get inspired by others work to make my own thing. Maybe that`s normal when I think about it, hehe :) I always make it my own when I have the little thing who inspire me floating, then my brain is off on itself :)
Hi Marthe, you’re welcome :) it’s a common misconception that the great art springs fully formed in the mind of the artist without reference to other images. But that IS a missconception. All art is derivative. We can’t help it. So in the beginning especially, don’t worry about originality just focus on gaining the drawing skills you need. When you are ready to create fully original works in your own personal style, my blog post on how to develop your own style might help :)
I appreciate your thoroughness and specificity when it comes to illustrating the process by which you price your art, and I especially love how concise you are. You don’t make it sound scarily complicated. I had a few questions, one directly related to the subject of this post and one incidentally so.
My first question was about selling series of works together. For example, I’m working on a series of paintings that I feel could be sold either separately or as a triptych. I was thinking that, as a triptych, the total price would be cheaper than if one were to buy, say, all three but as individual pieces. Like, sold as individuals, each piece would be $30 whereas as a triptych the total price would be $75 (those are SO NOT the actual prices by the way… just examples). Do you think that that’s a good direction to go with in terms of price? Or do you think I should do something different? I know you said to never lower your price and it’s with regards to that particular statement that am considering the situation. Also I personally felt a bit conflicted about this, so I feel that a second opinion from an artist I look up to would help a bunch.
My second question was more so about the matter of making prints of your artwork and selling them. If I were to choose between selling prints and selling only originals, which one would make more sense on a financial level? From what I understand, selling prints isn’t financially ideal in a lot of cases and in the end customers aren’t getting the real thing and it’s not entirely unique since it’s one of a series of copies so there’s little investment value for them, but I’ve noticed that a lot of fine artists I follow on IG make limited editions prints of their art, and I guess I’d like to have a better understanding of why that is, like if there’s something key that I’m missing. But also, do I necessarily have to choose between selling originals and selling prints, or can/should I do both? What are your suggestions?
Wow I realized my two questions turned into forty-thousand… But if you find the patience to answer them all I’d greatly appreciate it!
Hi Nellie, thank you for the kind compliment :) these are amazing questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.
When it comes to pricing a triptych that could be sold either as a set or individually, I would recommend the following:
Keep careful track of how much each work costs you to make. I’m sure some will go faster than others and therfore cost you less in time and materials etc. Normally every work of the same size gets an average price for that size, but in this case I would track my expenses individually then add my desired profit margin to the cumulative total of three works, in effect, treating the tryptich as a whole, as a unique work in and of itself with its own price structure rather than an extension of the the price structure for the individual works. In this way you could easily break out the individual works to sell at the average price for their size or price them together as a group. Just remember a triptych is a thing, a product all of its own and as such needs to priced differently than other products.
As to whether or not you should charge more or less than the three individual works combined that’s up to you. A triptych, for me at least, is a greater concept, a full story rather than a chapter so to speak, and I think my inclination would be to charge more rather than less. In my opinion, to price it lower than it would cost to buy the works individually devalues it. In essence you’re saying “here is a greater vision, three works combined to make a singular statement, but it has less value than the individual statements by themselves.” To me that just doesn’t add up. Does that make sense?
If you still have questions please ask them, I’m happy to work through this with you until you find a solution you like.
As for prints, well, that’s a deep subject. I could probably write several full length posts on the subject but I’ll do my best to hit the high points here. Making prints should be part of a larger marketing strategy. Prints in and of themselves have very little real or perceived value. They are a low cost way for people who love your work to own your work but it’s hard to make a living selling prints. The reason most artist do limited runs is to increase urgency. If you only make 50 prints, the people who want them NEED to buy them before they are gone. So limited editions are simply a marketing tactic, and a good one. I look at prints simply as a way to aquire new customers but ultimately want to try and upsell my print buyers into higher cost items, perhaps even orginals. The key to success as an artist is to go beyond a simple print or original product offering. It’s best to do some research on your audience. Find out what they like to buy and put your work on those things as well. (I cover this in depth in the blog that will be coming in the next few days.)
So to summarize, prints are good low cost items and are best when offered in limited runs. The run should have enough prints to pay for the cost of the original. For example, if my orginal costs $800 and I’m selling the prints for $10 each, I’ll make a limited edition of 80 prints. That will cover my cost for the creation of the original and if I then sell the orginal at $800 it’s pure profit. To have a fully rounded art business I need to find some in between products that hit my customers’ buying patterns. Maybe shirts or calenders or art books. In the end I want to have some low cost items, some mid priced items, and some high cost collector items.
Hope this helps.
Again, if you still have questions or if my answers raise new questions please ask! I’ll always answer :)
Wow, I really like how much kindness and effort you put into answering people. It’s like you are creating real friends, not just gathering an email list. Rock on, sir.
Thank you for the kindness!
Chris, This one is by far the most helpful to me!
I’ve been underselling, like way underselling my work.
BUT I’m glad I know someone like you who has just changed that!
I calculated on average what i should charge per square inch and its about $2 per sq. in.
I was selling mine at about… MAYBE 45 cents per square inch. (Although i agreed to the prices and was happy to sell anything)
Thanks for this one!
Thanks Vince! You’re way too good to be selling that cheap! I’m glad you’ll be changing that up! With the marketing strategies I’ve outlined in the other posts you’ll be able to get more sales at the higher price than you were at the lower one!
Do you account for the time it takes to pack for shipping? Or time spent on marketing? (Writing, etc). Do you multiply your expenses by 2 to account for bigger expenses like your yearly website fees?
I love your website thanks for sharing!
Hi Dawn, excellent questions (and sorry for the late reply, somehow I missed this one). In theory, you want to account for all of your expenses. However, you also have to take into account the average market value of the type of work you do. Pricing your art can sometimes be a delicate balancing act between covering all your costs and making a profit and staying within your market’s target price. But ultimately yes, we wan’t to account for everything, it just sometimes means a lower profit margin.
Some very good advice from the owner of one of the galleries I show at:
“The originals sell the prints. Price accordingly.
The original is the best reoresentation of that piece. When a viewer sees the original, they get excited about your work. Most people don’t have the budget for original art, but they can afford the print.
If you are going to sell the original, what is it worth, what is fair compensation for not having it available to show (to sell the prints)?”
This also holds true for convention setups.
This is good to consider in addition to the,points listed above.
Excellent advice, Mikey. You really seem to know your stuff! Super happy to have you here. Please continue to add your valuable advice.
Hey, great blog! I love working with Copics, too. I’m super glad you made this blog and I was able to find it. I’m mind-blown that a standard price for original art can be over $75… like $750 instead?! WOW!
I’m one of the statistics that tried selling art prints on Etsy a few years ago and it didn’t go anywhere. So, I stopped. I work mainly in software, but I love drawing and want to learn how to make money doing it. I wouldn’t really know where to start since I’m not good at marketing and I failed last time.
Here’s a quick sample of my art.
And a few questions and comments about the article:
The pricing breakdown is cool – where and how do I actually sell an $800+ copic artwork? Is it done online? or at shows?
What size of portfolio is needed for this?
Both online and offline selling require a substantial investment of time, learning and money. What does it really take to reach cashflow positive?
After all, when going from hobby to business, the goal is to end up with income and not just an increasing portfolio of unsold works.
Hi Adrian, great questions. Understand that an $800+ price is arrived by calculating size, materials, and time spent, and is in and of itself not a standard price for any Copic drawing. So running the numbers on your own work and work in practices should get you a good idea of how to price your art.
As for how and where to sell, today everything can be done online. I’d recommend reading our Instagram posts and other art marketing posts to get a good idea of where to begin.
Regarding making prints, do you number them? And if so how many prints will you make for each piece. Any info or advice would be great.
Love your work and this site!
Me again. I notice that you have addressed this in the comments above so no need to go thru it again. I just thought to mention it because I know you are very responsive on here.
Any other links or articles on this stuff would be great though. Cheers!
Hi Christopher, thank you for the article. Do you also charge $30/hr for your paintings?
Great article. I had one quick question. After you calculate your average price why do you charge the same amount for a size no matter how much time it took to create? In my mind it should cost more the longer it took. Thanks!
Thank you, th is has been so helpful! <3
I never really thought of selling my drawings until recently. The only problem is I dont color mine in, but I draw anime and cartoon. I usually do about 2 or 3 hours on them, but I dont know how much if I’m barely starting out.
Hello, Christopher (: Thank you so much for this post. I read It a few months ago while I was contemplating if I should start to sell originals or not and I came across with little issue after reading a few comments on some (rant) youtube video, about how to price your copic artwork due to the fact that, alcohol markers aren’t as lightfast in comparison to other medias. Things like, people talking about how said artwork should be cheaper because is going to fade eventually, or that you should sell your artwork already framed with an UV glass or coated with some kind of finish that will bring resistance to the piece. This throw me off really bad and I wanted to consult you on said matter. Of course, both the artist and the client should be aware of the lightfastness subject that comes with copic markers, but going that few extra miles of degrading the price after making such artwork seems a bit of a stretch for me. Thank you for your time and I hope I can get an answer soon. Take care.
H’m. This is so useful, all of it. Thank you! I do wonder, though. . . for me, I do digital painting only. So there IS no original. Treating the prints as disposable collateral in the quest to get people interested in purchasing the original does not help me, and I may end up undervaluing prints at that point. . . Also there is a really clear difference in the works I’ve spent 50 hours on vs. the works I’ve spent 25 hours on. There are also certain artworks that have FAR more longterm appeal and potential than others. Pricing them based on size overlooks the fact that people would be willing to pay more for these rockstar images. Any thoughts on this?
If I’ve done a drawing of a footballer who has now died, 150cm by 100cm, large, what would you charge for it if you were doing it out of interest? I’m not sure the number of hours it will take me yet And when I have finished it, how can I market it to get more work in?
This has been the most helpful Q&A I have seen thus far. I’ve been doing commissioned pencil portraits, and I’ve been told by a couple of friends that I’m not charging enough. I enjoy the act of creating and was not primarily in it for profit, but I know that I should be fairly compensated for my time, skills, and supplies. I had been charging $100 for an 11″x14″ portrait of one, $130 for an 11″x14″/”14″x17″ portrait of two, with an additional charge of $15 per additional person in the portrait; plus, a $20 upcharge for color pencil. This prices included S&H. I have been getting a lot of commission requests, which can be overwhelming when I also have a full-time job. I only share my work on Facebook. I do not yet have a website or Instagram account. I paint also, but those are my personal creations which sell; that is, if I can part with them.
So, it looks like I am way undercharging for my work. I really appreciate the questions and your answers here. Apparently, I need to build up my confidence level. I guess I never really considered everything that has been stated in this Q&A. I’m so glad that I saw this page. Thanks, again!
Hi…. Thanks for this post, its really helped out a lot.
I wanted to ask; in the case where you have your pricing known to you, but you want to sell your works at a gallery that is asking for a commission cut of 50% for any work sold.
Do you then double your original prices?
Hi there, my name is Michael, a self taught artist and I currently have a art business named KM_Arts running for over a year and a half now going for 2 and at the moment I charge my clients prices ranging from 150 to 280 for A4s and A3s portraits in South African rands and I came to a point to where I decided that when I can draw A2 portraits then I am going to add R50 to all my prices.
I wanted to know if that will be a good idea. Knowing that my work has just developed to new techniques and it’s quality work I know k should still put value on my work.
Please advice me on what is the best prices for such.
So a friend painted a unicorn on one of my kitchen chairs. Showed it to someone and they now want her to paint a few cactuses on 8×10 canvases. But not sure about pricing. She’s never sold any of her drawings. So where to start.
Hi, my name is Emma and I am looking into selling my art on Etsy and I was would be selling 9in by 12in original colored pencil drawings. I was wondering if you had any advice on what I should price them at.
This is the smartest and easiest calculation I’ve read on the internet to date. Thank you! This makes so much sense. Simple and effective pricing method!
P.S., I LOVE copic markers. :-)
You are absolutely right! As a hairdresser of 40 years i realized i was Selling myself short. I got Tired of less experienced stylists making more than me! I realized I wanted $100 an hour for my work. That included my artwork too! Once you know your worth , than charge it! You may lose some people or clients but it will open the space for the ones who really value your time and experience! This oil commission sold for $300.