How I price my paintings

Neon Dollar SignFor years I have struggled with how to price my paintings. If I overprice them, I might scare people off. If I charge too little, people will think something is wrong.

So it became a guessing game. The larger pieces priced higher than the smaller ones, unless they were more elaborate or somehow “better” in my mind.

I even tried pricing them according to how long it took me to finish, multiplying by an hourly rate that sounded nice, but wasn’t ideal either since paintings don’t always complete themselves at the same pace. A large painting might be completed quickly, and a small painting may take a long time to finish.

pricing-share-600x300

Then I discovered 2 reliable pricing structures

Recently I found a post by Melissa Dinwiddie on The Abundant Artist about how to price your paintings. My eyes were opened.

You can price by the square inch or by the lineal inch. You still total the width and the height, then multiply them by something, but there is a big difference in the end.

Square inch pricing multiplies height and width, then multiplies the total against a set rate.

h × w × r = price
Linear inch pricing adds the height and width. Then the sum is multiplied against a set rate.
h + w × r = price

I prefer the linear inch method.

This is because there is less of a giant difference between a small and a large piece. Square inch pricing results in a dramatic jump from one size to another. A linear inch pricing structure is easier to stomach. It’s also easier to calculate.

2 ways to measure the size of a painting

If a painting is 12 x 12 inches, that is 24 linear inches, right? Multiply that by $11. That’s $264. Why $11? I’ll be honest, it just feels right to me at this point. This results in a reasonable starting point as I jump back into making a serious effort to sell my art.

If I apply the 99-cent rule, I can adjust the price $264 to $259.

My Pricing Table

So, here is what my pricing structure looks like right now. I add the height and width of canvas sizes, then multiply the total by $11 to arrive at a base price. The base price is then adjusted to something akin to the ‘99-cent’ rule.

Canvas Size Price
8 × 10 $198
12 × 12 $259
11 × 14 $275
14 × 18 $349
16 × 20 $395
18 × 24 $459
20 × 24 $495
 

That’s how I price my work these days. Chances are it’s going to work out just fine. I may add or remove sizes from time to time, or raise my rate as my work becomes more recognizable.

How do you do it?

Let me know in the comments how you price your work! I’m curious how other people do it.

Neon Dollar Sign Photo Credit: mag3737 via Compfight cc

How I Price My Paintings - Brad Blackman Art

How I Price My Paintings - Brad Blackman Art


  • I use the same system as recommended by Melissa Dinwiddie. It makes sense and you don’t have to guess each time.

  • Laura C. George

    I hadn’t heard of the linear calculation, actually! I like it better than square inch too. But I still can’t wrap my head around using a table to choose prices as if every piece you create in one size has the same value. It takes the emotion completely out of it. Sure your 8 x10’s should probably never cost more than your 16 x 20’s but if every single 8 x 10 is $198, I can’t as a collector identify the value of one over another. Subconsciously, I see them almost as factory-produced because what’s on the canvas doesn’t matter, just the size. The actual art isn’t informing the price.

    • bradblackman

      Very good point. Maybe this should establish a baseline starting at a particular size? Then go up if the quality/complexity/materials are noticeably better.

    • I disagree. From the artist’s standpoint, it makes total sense to price based on emotion, but from a buyer’s standpoint that is arbitrary and confusing. Everyone’s taste is different, and just because YOU like a particular piece better or worse doesn’t mean anybody else will agree with your opinion.

      A confused buyer doesn’t buy. To come off as professional and trustworthy, artists really need to standardize their pricing, NOT base it on how much they like or don’t like a particular piece.

      Size is a standard that is easy for buyers to understand. Now, if a particular style or medium takes s lot more time or uses more expensive materials, then it makes sense that that particular series be priced higher than a series of work that costs less to produce. But within each series, pricing really needs to be standardized if you want to come across as a professional, not alienate potential buyers, and not make yourself crazy. 🙂

      • Laura C. George

        Definitely agree to disagree on this one, Melissa. 🙂 But what I love is that both methods can find success in the art world! And so much of that does depend on your target market and how they in particular receive different styles of pricing.

        I do agree with Brad saying below about a baseline price dictated by size, with wiggle room for pieces that are better/worse or more/less complex or expensive to make.

  • I have just switched to the linear inch way and I’m in the process of changing my prices on my site and I have to say that I agree with Laura. I can whip some pieces out and then others take much longer if not get totally re-painted. I get in my own way on how much a painting should be worth.

    I was pricing in a round about way of the sq ft calculation. Not set in stone and I sorta eye-balled pricing by size. The price per sq inch didn’t always work out. But now as I’m in the middle of changing the prices I have found a problem. I sold some work last year and with my new pricing that size will cost less this year - not good. I don’t want to go down in pricing and plus I don’t want to compromise the value of those pieces I sold. So now I have to figure out what I’m really going to do. I came up with my “price” the same as you did (your $11 per linear inch) but now I’m struggling with even that! Ugh. Pricing really is the hardest part of the art biz for me.

    Glad I’ve found your blog!

    • bradblackman

      No, you don’t want to go down in price, unless you are changing mediums (going from canvas to paper, for example). Maybe your existing price should be your starting point? Eyeballing and coming up with a price only works for so long. Eventually you have to come up with a strategy to arrive at something standard. Good luck!

      I’m glad you found my blog! I hope you stick around!

      • Laura C. George

        here here! Great advice, Brad.

  • Jessica

    I guess I am pricing my stuff way to low but people won’t buy it at those prices around here

    • Jessica

      I guess I try to sell at what people can afford….for example a 12x24 75$

    • shannon

      I have tried to sell my work also. Though even trying to sell a piece for £2.00 is pretty hard work. I believe that it is all about targeting the right audience and people. Maybe I don’t sell anything because I haven’t found the right audience and collectors yet.

      • RoryC

        Why would anyone want to buy a work of art that’s only worth £2.00? There’s a word for things that are worth £2.00. That word is: ‘Junk’. Why would anyone want to hang junk on their walls?

    • bradblackman

      If you price it too low, people will wonder what’s wrong with it.

    • RoryC

      It seems counter intuitive, I know. But, take it from someone with many years worth of marketing experience: Pricing artwork too low can hurt sales almost as much as pricing it too high. With pricing, it’s all about finding the ‘sweet spot’ for your target market. If you’re charging too little, increasing prices somewhat will often actually result in more sales.

      There are two types of things people will buy: Things they need, and things they want. When it comes to things people need, they will hunt for bargains, pinch pennies, and look for the lowest prices. This is why things like toothpaste and canned soup are relatively cheap and people are always clipping coupons and waiting for sales on such things. When it comes to things people want, they’ll pay whatever they can reasonably afford. This is why things like speed-boats and Ferraris are very expensive and there’s no such things as coupons and two-for one sales on such things. People need toothpaste and soup. They want speed-boats and Ferraris.

      Also, when it comes to things people want, one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not someone will buy is perceived value. The more valuable an item appears to them to be, the more likely they are to buy.

      People want artwork, they don’t need it. And, by lowering the price too much, you’re lowering the perceived value of it. There’s no sales on, nor coupons for, Picassos. And, they don’t sell for $19.95. People buy Picassos for millions because they’re valuable, and that’s what their perceived value is worth. By setting your prices too low people will perceive the value of your art as being low and you will make your art less desirable to buyers.

      Of course, setting your prices too high is just as bad, because if you’re selling a painting for, say, $50,000, well… there’s probably another artist whose name and work has a much higher perceived value than yours and $50k can get them a work from that artist. So, why give you that money instead of that other artist? So, in order to maximize sales, one must find the ‘sweet spot’. In marketing it’s sometimes called the ‘Goldilocks price point’ — not too high and not too low, but just right. You will maximize your sales if you can find this price point.

      • thevaliant x

        I don’t care how many years of marketing experience you claim you have, but the low prices of things like toothpaste has nothing to do with the fact that people need toothpaste. It has to do with competition, and being able to produce said item efficiently. Do you know how many toothpaste makers there are? In the art market, each artist produces work that is unique (unless you’re China).

        • RoryC

          Yeah, you’re right. If people were willing to pay $140 per tube for toothpaste manufacturers still wouldn’t charge that much because of things like competition and their ability to produce toothpaste efficiently. ?!?!? [/sarcasm]

          If I was the only toothpaste manufacturer in the world, and it cost me $1,200.00 to produce each tube of toothpaste, how rich do you figure I’d get selling toothpaste for, say, $1,201.00 per tube? In fact, I wouldn’t make a dime. I’d never sell a single tube. People will simply not spend a lot of money on such things. They’d turn to brushing their teeth with plain water, or baking soda, or some such thing.

          People are motivated by desire” to part with large amounts of money. They are not motivated by need. People, generally, do not *desire toothpaste, soup, detergent, etc. They desire iPhones, large screen TVs, artwork.

          “Do you know how many toothpaste makers there are?”

          Not nearly as many as there are artists.

          “In the art market, each artist produces work that is unique”

          Every single dump I take is unique too. So what? Nobody’s going to pay me a cent for any of them. In business uniqueness doesn’t matter one iota unless it somehow contributes significantly to the perceived value of the product. And, that’s what we’re discussing here: The business of art.

          If you’re turning out valueless crap that nobody will want to spend money on, it doesn’t matter a bit if everything you turn out is and entirely unique piece of valueless crap.

          “I don’t care how many years of marketing experience you claim you have”

          That’s too bad. If you did, you might learn something.

          • Karlie Algiz Sims

            Well, what you wrote gave me a massive lightbulb moment! So Thank you!!!! I get it now!

  • Leslie

    If the painting is very popular it has to be a higher price it’s lol about supply and demand , show it on instergram if it gets a lot of likes then it’s top price if not many likes then low price it’s just that simple

    • thevaliant x

      Instagram is on the way out. Furthermore, likes on IG are FAR MORE tied to ‘who you know’ and how many people are following you, than to the quality of your work. If you have a lot of followers , then you are far more likely to get likes. Your work can be phenomenal, but if you have few followers, well then…. I’ve done the research, I know.

      • If IG is on the way out what is coming in?

        • bradblackman

          No clue.

  • Megan

    What if you aren’t framing canvas? How much would the pricing drop?

    • bradblackman

      Framing is factored in on top of this pricing. I typically use deep edge canvas so framing isn’t necessary.

  • Vishvesh

    Price of painting = cost of materials + cost of artistry + framing + packaging + posting.

  • Cami

    Why did you choose $11 as your rate? I’m considering the linear pricing model, but not sure what to charge as the rate. I’ve been told that professionals/well-off artists charge anywhere from $2-$6 per square inch, while students may price their work around $1 per square inch. How would I convert that to a linear pricing model?

    • bradblackman

      Great question. When I played with pricing, it’s what seemed best for my level of work. The problem with the square inch model is it gets exponentially more expensive as size goes up.

  • Denise Boisvert

    Brad, I’ve been painting with pastels, which require glass and frames. I’ve used the linear inch calculation and that seems to be right. However, do you add the frame & glass cost? Plus, the galleries take a percentage. Do you add that also?

    • bradblackman

      I would definitely take the frame and glass into account! As for gallery commissions, figure out what you want to make from the piece so you get what you feel like you deserve for it, and work with the gallery accordingly. I don’t say this from my own experience though as I’ve never sold my art through a gallery but from what I’ve heard others say.

  • JoAnne Yannello

    Brad,my art work is done on seashells, I also struggle with pricing and as a vendor at a local fresh market (just starting out) I price my paintings by the size and time I put into it but then people react like it’s too much. Should I find another way to sell my art or stick to what I’m doing? Thank you for your help. JoAnne

    • bradblackman

      That sounds cool. There are a lot of variables here: how long it took you to paint them, how long/difficult it was to find the shells, and what you paint on them. How long have you been doing this? It may take a while to get people to buy it. Maybe you need to get better at telling your story, or telling why you do this, that gets people interested. People always love backstories.

      • JoAnne Yannello

        Well, I went to art school back in the 80’s(I know I’m aging myself), but I ended up raising my family, and then life took a different course in careers, but a year and a half ago my son told me my Christmas tree looked the same every year so I decided since i am living in Florida now to do my tree in all shells, long story short my son encouraged me to start painting again and I decided to paint the shells. I am doing all sorts of stuff but mostly beach scenes(their my favorite things to do). And it depends on the size and what I’m painting, most of them usually takes me a day or 2 to do in between drying times and detail. And most people where I’m selling them are looking for that bargain, which I’m ok with because I am just getting back into it and still a bit rusty but I do see my talent coming back and not sure where else to take my art so this is a start. I appreciate you taking the time in helping me out, I’ll get them to pay for my art sooner or later…..thanks again….:-)