How to Price Your Art

Artists often make many mistakes at the beginning of their careers when it comes to pricing. This is natural and acceptable as it leads to growing and learning from experience. Pricing is awkward. Setting a price on something that is so deeply personal and doesn’t have a set market value is even more awkward. Especially at the start of your career, or if you don’t have a nest egg to fall back on, you want (and need) to make sales, but you also don’t want to sell yourself short. 

So, how do you start setting the prices for your artwork so you can get the salary you deserve? If you don’t have a consistent history of selling your art in a particular price range or in a particular market, There are a few things artists can consider when entering the art world that could help them find the appropriate market at the right time.

Do your research on comparable artwork

Bless the internet, we now have access to a whole bunch of data that makes setting our prices a little easier. Put your research cap on and start looking for artists that have similar work to what you are currently producing. 

How much do these artists charge for their work? Is there a pattern in this pricing? 

Seeking out artists who have similar work will give you a better idea of what you can and should be charging. Make sure you are making an honest evaluation of your work and then comparing it to artists with a similar style, working in a similar medium, with a similar amount of experience, as well as selling within a similar geographical region. 

Separate feelings from facts

This is a hard one. However, it’s not easy to justify your prices to a potential buyer by saying you just really like it. If there is a particular piece that you just feel really strongly about, is especially meaningful to you, or holds sentimental value, consider keeping those works for yourself. 

With all the time, creative effort and emotion you invest in your work, it’s easy to get attached. Take a step away from your work after you finish it to gain some perspective. Then, approach your pricing as you would any other product. Some artists like to use a sizing formula. Pricing your work needs to be predominantly based on its physical attributes and not on personal value.

Determine a fair wage for your work

Your market and the research you’ve done on similar artwork should be taken into consideration alongside other factors. Like time and material expenses, for example. This way you can gauge a reasonable price for your art while ensuring you give yourself a fair wage. 

So, pay attention to how long it takes you to make a work, the cost of materials, etc. This will help you determine a living wage for yourself. You could think in terms of an hourly wage that you’d be comfortable with.

Though this is a good way to begin to gauge the cost of your work, it isn’t always the most effective. Think about it: if you are experienced and work quickly, your work shouldn’t be priced lower because of it. And on the other hand: what if you’re just starting out or experimenting with a new technique that takes you longer to figure out? This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should price your work in correspondence with the hours spent. In this case, the work could end up being too overpriced for your market. 

Of course, it’s important not to undersell. You could end up burning out because you have to compensate for making too little for your time. But you also don’t want potential buyers to lose interest or trust because the prices seem overblown. Tricky, isn’t it?

Maybe even trickier: it’s important to steer away from pricing works based on your own feelings and opinions about them. It’s easy to get attached to something you’ve put valuable time, energy, thought and emotion into. But this shouldn’t influence your price scale. 

Price Your Artwork Formula


Multiply the painting’s width by its length to arrive at the total size, in square inches. Then multiply that number by an amount that’s appropriate for your reputation. For example KES 50 per square inch for oil paintings. Then calculate your cost of canvas and framing, and then double that number. For example A 16”-x-20” oil-on-linen landscape painting: 16” x 20” = 320 square inches at KES 50 per square inch. 320 x 50 = KES 16,000.00.


My frame, canvas, and materials cost 5,000.00 . Double this cost so that you get it all back when the painting sells . Otherwise, you are subsidizing the collector by giving him or her the frame for free. 5000 x 2 = 10000.


Then I put it all together: 16000 + 10000 = 26000 (the retail price).

For much larger pieces, bring the price per square inch down a notch … lower so that you don’t price my work beyond what my reputation can sustain. Alternately, for smaller works, I increase the amount per square inch because small works take almost as much effort as larger works, and I need to be compensated for my expertise, even when the work is miniature.

This is not the only way to price your artwork, but it’s one that keeps your prices consistent

Consider your market

Where and how are you selling your art? From your studio, at fairs or festivals, through a gallery? Are you selling locally, nationally or internationally? It’s good to have an understanding of the art market on a broader level, but you should pay particular attention to the context, criteria and ins and outs of the market that you’re operating in. 

This plays an important role, because local street fairs will definitely have a different price bracket from, say, an international gallery or online marketplace. So identifying your market will be a good start towards setting your parameters. 

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