How to Price Paintings or Artwork for Sale

OK, so now we have collected all this information about our painting, where it will hopefully be sold and how it is to be promoted (usually along with a lot of other competing works). So what price do we set for our artwork for sale?

I have heard advice like you take the cost of the frame and triple it, or you measure the outside dimensions of the frame in inches and sell it for that price in dollars. All of these solutions are not very useful if you intend to be successfully selling paintings for a very long time. If you had some Picasso artwork for sale you can quickly see how inappropriate this formula would be.

For a start the cost of your frames will hopefully go up at a slower rate than your artwork. So why fix your pricing to someone else’s product – your framer! And the size of your work may not relate to how much work you have put into it.

“Artwork for Sale”

Selling paintings for beginner artists

Artwork for sale - sold!
Artwork for sale – sold!

Now the way to set a price for your work is to appraise it truthfully as to its quality, compare it to similar work that has sold before, in the area you will be selling it in. When you first start, as you will not be known for your work, you may need to set a lower price than you would like, but you can easily adjust your prices, once your sales begin.  I keep a record of every painting I sell, along with its price, place, who bought it (if I can find out), its subject and size along with any other information I think may be of use in the future e.g. why was it bought, by a collector, for a gift, for decoration or because the person really connected with the painting? I sell a lot of paintings of Venice to people who have been there but did not pick up a souvenir painting while they were visiting. I also have sold a lot of paintings to people who have purchased my watercolor paintings from me before.

Remember, people will not pay you what you think or would like your painting to be worth. They will pay you what they think it is worth to them.  Their idea of what it is worth is based on their desire for the painting (how have they connected to it), what price have they seen on your sold pieces before, what prices similar works by other artists have sold for, and how much money do they have?

This last one is quite pertinent. If your local or national economy is having a hard time, unfortunately, art and painting are one of the early things people cut out of their budgets. So don’t expect the price of your work will only continue to go up. You can keep your work going up or at least staying the same if you are ready to sell less, or sell better paintings for the old price or if you do more promotion to a wider audience (this is where the internet can help). Otherwise you may need to bring your prices down in tough times and take them up in the good. This is what retailers and real estate agents do! The same applies to artwork for sale.

If you do your homework as above, and set realistic prices you are in a very good state to sell your work.  In time, from your records of your own sales you will have a better idea of what price to put on your work.

My own policy is to leave my customers feeling like they got a good deal. Don’t be greedy but don’t give your work away. I have known artists who have sold their work for little more than the price of a frame. This surely cannot leave you with a good feeling. Remember “Artwork for sale” should mean you are “selling” something for a profit!

Another of my own policies revolves around the idea that, to the viewer, your work is only as good as the last painting they have seen. For this reason do not try to sell every painting you do. Only show the very best you are able to produce. In time your paintings will improve and as you keep on exhibiting only your best, people will come to have a high opinion of it and be willing to pay more for it. I have seen work of fellow artists stagnate or even go backwards because they have tried to sell everything they have painted – even artwork not up to their current higher standard. Don’t do it! When you think of “Artwork for sale” think my very best “Artwork for sale.”

Selling paintings for established artists

As an established selling artist, you should have plenty of records showing what prices paintings of particular sizes sell for and where. This information has become the main tool I now use for pricing my work. My prices are now set against artwork I have already sold and rarely based on what other people are selling their artwork for. But it does take some time and quite a few sales to get to this stage.

Now, if you are one of the lucky (hard-working) few who become very popular (their work is in great demand) and if you cannot paint enough to supply that demand, then you are able to raise your prices accordingly.  This is how it works in other industries such as real estate. “Artwork for sale” also conforms to the laws of supply and demand. The higher the demand and rarity the higher the price!

I hope this article has been of some use to you with your efforts to sell your own artwork.

How to Promote Your Artwork

Promotion as it applies to the sale of watercolor paintings

How to promote your artwork is very important. The more people that know about it the more likely you will find a customer for it.

When you first start out to sell paintings, you don’t often have much of a promotion budget if any.  However it is good to know how well an exhibition you have entered is promoted as this will give an indication of how many people will attend. If it is the first time you are entering a show, ask fellow artists who have exhibited there or the show organizers, for an idea of how many people usually attend and how many paintings usually sell along with a average price. There is no use finding out that they sell lots of paintings, if they mainly sell at the $50 price point!

Other ways to promote you work is through word of mouth, let you friends and associates know about your upcoming exhibitions, even if it is a group one.

You can often donate a painting to your local art group for a raffle, and apart from making you feel good, you often get a lot of free publicity from doing this.

The internet is also useful as a promotional medium. If you have a web site (and you should – see my article on web sites for artists and why to have one) make sure you have a notice on the home page of any of your upcoming exhibitions.

Other things you can try are notices to local community papers, letter box drops, notifications to local art societies, people who have already bought your work (these are very special customers as they are most likely to buy more – I even have some that boast how many of my paintings they have bought).

Remember too, that your past customers are always promoting your work.  The more work you have sold in a location, the more word of mouth promotion you will be receiving. After I had been selling for a few years I started to get people coming up to me at exhibitions and saying how they had seen (and hopefully admired) my work at a friend’s or colleague’s home. For this reasons I always prefer my paintings to go to homes that really want them, so I never try to hard sell my work! The reason for this is that if a painting is loved by someone they will tell everyone about it. The opposite of this however, is if they don’t like it, they may say bad things about it which is not good!

Now we have done our homework, with the first three of the four P’s of marketing we can look at a price for our painting.

Continue to: How to Price Paintings or Artwork for Sale

Where to sell your artwork: Location is important

Where to sell your artwork

Where to sell paintings, is also an important question. You can sell them from your studio or home, through a gallery, at an exhibition; you could also sell them on-line, either through your own web site or another on line gallery site. Hey even eBay (though I don’t expect very high prices on that channel).

If you are going to sell through a gallery or exhibition, you have to know its location as painting prices or what people a prepared to pay for a painting will vary from suburb to suburb. A lot depends on the financial demographic of a particular location when deciding on a final price.

If you are fortunate enough to have a gallery that sells your work talk with its proprietor as he or she will a lot of useful experience at selling paintings and you should discuss pricing with them before finalizing a price for your artwork. If they have been in business for a long time then they must know how to set art! Their advice on how to sell your paintings should be well considered.

Place is also important when you consider your competition, yes, just like in selling a car or TV set, competition exists in the art world.  Art, painting, creativity, originality are not excluded from competition if you want to sell paintings.

So who is your competition, well it is the other artists who are selling in the same area or location as yourself. I suggest you visit a number of galleries and exhibitions in the location you will be trying to sell in and see what similar work to yours is selling for.  You also have to take into account the reputation of the other artists. An artist’s who has been selling for a long time with a good reputation will be able to fetch a higher price for his paintings.  Sometimes, other artists sell comparable work to yours at a price lower than you would like. In this case you either have to reduce you price, or paint an even better painting or else your work with be less likely to sell.

When I first started selling my paintings I made it a habit to visit all the local exhibitions on their closing day. I would purchase a calendar and walk around the show marking which works had sold (they were the ones with a red dot placed on them), for how much, and a comparison with my work. This helped me to set painting prices which were more realistic.

The next item we will look at is Promotion as it applies to the sale of watercolor artwork.

Continue to: How to promote your art

Watercolor Paintings: An Artist’s Products

Product as it applies to Watercolor Paintings

Product refers to your painting or work of art. Some typical questions are how big is it, what medium is it painted in, is it original artwork or is it a print, the subject matter, how good is the framing, is it framed or unframed, the materials you used e.g. artists quality or student quality material. It also refers to who you are as an artist. The more well know you are, and the more demand there is for your paintings then the higher you are able to charge for them.

One point on the subject of framing; do not try to save money by using old or poor quality frames. It says something about your work and a good frame will help sell it. I would be lying if I said people just buy a painting and not the frame and have had times where people has said they would buy a particular painting with a particular frame. Luckily this is not often the case but it happens.

As you start selling your work the cost of the frame should not go up in price as fast as the price of your artwork, so in time the percentage cost of the frame in your sale price will go down.  Also if you use good quality but generic frames you will be able to reuse the frame with another painting if the original one does not sell. They don’t all sell, so don’t sweat on it – paint many more and move on. For me if a painting has not sold within about two years I take it out and reuse the frame.  I don’t through the painting away but just store it for the future, or show it to certain customers unframed.

By the way, I have a personal policy of never framing watercolor paintings I would not like to see on my own wall. This has served me well over the years. I have found that as long as I paint a subject that appeals to me, I only have to find a way to show it to someone with similar tastes to mine, and with the right (not too high or low) price I can sell it.

Let us now look at Place as it applies to the selling of a watercolor painting or other artwork.

Continue to: Where to sell your artwork

How to Price and Sell Paintings

So you want to sell paintings?

If you produce a lot of artwork on a regular basis then the subject of  how to sell paintings will become important to you, if for not other reason that in time you will run out of storage space! I have also found that there is nothing like selling a painting to spur you on with your creativity and production.

Some people are happy enough just to retrieve their costs to enable them to purchase more watercolor paper, pigments, and frames, etc. Others who look at art as their profession and would like to generate a regular income from their chosen creative field, need to do more than recoup their costs, they will need to make a regular income and profit! For these the question of how to price and sell paintings must be of great interest. I have known some very good artists in my time who rarely sell their work (even when the want to) and I have known others who produce work which is not so good yet sell regularly. The reason for this is that the selling and marketing of paintings is a very different subject to the creation of them. To be a very successful professional artist you need to be good at both.

Now if you want to know how to sell paintings, then the subject of how to price paintings becomes important.

This subject of how to price a painting has been discussed or considered by every artist who has placed a price on their artwork.

As I spent about 30 years in a sales or marketing role, before opting to become a full time watercolor artist, I felt I could add some useful advice for budding artists.

When trying to price your painting you first have to realize that it is a product, and just like any product it is subject to market forces e.g. a house is a product and its prices go up and down depending on demand. The same applies to a work of art.

Marketers refer to the 4Ps: Product, Place, Promotion and Price, when looking at their product and at what price to sell it.

These same 4Ps also apply to selling artwork. So how do they apply?

So let us look at how Product, Place, Promotion, and Price can be used to sell paintings!

Continue to: Artist’s Products: Watercolor Paintings