Selling Art – Pricing Art Prints

Pricing Art Prints

Pricing Art Prints – Common Confusion

You’re a talented artist and produce amazing artwork. But you’re not sure how to price your art to so that you’re earning good money from your work and staying competitive and attractive to your target customer. Today, we’re discussing how to price your art prints to sell privately and/or wholesale to retailers.

To price art prints correctly though, first we need to understand our target customer. It’s one thing to put a ticket price on the end product but it’s another to design a print collection that attracts the right buyers and tells a complete story.

That’s what we want to focus on today. 

It can be tricky to figure out exactly how to price prints, especially if you’re new to the business and really overwhelmed with anticipating exactly what’s required and the costs associated. It’s also very easy to charge higher prices and then find out that no one is buying. So, out of fear we charge too low hoping this will serve us better when in fact we end up putting ourselves in a position that is then hard to come back from.

There are so many variables to think about, from the materials to your time spent painting, digitizing, editing, printing and shipping. Throw in some imposter syndrome and it can seem nearly impossible to price your work fairly, especially when it comes to valuing your time. 

The biggest mistake I see with small creative businesses is not pricing their pieces high enough and undervaluing their work. If you price your work too low, you’re not only sending a message to your potential buyers that your artwork may be cheap, sloppy or low quality but that you’re also not valuing your brand and your business the way it deserves. Your brand is an extension of you, so be sure to give it the same respect you give yourself. 

How do you assign value to the years of studying, practicing and perfecting your skills, researching materials, trial and error in every single step and all the other intangible things that go into being a successful independent artist?

To start, let’s go over some of the more intangible factors to consider when pricing your artwork. These are a little harder to calculate because they vary greatly, but it’s important that you understand them and account for them in your pricing. 

Development or Skill Costs

Perhaps it took you 3 hours to complete a painting that you want to digitize and sell as prints. But in addition to this time it took you years of honing your craft, taking art classes, investing in online courses, workshops, schooling, etc to be in a position to complete that painting, and complete it really well. That is your value. That is unique to your experience and your own art. While you don’t need to assign a number value to this experience, keep it in mind as we go through the blog post to understand how to take it into consideration. 

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Pricing Art Prints – Cost of Making the Print

To quantify this cost, the first step is to know the following: 

  • Are you making (printing) the prints yourself? 
  • If not, are you going to use a print service? What are their production costs? 
  • What materials would you like to use? Paper? Canvas? 
  • How much time does it take you to prepare a print? Digitzing the original work, creating a digital file, editing, proof prints, packaging, shipping, etc. 

These are are really good questions, and they can’t really be answered until you understand and can answer the next bit, branding and target customer. We will come back to physical costs in a bit. 

Branding And Target Customer – Knowing Your Potential Customers 

Depending on how you want to position yourself in the market and what you’d like to sell, the answers to the questions above will change. If your target customer is looking for quick and generic prints (and that doesn’t mean they have to be cheap or poor quality) then you might want to consider using a printing company to accelerate this process. Most of these print houses will have a much larger selection of paper that varies in price and quality so that you’re not having to pre-purchase a large variety of paper types to try and then have to charge more because of volume costs to serve your customers. In almost all cases print houses will have paper paper costs because they’re able to purchase in larger volumes. They can also drop ship (ship directly to your customer) so that your shipping costs are lower. 

The other thing you want to consider if how much time is required for you to set up and get running with a printing service or print company. That includes getting all your digital files ready, perhaps even uploaded to their server and then how much time does it take for you to put in a order when you receive one? If that is 15min for example (or 1/4 of your hour rate), you’ll want to factor that into your print cost. 

If on the other hand you want to provide a very hands-on, bespoke print experience where you’re hand printing each one in studio, signing or stamping, packaging and then shipping then your pricing needs to reflect that. In this case your branding should allude to elegance, unique, very high quality and hand made and printed. Customers that want that product are willing and understand that there is a higher cost associated with that service and product. It may take you an hour or more to print, package and prepare all the shipping labels before you take it to the courier or post office, so track your time so you understand those costs. 

Just before we move on to the next point, I want to point out that it’s possible to have a very high-quality, bespoke print offering and use printing houses. It might be a bit more challenging to include branded packaging or hand written notes, but reach out to your printing house to ask what types of services they’re willing to offer to maximize this possibility for your clients. Some are open to using your packaging if you ship it to them first, such as stickers, postcards or other things that personalize your product. 

Tangible Print Costs

These are all your physical costs or cost of materials to produce. Depending on which route you take, your costs will vary. Typically if you print yourself your physical costs will be higher as well as your labour costs, but it really depends on your product. If you do everything yourself your print price should reflect all that work. 

Some of the things to consider when it comes to physical costs – materials, printing supplies, packaging costs, shipping costs. Less often but things that add up also include printer service or repair and those expensive inks! 

A good rule of thumb is to choose your selling price at 2x-4x (and often more if you sell to retailers) the material costs. That would typically cover your intangible costs that we’ve discussed and provide you with some profit margin.  

In certain cases, such as limited edition prints, custom fine art print orders or other personalized scenarios that cost might increase even more.

It’s not uncommon to discover that shipping with a printing house will be cheaper for you. They’re able to carry and distribute those costs amongst much more volume and so the cost that they transfer to you in the form of the cost to print is much lower. On the downside, you’ll lose some control and that one of kind quality if you were to print yourself. 

Market Rates And Competition

Once you have all the above sorted and ready to go, you’ll want to do some market research. Shop online for various print types from various artists and see what their rates are. You’re not doing this to copy their pricing but to determine what the market can hold. For example, if you find out that all things considered your cost to print an 8×10″ cotton print is $7.00, so you decide to double that cost and sell it for $14, but discover that there isn’t a print in the world that sells for less than $39, then you’ll be doing yourself a great disservice. Why? Because if you’re listing at much, much cheaper than the competition you’re going to signal an alarm for buyers who will ask, “Why is it so cheap? There must be something wrong if it’s that cheap”. 

In sales, there’s a thing called buyer’s perception or price-quality inference. In most cases and particularly when it comes to lifestyle items such as art, if a customer is presented with the same product but one is priced higher than the other, most customers will perceive the higher priced item as better quality, regardless of whether it is or not. They’ll buy the more expensive product. This isn’t to say that we should take advantage and mark up everything, but rather what you don’t want to do, which is the be on the lower end. 

The most important thing is to do your research and price your artwork intelligently and fairly, keeping in mind all the things we’ve discussed today. As a professional artist running an art business, you owe it to yourself to take the time and do your research to come up with a pricing strategy that ensures all parties are satisfied. When I was learning how to do all of this, I would often go back and forth with retailers for months settling on a price that worked for everyone. And even then, it often ends up getting tweaked as the partnership evolves. Good places to study are Etsy or Society6 and home decor retailers that sell art prints. You’ll find an assortment of styles, quality and materials to learn from. 

So, How Much Money Can You Make Selling Prints Of Your Art? 

Well, it all depends on how you go about this exercise. You’ll find the margins aren’t that high, so if you sell 5-10 prints a month, you’ll probably won’t be blown away from the profit. But, if you start to think volume and reach then prints are a very scaleable business. If you can reach multiple retailers and expand your online presence to the point where you’re selling hundreds of prints a month then you’re in a good place. Therefore, it’s important to consider how much time and effort you’re going to put into growing your print offering. If it’s not as significant then perhaps considering starting with a printing company to help alleviate some of those heavy start up costs as you won’t be selling enough at the beginning to offset them yourself. As it grows, you can consider moving things in-house. It really depends on your focus and what other streams of income you have in your business. 

Final Thoughts And Resources

The online marketplace is saturated, and this includes art prints and home decor. Know that it takes time for art prints to gain momentum and exist within the online space and sell consistently. At the beginning, you’ll be tempted to lower prices if sales aren’t at the numbers you’d like to see but refrain from doing because because it’ll hurt you in the long run. Stay the course and promote and work on your own website to help boost organic traffic. The more visitors you have coming to your website, the better. If you need some help with boosting your web traffic, download our free SEO For Artists Guide Here. 

I would also recommend utilizing Pinterest to promote your prints. Pinterest is a powerful, visual search engine so art tends to do really well on there. If you want to read more about how to grow your Pinterest reach, head over to this blog post to learn how! 

If you want to chat about your physical prints, online sales, website optimization, how to create the best quality prints, print-on-demand services and other online platforms to help you get started, feel free to book a free 30min strategy call with me! I love chatting business and art and my mission is to help as many artists make a living as independent artists as I can. 

A Sample Print Pricing Matrix

This is the little excel sheet I created for myself for a recent print collaboration with a major design retailer. I’ve simplified it a little so that it’s easier to digest but it gives you the general steps to getting to a retail cost when you want to present prints to retailers. I’ll complete this type of spreadsheet for them and send it through with my portfolio and proposal letter.

If you want to download this excel spreadsheet for your own use, you can download it here.

Pricing Art Prints - pricing chart

In this case, a print that costs $12 to print would retail for $74 dollars once all the other factors are taken into consideration, or about 6x the printing cost. In wholesale or retail agreements, make sure you take into account the profit margin for both you as the artist but also the retailer. Often times they’ll have a specific margin they like to work within, in this case it was 40%.

Hope this post was helpful in pricing. Any questions? Feel free to reach out!

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