How to Price Art Prints: Practical Advice For Beginners

How to price art prints. Practical Advice for Beginners

I’m often asked how to price art prints. It’s not easy there are so many variables. In this post, I’ll show you how to price your art prints, but only you can decide what to charge, in your situation.

Calculate your printing costs, including any commercial scans and proofs. Add your packaging costs, such as matboards, wrappers, and stiffeners. Add 10% to cover business overheads such as lighting, rents, insurance, etc. Charge as much as possible above your base price.

You can’t work out your true costs until you have a sales record, and it matters how important your prints are to your business. Will they be the mainstay of your business or a sideline?

Let’s go over the main points of pricing art prints and what you need to know.

(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)

How to Calculate The Price of Your Art Prints

Knowing how to price your art prints is important, but there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Most businesses have their own formula.

There are many factors to consider when it comes to pricing art prints. One way of working things out is to decide how much money you need to make and work backward.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you could live on $35,000 per year. Add your overheads, we’ll say it’s about $7000 for everything. That includes your transport costs, rents, trading licenses, liability, and stock insurance, and the rest.

You need to turn over about $42,000 per annum

Your prints have a fixed cost. I pay for prints in bulk and they cost me $1.50 each. We will use that sum. They sell for $15 so the profit is $13.50 per print.

If you divide $42,000 by $13.50 you have to sell 3,111 prints per year. Don’t be alarmed. Let’s break it down further.

Let’s divide 3,111 by 52 weeks of the year. That figure is 60 prints per week, or 10 a day on a six-day working week. That’s $135 per day and achievable.

It’s not a science. It’s not even a reliable formula. Your circumstances are different from mine. It is only one way of figuring out how much you need as a minimum, should you wish to go full time.

Your real profit will include other variables and you just can’t predict an accurate income. Self-employment is insecure. All you can do is make a calculated guess.

I sell this way and it works for me, in my circumstances. Could I make more money? Yes, but I choose not to. I try to strike a work/life balance for an easier life.

I could sell prints with a matboard, which would alter my figures. I don’t do framing, that would change my figures completely.

My calculations don’t take into account, multi-buys, selling other printed products or discounts I make to gain added sales. It doesn’t include commissions either.

Most artists accept commission work. I’m offered work all the time, but I don’t do them anymore, if I did my income would rise.

Setting up a small profitable art business doesn’t sound so daunting when you break it down.

Top Tip: People love to get a deal. It’s in our nature to get a bargain.

If you sell your art prints for $15 each, try offering 2 for $25. If two art prints cost you $3 to produce, you make $22 per sale instead of only $13.50.

You might argue that some people would’ve bought two prints for $30 anyway, and that’s true. But here’s the thing, you’ll gain so many more sales from folk who would never have bought 2 prints without the offer, that you’ll earn far more money.

I’ve done it for 20 years and I know it’s true.

Read this: How to Negotiate the Price of Your Art Prints and Make More Money

One last thing to share. Self-employment is an insecure way to make money. One day you are up and the next you are down.

You make more money at certain times of the year. You’ll do well on the weekends and holidays.

It’s important not to give up when you have a bad spell. Your cash flow will fluctuate, but if you are willing to put in the hours, you’ll find that things average out at the end of the year.

What Type of Art Prints Should You Sell?

What type of prints are you going to sell? Giclee or offset litho? Are you doing the printing at home or outsourcing? Your decision will determine the way you price your art prints.

Each type of art print involves a different cost. If you are making digital prints, the costs will vary depending on the size of the print, paper, ink, and the type of printer that is being used to make them.

Not all inkjet printers are the same. They are divided into two, dye-based printers and pigment ink-based printers.

Pigment inks (Giclee) are archival and should be used for prints intended to last the test of time. Limited editions must be lightfast and permanent and should be printed with archival inks and acid-free paper.

Dye prints can be used for ephemera, they are prints that are not designed to be treasured for years and carry no premium. Greeting cards, magnets, and very cheap art prints fall into that category.

Offset litho prints use permanent inks and have the cheapest per-unit cost but require a large print run for the economics to work.

Giclee prints are great for short runs and print-on-demand, however, they do cost a great deal of money per print and will reduce your margins dramatically.

Even D.I.Y Giclee printing from home will cost you significantly more than buying offset litho prints.

Read this guide for making art prints: How to Make Prints of Your Art – Printing Art Explained in Detail

I still sell offset litho prints and that’s because when I started my business, digital prints were not an option. If I started today I would probably choose giclee prints; at least to start my business.

It makes sense to experiment with some commercial prints first and test the market before making any significant investments. (affiliate) has a good reputation for making consistently high-quality Giclee prints, so they are a good company to test first and buy some samples.

Once you have established a demand, you can invest in your own printer. Epson and Canon steal the show when it comes to home Giclee printers. Most reviews favor Epson printers.

The new Epson Surecolor P700 A3+ printer is the best of the best home art printer at the time of writing (2022) and outclasses its competitors with ease of use and size of the machine.

The catch is the price, not just for the printer but for the inks and paper too. You can kiss goodbye to £1000 ($1400) upfront before you begin.

Read my guide, based on thorough research: Printing Art Prints DIY – Epson ET 8550 vs SC-P700 – Hobby vs Pro?

Do you lack confidence? Take a class and get into the habit of drawing. I found this class on Udemy, 115,028 students can’t all be wrong!

Who Will Buy Your Art Prints? And Why Will They Buy Them?

The next thing you will have to figure out is who your typical customer is, how much they are willing or able to spend, and what motivates them?

Most people looking for wall art are buying for aesthetic or emotional reasons.

People buy things that resonate. These things are often linked to a hobby or passion, a place, or a memory.

My typical customer has a love of animals, or to be more exact, certain charismatic animals. I can sell elephants all day long.

Then there’s the gift market. Many people can’t justify buying an art print for themselves, but will readily buy art prints as gifts. Probably another elephant!

If you want to know what animals sell best: 12 Wildlife Art Bestsellers (Use These Subjects to Make Money)

Everyone is a potential customer for gift buying. People who are not in your exact demographic probably know someone who is and you can sell them your art prints for that reason.

I sell my art from a market pitch and I know from 1st hand experience, not just Google analytics, that my customers are mainly women between the ages of 25-55. That remains true even when my art prints are bought as gifts.

Women are the top buyers for anything about home decor. Men buy presents but few actually buy art for the home.

Then you need to work out how affluent your customers are in order to set a logical price for your art. If you have a middle-class audience with a high disposable income you can raise your prices.

Certain subjects are going to lend themselves toward a more affluent customer base, equestrian art, for example. Horse and pony owners have money. Little girls who go riding have parents who must pay for it.

You can target that audience without lowering your prices to attract trade. In fact, lower prices might put them off entirely. People with a higher income don’t have to penny-pinch.

On the other hand, let’s say you paint cats and dogs, plenty of people love their pets, every other household probably. You might be better off going for the mass market.

Siamese cat drawing framed for sale
Siamese Cat Framed Drawing

People who buy cheaper art prints are price sensitive and their disposable income matters more to them. It’s easier to sell cheaper prints, but you’ll have to sell more of them.

In the real world, most of us start selling to the people we know. We feel comfortable amongst people from a similar background. We know what they want and what they’ll spend.

In that sense, our prices are predetermined by the community we live in, at least initially. Life certainly isn’t fair but that’s the way it is.

The one great advantage of going to art college, one of the very few, in my opinion, is the opportunity it presents to network with other social groups beyond your own.

You can follow my line of thought here: Is Art School Worth it? Is it a Waste of Money?

A very popular course with very good reviews. Foncho has had over 56,000 students on Domestika (affiliate). That’s impressive.

What Are Artists Charging for Similar Art Prints?

Like it or not, other artists serving your niche are your competitors and this is a business. That’s a point lost on so many newbies.

Find out what they charge but please don’t expect another artist to help you. I get approached by artists who do similar work to me all the time, and I have little time for their probing questions. Why would anyone reveal their business secrets to a stranger?

If you find someone in a fair exhibiting their art, it’s OK to look and browse. It’s also OK to ask a few open-ended questions, such as “hows trade” or “are you selling much?” but not much more.

An experienced trader knows when they are being ‘researched’. Keep it subtle and respectful. One of the most important things to find out is what sells best, and that is an innocent question.

So look around for artists who serve a similar demographic, in the same genre, and with a similar style. You might think your work is better or worse, but you’ll gain an insight into what they are able to charge.

Their bestseller will have a price attached. How is it presented?, What size is it? What’s the subject matter? How have they composed it? What medium did they use? Make some mental notes.

Most traders have business cards, grab one and look them up online. Are their prices the same? How do they ship their prints, flat or rolled? With, or without a mount/mat?

Can you do something similar? If you can, you have a proven price point.

They might have a collectors base and client list that increases the value of their work, but at least you know what’s possible.

When in doubt, price your art prints at the lower end of the price range. This is important. Start low and let your prices creep up. As your work begins to sell you can gauge your customer’s reaction to your price rises.

No one resents you increasing your prices gradually. Previous customers are pleased they bought your art for a lower price. No one wants to see their purchase selling for less.

There’s another thing that’s useful to know. Try and find out if the original was the same size as the print on offer. Mediocre originals can look good when they are reduced in size.

I’ve seen it many times. You love a print and it looks so masterful, then you see the original and get disappointed.

I mention this because it’s all too easy to compare yourself to others, and we all do it, and feel despondent. It’s reassuring to know that reproductions can be very deceptive. It’s not the same as looking at an original.

You cannot really judge the art from a print unless you have the original side by side. Something worth remembering when you see some fantastic work and begin to doubt yourself.

This is an excerpt from my guidebook, and it’s full of practical advice. If you are serious about selling your art, it’s a must-read. Check it out!

Selling art made simple digital guide for starting a small art business

If You Want to Sell Your Art

Check this out!l

Psst…it’s only $12.99!

How Much Do Art Prints Cost to Make?

It is difficult to state a figure with any accuracy because 12 months from now all the prices I state will be different. With that in mind, we can look at the options and compare the likely costs against each other.

The cheapest way to make fine art prints is to print in bulk using offset lithography.

Offset-Litho has been in existence since 1853 and remains the primary way to mass-produce art prints.

Offset-litho prints are made using a zinc-coated plate that is first photo-etched with the artist’s work. Ink is then applied and pressed against paper making an image that will last for many years after its creation. 

That’s the non-techy way of explaining it.

The price is reduced with quantity but the quality is hard to maintain. A skilled printer is able to make superb prints but unfortunately, inconsistent and variable results are a real issue.

I pay, in 2021, $1.40 (£1.00)) per print for a monochrome A3 print on 300gsm Fedrigoni art paper.

I could get that price down if I ordered more but I haven’t got the storage space for thousands of prints so I compromise.

Framed pencil drawing of a family of elephants. Example of a popular art subject
Framed Jumbo Print (Offset Litho)

I can’t get anywhere near that price any other way. It has allowed me to offer unlimited open edition prints for as little as $9 (£6.50) each in the past.

Contrast that with the best quote I had from a local printing company using their Giclee digital printer, they quoted me $9.00 (£^.50) for each print. That’s my retail price!

If on the other hand, I sold my art prints for $26.00, as I do for my limited edition prints, my profit margins would still be reasonable. You can see how the economics change.

The big bonus with modern Giclee printers is consistency. If you use a reputable company that maintains its equipment, your prints will look the same each time they are printed. Plus you can order only what you need, which is heaven if you lack storage space.

A cheaper alternative to outsourcing your printing jobs is to do it yourself.

If you have the space and reasonably consistent sales, it’s a viable option.

I tried working out how much it would cost me to make an A3 print and it was almost impossible to come up with a definitive number. There are so many factors that alter the figures such as the size of the image and paper type.

The best I could find was from Redriver in the States and I calculated the equivalent costs in Pounds Stirling.

Epson SC-P7004″ x 6″5″ x 7″8″ x 10″11″ x 14″13″ x 19″
Photo Black$0.39
Matte Black$0.36
Based on $37.99 and £25.99 per ink cartridge

At the time of writing in March 2022, there are no 3rd party inks compatible with the new Epson Surecolor printers but they may well be available when you read this.

I rang Marrutt a reputable supplier of 3rd party inks and paper, and they are due for release their compatible ink cartridges anytime soon.

Their older Epson models, such as the P400 and P600, are much bulkier, more difficult to set up, and less reliable. If you can still find one, a number of companies, including Marrutt, manufacture good 3rd party inks and the costs tumble.

What Size Art Prints Should You Sell?

For most people, the size of your prints will be the only way they will judge the value of your art. Get used to it. It’s size, not talent that is the main consideration when it comes to pricing your art prints.

Of course, large Giclee prints will cost a fortune to make and you will have to mark them up by at least 100% to make it worth your while.

Then there are shipping costs and display problems.

There is a lot to be said for selling smaller art prints. They are cheap to produce, low risk and take advantage of the shopper’s impulse.

This post explains things in detail: What Size Art Sells Best? Frames and Apertures – FREE Chart

No one casually buys a print for hundreds of dollars, they do for $15 or $20. For most artists limiting their art prints to A3 (420mm x 297mm) or below makes commercial sense.

They are easy to sell on the spot, easy to display, and easy to post.

The profit margins are good, but at a lower price band, you will have to sell more to make money.

Limited Edition or Open Edition Prints?

Do you sell more and charge less, or sell less and charge more? That’s the dilemma we all face. Is it better to stay exclusive or sell to the masses?

I do both and I try to capture both markets, I advise you to do the same.

In the real world, people don’t get out of bed and decide that today they are going to buy a work of art. Those lovely people are the exception, not the rule.

Most people buy pictures on impulse. They suddenly see an image that suits a purpose, and if it’s affordable, they will buy it.

Your open edition prints satisfy that need. A quality image, well presented, at a good price.

They can put it in their bag or even their pocket, if you sell miniatures, and get it home in one piece. You also have the option of supplying tiny frames.

Customers who cannot appreciate the added value of a limited edition will not pay extra for the image even though they clearly prefer it. They will always choose the cheaper option.

I consider open editions as my bread and butter.

I sell limited edition prints to customers who wish to buy something special. Some customers really don’t want to be seen as spending less on something even if the quality is the same.

Read this article to get the full picture: What Are Limited Edition Prints? 12 Things You’ve Got to Know

There are others who just like the feeling that they have something more exclusive. A piece of art that their friends will not have.

People who buy limited editions are more likely to value that they met the artist. They are not buying just the image, they are buying into you as the artist and that means something to them.

I consider my limited editions to be a lovely bonus to my daily income. It’s not the mainstay of my business but a very important element.

Katy has a popular class on Domestika (affiliate). It’s worth having a look. She has 98% positive reviews

Final Words of Advice About Pricing Art Prints

Charge what the market will bear. Get what you can and don’t feel ashamed of the markup. Your art is worth what people are happy to pay. It’s a discretional spend, no one needs art, it’s a luxury item.

If you can get away with a 1000% markup, go for it. Ethics do not come into it.

With luck, your art prints will increase in value as more and more people start to collect them. That’s the dream and there is only one way to find out if that lucky artist is you.

Bite the bullet and get out there, price your art prints, and get selling. Don’t put it off forever. Life is short.

Pygmy elephants pencil drawing

If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit:

If you want an alternative to Amazon, check out ARTEZA art supplies or BLICK

If you are serious about selling your art I can show you how. I’ve been selling my art for 20 years. Just copy the way I do it. It’s all in the guide.

Selling art made simple digital guide for starting a small art business

If You Want to Sell Your Art

Check this out!l

Psst…it’s only $12.99!

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This is how to price art prints