I’m often asked how to price art prints. This can be a very difficult question to answer. You need to take into account various factors such as size, printing method and print quality. In this post, we will go through all the different things that come into play when pricing your art prints.
Add up the cost of the print, including a percentage of the scanning and setup fees, its presentation costs i.e. mounting or matting, stiffeners, and wrappers, your overheads including online posting and marketing fees, shipping and packaging costs and add a small percentage to cover rent and insurance costs. That’s your break-even price. Times it by 2-3 for a giclee print or 5x for an offset litho print, more if you can.
This simple formula will not work for everyone or for everything, there are too many variables but it works for me, so it’s a good starting point.
Let’s go over the main points of pricing art prints and what you need to know.
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 on paper, the costs will vary depending on the size of the art print 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 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 it requires 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.
Further Reading: How to Make Art Prints
I still sell offset litho prints and that’s because when I started digital prints were not an option. If I started today I would 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. Printful.com has a good reputation for making consistently high-quality Giclee prints, so they are a good company to test out 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 (2021) 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. You can kiss goodbye to £1000 ($1400) upfront before you begin.
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 a picture for the wall are buying for aesthetic reasons combined with some kind of emotional resonance.
People buy things that they can relate to, and often that is the visual representation of an interest, a hobby, or a memory.
My typical customer has a love of animals, including some who collect certain animals as a subject, while others have seen the animals on holiday and visited the same reserves.
Then there is the gift market. Many people can’t justify buying an art print for themselves, but readily buy art prints as gifts for loved ones.
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 are serving a middle-class audience with a high disposable income you can ask more for your art prints. Certain subjects are going to lend themselves toward a more affluent customer base.
If you are making equestrian art for example, your customers are likely to be in a higher income bracket. Horse and pony owners have money. Little girls who go riding have parents who pay for it.
You can target that audience at a premium, no need to lower your prices to attract trade. In fact, lowering your prices might put them off entirely. People with a higher income don’t have to penny-pinch.
On the other hand, you might paint cats, plenty of people love cats, every other household probably. There are pedigree cat owners but they love their own breed, that’s a bit limiting. Most people have a moggy. It’s harder to target the wealthier people, you might be better off going for the mass market with cheaper prints.
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 will have a lot of competition.
It’s not always clear-cut, people tend to stick with the people they know. We feel comfortable amongst our own people from a similar background. We know what they want and what they’ll spend. It makes sense to sell your art prints to them.
If you are from an affluent background you’re going to earn more, if your from a working-class background you’re going to earn less for exactly the same work, and that’s simply because you are targeting your own demographic. Life isn’t fair.
The one great advantage of going to art college, one of the very few, is the opportunity it presents to network with other social groups beyond your own.
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.
Finding out what others charge for their artwork is wise but please don’t expect other artists to help you. I get approached by artists who do my kind of work when I’m trading in the market and I have little time for questioning.
It staggers me that some people want to know my suppliers, my print costs, licence fees and even my profit! All given for free to a ‘fellow artist’. Few seem to understand that I don’t want to help someone to take my income away.
So look around for artists who serve a similar demographic, in the same genre, and with a similar style. To some extent your comparison will be subjective, you might think your work is better or worse, but you’ll have to judge that yourself.
Note how they sell them and if you can, what type of prints they are selling. Where did you find them, online or offline?
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 don’t probe.
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. You can ask that question without their alarm bells ringing.
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 the prices the same? How do they ship their prints, flat or rolled? With a mount/matt or without?
Further Reading: Do Artists Need Business Cards?
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 customers reaction to your prices.
No one resents you increasing you prices gradually. People feel lucky that they bought your art at the right time at a lower price. That emotion flips when they see the same print for less money than they paid, then they feel cheated.
There’s another thing that’s useful to know in you market research. Find out if the original was printed to the same size or if the print was reduced. Mediocre originals can sometimes be flattered when they are reduced in size.
I’ve seen it many times. You love a print and it looks so masterful, the drawing is skilled and color is fantastic. Then you see the original and get very disappointed.
A print can hide a multiple of sins. That talented artist is not quite as amazing as you thought. The brush strokes are cruder, the color not so harmonious, the drawing not so refined.
It’s easy to compare yourself to others, and we all do it, but it’s reassuring to know that reproductions can be 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 next to it. It’s worth remembering when you see some fantastic work and begin to doubt yourself.
How to Calculate Your Price of Your Art Prints
Knowing how to price your art prints is importants 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 backwards.
Let’s say, for arguments 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 turnover 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. Lets 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. I could make more money but I chose not to. I try to strike a work/life balance for an easier life.
I could sell prints with a mount or matt board, that 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 grab commission work, of course they do and most should. I get offered work all the time but I don’t do them any more, if I did my income would rise.
Setting up a small profitable art business doesn’t sound so daunting when you break it down. All you need is a nice style of work, an engaging manner, and a work ethic.
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 $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.
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 year, in the holidays. If you trade in a market you will do well on the weekends.
It’s important not to give up because you have a bad spell. You cash flow will fluctuate, but if you put in the hours you will find that they average out in the end.
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.
In short, offset-litho prints are made using a zinc-coated plate that is first photoetched 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 ($1.40) per print for a single color 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. I compromise.
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 £6.50 ($9) 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 £6 per print, which was a very good price.
I could buy Giclee prints for the same price as I was retailing offset-litho prints. You can see how the economics change.
If I was selling my art prints for £20 plus, as I do for my limited editions, my profit margins would still be healthy and there is no storage problems. You order what you need, as you need them.
The big bonus with modern Giclee printers is consistency. If you use a reputable company who maintain their equipment, your prints will look the same each time they are printed.
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 diffinative number. There are so many factors that alter the figures such as the size of the image and paper type.
I made a calculated guess based on using an Epson P700 printer using their inks and on archival paper stock and it would cost me between £2.50 ($3.50) and £3.00 ($4.25) to make each print myself.
At present there are no 3rd party inks compatible with the new Epson Surecolor printers as far as I know.
I have rang Marrutt a reputable supplier of 3rd party inks and paper and they have no inks available yet. (May 2021)
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 come 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 lot to be said for selling smaller art prints. They are cheap to produce, low risk, and take advantage of the shoppers impulse.
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.
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.
Further Reading: Limited Editions: All You Need 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.
Final Words of Advice About Pricing 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% mark up, 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.
If you found this article helpful you might like these:
- Selling Your Art in Galleries, Is It Worth It?
- How to Sell Art Prints Using This Classic Retail Trick
- Build Rapport With Your Collectors and Sell More Art
- How to Sell Your Drawings (All You Need to Know)
- Selling in Art Fairs (5 Tips You Can’t Afford to Ignore)