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A small talk about pricing your art

Wed Dec 25, 2013, 6:15 PM

You're creating art. You have the passion, you have the skills. Why not make some money out of it then? It's a good idea, right? A lot of people live from creating art, and even more earn some money on the side by taking commissions. You should give it a shot!

So... How much money is your art worth?

It's a hard question to answer for those who are just starting their adventure with selling and creating art for money. Is its worth equal to the price of the materials you used? Is it equal to the value of the time you've spent on creating it? What about the emotional value you put into it? Should your education influence your prices?

No matter if art is your job, hobby or a pastime, you should never undervalue it. In this article I will try to give some tips as to how assess the value of your artwork and touch the problem of too low prices.

We're in it for the money.

Let's be honest - if you're reading this then you probably want to know how much you could earn. The more the better, right? True, but you need to be aware that majority of your clients will want the exact opposite - to pay as little as possible. Your task will be to balance the two out so your clients are happy with the price and you get your well deserved money. Let's start from the basics.

poor artist by YonYonYon
If you want to sell art and be at least a bit serious about it, you need to realize that:
  • You are a worker. Artists (just like tailors, carpenters or masons) provide basic products for others to admire, use or build upon. Your work is as important as anyone's else, and as such should be valued.
  • As a worker you commit time and energy into creation. You are basically selling your skills and hours of your life so someone can get a piece of artwork. You will need to give a monetary value to those skills and hours if you want to earn money.
  • In every part of the world the cost of living and work is different.  The price of your time (and by extension also your art) will strongly depend on the minimum wage in your country.  

I strongly believe that no matter how much experience you have or how young you are,  you deserve to be paid at least the minimum wage for your honest work. Go ahead - look up the minimum wage in your country. Check how much is that per hour of work. That's the bare minimum you should take for hour of creating your work. The piece takes you more than an hour? It should cost two times as much then! Not a penny less!

If you agree and want to earn even more skip the next fragment. If you don't then stay with me for a moment longer and we'll go through all the popular arguments against it.

The reasons why you're valuable

:bulletred: I don't think art in general is worth all that much.
Artistic skills are VERY valuable. In the country I live in the problem of undervaluing art is so far-reaching that the word "artist" itself became a colloquial name for someone who is unreasonably extravagant, silly and flippant.  It's not true at all. The fact you have a good eye-hand coordination AND an imagination good enough to create anything is very valuable. Gigantic industries are based on people who create art. Can you imagine movies without someone coming up with the visuals, costumes or scenography? What about advertisements? What if all books suddenly had no illustrations? What about gaming? Fashion? Art is a very big part of many businesses and should be treated like that.
:bulletgreen: Your skills are very valuable no matter what anyone else thinks!

:bulletred: I don't have the experience to ask for such an amount.
Of course, at the very start you probably won't be able to charge as much as people who work in the industry for 10+ years now, but it doesn't mean you should work for kibble. Don't be afraid. Everyone was "just starting" at some point. Can you imagine a medical doctor, who just got his degree, working for a few cents per hour even though he's fresh on the market? A baker who sells bread for one cent a loaf because his bakery just opened?
:bulletgreen: If you're just starting, then yes, your prices will probably be lower than those of people who already make art for a living. That doesn't mean you should work for less than bare minimum.

:bulletred: It's only a hobby.
Commission Info: CLOSED by ShadeofShinon
It's actually a good argument, to be honest. If you create something for yourself in your own free time, you have the full right to sell it for as much as you want - a million dollars or a bag of chips. It's up to you.
The situation changes though when someone asks you to paint something very specific just for them. From the ideological point of view you are now employed by that person and shouldn't be treated like a slave. Taking commissions usually means you won't create what you want but what others want. It means that your price includes not only the art and time you sacrifice to create it but also all the revisions, corrections and changes, which sometimes can be harder than the main task.
:bulletgreen: Hobby or not, don't let anyone make you a slave.

:bulletred: I need to have a portfolio/commission examples first.
Yes. Yes, you do. A strong portfolio is very important if you want to get into the art industry. That doesn't mean you should work for free though. A good personal illustration that you put your heart into is worth much more than a private commission of someone's OC that you struggle with. Private commissioners usually don't care if you were hired by someone before and people from the industry care (or don't care at all) only about published  commercial projects you contributed to.
:bulletgreen: It's better to create your portfolio with utmost care so people want to buy what you actually enjoy creating, than to lower your prices just so you can pump commissioned pieces into your gallery in hope it will help you gain new clients. It won't.

:bulletred: Come on. An image like that can't be worth more than a can of soda!
A lot of young artists don't know the worth of their work simply because they've never worked before. Of course I'm not talking about the occasional work they might be involved in but the regular 8-9 hours a day for 5 days a week most adults have to do. The idea of the minimum wage was quite abstract to me as well before I started working.
Why does a can of soda cost less than art? Because it's made in millions of copies by machines. It's not customized. It's not unique. It isn't revised while being created. It's not made specifically for one person and their needs. Any bit of personalization would make its cost to skyrocket. If you intend to sell the same piece of art in millions of copies then, of course, by all means lower its price so it reaches as many customers as possible. If you're going to get paid only once though, think about it for a moment and join us back in the next part of the article.

A price to satisfy them all

The minimum wage won't earn you much. At most it will precisely null out with the time and effort you put into your work. It's basically the price of art that could be made by anyone. Just like anyone who's any good at what they're doing, you should rise the price the more experienced you get, the more known you are, and the more work you currently have. There are artists out there who work for 5USD an hour, 10USD, 20USD or even over 100USD.  It's now up to you to set your price point at which you feel the most comfortable.

Setting an hourly price might, once again, be difficult. How are you supposed to know where to start or where to stop? There are two methods to deal with it.

#1 - Start low and build up

This method is much better for young artists who are just starting their adventure with art. The idea is simple - you raise your prices as you develop your skills and build up the confidence in your art. It can cause some troubles though, so learn from my mistakes.
A few years back, when I was taking my very first commissions on dA I really undervalued my art. I asked for 20USD for works that took me over 8 hours of work (2,5USD/h) which was much too little even considering how inexperienced I was and the fact I live in eastern Europe where prices are much lower. Why was it too little? First of all I came across a few traps of the too low pricing. Oddly enough the first was... the lack of clients.

Believe it or not, too low prices scare people away! Would you buy a car for 50USD? Of course you would if you saw and tested it first. Otherwise it would sound a bit too good to be true, right? The same is with art. Some prices either feel fishy or imply that there's something wrong with the art itself. People think that for such a low price you might be adding some costs later on, send them only a small version or gods know what else!

The other problem were returning clients. After buying art from me some came back for more after a while. As a growing artist I raised my prices since then and my clients felt cheated on. I got into a few very unpleasant situations trying to explain to my ignorant clients that since the last time they've commissioned me I got much better and offered a product of higher quality. Few listened but a lot of them publicly complained... and scared away potential clients.

Another problem you might encounter is too slow price growth or even stagnation. It's a very serious issue for those who feel insecure about their art.
Do yourself a favor - set your price at a level you think is fair... and then add a few bucks. I'm serious. Go on, add those few dollars more because you're worth that much. In our efforts to be fair we usually overestimate how fast we work and don't realize how many revisions some clients want. Too low price might really come back and bite you in the ass if you're not careful enough.

If you add a buck or two with every commission batch then you'll soon reach a level you're satisfied with. If you're lucky enough you'll be able to charge even more once you find your place in the market and create yourself a niche to draw clients from.

money money money MONEY by urban-barbarian

#2 - Start high and don't give a fuck

This method works good with those who are experienced in creating art but never tried selling their works. If you already have a distinctive style, a unique technique or great ideas just slap a big price on your art. If you advertise enough there are going to be people out there who will want to buy it from you. It often requires a lot of confidence, patience and an outgoing personality but can bring incredible profits and prestige. Not for those in need of fast money.
If the plan doesn't work, lowering the prices might not work immediately... or work like a charm if you plan it right! It's definitely a high risk - high reward strategy.


Don't worry. We all are. If you're still not sure as to how to price your art, then do some research.

Lurk around a bit and check price lists of other people that are at your level of work.  Use it as a guideline. Beware of the underpricing artists though! Remember not to go below the minimum wage and check twice to make sure you didn't stumble upon someone who's undervaluing themselves! Also remember to check if they're from the same continent as you are, having in mind that somewhere else in the world prices might be much lower.

Check how much time a given piece takes you. It will make pricing it a bit easier.

Structure your prices. Check what takes you a significant amount of time to create and make it a step in your pricing ladder.

And if you're still not confident about your art... then just keep practicing! Invest the time others use for advertising their commissions and creating art for others into developing your skills.

You might also want to read a bit more about pricing your art. Here are a few places you should visit:
Pricing Your Art by Ellen 'the Alaskan' Million
Commission - Approach and Pricing Guide  by cyphervisor
How to price your artwork for freelance work by Teshia Lyndall
Why is undercharging a bad idea? by Katie Hofgard

I don't do ART for free by Exileden

BONUS ROUND - How can anything be TOO cheap?

The practice of lowering the price to ridiculous levels in hope of getting clients is not only a very wrong approach that hurts you - the artist who decides to work for less - but also all the artists that come after you and do the exact same thing. Imagine this: artist A is new to the market and decides to check someone's price list. To get clients A makes his prices lower than that. Another artist appears - B. B checks A's price list and makes their prices even lower than that. Do you see where this is going?  It causes a never-ending spiral of lowering prices that for some is very hard to escape from even after their skills get better and they gain more experience. This is the very reason a lot of artists live on the verge of poverty.

It gets worse though. A much more serious problem arises because of offering too low prices - people believing that art has little to no worth. At some point the idea of working for kibble starts to spread among the clients who then force other artists to work for as little too. The drop in the monetary value also diminishes the cultural value of art. Paintings become worth as little as doodles on napkins, sculptures are treated as a waste of space used only as a pigeon toilet, papercraft is nothing more than a pastime for kids.

Don't allow anyone to dictate the worth of your work. If you are someone who enjoys art but isn't a creator, appreciate the young artist and give them a tip. Those few bucks more and a few nice words make a big difference.

Money can't make you happy by converse-kidd-stamps Hungry Artist by emmil My painting pay my bills... by emmil 'I Need WORK' Stamp by xmod Stamp: Commission by FlantsyFlan Arts WORTH Money by emmilSupport an Artist Stamp by Skarlet-Raven

We really need an "art article" category in the journal portal.
Add a Comment:
Kerrigore Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2016  Professional General Artist
I know you wrote this a bit ago, but thanks for it. It's really hard explaining to friends who don't do art why my commissions are "expensive".
CaihongHoshi Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
I totally agree with this but it would be nice when the people who say they want to commission get further than just saying it and actually doing it. It feels so degrading when people ask for a commission and then they flippantly turn round and ask if I'll do a request instead. NO!! If you're going to ask me about a commission first that must mean you're interested in my work for a reason but don't insult me by then asking for a request instead. I don't think people understand how degrading that is to the artist or how hard it knocks one's self confidence in their work.
BlueComet5 Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2015  Student General Artist
interesting article... very smart and interesting :)
BTFly009 Featured By Owner Edited Apr 29, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Amazing article! :heart: I see many people here, in DA, doing commission for extremily low prices. 
Lyran-Wolf Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2014  Student Digital Artist

I love it. Thank you for creating it <3
PhobophobicDalek Featured By Owner Edited Aug 24, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
After reading this, I'm still not sure what to price my stuff as. 
I've only sold one thing, for five points. I know it's underpriced, but no one will buy my stuff otherwise. I feel like no one actually thinks digital art made by some hobbiest (spelling DX) is worth next to nothing ._. even my allowence per day is worth more than the one comission that I sold. 
Avvoula Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2014
Ahhh commissions can be such a pain... 
Here's my attempt at giving a temporal solution to the whole prices problem...…
MonoSpectator Featured By Owner Aug 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I love this journal! I'm just now getting into doing commissions and trying to plan prices. I'm attempting to work out a system that is efficient and effective. This really is helping me with deciding how I should do my pricing. ^_^
Rockyon Featured By Owner Jul 31, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
sometimes i get annoyed with site like fiverr, they offer quantity over quality and people who don't really understand good/bad art just happy with the result, and the client just easily comparing the price and other than that is "contest" site it's like the member hypnotized willing to work for free
OurHands Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Best message I've heard in a few days, to say the least.
spiketail94 Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
You have no idea how grateful I am for this journal! It gave me a nice hard slap in the face as to just how horrible I've been treating myself. Doing a $60 piece for 20 cents is not a mistake I plan to make ever again (I wish I was joking) :stare:
I'm so damn livid at myself right now, I'm a professional and it's about damn time I started treating myself like one.
Kenai-Okami75 Featured By Owner Jan 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for this article! I've never sold anything to anyone, I have done an exchange before though, that was as close as I have ever come. Most of my work is for my own enjoyment or as gifts to friends and family. I haven't pondered selling anything or taking up commissions for some years now. I think that maybe sometime this new year I may do that, however. Your article has been very, very helpful. Thanks again. :)
malfunit Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2014
I wonder how this would work for sound effects.
leviblues Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2014
good writing......
Maiko-Girl Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
A great Journal and truly well written! :tighthug:
Animus-Panthera Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I see these kinds of articles all the time and I think the focus is usually on illustrators, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on artisans. I have the problem all the time that people who are used to mass-produced products think that an artisan craft priced by an hourly rate is extremely overpriced. For example, I recently made a realistic cat plush, and it took me right around a full 40-hour work-week to do it. 40 hours at a mere $8 an hour (slightly over minimum wage where I'm from) is $320, and that's not even including the price of materials, which for good quality materials for a piece that size can ring up well over $50. When I tell people that I'd be willing to accept $150 (which would be less than $4 an hour), they tell me that no sane person would pay that much for a stuffed animal. You see the same problem with clothes (although some artisan crafts people don't seem to think are overpriced- they'll pay a reasonable price for fine jewelry, for instance).
vesner Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
I did write the article drawing from my and experience and who I am - an illustrator. I do however believe that it all applies to other forms of art too.
Hand-made items usually are more intricate and unique, thus cost more, but the average Joe doesn't always know the difference. Someone who isn't artistically-sensitive or just doesn't care about the aesthetics he's surrounded with, will always reach for something that's crappier but cheaper. It's just the way it works.
There are however means of fighting with it - most concentrate on simply getting better and faster. At some point art reaches a certain level that draws the attention of collectioners. Take *Santani for example - her dolls are exquisite and the last time I checked, each went for a few hundred dollars. Another good example is ~missmonster. Maybe you should concentrate on a different market? I think your etsy shop has much higher chances to find your new clients than dA, simply because of the demography here. Most active users here are teens with no big money to spend, whereas etsy is visited mainly by people who want to buy something.
Animus-Panthera Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. Your opinion has been very insightful and helpful- food for thought!
caradecunha2 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
There's also an artist that I saw that did mainly Masks. I don't remember her name... But they were really good, recently I think she got a DD... She has lots of masks. And there were some for US$100 but also some a lot more expensive like maybe US$500.
And when I saw them I was REEALLY wanting to buy them... I didn't cause I'm "poor". The teenager with not that much money to spend. But I guess what really made wanna buy were it's personalities and quality. They were really good and had awesome designs, some even inspired on Animes, or Movies... which I guess helps sell for some audiences. If I find her I'll link her here :)
Animus-Panthera Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
There are a couple of artists that might fit that description! But I have to say that while I know making references to media like movies or anime is popular, I have personally never really felt comfortable selling fan art. I would much prefer to make original pieces than art based on another person's ideas.
caradecunha2 Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Uhum Nod 
I understand you on that cause I think I'm quite afraid of selling fanart... I don't know.
Hope it helped though :)
Animus-Panthera Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Everything is food for thought. Thanks!
caradecunha2 Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Ok. Found her. And I looked at the prices in Brazilian Currency. SO I was kinda off..  XD Well you can see her store here: and check for yourself the prices ( and DeviantArt account here:… )
Marawuff Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Well... My problem was and is, that no matter how cheap or how expensive I charge, there are no people interested in commissioning me. It wouldn't matter if I would take 30$ or 100$ for the same art, there are just no people interested...
Leiagore Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Thank you for posting this, people say I work for to little when it comes to my jewelry but Inever looked at it the way you laid it out here. Thank you for the enlightenment and happy new year.
Cocoru Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you so much for writing this guide!  Very informative!
Warrior-Moon Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This will really help me.
palowsky Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for thei nformative lesson, now I have something to remember when selling art in conventions.
Sir-Herp Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Student General Artist
Can't pay for meds and surgery if I don't work, but I can't work unless I have the meds, at the very least. :faint:
My solution: Aaaaart!

This is really great, I actually just requested that people send such articles to me in the journal entry I just posted.
Thank you for writing this!
Redshade1 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I offer 10-525 point commishes... ($.10 to $5.25) Depending on what option you choose. I'm only really that good at art at all, and am just started out. I started with insanely high prices for my rather poor artwork but when I saw nobody buying them so I cut the price in four. I'm working on an immense project to get a picture that is nearly PERFECT. Not pixellated or sloppy, but amazing.
sas0524 Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I tried setting up commisions but people woulf buy them for a cheap price then make a base out of them and sell art using the base or stealing my art and setting it up as a print. How do I prevent this and/or attract a nicer bunch of people?
Pirategirl28 Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for this! I'm still nervous cause I'm offering commissions and no one is taking them. I think my art is fine, and I have options going from $6-15, and in my head I think I'm overpricing. But it is true that you shouldn't under-price, cause then people may question the quality of the art that they are receiving. One thing for me is that it takes me a long time to work on art, and I'm not sure if getting paid by the hour is the best choice for me. Does anyone have any suggestions or advice?
yuukipink Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Thanks for writing this. :3
Doom-Duck Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
yeah but people won't buy my art if it's too expensive! I've already raised my prices too much :T
oh well I just have to get better so I can sell them :)
I liked reading this, it's very well written and inspirational :hug:thanks!!!
Sugary-Cakes Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Student General Artist
I'm having slight problems with my point comissions. Everytime I try to get people to get a point comission,No one wants one but when I put out even one request,people are willing to fight to the death for just one slot! Does this mean that I'm just not that talented enough for someone to pay me in points in order to draw something for them?
Ragnhethur Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013
It just means they're cheap, and using you for free art. Why pay when they probably know you're going to open requests..

This is why I can't stand people, they're greedy.
Sugary-Cakes Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Student General Artist
yeah. So I should just keep requests closed?
Ragnhethur Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013
Yeah, I don't ever give out requests unless they're friends/I know them very well to know they won't use me for my art.

If you are seriously thinking about selling your art for whatever currency, whether it be Points, Money etc; you should practise as much as you can! People like to see dedicated artists.. I know it's hard, but you'll get there c:
Sugary-Cakes Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Student General Artist
Thank you. That has purely given me a shine of hope. I hope you have a happy new year :)
Ragnhethur Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014
I'm glad I've helped! and thank you very much, I hope you have a great 2014!

I sent a watch your way, I can help you when you uploads, critiques etc.. Pricing your art c: just shoot me a note whenever and I'll always be free to help!
Sugary-Cakes Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014  Student General Artist
ok thank you :)
yuukipink Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
I agree with this too. At the very least when you get a request you should be able to feel good about doing it and not like you got jipped. :/ Doing gifts for friends only makes your art that much more valuable because friends will appreciate it a little more than a stranger most of the time. 
Ragnhethur Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2014
I can't stand people who just use others' good nature's for art. It's just greedy and selfish. I find that friends love gifts, surprise gifts even! I like to surprise strangers from time to time, by going through their gallery and liking their OC and maybe drawing them something out of my free time.. But, I never really give out requests to strangers because I fear getting used.

But yeeaah.. I totally agree with you.
flamingantelope Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
This is absolutely inspiring, I am definitely considering moving my ten cents for all my art to a prettier penny~
miinora Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is brilliant, thank you for sharing your thoughts :D
thebadgermushroom Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013
I really like this article, nice coherent arguments about the risks of underpricing. Thank you for writing this!

Only comment I might make is where you say "Private commissioners usually don't care if you were hired by someone before". I'm not sure of the logic behind that? At least for me, seeing previous commissions in an artist's gallery gives me more confidence in approaching them. I don't mind dealing with artists who are new to the commissioning game, but things generally go smoother when both parties know what to expect.

Frilly-Dragoness Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Haha start high and don't give a f*** XDDD That is the best line ever. xux
Dowlphin Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I generally agree with what has been said. Here are some more thoughts one might have and my solution:

1) The internet provides access to an unprecendented number of artists. Inflation alert!
--> Art is unique. Someone might like your picture, exactly yours, because of some uniqueness about it. This will likely only attract a select few interested people willing to pay, so you better put a price tag on it that reflects this.

2) People have overall less money these days, and that trend probably won't change any time soon.
--> Yes, but that certain group of people interested in buying pieces of art is always a distinct one. They will always have money to spend on art ... by definition. And while even the upper middle class will have less and less, especially then art will be a satisfying way to spend money. It brings that certain something into people's lives, the non-ordinary, the passionate, the inspiring.
JvdvArt Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist

Its a great writing, I agree with most points and I think its helpfull. Maybe next time you could write something about how to get sure about your art?

Because I know my art is ok, but Im not sure if its good enough to sell...

radio99 Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2013
Not bad, although I disagree with a few points. Getting minimum wage for your time is perhaps a bit too optimistic, especially for a beginners and unknown artist with unknown skills. I understand where you're coming from, tho.
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