Feel confident about pricing your original prints
In this post I am aiming to help you feel more confident about deciding on a price for your original prints.
Even for experienced printmakers pricing original prints can be tricky, and if you are starting out it is even harder to know how much to ask for your work.
I have a quick handy method to check that I am thinking on the right lines with pricing. It works as an initial guide to provide a base line and can be tweaked as needed, taking some of the guesswork out of pricing your original prints.
Do some market research
The handy check is only really useful after you have done a bit of market research first.
For this it is a good idea to visit some print fairs, or find other printmakers at open studio events – these artists will be selling direct to the public, rather than through a gallery.
If you can’t go to an event in person, try looking at artists websites where they sell direct to their customers.
Position yourself on the scale
The aim of this research is to work out where you are in relation to everyone else who is making and selling original prints. There is a wide spectrum, some prints on sale for very little, £25 or so, and some up to several hundreds of pounds.
Having looked at what’s on offer out there, think about your own work and place it in a price band somewhere along the spectrum. If your work is more varied prints could be grouped into different price bands. E.g., small lino prints @ under £75 / large etchings @ £150 – £250.
Keep it simple
There are quite a lot of complicated guides to pricing original art work…..
Some suggest a formula based on how much time you spend creating the work, and what you want to earn, taking into consideration your overheads (rent /heat/light etc) and the materials you have used to make the work. This will then give you an idea of what it actually costs you to produce a print. It is a more commercial production approach, suitable for running a business and earning a living from printmaking.
If you are making prints because you love printmaking and also want to make a bit of money I wouldn’t use this method of pricing your work, it is very depressing. You will probably find you need to sell that 20cm lino print for about £1000!
Handy check for pricing original prints
This method uses the size of the print as a basic unit, and when combined with your market research it can help you feel much more confident about pricing your work.
1. Measure the height and width of the printed image.
Lets say your print is 15cm high by 15cm wide as an example.
2. Add the height and width of the print area together.
(Nb don’t multiply it as this produces much steeper price rises with increasing sizes).
In our example height + width will be 15cm + 15cm = 30cm
3. Decide on a rate to multiply this total
Try out different rates on a sample print and compare these to the market research you have done.
£2 per linear cm seems to work. £2.50 is also good. If you are feeling ambitious you could see what the price looks like if you multiply it x £3
Play around with your rate to see what effect changing it has. You may decide to creep it up by a little bit each year to reflect your growing expertise.
4. Multiply the linear total by your rate to get the ‘unframed’ price.
If you have decided on, say, £2 as your rate:
For our example print: 15cm + 15cm = 30cm x £2 = £60
for a bigger print: 40cm + 60cm = 100cm x £2 = £200
Add the frame price
You may want to sell prints just as they are, or protected by a cellophane sleeve which is a convenient way of protecting unframed prints.
If you are getting it mounted and /or framed add this price on to the calculation.
Some customers may prefer the print without a frame and the calculation enables you to price for both options.
Round it up
If the final figure feels fair to me, I just tweak it so there aren’t any odd pennies on the price.
If it is a print I really like and think it will be popular, I bump it up a bit. If the customer is a mate I might knock a bit off. That’s the beauty of the system – it gives you a practical basis for pricing your original work without emotional baggage, indecision or doubt. You can add those elements later!
It also means that the pricing of your work overall has a logic to it so when you come to do your big solo show the prices all make sense.
Selling work through Galleries
The gallery is providing a service by showing and publicising your work, and introducing it to potential buyers. For this they will charge you commission.
If you have decided on a price for your print, they will either take commission from this figure or add commission on, increasing the price they sell it for, depending on what you agree to.
This may seem hard on you but there is kudos from having your work shown in a gallery. It can raise your profile and lead to further opportunities such as residencies, and this helps to make it worthwhile, even if the work doesn’t sell.
Selling at print fairs and open studios
Print fairs and open studios take more of your time but can also be a lot of fun. Commission and fees are generally smaller than galleries, so you will get more of the selling price which feels good. There is no substitute for actually meeting the public directly, and discussing your work with interested people, as well as getting together with other artists.
The image shows lively discussions at York Printmakers Print Fair.
Some people produce giclee prints from their original art work. These are technically ‘prints’ as they are digitally printed reproductions of the original. Giclee prints make work more affordable for customers, and can help printmakers make (a bit) more money from selling work. For example if you only have one original mono print, you could produce giclee prints in order to sell more copies of it. There is a cost to producing giclees, but not as great as making the original print, so the expectation is that the reproductions are priced lower than the original print.
The problem comes when there is confusion between a high-quality digital reproduction, and an original print infused with blood sweat and tears. Both can be produced as limited editions, and signed by the artist. Sometimes there is even a ‘certificate of authenticity’ to go with the limited giclee edition.
Spot the difference
With some printmaking techniques it is hard to tell the difference between a true original and a digital reproduction.
Original intaglio prints make an embossed texture in the paper which doesn’t happen on giclee prints. This image shows an example of deep embossing on a print by Brenda Harthill
With ‘flatter’ techniques like screen printing and lino, it can be quite difficult to distinguish between the reproduction and the original.
I think its ok as long as the buyer understands the difference between giclees and original prints, and knows what they are buying. However, getting this message across to customers can involve quite a bit of energy and explanation on your part.
When you buy a reproduction of a Rembrandt etching you are under no illusion that it is an original print. For us less famous artists this is not always the case!
The subject of giclee prints vs original handmade prints can become a big hot potato arousing passionate opinions. Be aware that you may be poking a hornet’s nest if you introduce this subject with printmakers!
Printing was developed to be democratic and accessible – a way of sharing information and images widely. As most prints are produced as multiples in an edition they are not sold for as much as paintings which are one offs. This makes original prints more easily affordable for people.
However you decide to price your work, it is a lovely feeling when someone makes a connection with a print, and by extension with you, as the artist. When a customer loves one of your prints enough to pay you for it and take it home to live with it, somehow the cycle of creative production is completed. The print goes on to have a life out in the world and you have some cash to spend on more inks!