Pricing Your Oil Paintings: Stay Out of the Bargain Basement


Pricing your oil paintingsHow do you decide what your oil paintings are worth?

How do you price your precious one-of-a-kind original works of art?

Every artist throughout history has struggled with these questions.  And they are difficult questions to answer.

Over the last fifteen years, I have sold my oil paintings for very high prices and I have also settled for very low prices.

But here is the main thing I have learned:

When pricing your oil paintings, stay out of the bargain basement.

Never settle out of desperation for low prices for your paintings in a bargain basement.  You do not want cheap customers or collectors.

Cheap customers or collectors are the most disloyal customers.  They follow price and will abandon your product for the lowest price competitor.  They don't care about quality or customer service, price is all they see.

Cheap customers or collectors also give you the most trouble.  They complain the most.  They are more dissatisfied and have a higher return rate.  They will want you to correct or redo things over and over for free and are never satisfied.

There are myriads of bargain basement selling websites on the internet.  I see artists all the time selling their work for $100 or $200.  This is a very bad strategy.  They are associating their name and their work with the idea that they are cheap.

The art fairs are another place that I don't recommend.  Art fairs are low-end art sellers who sell to the general population.  The person who buys your work at an art fair is not a serious art collector.  You are not helping your career selling at an art fair.

Stay with the mainstream gallery system.

Always stay close to the mainstream gallery system and price your work very high.  You will attract a better category of collector who can afford your work and will be very loyal in following your career as it progresses to even higher prices.

The gallery director will be your best adviser for helping you to set your prices.

Final thoughts.....

My best advice is to stay away from the cheap websites where there are an overabundance of desperate sellers who are practically giving their work away.

Associate your work and your name with a mainstream gallery and work with the gallery director to set your prices as high as possible.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Lori

    So would it be safe to say……as I’m not in any galleries yet…….that an 800% mark up would be reasonable? I had an oil painting instructor give us this advise…and I thought, at that time, that she was crazy… I’m coming to the realization that she may not have been that far off. What do you think?

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Putting a price on your paintings can be a tough call. It depends on where you are in your career and a lot of other factors. Are you represented by a gallery? $500 to $1000 would be a safe bet if you are just starting out.

  2. Henry Lowen-Smith

    Good advice, if dealing with Galleries, don’t sell yourself short, remember to include the paint, canvas, travelling costs to get the scene, plus Gallery charges and the tax factor, always keep a record and receipts of your costs, Deisel or petrol, mileage, electricity, even work clothing to get a rebate from the taxman. don’t forget courier costs. H L S

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Hi Henry,
      Thanks for writing. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future. Thanks again.

  3. Alan Pfeil

    I’ve recently started painting with Oil paints using the Wet-on-wet technique. I have painted a few Bob Ross inspired paintings (original content, not any replicas of his) using both 16×18″ and 18×24″ canvases. I’m displaying my work to be sold at a small cafe. I am a beginner yet, my paintings have the quality close to some of Ross’ works. I do not have a reputation as a painter and I use real Ox hair brushes to paint my work. I am stumped trying to find a good price for this painting, and I’m considering starting at 100$ for my 18×20 painting of a sunset next to a lake sorrounded by foliage. However, after reading this I’m finding out that 100$ is something that should be avoided. (I also don’t want to be too cocky about my artwork). I am 16 years old and I don’t want to act as if my paintings are made with expert finesse. Please help me price my artwork. thanks.

    1. Gary Bolyer

      Hi Alan,
      Thanks very much for writing. Pricing your artwork is always a difficult task. I remember when I had my first art shows when I was about your age. My first art show was in a bank lobby when I was 16 years old. It was very exciting to have my work on display for the whole world to see. So your story is bringing back old memories for me. As I recall, I priced my work as a complete beginner at around $300 each. But that was many years ago and the price today would be adjusted upward for inflation. I would say that you should price your work from $300 to $500. It’s always better to err on the higher side. If someone wants to make you an offer, then that gives you lots of room to negotiate. Please keep in mind that this article was mainly written for emerging artists in large markets such as New York City. When you get into smaller markets, prices as going to be somewhat lower.

      Thanks again for writing,

  4. Linda Keegan

    Wonderful advice , thank you :))

    1. Gary Bolyer

      You’re welcome Linda.

  5. Gary Bolyer

    Merry Christmas Sara,
    Having a premium is up to you. Just be sure that you price your work high enough to make it worth your time. Personally, I never price anything less than about $2,000 for a size 16×20 inches. Again, thanks for your comments and Merry Christmas.

  6. nabeel

    hello my name is nabeel i live in pakistan karachi i am a artist
    i have many old & new oil paintings plz help mein sell my paintings

  7. Deb Kennedy

    Thanks Gary- been there and finally made better decisions. Great advice.

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