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Pricing Your Prints For Retail

By Mary Ann Boysen

Pricing your prints is a critical part of the equation and something your should think about regularly. As we all know, there are good times and bad times for discretionary purchase like art. So, know what environment you're currently operating in and know your customers.

Pricing Your Prints for the Retail Customer

I recommend that the manufacturing cost be quadrupled to reach a retail price.  I learned this from a passer-by when I was sketching in the streets of Chagrin Falls, back in the 1970's. He was obviously in the retail business and his words were gold.

"You need to mark this up 4x if you intend to sell through a gallery."

If a print costs you, let’s say, $5 and you simply double the price to $10, a gallery will take 40%. That's $4, leaving you with $1 of profit after paying the printer $5.00.  Is that any way to run a business?

If you quadruple the retail price to $20, the gallery will take $8 and you will have doubled your money. Plus you will have an extra $2 for the time spent in overseeing the execution, the cost of shipping the print to you, packing and delivering it to the gallery, etc.

BUT, in all of this, you must figure on a price point at which a print will sell or not sell! In the $20 price there is room for moving the price down a bit if necessary.

The down side is the cost of the Giclee printing, and educating the customer that:

  • It is much more durable in the long run (no fading)
  • It can be made in any size they need (depending on the quality and density of your digital image).

They need to be convinced to spend a great deal more money on an image, because there are so many cheap prints out there. And some artists (who will remain nameless) have asked phenomenal prices for the old off-set prints with printing runs of 10,000 or more each, and have diluted the value of their work in the process because they have flooded the market with so many prints of their work. Those $1000+ prints are now not worth much more than the paper they are printed on.

The up side of all this is that you don't have to pay large amounts of cash to get large quantities of prints; which you have to store while you're waiting for them to sell. One at a time is a great way to go as long as you don't have an inventory of 5000. Of course, the printer will offer you a bit of a discount for more than one but you know your customers better than I do.

Pricing Your Prints - Case in Point

I recently had a customer who saw an image on my website that had been sold. She wanted a print. I contacted my Giclee printer and sent him the image that I had. (By the way, I photograph all my paintings in the highest density that my camera is capable of.)

He had his computer guys test the image to see if we could print as large as she wanted, and came back to me with a price. Because there was no middleman, I doubled the price (but I forgot about the shipping costs to me, and even though I added a shipping cost to the customer, it was less than the final bill that I received from FEDEX. So I didn’t come out quite as well as expected, but I did make a profit. We learn from our mistakes. Please don't repeat mine!

My customer was a bit taken aback by the price of the print. If I had upped the price to cover all the things I forgot, she may not have purchased it. But I can't possibly know that. I recommend testing on a few before making the assumption that the sale won't go through. The best part was that she LOVED it when it arrived. So everyone was happy. Pricing your prints can be somewhat subjective but start with some hard rules.

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