You really love to draw pencil portraits.
You love creating pencil portrait drawings so much that you practice all the time. As you practice, you get noticeably better and better.
In fact, you begin to get so much better that people are beginning to come to you to ask you to draw a portrait for them!
Maybe you have experienced the scenario above. Or, maybe no one has come to you yet, but you are getting increasingly confident in your ability to render a successful likeness of a person so confident that you are ready to offer your services to draw pencil portraits for people who are willing to pay you!
It is exciting to think that you can go into business for yourself and get paid for something you enjoy doing! However, if you have little to no experience drawing commissioned portraits for clients, you may be asking yourself Where should I begin setting my pencil portrait drawing prices?
This article aims to guide you in the right direction. It highlights some important factors that will help you develop an appropriate starting price that works for you.
Where in the Market Do You Want to Be?
There are several popular methods artists use to price their work. One of those methods involves artists pricing their work based on how other artists who create similar pieces are pricing work.
So if you want to offer realistic pencil portraits to clients, you would simply research other artists who are selling realistic pencil portraits and take note of their prices.
You will find a broad range of starting prices among these artists. What you should do is sort the prices from low to high to get a sense of the market. You can also look at samples of their work. Take this into consideration along with the range of prices and decide where along the spectrum you thing your work should fall.
You could do this research on your own by looking up pencil portrait artists on a search engine. If you would rather save some time, I did already compile and sort a list of starting prices from ten pencil portrait artists who sell their services online. I have already made this list available to my newsletter subscribers for free. If you would like your own copy, you can sign up for my newsletter in the box below and I will send you the list!
Experience and Name Recognition
Another factor that plays a part in how pencil portraits are priced is the experience and/or name recognition of the artist. Obviously if you are just still learning how to draw portraits, you will not have either of these. This will also be the case if you have been practicing for quite some time but are just now warming up to the possibility of selling your portraits on commission.
Artists with more experience and name recognition tend to be able to charge higher prices and still secure paying customers. This is for a number of reasons. Artists who have many years of experience in their craft will certainly produce work at a level of quality that is deserving of higher commissions.
Experience can also come in the form of years in business. Spending more years in the business brings more name recognition in the market. If artists have commissioned portraits for a long time, they understand the business side of the art enough to handle customer service, special requests, and their reputation in a way that builds the kind of trust for which customers are willing to pay more.
At What Quality Are Your Pencil Portrait Drawings?
You should be confident that your pencil portraits are a “good enough” quality that other people will be willing to pay you for them.
The good news is there are different levels of quality. Some artists at fairs and festivals focus solely on selling sketches of people for $10 to $20 apiece. You could just as easily choose to sell sketches at these prices while working from photographs.
Generally speaking, as the quality of work increases, so will the prices. Realistic pencil portraits will cost more than sketches, and hyperrealistic portraits that look like actual photographs will cost a LOT more than your “average” realistic portraits.
More factors that affect price include size, number of subjects, and amount of detail in the portrait:
- A few common sizes artists provide are 8″ x 10″, 11″ x 14″, 16″ x 20″, and even much larger canvases.
- A portrait of one single person will cost less than a family portrait of four people.
- A portrait can be anything from a head-and-shoulders view to a full-length, head-to-toe view.
- Will there be a blank background or a detailed setting?
- Is the person in your portrait wearing a plain white t shirt or a fancy blouse with an elaborate pattern that your client requested you to include?
The Best Place to Start
If you are just starting out, the best place to start is with very low prices. Start on the low end of your market research for realistic pencil portraits. If you are selling sketches, start even lower. At the same time, know that it is a balancing act and you don’t want to undersell your work and your value.
Remember that you can get my compiled list of starting prices and save time from all the research by signing up for my newsletter. This list is more than enough to give you an idea of where to start.
One final note: demand influences prices. As you gain experience and more customers than you can handle in a timely manner, it is okay to gradually raise your pencil portrait drawing prices. You should find over a number of years that as your value and name recognition increase, demand for your work continues to climb even with higher prices!