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How much to charge for your airbrush work?

Discussion in 'General Airbrush Discussion' started by airbrushtutor, Oct 16, 2012.


  1. airbrushtutor

    airbrushtutor Love Spreading Overseer Admin

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    This is quite a common question we get on here and while people have the general idea to charge per hour - how much should we be charging per hour and how can we work out how long things will take?
    Probably questions that have been asked 100 times before, however i think as a fresh forum we should jump on the badwagon and pioneer some industry airbrush rates! We could end up putting it to other forums to agree on these industry rates also which could become a point of call for anyone wanting to know how much their work is worth and how much to quote?
    To get us started here are my initial ideas:

    All prices should be based off $US currency.
    First thought is to have people rank themselves as a beginner/ intermediate/ advanced artist.
    Second thought is to have flat rates for items such as:
    Car parts - bonnets, tailgate, side of car
    (for all parts requiring clear coat i think we need to separate the preparation + clearcoat of items & try to make standard rates for these also)
    Illustrations - Single portrait + $?? per additional portrait - monochrome
    Illustrations - Single portrait + $?? per additional portrait - full color
    Wall mural - Per m2
    + Any additional items you'd all like to price.

    Once we've had significant input and a general agreeance on what to charge - we'll make a sticky thread and hopefully can refer people to this industry standard rates list:)
    There'll always be others out there who are desperate for work or want to undercut the market - but i believe this is the best solution to getting paid what we feel we deserve.
  2. slipery

    slipery Banned

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    IMG_3643-1a.jpg ....this portrait was a commissioned piece, friend of a friend, they are your worst customers because they expect it for free, this portrait is 1000mm x 1500mm & I would consider myself an advanced artist, but because it was local and thinking "yeah someone will see it and I'll get more work", I pratically gave it away at $300....of course I know that's way to low, but most people don't even want to pay that......The most common responce after giving a quote on a portrait is "Yeah that's a good price, I get back to you next week"....I'm sure you can guess how long next week takes to come.

    Set prices are a great idea..... but on a single portrait.....at what size?......a beautful young woman takes less time than a wrinkled old man, how do you set a price to that?...."well I can do your daughter for $50 by the old boy will cost you $100"...lol...
    .....the average person cannot afford the prices we want.

    Just my thoughts if you come up with something thats reasonable I'll stand by it.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  3. Fire Brush

    Fire Brush Young Tutorling

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    To be successful in any art business, you must think like a contractor...and an artist. As an artist, you are paid not only for your skill, but for your "vision" as well. That said, the price you charge for your skill must be enough to pay you a true wage, cover your overhead, AND make a profit. (It is from the profit that you will find the $$$ to buy new equipment and grow your business. So, use the following formula to take a good hard look at the profitability of any project. Use this as the "jumping off point" or where to START with your pricing. Beyond this is all about what the market will bear.

    1. Cost of materials _______, plus your LOADED labor rate ____________ x hours of actual painting _________, (think of yourself like a building contractor, plumber, etc. This rate MUST be high enough to cover the other things you do BESIDES paint. i.e. office work, designing, traveling, classes, etc.), x 2 = WHOLESALE.
    example: cost of material = $100.00. plus 5 hours @ $60.00 an hour = $400.00. $400.00 x 2 = $800.00 (wholesale)

    2. In the case of selling your work in a store front, etc. you extend your formula as such:
    Wholesale x 2.5 = suggested retail. (or, the jumping off point for your retail pricing. Beyond this is what the market will bear)
    example: Wholesale = $800.00 x 2.5 = $2000.00 retail.

    These are standard examples for art studio pricing in the U.S.

    Item #1 is critical to the success of the business. It tells you whether you can afford to take on a project, or whether you will actually lose money on a job. If you cannot double the "materials plus labor" price, then you are only covering the cost of your materials and paying yourself a wage. You are not making enough to pay for anything else. (your equipement, office supplies, heat, lights, rent, etc.). Item #1 taken all the way through to true "wholesale", will allow you a bare bones operation, but will leave little at the end for true profit.

    Note: this was copied and pasted from another post that I responded to. I think it applies as a good formula for a STARTING point to just about any type of business where you provide a service or a product. If your quote can't be supported by the basic formula, that should at least be a big red flag to rethink the quote - or the project all together.

    Sticking with this basic formula (no matter what medium I have worked in over the years) has been the key to the success and longivity of my business. (35+ years and counting). I just want to emphasize one more time: this is the STARTING point. Beyond that you should always take advantage of what the current market will bear. (it's what carries you through the lean times.)
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
    Garrett Morse, J000seph and Vladimir like this.
  4. slipery

    slipery Banned

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    You wrote this in another post I saw....and yeah I agree in theory you're right, that's the way it should be done......

    now ask a hundred random people if they take their car to the machanic who they know charges $90 an hour + parts & labour and he comes back with a quote of lets just say $400 for a couple of hours work one tyre an oil change & a lube job,every one would pay it no questions asked....

    ask the same hundred people would they pay $400 for a beautiful portrait, that an artist slaved 10 hours over, which would hang on the wall their whole lives and could be handed down from generation to generation......I'm sure the ones saying yes to that could be counted on one hand.....

    it's not easy to sell art and by using a standard contractors calculation would make it unsellable....because my ability and time is worth at least $90ph.
  5. Fire Brush

    Fire Brush Young Tutorling

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    That's why I said it was a STARTING point. Believe me, I've earned the right over the years to charge much more than the "starting" formula. That's where "what the market will bear" comes in. You have to have a base point to start from (so you know without a doubt that you aren't selling yourself short, or the project isn't worth your time). There have been a number of projects that have come to me over the years where, on the surface, they looked attractive. But I turned them down because they would be so labor intensive that there was no way the customer would pay me MY loaded labor rate to do them. Someone else? Maybe. There is incredible freedom in the word "No." ;-)

    btw...I've been a professional artist since 1976. :)
  6. airbrushtutor

    airbrushtutor Love Spreading Overseer Admin

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    Alright a quick post to keep moving things along on the right track..
    If excessive materials are required, please do not include them in the price and don't include postage either. We can all work these out individually and they'll be the same across the board.

    Portrait - monochrome single face: $130.00 +$100 for each additional portrait (face) thereafter. (based on roughly 3hrs per portrait @$40/hr)

    I know what you guys are saying in terms of a baby's face or an old man - there certainly is a different amount of work so let's think logically:
    old man 4.5 hours - $180.00
    baby face 2 hours - $80.00
    Work out the average - $130.00
    If you do an old man portrait you lose out a bit, do a baby portrait you win a bit - but to keep it standard and attractive to customers we say $130.00 per portrait.

    I'd like to come up with standard rates that most can agree with. We want to work out the value of the job - it's up to you to be fast and make good money out of it while still delivering a quality product.

    How does everyone feel about the illustration portraiture rates? Those of you with experience, would appreciate if you threw some $$dollar values around!
    Kat Wolffpack likes this.
  7. Hab

    Hab Young Tutorling

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    I did a portrait and I only charged $80.00 and it took me a lot longer then I had figured. It was my second attempt at a portrait. I like that $130.00 but I was thinking between $150.00 to $200.00 to do another one because of all the time involved. Is that too high? I know we touched this subject a little on the other thread.
  8. foreveryoung001

    foreveryoung001 Detail Decepticon!

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    As a newbie, I can't offer much to the discussion besides the few pieces that I have already sold and how I price them for perspective clients. My main airbrushing income has come from t-shirts. I price them as to how detailed they would like the shirt. For example, I've been doing a lot of Halloween shirts the past couple of weeks... so a simple evil looking pumpkin takes me about 20 minutes, and I charge $10 plus the cost of the shirt. If they want a name added, its usually another $5 on top of that. If they want something more detailed, then I price things at $25 an hour... I like the $40 an hour mark, but I don't feel like my skills allow me to work fast enough yet to justify charging that much. As my skill improve, my speed should improve, and my price per hour will go up, but for now I keep it around there.

    I've already agreed to do a couple of motorcycle tanks this winter at $25 an hour too, but since these will be my first tanks, and I anticipate a lot of trial and error, I will only loosely keep track of my time...

    I will be following this thread like a hawk though... There are a very limited number of airbrush artists in my area, so that may allow me to raise my prices a bit faster than I am anticipating, and I am curious how everyone else prices things out.

    NOTE: I would love to do this for a living, but for now, I am just hoping to keep covering the costs of paints and supplies... If I had to support my family with my art, I would probably price things at a whole different level.
  9. Fire Brush

    Fire Brush Young Tutorling

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    I guess I'm not following you.... Of course, then, I'm a capitalist and I think everyone should set their own price based on their own needs / lifestyle / skill / 5 year plan, etc..... LOL I can't follow the concept of a "standardized" pricing. I think I'm lost on this one.
  10. airbrushtutor

    airbrushtutor Love Spreading Overseer Admin

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    That's exactly what we're trying to determine. For this reason we want to create standard prices per job - if you're a beginner, you can still ask the same price as what a more advanced artist changes (assuming you can create the same quality) but it will take you longer.
    $80 is cheap for a portrait, I get where you're coming from though. With time comes speed and hence you will already be earning more per hour without the need to increase your prices - so we're aiming for prices that people would be happy to work for:)


    If you could work out what you think a fair price is for a shirt? Just try to average out the costs of what you've done so far.
    Would it be $20? $30? $40?

    Firebrush - if you nominate a price you'd be happy to get paid for a portrait, that would be a helping start.

    I can relate this back to electricians - someone asks how much to install a power point - you can reply with 'well i have to see it, and how far it is from there and the difficulty of install' - or you could say it's a flat $120.
    this $120 is decided by the average time it takes you to install a powerpoint.
    I'm looking for a list of prices for airbrush art based on what people think it's worth just like the install of the power point.

    A portrait at $40 an hour done by an intermediate artist takes 3 hours.
    A portrait at $25 an hour done by a beginner artist takes 5 hours
    A portrait at $60 an hour done by an advanced artist takes 2.5 hours.

    The average price for a portrait becomes $131.67. or $130.

    For anyone who wants to do a portrait in future, they can come to this list and create their price accordingly. Of course each individual is free to increase or decrease their prices, but i'm trying to gauge how much airbrush art is worth to individual artists - to find a happy medium. There's always exceptions to the rule but hopefully i've made it clear what i'm trying to achieve. it's not so much an open debate i'm trying to have then actually determining what people would be comfortable to earn for their art.
    Maybe I should create a price list first and go from there?
    Kat Wolffpack likes this.
  11. RebelAir

    RebelAir Air-Valve Autobot!

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    A really good idea ABT, its certainally a commonly asked question...

    I personally like to work of flat rates as it ultimately increases my hourly rate the faster I can paint a piece..I've personally found as soon as you mention an hourly rate it scares some away. A flat rate at least gives them an idea of a "What it will ultimatly cost" idea and if a mistake is made or such it should be the artist wearing that cost and not the consumer..When it comes to auto I charge a flat rate of $1000 per panel but saying that its important that the client can see what this gets them.. A really detailed piece may be costed at a higher flat rate but I explain by pictures the difference between a low detail, a medium detail and a high detailed piece so they can see the benefit of chucking in a few hundred extra...Color also has to be considered as you mentioned as the more colors the more work to the artist..

    Portraits and such I have a per face charge, the more faces the higher the charge...Alll the differences between pieces has to be taken into account as each has its own challenges For example a person with glasses compared to one without has to have a different charge as the work involved increases...

    Its a good idea but all I can suggest to those wondering how to price something is to look at the basic aspects of detail, feature needs, color needs and price accordingly considering the hours you may need to put in....And most importantly have a portfolio that shows these differences and ultimatly explain to peeps that they should consider looking into a proffesion photo sitting cost or a sticker kit for an auto and then justify the cost your charging in comparison to having something like what was suggested done..Sell it on the fact its a one off original artistic creation and something no-one else will have.......GL

    BTW Don't forget to take a deposit to at least cover your costs, it wouldn't be the first time a client dissapears when payment is due :)
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2012
  12. AndreZA

    AndreZA Elite Member! Elite Member! Very Likeable!

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    I saw a "rate card" of an artist and she gave the price for a certain size. For bigger she charges more but for smaller the price stays the same. If I had to charge per hour and the client accepts it then I only need to do 2- pictures a year as I will get soo much money for the 3 months I spend doing it. Each job should be priced on contents starting with a base price to cover costs.
  13. Madbrush

    Madbrush Guest

    This is all very interesting, and although debate was not the intention, the whole subject certainly raises a few questions, I notice through the whole discussion there is no mention of differences in attitude per culture or location, also differences in income tax and vat.

    In Holland the income tax rate is probably one of the highest in the world at 37.5% (higher earners 51%), vat is a staggering 22%, these factors and more push prices up to a level no one wants to pay, $40 an hour would certainly be acceptable starting price for me personally but the simple truth is no one in Holland would even consider that, in Holland you may consider your self extremely lucky if you got $15 an hour.

    I think that mentality and differing tax laws would make a standard rate throughout the world wide board totally impossible.

    Another major problem is that even with an agreed standard rate, there will always be the non conformist who will do it for less.

    I would never consider trying to sell my art because for me it is only a hobby, however if someone made me an offer that sounded lucrative I would accept it and that is the only way I would ever sell anything, some people will pay over the odds for something they really want to have, whereas if you gave a price no matter what it was, in Holland they will always try to cut you down.

    I paint houses and no matter what I offer to do it at they always say it's too much, my reply is always the same "I can lend you a brush"
  14. slipery

    slipery Banned

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    Ok so lets say the set price for a single portrait is $130......what size is that & on what surface????

    ......I've also sold other paintings for a lot less than i should, but I figure it's better to get the work hanging where others can see it apart from the people that see it in my Gallery......I'm pretty fast but I work totally freehand, using nothing but an airbrush & I work exclusively on Canvas, but I know people that fisket, erase & scratch and spend 60 - 100 hours on one painting, I'm sure they are not going to charge $130 and why should I charge less just because I can get the job done faster, I have invested a lot of time and money to gain the experience to be able to paint that fast.....my prints go for an average $70....I have one of my brush paintings priced at $2,500, 1000mm x 700mm.....it looks great hanging in my gallery

    .....I have an exhibition next month and I've set special prices for all my work just for the people that attend my show, I've made price reductions up to 90%......I'll let you know how many I sell and for how much.
  15. slipery

    slipery Banned

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    No one is questioning your professionalism......so there is really no need to compare reproductive organ size here....:)
  16. aficionado

    aficionado Spider Splatterer

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    Mitch,
    Excellent idea.... I'm thinking min $180-$200 a portrait one face and then $60-$70 each extra face..... but maybe thats just my inflated pricing, and what I'd do it for.... although saying that all the portraits I've done have been done for free :)

    As far as Madbrush was saying, maybe a standard price in Oz/US etc and then maybe a percentage base for other countries, he was saying $40 wouldn't fly, it would be closer to $15, so maybe have Holland at (I have no calculator) 40% of the standard rates agreed on???

    Outstanding idea though... I asked the question after doing the Optimus Prime mural to see how much I'd given away as I did it for zilch :)
  17. AndreZA

    AndreZA Elite Member! Elite Member! Very Likeable!

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    Stick this sign up in your shop.

    i_am_artist.jpg
  18. Madbrush

    Madbrush Guest

    If that was the case, I'd never work.
  19. slipery

    slipery Banned

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    By offering a reduction off the standard agreed price to countrys where the cost of living is double and that have a population that doesn't want to spend money on art, completely negates the purpose of having a standard fixed price to start with

    Germany is the same as Holland......as I've said earlier, the average person will spend a $1000 on their car with no question....try and get them to pay $50 for a painting is another story altogether........and if a fixed price can be agreed on....who is going to police it??.......it sounds more like a job for politicians, than for artists......

    isn't price fixing illegal in some countries??
  20. Madbrush

    Madbrush Guest

    Fixed pricing isn't illegal if it's a fair price, fixed pricing is sometimes used locally, in a small village for example where there 2 or 3 garages charging the same rate as each other to fairly distribute the work.

    In Holland fixed pricing for artwork could never work as you say because the average Dutchman (no disrespect intended) wants everything for less, but also as I said there will always be the idiot who will do it for half and most likely it will be substandard.

    If somebody asked me to create something for them I wouldn't bother offering a price I would ask them what they thought it was worth to them, if it's laughable then I'll laugh, if it's acceptable I'll accept, I don't enter into haggling ever, if the customer wants it bad enough he will pay, when he doesn't want to pay then he obviously didn't want it in the first place, he is merely playing you for a fool.

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