How much does it cost to commission custom art? 4 basic guidelines

February 18, 2022

In most traditional off-the-rack art shops, you'll likely find the price labeled clearly and conspicuously alongside the art piece. Likewise, online art shops display the price along the image of the painting as well.

However, when ordering a personalized art piece that's made specifically and uniquely for you, the question of pricing causes many potential buyers to feel lost. "How can I accurately price something if it hasn't been even created yet?"

Understandably, it is difficult to know what a fair price would be, for example, a portrait of you and a loved one. Is it $100, $500, $5,000? Unless you are a professional artist, knowing what the cost of something like a custom-made portrait painting can be a bit confusing.

Fortunately, getting an artist to create a custom drawing & painting for you on MadeMay simplifies the process: answer a few questions, upload your photo(s), and the algorithm will match you with the right artists for the job as well as upfront pricing based on your request.

On average, the price for a commissioned painting from an experienced artist starts at $100 and can go as high as $10,000.

Generally, there are 4 simple guidelines to help you get a sense of how much you should be paying for you a personalized artwork by an artist.

#1 - Number of subjects

Subjects in a painting simply means the people or main figures, such as pets, in the artwork. For example, the photo below is a portrait painting with 3 subjects.

Custom portrait painting

The more time it takes the artist to create the artwork, the more it will cost. This is because the artists' labor cost is factored in the pricing, which is covered in the point below. Naturally, a portrait with 3 subjects will cost more than a portrait painting with 1 subject.

As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay an addition 50% per subject added. For example, if artist's baseline is generally $100 for a small 1-subject pet painting, the price will go up to $150 for a 2nd, additional puppy (assuming you want the 2nd puppy on the forefront, and not as a minor background figment).

#2 - Experience & labor of the artist

It no secret that a positive correlation exists between the price of artwork with the number of years of experience of the artist. Ultimately, each artist will have a different price standard for his or her work, so gauging an "average" price point by experience will do you an injustice.

As a general rule of thumb, expect to pay more for more experienced artists. The average hourly rate for artists in the USA is $27/hour according to the US Labor Bureau. After explaining your request for your personalized artwork, we recommend asking the artist how long it might take to complete your artwork (in terms of hours worked, not the duration or length of the project from start to finish), and multiply this by their fair hourly rate.

For example, if it takes an artist 5 hours, and a fair rate is set at $50, then you can expect to pay $250 for the labor. Plus, material costs and shipping.

A special tip we give to clients that is often met with a surprise reaction: don't obsess over "natural-born talent". Yes, some are born with more talent than others. However, developing the skill of art takes time, patience, and discipline. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, meticulously studied human subjects by dissecting deceased bodies in nearby hospitals to better understand the fine details of muscles, bones, and blood vessels before heading back to his art studio. Arguably one of the most talented artists, even da Vinci had to compile thousands of pages of notes to get more experience. As a result, you can expect a higher labor cost if the artist has more years of experience.

#3 - Size of the painting

The greater the size of the requested artwork, the longer it will take the artist to fill up the canvas to complete your art commission. Most artists charge a fixed price per square inch on the canvas and multiply that dollar amount by the size of the canvas.

For example, an average price point is $1 per square inch. If you request a 16" x 20" art piece, that is an area of 320 inches. 320 x $1 per square inch is $320. If another artist charges $2 per square inch, then their total for the same size is $640.

The price for commissioned art is typically between $0.50/sq inch and $4.00/sq inch for portrait paintings. This includes portraits of people, pets, and “portraits” of objects, such as houses and vehicles. Other paintings - like landscapes, still-life, impressionistic abstract - fall within a similar price range.

Similar to pricing the experience of an artist, there is no definite price point on size of a custom painting. However, when using our request form to find & hire artists, we encourage you to easily compare artists by price points so you get a fair price.

#4 - Material & shipping cost of the artwork

Unless specifically requested, the artist will determine what material he or she uses on paintings. If an artist has a preferred medium, we suggest you allow them to work in that medium since they know it best.

The material cost isn't a super high cost for an artist (the labor & time is), but it is something to keep in mind. For example, sizing-up and getting a larger painting will require a greater canvas, as well as higher shipping cost for the artist. Additionally, materials such as oil is more expensive than acrylic and watercolor.

Finally, be sure to factor in the shipping aspect of the artwork. The closer the artist is you geographically, the lower the shipping cost will be which means a lower total cost. On average for domestic (US) shipments, you can expect shipping to be around $20 if the artwork is in a rolled canvas, or around $45 if it comes pre-stretched, framed, and ready to hang.

Being Sure

If you still have questions or are unsure about budgeting your painting, contact us and our specialists will happily assist you in making sure you are getting a fair price for any commissioned artwork!