I’ve been getting quite a few questions about how to price art for projects that aren’t being paid based on a royalty structure traditionally found in art licensing.  I decided not to re-create the wheel (especially since I don’t have experience pricing art!).  Here is some excellent advice shared a few years ago that I think still applies…

In response to the post on March 29, 2011 – There is power (and money) in your system – Pilar Erika Johnson, aka PUFFY P, added some amazing information in the comments. I took one look at that and emailed to ask if I could make a separate blog post from her comment so it would be seen by all. (Really – how many of you read the comments for the nuggets of gold within them?)

Puffy P agreed to let me share her advice for all the artists who have wondered how on earth to price their art…

I personally find the Graphic Artists Guide to not be the best source for real life usage rates. A better option for advertising type projects (such as corporate tee shirts, logos, or other business usage) is to look at a stock photography site like http://www.gettyimages.com/. I have done a ton of work as a designer (over 15 years), often needing to purchase rights for photos and illustrations for various design jobs.

    1. When talking to the potential client, ask them for the usage terms they need, including how many impressions (how many times the image would be actually printed or used on the website, – or how many items would be printed). Also ask how long the client wants to use the image, and what territory. With website usage, you can price based on the length of the term, since it is hard to estimate the number of hits. With something like a logo, you would want to know what they would be using it on, because there is additional value if they are going to put it on products too like tees, etc, rather than just on a business card.


    1. Go to gettyimages.com and search for an image similar in subject matter to yours, ie: do a search for “dog with flowerpot”, (or whatever subject your image may be of). Be sure to only search for RIGHTS MANAGED images. (this means that the user needs to pay you for use of the image in relation to how much they will use the image, vs a one time fee which is called ROYALTY FREE. In general ROYALTY FREE rights cannot be used for products for sale.


    1. Once you select and image, click “View Pricing” in the upper right. You can choose a number of different options, and see how much a typical stock photo site would charge for image use. You may have to guess for some of these options, but that’s OK. It’s best to try a few different images from different image suppliers to get an idea of the cost range. You can see the image suppliers name below the image.


  1. You will probably find that these numbers are much higher than what you would expect, (i.e. thousands of dollars) but it is good to have a gauge of what your art is worth for this kind of corporate usage. You may opt to just say they can use an image for $300 or whatever for a one time print run of 300 tshirts, which is fine too, but it is at least useful to get an idea of what an ad agency or designer would pay for the rights to use a piece of art.

If you are finding there is enough interest, you may then want to take a few hours to draw up a boilerplate contract for this kind of usage. You can also consider working with a stock art company to manage your sales and marketing (Getty, Corbis, and Veer all do this, as well as smaller agencies. Some artists have even set up their own stock art portion of their site. But stay away from istockphoto.com, because you will earn literally pennies per use. (Disclaimer: I can’t vouch for how much Getty , Corbis or Veer pays, but their end user price is much higher than istockphoto.)

Most importantly, don’t undersell your work! Be aware that ad agencies and even small design firms can easily charge $5,000- $50,000 for logos and brand identity. And photographers can receive thousands for usage of an existing photo for sales materials.

If the usage is for a logo, think twice before taking a few hundred dollars, since logos are worth much more to a company than just a various image in their sales materials or on their website. The logo is the whole image for the company, and a client needs to pay for that value. (This is where the Graphic Artists Guide can come in handy, with pricing logos based on the sales of the company).

And please keep in mind that clients need to understand that just because a piece of art is already made, it still has value.

Author’s background:

In addition to working for 6 years as an Art Licensor under the name PUFFY P, I have 15 years of experience in corporate and small business design and branding. My design clients include Best Buy, Charles Schwab, Levis and Comcast (all who have paid a fair price for stock art and logos).

Learn more at Pilar Erika Johnson creative – www.pilaromatic.com
and PUFFY P – www.PUFFYP.com

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and insights!

– Tara Reed