Okay. So one of the biggest things that has bothered me as a full-time artist is general reaction to prints. Fine art collectors don’t see them and non-illustrator artisans see them as disposable “press print” products. The only people that seem to have a positive opinion of them are those that [really] want the original, but can’t afford it – or other artists that produce with them.
This is unfair. Here’s why:
First, to help explain my point, let’s look at the usual mentality behind making and selling something:
I’ve seen recommendation that a crafter pay themselves $10/hour + material costs for their work. Okay. I can get behind that.
So let’s just say that this item is a plushy. The artist is selling it for $40 (I’ve spent that on a handmaid plushy before – which is how I came to this price).
The most expensive fleece I found in a quick search was $11/yard. Sometimes a yard just doesnt go that far, so we’ll argue that this plushy requires a yard of fleece. All I could find for stuffing costs were outlandishly huge quantities, so let’s say that maybe $5 of stuffing went into this plushy. Misc material costs might be at another $5. So we’re looking at $21 in materials.
Assuming the artist is good to go from there, they spend 2 hours on assembling it and they arrive at the price of $41 according to the preceeding logic (guess they ate that dollar to have a round number).
Alright, let’s take this logic and apply it to illustration (digital illustration in particular):
… took me exactly 100 hours to illustrate. It’s digital, so (aside from the equipment/program costs, which are considered negligible in the long run) I don’t have any material costs.
According to the formula above I should charge $1000 for this image.
Who is going to pay for that? I don’t even have an original to offer! It’s digital! It also wasn’t a commission. It is straight up, $1k of wasted time.
Unless I sell prints of it.
That seems logical, right? I have the benefit of having sold art prints for a long while, so I have an idea of the costs for printing:
With bags and boards for presentation and protection, I managed to get the cost of prints down to $3. Experience in selling these things has taught me that the average they sell for is $20.
$20 – $3 = $17
That seems like some crazy profit right there, but we haven’t taken into consideration my time working on the image yet. Let’s do that.
$1000 ÷ $17 = 58.8235294118
What?! Seriously?! I need to sell 59 prints before I start to see profit?! You have got to be kidding me!
I’ve been selling prints of that image up above since 2009. It’s one of my more popular images, but it does compete against my other works and has maybe only just reached the half-way point to seeing profit.
Sadly, this is common for illustrators or “2D artists” and most of the time, we’re simply throwing away our production time when we sell prints (digital artists especially).
Please be respectful when considering an artists print. It isn’t just a sheet of paper. It’s the time we spent on a creation, manifested in a physical form.