How do you price miniatures and collector art pieces?

You’d be forgiven for not knowing what various standards of painting mean for different models and how you price them. It’s very difficult to specifically quantify what you do and don’t get for different tiers of service when you’re in an art industry.

Trying to explain to a new client who hasn’t used your services before that some colours take longer, some details are harder, certain items take more time, some materials are more expensive and some techniques takes years of practice to master can be confusing at best.

Essentially a quote on a miniature’s paint job comes down to time and resources, but that can be further broken down into:

  • time due to scale
  • time due to level of detail
  • time due to specific requests
  • time due to freehand/artistry
  • time due to changes or additional client input
  • resources due to cost
  • resources due to scale

The above points don’t always work in the way you’d expect either, a larger scale is not always more expensive. I have painted 1 metre props for a third of the cost of painting 1 single 5cm fine art bust. This is because spraying 1 large item a single flat colour may cost more in resources but takes significantly less time than blending 40 layers of shadow and tone into a 1cm face.

It would shock many new customers to hear that the below three projects all came in around a similar budget.

Kanowna Island as painted by Melbourne Mini Painter
45cm x 45cm
8cm x 5cm
200cm x 25cm x 20cm

Due to the above, setting a quote for a miniature art piece, model or prop involves a lot of experience, honesty and consideration. There is no rule that you can give to a new painter, that they could follow to quickly and fairly price their work (fairly to themselves and their customers, as some artists go too far in either direction). You practice, you learn from your previous works and sometimes you get it wrong.

I tend to lean to the more cautious side of things. If I’m not certain then I will quote as best as I can on a unique project, then do my best to manage to that budget (accepting that it’s more important to do a good job than it is to match your estimated hours). This does mean that my hourly rate occasionally ends up being atrocious (once it was $5 an hour when I’d really underestimated the work), but I try not to get frustrated as I work on delivering a good product and I remember not to charge that rate again. No matter how many years you spend in an industry you will always be learning.

If you’re a new customer looking for someone to paint your Dungeons and Dragons hero, or perhaps you’re an avid collector who wants a unique artwork touched up and carefully colour matched, or maybe you’re a corporate representative trying to get some merchandise painted up, it’s all the same process. You should approach the artist you want to work with and talk openly and honestly about your expectations, the more detail they get, the more fairly and accurately they can scope your project. If you’re working with a painter who can’t explain to you what steps they are going to take with your piece, or who won’t take time to answer your questions, go somewhere else. You want someone who is invested in making your project become a reality and you want someone who is confident talking to you about how they can make that happen.

If you’re a mini painter who is hoping to commercialise their hobby by painting miniatures for friends/local gamers or even something more, then don’t spend too much times stressing on what is the perfect price for your work. Chances are if you’re new to it then you’re slower and charging a specific hourly rate won’t work out anyway. I’d recommend taking it case by case to start with, don’t be afraid to trial out different prices until you find the sweet spot that you can deliver and that customers are happy with. Once you’ve got a portfolio of paid works you will start to have an intuition and you will make fewer (not none!) mistakes when it comes to quoting.

My current model of painting and pricing will change again one day, I have no doubt. But for the moment I feel that the prices I offer for the services I list are clear and fair enough to me and my clients.