How Much Does An Original Portrait Cost?

Bearded man in purple shirt with theater lights
Bearded man in purple shirt with theater lights

9 of 100 Faces ~ Jesse Snider, PhD Student, Southern Illinois University

The guy in this portrait is my son, Jesse, so my normal pricing strategy doesn’t really apply. I painted him for myself, so I didn’t charge me anything. This portrait was painted with his education and work in mind. He is working on a PhD in Performance Communications, something that involves stages and black box theaters, thus the stage lighting. He was the technology director at Southern Illinois University at the time I created this.

When you book your portrait, we can do a subtle representation of your sitter’s personal theme, or we could just go nuts with texture and/or color. Email me when you’re ready!

The first thing people ask when they start thinking about getting a commissioned painting from an artist is “how much will it cost?” This is a hard question for artists because we generally have trouble deciding how much to charge. If I were to post anything about this on social media, I would be virtually flogged for failing to keep it a big, fat secret. But I’m kind of done with that. Flog me if you must, but here is how pricing works for me.


My base fee is approximately $3.50 per square inch for an unframed painting, including shipping and taxes unless the artwork is extremely complex or has multiple faces or other features. This base price is higher than what I charged a year ago, and hopefully it is lower than what I will charge next year. So, if you want a 12″x12″ portrait of your Aunt Mimi in a pie-eating contest, you’ll pay $500. Do you see that little bonus I gave you? I rounded it down from $504 to $500. You’re welcome. But don’t worry. I always allow my customers the freedom to add generous tips if they are so moved.

I can frame a 12 x 12 painting in a simple frame for $150, so if you want me to frame it, you’re looking at $650.


Obviously the cost of my materials is covered in the cost of your original artwork. I use oil paints, paint brushes, paint mediums, solvents, a room in my house, drop cloths, stupid natural lighting fixtures that often do unnatural things like turn off while I’m working. I have some good easels, a camera with tripods and stands, a computer, several computer programs like photo editors, a phone, some mixed media supplies, and other stuff that I use to make the artwork. You may be relieved to learn that I already have a lot of clothes with paint on them, so I don’t have to charge you anything extra for those.


Framing costs an additional $100 to $400 depending on the size of the artwork and the fanciness of the frame, if you have me do it. Artworks look so much better when they are framed, but many buyers prefer to have artworks framed themselves to match their decor. When I frame a painting I choose a frame that I feel compliments the artwork.

I do some paintings with deep sides so that the painting can be wrapped around the edges and no framing is needed, but it’s not my favorite work to do. I sometimes do something blingy on the edges if the client is up for it. And I can paint deep sides in a solid black, eliminating the need for framing.


Painting costs are determined based on size and complexity of the overall painting. In addition to the basic price If you want a full figure, not just the face and shoulders, or if you want a detailed background, the cost will be higher. If there is more than one face in the painting, I’ll add another $200 per face. Shipping costs are included. Framing is extra. All of these decisions can be made at the time of scheduling the commission.  

If you order a portrait of your Aunt Mimi in a pie-eating context with your Uncle Joey rooting her on, I will encourage you to order a larger size to ensure that both can be given the glory they deserve. But if you insist that you will only buy a 12×12 painting of the dynamic duo, you will pay:

(12″x12″) x 3.5″ = $504

Plus Uncle Joe’s Face: $700


I require a 50% nonrefundable deposit to start a commission, or else we can arrange a payment plan with more payments. I will commence working after the initial agreed-upon payment is received and depending on when your work is scheduled to begin based on my schedule. I will provide a couple of process photos as I work at which time you can provide input. Once the likenesses are established no more changes can be made except with an additional fee.

The remaining 50% is due in order for the artwork to be shipped.  If we will be working on a payment plan, any time a payment is not paid on time, I will put your work aside to work on other paintings. I wish I could be more generous on this, but I do art for a living.


You have 30 days to live with your artwork before the sale is final. If you choose to return the painting, a refund will be made after the painting is received back at the artist’s studio in original condition. Once the painting is returned it is the property of the artist and may be offered by her for sale. You will be responsible for packing, shipping, and insuring the artwork for its return journey.


In case your painting is damaged during its shipment to you, rest assured, it is insured. I unsure all shipments of paintings with the shipper. At this time I am working with USPS. I have never had any paintings damaged in shipment. One painting was lost for a week, but it turns out it was delivered to the wrong house on the right street, and was recovered safely. One box was damaged in shipping, but the painting inside was well-padded and arrived undamaged. I’ve been shipping several paintings a month for the past 4 years, so this is a pretty good track record.

If the painting is damaged while being shipped as a return from the buyer to the artist, the buyer is responsible for filing the loss claim with the shipping company. If the item is not insured all costs fall to the buyer. If the item is insured and a claim is paid, the payment may go to the buyer in lieu of a refund.  

This covered a lot of pricing ground. All paintings vary in prices based on various factors, so if you have any questions about how yours will be priced, just let me know and I’ll provide an estimate.

Onward and Upward!