This is, understandably, the most common question I get about murals. People want to know what they’re getting in for and they need to plan how they're going to budget for it. However, because murals are a dynamic commission- no two projects are ever the same- the answer varies from project to project, and certainly from artist to artist. For this post I am going to go over my pricing structure, looking at some reasons I use this approach, and giving you some pointers to help you when you’re selecting a muralist.
As you can see from the photo, when it comes to painting a mural, size does matter.
Because of this, I price my murals based on both size and complexity. A smaller mural generally reflects less time, equipment and paint for me, and so less cost for the buyer. For example, a small 6’ x 6’ mural in someone's entryway won’t often cost as much as a huge mural on the side of a building. The other factor that determines cost is complexity. Murals with simple images don’t take nearly as long as murals with lots of high detail images. So my simple images are priced at $30 per square foot and the price goes up from there if the image gets more complex. (You can check out my post on why I price by the foot instead of by the hour, here.)
Because this is my living, I also have a $2000 minimum. This means that no project will cost less than $2000 and that most projects run between $2000-$10,000 depending on, you guessed it, the size and complexity of the project.
When I provide an estimate I offer three price points. These reflect the price of a simple mural, a moderately complex mural, and a go nuts, all the bells and whistles mural. Then my clients can choose how complex they want their image to be and know how much they will pay for it.
Because complexity is, well, complex, I work closely with my clients to provide examples so it is clear what a simple image will look like vs. what a complex image will look like. For example, a simple image will have a limited number of colors, usually less than 5. A complex image will have 8-10 or more. Likewise detail is important, so a simple image will have flat colors and less detail. A complex image will have color shading or layers and way more detail in the linework. Next time you see graphic artwork or or mural you like, try counting how many colors are included or looking at the level of detail to see if you can figure out if the image is simple or complex.
So what should you look for when you’re talking with muralists about cost?
First up, you want to see consistancy. They should have a pricing structure they follow; whether it's by the foot or by the hour, whatever it is, this price structure should apply broadly. So you know their minimum, and they can tell you why one project costs more or less than another. I have heard of muralists charging $10K for a small job that I would have priced at $2K. I am all for paying artists really freaking well (always pay your artists people!), but unless it was Mad C or Shepard Fairey, I can’t think why the artist quoted them that price, because the price didn't reflect the size or possible scope of the work.
Which brings us to the second thing to look for: the price should reflect the work and who's making it. Famous artists get to charge way more because their name carries some worth too. Getting a Banksey on your wall (if he did that sort of thing) carries way more meaning than just the image painted. This is one of the reasons why artists that are just starting out cost less, because they don’t have value associated with their name yet. The actual work influences the cost as well. As you saw, I charge more for complex images because they require more time and expertise. So if you get a high quote from someone, they should either be rocking the mural world, and/or the image should be giving that bang for buck.
Another thing that will impact cost is if the artist is traveling to you. You can and should expect that if an artist needs to travel to work for you, they will need their travel expenses and any specialized equipment covered as well. This will be reflected in the cost because they probably really want to do this job, but they are also suffering jetlag, enduring COVID travel, and giving up time with their loved ones. The general rule of thumb is that if you would want to be compensated for something, you can bet the artist wants to be compensated as well.
Finally, always look for artists who use a contract. Contracts protect the client as much as the artist and spell out all the details. Contracts make it clear how much the mural will cost, require an explanation and procedure for extra costs, and lay out the ground rules for things like revisions, exiting the project, deposits, and the work schedule. A lot of artists and people who don't work with contracts regularly get intimidated by signing or asking for a contract. Please dont be. A contract is just a document laying out the agreement so everyone is informed of exactly what they are agreeing to. Consent and information are beautiful things!
So! Now you know how and why I price my murals, how to judge if a project is simple or complex, and some things to look for when hiring a muralist. Let me know if you have questions in the comments!