How Much do Airbrush Artists Make?

Every beginner or even advanced artist doing airbrush has heard this question: “How Much?“. What I mean is that every time when you paint for someone, if it’s just a friendly favor or part of your business, it requires some background finances which you should include in your bill. It does depend on art-work dimensions. If you do something for you friend on A4 size paper I’ll bet you won’t dare to ask money but if you do a car you should acknowledge your client, even if it’s your friend, that it might cost something.

After questions like “What to Paint?” and “Where to Paint?“, you have to tell your customer exactly why and for what he is going to pay apart of art.

I know someone who didn’t care much about hidden costs and every time when customer asked him “How Much it Will Cost?” he just guessed. At the end of month he noticed that he actually didn’t make any money, per contra he was losing them. So I decided to take as an example car airbrushing and go through everything you should look at, so at the end you will be profitable and will know exactly how much to ask.
Car Airbrush is a difficult process which can be divided into many chapters. The main part of the final price will depend on the size of art-work (one door differs from the whole roof) and on the details of the final piece (number of colors used, quality of rendering, shading, etc.) and that’s logical.

As in any business, the rule “buy in large – save money on singles” is valid here too. It means that painting “the whole car” at once should be cheaper than paint it in small portions over some time because you actually waste less material and time.

So, How Much do Airbrush Artists Make?

Let’s go step by step to see what’s there on the bill.

What Do You Include On Final Bill?

  • Washing the car (not just once)
  • Taking some of its parts apart
  • Car preparation (this is just like “I did it to save money”, I don’t think your client will be satisfied with this kind of solution)
  • Masking
  • A lot of steps needed directly for the art
  • Coating
  • Polishing
  • Assembling
  • Washing again
  • I bet I missed something :)

Every of these steps have its own severity that requires not only time but the money as well.

Let’s see it in more detail.

Big effect on the bill, especially in car airbrushing has:

Spray Booth

When painting a car you have to use it. Apart of its huge price, the maintenance and running it costs money too.

For example, average Spray Booth will consume around 10L of fuel and about 8kW/h of electric energy, per hour. For full process, painting and  drying you will need 3 hours, so it will be 24,000W used in 3 hours (just to compare – a turned on 100W light bulb will consume 300W in the same time laps). So, you have to count with ‘nice’ electric bills. Plus expenses to mask everything you don’t want to paint, some solvent to clean the spray gun after work, single-use filters, etc.

I haven’t even mentioned materials which proportionally depend on the size of painting, e.g. base coat, clear coat, thinner…

Let’s say you counted all these costs and it comes to around $300 (just as an example) for something like 5 parts on the car. So it’s $60 for one part. But If customer is going to paint only one part, the expenses on a spray booth will not differ that much and as a result it might cost $200 instead of $60 to do just that one part only. Or even the paint you buy is sold in 1L containers but you will use only a half of that. Some paints can be stored only 3 days after opening and then they lose their qualities.

Cost of the Art

This is another item that affects the final bill. It depends on how you value your artistic nature and your talent and it depends a lot on the details of rendering the fine art.

There is huge difference if you have to paint some logo, sign or a tiger where you have to work more on its fur, much more. Another fact is that many new cars have a lot of single-use parts and should have these replaced while assembling it all back (door cover mounting for example). If you try to save here, the creaking noise will give your client a headache and he’ll be back.

Many factors influence our guess, so how to find out and value the proper cost for your art? To give the perfect answer is very, very difficult. I think that best solution is that you make a list where you include every step you have to do to paint particular part (for example one door or a hood or a roof). Don’t put the exact number, make some range (from…up to…). When you have every piece of car you can think of listed and estimated cost of the materials for those parts separately, you can sum it up (scratch off some steps that you will have to do just once if you do the whole car at once) and you will get the idea of how much it can cost you to paint the whole car (you should give it the range as well).

Make a price list for your art as well. Give yourself a price for square meter or square foot and make a range as well (lowest level will be for simple art, highest for greatest fine art), then you can easily estimate the value by the size of art that customer demands.

But What about True Artistic Value?

Now is the moment when you should think how much your talent is worth. With this one I can’t help you. If you’re just starting I recommend starting low and including only the cost I described above. This way you should have the budget on materials, energy, work and time covered.

Only after you become popular and notice that people love what you do, add your artistic value. And when the interest will be so huge that it will keep you very busy, you can raise the level up, just to keep good paying customers at reasonable number and you can take your time to make the final art-piece even better.

I’m not going to give you the exact numbers on how much you should ask. I’m giving you a simple guide on how to estimate the costs and estimate the final price. Do not guess. If you find out that final price is too high, look for alternatives (different materials, different brands). But if you won’t find any alternatives to lower the expenses then probably you are on the wrong track or trying to fill the wrong gap on the market.

I described it all on Car Airbrush just as an example. It doesn’t have to be a car you’re painting. I think that car is kind of universal example to describe certain process around airbrush.

What do you think? Do you have any special method to estimate the value of your work?

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