how do i value my painting

Help: How do I value my artwork?

If a painting or piece of artwork has recently found its way into your collection, you may well be wondering how to find its value.
While it can be difficult to determine a precise value without a professional valuation, there are several ways you can begin to work out how much your item is worth. This advice can also be useful if you are considering purchasing artwork to add to your collection.

Ranging from the type of artwork to its condition, date, artist, and whether or not it is an original, read on to learn how to find the value of artwork.
Looking for a quick, expert valuation? We have experts in post-war and modern art as well as traditional paintings from before the nineteenth century.

How do I value my painting?


Watercolours can be the most difficult paintings to distinguish from print reproductions. If you’re not sure which it is, use your magnifying glass to examine the painting in closer detail. See if you can see brushstrokes. They’re not as obvious as they would be on an oil painting, but if it’s genuine they’ll be there nonetheless. It may be that some areas are bare of paint altogether or there’s a thicker sweep of deeper colour in places.

With many watercolour paintings you can decipher the artist’s preliminary pencil sketch work through areas of thin paint, so look for that too. Other signs are ripples if the paint was too wet, and scratch marks, often deliberately applied by the artist to make the base canvas show through.

Ultimately, most forms of print come down to dots applied to the surface, so if under closer magnification the colours break down into tiny dots, then it’s likely you’re looking at a print.

Oil paintings

Oil is very versatile and durable as an artistic medium. Consequently, unlike a watercolour you won’t often find it behind glass. Indeed, it needn’t be on paper or canvas either. Oil paintings can be on wood, glass, ivory; anything that’ll take oil paint.

Oil paint is often layered on thick, building up a feeling of depth. Again, look for signs closely, but be aware that with oil, brushstrokes are often very distinct and can be replicated through the print process. So look for a more uniform finish if it’s a print, and tell-tail dots at high magnification too.


Using pastels can produce intense, vivid colours on a picture. There are essentially two types: soft pastels that are very powdery, and oil pastels that are thicker, shinier, and often smudged for effect.

When considering how to find the value of artwork, know that pastel has been popular a lot longer than many people imagine, being commonly used in the Renaissance period. It combines a powdered pigment with a binding agent into the form of a pastel stick. Many of the French impressionists used pastel to great effect, and pastel paintings by such renowned artists can be very valuable indeed.


Etching is a form of print that has become an art form in its own right. Consequently, they can be more valuable than your average print.

Etches are produced by scratching an image onto a coated metal plate. The plate is then dipped in acid, which eats away at the scratched areas whilst leaving the rest intact. The plate is inked and printed onto paper. The difference with this form of print is that it’s usually carried out by the artist themselves, and many well-known artists experimented with this technique. Hence its potential value.

Finding the artist by signature

It’s worth checking details you have about the painting or the artist. You’ll often find details on the back and, if you’re lucky, there may be a signature on the front.

You may conclude that you’ve got an original, but you’ve no idea who the artist was. Artists usually leave a signatures or monogram somewhere on the work, and these can be identified through a range of reference materials. Some artists even leave a visual signature such as a tiny item or creature in the detail.

How to find the value of artwork: a checklist

Here’s a rundown of what you should consider when examining your artwork.

  • What medium is the artwork? Some are more valuable than others. (See above.)
  • Is the artwork an original? Use the above tips to find out.
  • Who is the artist? Many artists have dedicated collectors or cult followings.
  • What condition is the artwork in? Damage will reduce its value.
  • Don’t attempt to remove the artwork from it’s frame. This can often devalue the item.

Free, no-obligation valuations to reveal how much your item is worth

It’s possible to get a rough idea of what sort of painting you have just by looking at it, and following those few simple rules, but for a really good idea of its actual worth there’s no substitute for consulting an expert. Professional valuation takes years of training and experience, which can be used to give a clear and accurate representation of your artwork’s value for auction, insurance, tax, or probate.

Mallams Auctioneers is an Oxford-based auctioneers capable of providing free, no-obligation valuations of a wide range of artwork, including post-war and modern art as well as traditional paintings from before the nineteenth century. For a competitive fee, we can also produce valuation reports. These are clear, compliant with current legislation, and personalised for each client, so every client knows they’re getting the most accurate and insightful valuation prepared just for them.

To find the value of post-war or modern artwork, request a valuation with Philip here.

For traditional artwork up to the nineteenth century, request a valuation with Rupert.

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