The trail guide for this year's Artists Open Studios has been launched with the introduction of a cover price for the first time in the event's 18 year history.

The guides - which feature studio and artist bios, locations and event schedules - will be sold for $5.

Artists Open Studios gets under way with an opening exhibition on March 21 and over the following two weekends more than 70 studios, featuring 200 artists across the region will be opened up to the public.

Event coordinator Kat Wade said introducing a cover price was about improving the financial sustainability of the event, which while it receives funding from Whanganui District Council, this is reduced each year as it moves to become a self-sufficient event.

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"It's for the sustainability of the event and these guides are the biggest event cost," Wade said.

Wade also hoped a charge for the guides would cut down on waste.

"People just put more value on something they actually pay for and, I mean, it's the price of a cup of coffee," she said.

While the hard copies will cost $5, a PDF version of the trail guide can be downloaded free from the revamped Artists Open Studios website at openstudios.co.nz.

The new site features profiles for each studio and new functions such as search filters and an interactive map.

The hard copy trail guides are on sale at the iSite on Taupo Quay and at a range of outlets listed on the website.

Artists Open Studios will be held this year on March 23-24 and March 30-31.