Art Reproduction – where to start

Not a day goes by that I don’t get a phone call from an artist that goes something like this – “I’m calling to find out about how to reproduce my artwork to make giclee prints – I’m an artist but I haven’t made any prints of my work and I’m not sure what to even ask or where to start”

We don’t expect artists to know about the reproduction process or even know what questions to ask – we are more than happy to walk every new artist looking to make reproductions thru the process and give them all the information they need. A well educated customer is our best customer – the more you know about the art reproduction process and the fine art printing process the better. We are happy to answer any questions so that artists who work with us learn the difference between a professional giclee printer and a printer who is not a professional giclee printer, simply having the equipment to print giclee prints does not guarantee quality.

There are no formal manuals on industry standards when it comes to art reproduction and giclee (fine art) printing – there are however agreed upon industry standards that set the true giclee printers apart from others. We spend alot of time talking and discussing with other reputable fine art printing companies what the best inkjet printers, materials, image capture and color management practices are. We are proud to be counted among the best in the country. Simply having a large format inkjet printer does not make someone a giclee printer. In order to make a museum quality giclee you must begin with a high resolution image capture – we use a Sinar with a 4 x 5 digital back – this gives us the equavilent of a 200 megapixel image. This is what the camera looks like:

Sinar

If you know anything about digital cameras you will know that the biggest are around 24 megapixels so the file we get is alot bigger than you can get with a handheld or even tripod mounted dslr camera. Our files show every brushstrokes made by the artist. In addition to using a Sinar we make sure the lighting in the room is completly balanced and neutral. Next we make sure the artwork is square to the camera. We also use a color card in the shot to help us get accurate color in post production. Sometimes artists already have a high res digital file and we can print from those – we give a free evaluation of any file an artist brings in for giclee printing – we will open your file and evaluate for color and resolution from there the process is the same -once we have a digital file we take a look at it on the monitor and adjust the color for printing so that we can get the most accurate reproduction possible. This is another area that separates us from the rest – owner James Eves has 35 years of color management experience – starting in the Arts Students League as a painter mixing oils and acrylics to studying Color Theory at the School for Visual Arts and then putting that schooling to work at print shops and advertising agencies as a printer, retoucher and graphic designer specializing in color management.

james with giclees

Artwork by Sandra Reagan

At this point we print a proof on the media that the artist has chosen – we have a wide variety of media to choose from and all of it is premium museum quality – we offer canvas, smooth fine art papers, textured fine art papers, eco-friendly fine art papers, photo papers in glossy, luster, matte and metallic we also have satin fabric and phototec. We let the artist know a proof is ready for them to see. Most of the time the artist approves the proof on the first round but sometimes we need to tweak the color to get a better match. We do this with the artist in the studio and will proof until the artist has approved the color. We use an Epson 9900 for our giclee printing – we use only Epson inks, never after market inks. Our printer looks like this:

diNo_Happy-wPrinting

John DiNapoli – The aRT of Dino – watching one of his prints come out of our printer

Once the color is approved we print the full size prints – generally after the proof is approved we have a 7 to 10 day turnaround for finished prints. We do keep an archive of the approved proof and image file so when an artist wants to order more prints it’s an easy process – they phone or email us and tell us how big and how many. We also drop ship for artists – so if their customer places an order for a print and needs it shipped the artist simply calls us orders the print, provides us with the shipping address so we print and then ship the artwork making it easier to sell prints. We have a few artists and photographers who have their ecommerce sites linked to our email – so when a customer places an order on their website we get a notification of the order so we can print and ship it – so even if an artist is out of town they don’t have to worry about fulfilling their online orders.

We also get asked these questions by artists on a regular basis –
How much should I charge for my reproductions?
Generally what we tell people is two and half to three times the cost of printing is a good price to set – if however you are an artist who sells originals for higher than average prices then you can go higher or if you want to move the prints quickly then go less. We do not set the price for artists – even the prints we sell in our studio sell for a price set by the artist. You may want to connect with other artists who sell prints and get their advice.

Should I do limited editions?
Again this is up to the artist and what their preferences are. The historical reason that fine art prints were always numbered is because they were made with printing plates that would degrade over use so 1 of 100 meant something very real and tangible. We print from digital files that do not degrade over time or with use so number 500 looks exactly like number 1. Some artists like to do limited runs of a piece just so there won’t be hundreds of them and therefore possibly make the limited run more attractive to collectors.

Should I sign my print and if so, where?
Again this is up to each individual artist – some sign the front, some sign the back some like to include a “Certificate of Authenticity” – which is a label that has the artist’s name the name of the work what the reproduction is printed on and by which giclee printer, some don’t sign it at all – especially painters who have already included their signature on the original artwork and the same shows up in the reproduction.

I hope this post has answered at least some questions about art reproduction and fine art printing, as always we are happy to answer any questions and show our studio to those interested. A really good giclee printer, like us, is able to be flexible and work closely with artists to make the reproduction process an extension of the artist’s creative process.

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