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The truth about creating prints of your original art

Why Reproduce your Art Work

  • Artists, who sell their work, introduce a new, lower, more affordable price point.
  • Artist, who wants to find alternatives to sell their artworks on different products such as mugs, garments, postcards and more,
  • Artists create reproductions to give to friends and family.
  • Artists, who want to send their artwork to magazines, catalogues and other promotional uses.
  • The primary way to present fine art photography is by printing.
  • Archival purposes, such as keeping a copy of an artwork you sold.

About the process:

Unless your artwork is digital you need to start by converting it to digital.

The process can be done by high accuracy scanners or, usually, by photographing your artwork.

In both cases, not only the quality of the digital file is important, the colour matching process is the key. As an artist you want the reproduction to be able to show the same colours of your original artwork.

The images will be taken usually with a special colour pattern on the side. That pattern, as it contains standard colours, will help in the computer to keep the accuracy of the colours of your artwork.

Regarding the “quality” it is commonly related to the size of the image in pixels.

But there is an issue there. It does not really matter if the file obtained allows you to print on a A1 (594 x 841 mm) if your artwork is an A4 (210 x 297 mm).

It is very important to understand that you will be able to print your artwork up to 125% of the size of the original image, means a 25% bigger, no more. This is not because of the digital file but because all details of the original artwork will be bigger too (yes, including the “bad details“ too. If you print the file on a size over 25% bigger, you will notice things you cannot see on your original artwork, usually imperfections.

You can re-process/retouch the file and fix those details in order to print your artwork bigger, but you need to consider the additional cost of that as it will be necessary to work additional time in the digital file. Also, the technique to cover those details will require painting (cloning), by using similar surrounded areas, the areas you needing to fix.

The final file can be good, but you will notice de difference anyway when you print the file on a bigger size than the original.


We got the digital file… and now?

Looking at your image:

You got your file and you want to see how good it is. And you feel quite disappointed. It does not look better than the one you can take with your pocket camera.

You need to understand that the company who made the image of your artwork probably works differently. I calibrate the entire system to get the maximum accuracy. They have systems to calibrate the colour from the beginning to the end of the process. Their monitors/displays are calibrated to show the colours properly, and probably the quality monitors/displays are better than your one.

It is like if you listen to music on a FLAC file or any high quality source, amplified by a “State-of-the Art” amplifier and £ 5.- plastic pair of speakers. It will not sound “right”. All the qualities will miss and distorted by the cheap speakers.

If you can, always look at the file on their monitors, and ask for a printed proof.

And finally, talking about prints:

As an artist you know that working with the same paint on different papers/surfaces the colours/tones will not be the same. It is the same with the reproduction.

If you want an accurate colour matching reproduction, you need to choose carefully the paper. The colour range (the amount of tones and colours) that you will get (based on the same High quality colour printer) is different up to the paper you will choose to print on.  As an example, a reproduction of an aquarelle made on a Canson type paper will be almost perfect if we print it on a similar paper, but if the original is an oil painting, the colours will look pale, especially if the original is quite dark. It will be better to print it on a photographic type paper.

Of course you can/need to use the proper ICM (1) and this will help to get a more accurate print based on the printer and the paper, but the properties of the paper itself will not change.

Being aware about this, now you are free to choose the paper you want for your reproduction.

In order to choose the paper, the first question you need to make to yourself is:

Why I am printing the copy of my artwork?

To have the chance to sell a high quality reproduction on a lower price than my original artwork, but keeping in mind I want my customer to get the best?
Or, to have the chance of making some quick money from my artwork by selling cheap copies.

Unfortunately, we saw many times talented artists selling cheap copies. They said because of “the market”; they cannot sell copies on higher prices. They may be right, but I think it will be better to be honest and clarify to the buyer that those copies will not last long.

Because that is the problem of the cheap prints. The colours may be accurate, the paper may look astonishing, but they will not last long.

How many times did you print a photo on a standard photographic paper and they lose the colours over a year? Not to mention if it was hanged near a window and exposed to UV rays (the sunlight).

Or have photos that vanished over the years, losing the sharpness they used to have at the beginning.

So, the next step of the process will be to choose the right paper, a paper that can warranted keeping your image for at least 30 years or more, in conjunction with the inks.

Basically, you are looking for cotton based and acid-free paper. There are many on the market, such as Canson Aquarelle, Epson Semi Gloss, Hahnemühle Bamboo, just to mention some.

Yes, they are “expensive” but your artwork (and your customer) deserves it.

(1): ICM is a file extension for an Image Colour Matching profile file format used by Windows 95 and other operating systems. An ICM file contains a colour system profile for a particular application or device such as a colour printer or scanner.


Rag Paper