An Artist's Guide to Digital Printing

         
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Tuesday, July 12, 2016 8:52:09 PM - A while back a young lady came to us because she was concerned by some prints another company had produced for her. She initially loved the prints but discovered that after a few years the colors had turned a chalky white. Even your best quality prints can have bad things happen to them when exposed to the wrong environmental conditions but turning a chalky white was not something you normally see so the only possibility was the materials such as inks and/or paper was the cause for concern.

Saturday, February 27, 2016 4:10:11 PM - Above is an example of a very textured surface painting. The background was supposed to appear primarily white with daubs of other colors to it. Notice how the light enhances the texture. Those highlighted texture bumps are all over the image. But as you re-size the image some of these highlights are removed because they are simply too small to print. This original file was very high resolution and the photographer had done a good job of getting the painting in focus but it looked like the lighting used had been slightly off and not compensated for therefore leading to yellows when the shadows should have been more gray. I then noticed the file was roughly around 300 ppi as if intended to be printed at 24x36 inches but the print was produced as an 12x18.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016 12:47:00 PM - A lot of our customers do not realize we also offer poster printing. We added that option last year to fill the need for those that were looking for lower grade printing in comparison to our giclee prints. I know that some of our artist and photographer friends do gravitate to the posters but for the vast majority of our customers they tend to prefer the higher end prints you get on one of the art papers or canvas. So what is the difference with the poster prints and how can I ensure that I am getting the best quality poster possible? Well I am glad you asked. A lot of our customers do not realize we also offer poster printing. We added that option last year to fill the need for those that were looking for a lower grade print in comparison to our giclee prints. Some have been more commercial in nature, others just large runs for artists which might be trying to sell prints at a lower price point. I know that some of our artist and photographer friends do gravitate to the posters but for the vast majority of our customers they tend to prefer the higher end prints you get on one of the art papers or canvas. So what is the difference with the poster prints and how can I ensure that I am getting the best quality poster possible? Well I am glad you asked.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016 11:15:18 AM - I have to say that some artists used to come to the world of printing with a distinct disadvantage compared to photographers. This usually stemmed from the fact that photography, or at least how it used to be, tended to be much more print oriented than those working in other art forms like painting or drawing. Note that I say that is how it used to be with photography but so many new photographers tend to also have less experience with printing since most new photographers bypassed film and developing their own prints phase. Admittedly as a photography hobbyist, I fit that category since I did not truly become excited by Photography until I picked up my first DSLR camera and as an artist I already had put away paint and brush in favor of creating digital artwork as far back as the mid 1990s. And even through I was well versed with working in a digital environment, it was not until I started to look at printing my work that I realized that I had a few things to learn.

Thursday, December 10, 2015 11:40:09 AM - Can you recommend a good paper to proof my work with? Its a question we do get quite often. Some of those that follow my blog might have heard me say in the past that not all papers are created equal. Throw in canvas with that even though canvas is not a paper. What this means is you can potentially have some differences in how prints look from paper to paper depending if you are using the same image file.

Sunday, October 25, 2015 3:38:27 PM - You might know that there is a wide range of image file types. The majority of types were pretty much decided upon years ago with many of them made mainstream by both the web as well as software firms such as Adobe. The most popular type is the JPG. Most digital cameras will offer to allow you to use this one to save your photos, plus maybe one or two additional "high quality" ones. JPG also tends to be the type mobile devices and tablets like to shoot and save photos in. Another popular one used to be Bitmap which likely gained its popularity with Windows users since that was the main one Microsoft Paint prompted you to save images. The web also early on introduced other types such as PNG as well as GIF. These handful of ways to save an image only scratch the surface of what out out there. As a result people always want to know when it comes to printing, what is best or at least what type of file we prefer at FinerWorks.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 2:04:29 PM - You may know that soft proofing is a valuable tool which allows you to simulate on your screen how colors and tones will print. It takes into consideration the whiteness of the paper and how in-gamut these tones are. Programs like Lightroom and Photoshop, which happen to be the two most used programs for soft proofing even provide you gamut warnings which show you if certain tones in your soft proof preview may run into limitations. In other words the printer might or might not be able to achieve those tones. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube on how to soft proof and many of our customers do utilize soft proofing but it is something you cannot do halfway. Its an all or nothing process otherwise your example preview may not be accurate. Below are a three common mistakes we see when people soft proof.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015 4:47:17 PM - Are the prints we produce archival and what makes them archival? This is another one of those set of questions we get quite often. The first thing I tell them is yes. Because of the papers and inks we utilize the type of giclee prints we produce are some of the most archival prints you can get today. I also remind them they are also the most delicate since the inks lay of the surface of the paper. Improper handling or even jostling around can damage a print so it is important to always display it in such a fashion where careless handling or damage via shipping can be minimized. So what makes these delicate prints which are now so favored by both collectors, galleries and even museums so archival?

Thursday, July 16, 2015 12:57:48 PM - This video is a great resource for those that want to see what goes into producing optimal prints for selling and display. It is a little long but quite comprehensive. Fortunately FinerWorks does a lot of the work for you so you do not have to do everything seen in the video however having the knowledge or at least a little understanding into what is involved will help you in the long run with your prints. Enjoy.

Monday, June 22, 2015 2:44:42 PM - Lately we have been making an effort to offer people our own professional opinions on what is a good paper type to choose for their image. I think I have mentioned in the past that one of the most popular questions people ask us has to do with what paper we think will be best for their artwork or photography. I had the practice of just telling people that it is really up to them since so often personal preference plays a role. But unfortunately that is not the answer most people want to hear. Looking back, I completely understand, especially if printing your work is something you only do on occasion. So what I would like to do is tell you how we come to the conclusions that we do to determine which paper is best suited for the type of print you want.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 2:27:24 PM - We tend to spend a lot of time on color and the importance of proper color management. This should not be ignored when it comes to printing one's artwork or photography. But we sometimes gloss over the topic of "focus" and clarity. I had the privilege of speaking at the Greater San Antonio Camera Club (GSCC) last week providing the members some tips on how to get great prints, especially on fine art papers. One of the things I mentioned was how crucial it is to making sure your shot is in focus. When printing with us, this is more likely to become an issue since our photography customers are usually seeking us out to print something relatively big like a 16x20 or larger. But focus is not just something photographers need to consider. Artists who are photographing their work to create reproductions need to be even more aware of this.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 10:05:38 AM - Submitting your image files online is relatively simple and should not require you to do anything special for the file. Often customers do things to their files intentionally which they think will yield a better print but more often than not will hinder the process of uploading their files or even getting the best print possible. Here I share a few tips to make sure that your file is optimal for printing. Generally none of these things will harm your print but neither will they improve the output.

Friday, February 27, 2015 5:22:54 PM - I trust color about as much as I trust the news to get every story right the first time. Ironically I saw something in the news which was very interesting about a blue and black dress that many people were seeing as white and gold. It was an interesting phenomena. There were a number of theories but it seemed likely to stem from how the eye registers colors with different people. It reminded me on an instance in which an image we printed on canvas for a customer was not looking correct but it turned out it was printing exactly as she intended but we were not seeing it.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 4:35:14 PM - We are always asked which paper is the best to choose. I usually answer that people should try the different papers and decide on their own which they believe best compliments their artwork. But I also need to clarify not all paper is going to appear to be the same as is obvious if you have ordered one of our starter kits which includes a sampling of the different paper types we print offer. There are three areas where I believe the properties of the paper can have a big impact on the quality of the image being printed: paper texture, paper absorption level and paper brightness.

Monday, October 13, 2014 12:02:07 PM - Often our customers like to stretch and mount their canvas giclee prints themselves. Sometimes it may be because they like to apply paint or gel texture to their prints before they are stretched and mounted. Other times artists or even photographers simply like to build their own custom stretcher frames. Whatever the reason there are a couple of mistakes we occasionally see. Using a couple fictitious scenarios, Bob an artist loves to stretch and mount his canvas prints. Unfortunately Bob was like me and spent too much time drawing pictures in math class and not paying attention to the lessons.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 9:27:54 AM - Photographing your artwork is the first step to digital printing for artists. While scanning can usually result in a better quality digital reproduction a well photographed work of art can still yield incredible giclee and other digital prints.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 9:52:11 AM - So what’s the deal with those little green stamps of approval? That is a question that is bound to come up within the next few days as the first batch of order shipped with those stamped on the package begin to arrive. I recently was sent some prints by another company to see how they have been addressing certain packaging challenges. Even after shipping countless orders over the years, we are always looking at ways we can make improvements in the area of packaging and giving the recipients a sense of comfort in knowing their shipments are being sent with care. I was curious what they did after observing mention of this company’s packaging method numerous times on various blogs and websites. I thought it would be a good idea to see firsthand what they were doing, then see if we could adopt anything they use that would benefit our customers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 3:46:05 PM - Our calibration print is a special 8x10 print you can order which allows you to adjust your monitor to try to match the print. Once you have done this and start working on your images on your computer you will be working on an image which is more closely aligned to industry color standards versus. While you can order this print on most of the media types we offer, there is no need to order more than one since colors print on all farily consistent on all of them. Sure you will see some slight differences if you ordered more than one calibration print and on different papers but don't use the calibration print to determine what media type is best to print your images. For that we recommend printing some of your actual work on the different papers and see which either sells the best or you like most. The calibration print is mainly to try to bring your monitor into a state which is closer to the standards we print at.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 7:30:12 PM - Both online and offline we always seem to be talking about what happens when images are too dark or not being properly color balanced but we don’t talk enough about overexposed images. Overexposed images are not only due to slower shutter speeds of a camera but also because the image was made too bright in both the dark and lighter areas. For art reproductions this can impact everything from how visible are the individual brush strokes to the ability to discern an underlying canvas texture. For photographers it simply means a less detailed photograph.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 11:24:46 AM - Sometimes it seems we receive the same question from multiple people all within a brief time frame. In this case the common question we were getting last week and over the weekend was whether it was better to scan or photograph artwork when preparing images for printing. In a nutshell there are pros and cons for both options. Here I am going to list my own personal feelings however feel free to agree or disagree and leave your comments. For instance, I have a photography friend who would probably feel the photography option is better and if I had his skill in photography, especially when achieving proper color balance in photography I might feel the same.

Sunday, October 20, 2013 11:11:02 AM - I was in a meeting with some artists/photographers who were very interested in the topic of digital printing and we were discussing how producing prints from photography and artwork has changed over time. One of the questions brought up was what I expected the future to bring about. I had to think about that for a moment as I gauged how it had changed in the past decade when it came to the inks we use compared to when I started.

Saturday, August 17, 2013 1:58:30 PM - We get a lot of people asking us about ordering prints smaller than 8x8 inches. Of course you can do that on standard Kodak stock but the vast majority of our customers are ordering their prints on either on one of the art papers or canvas. Unfortunately the smallest we offer in giclee printing is 8x8 inches. We put together a video tutorial which shows how to get around this by having your smaller image positioned within an 8x8 inch blank image. The video uses Photoshop Elements which you can download from the Adobe website and use for free for 30 days. A link to this download page is posted below the video.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 9:43:05 AM - Most people printing their work whether it be a painting reproduction, photograph or even digital art are going want to get the most out of their print. They want it to reflect everything about the original image as accurately as possible. If you are like me, whenever I used to print some of my art or photography there was always a little bit of apprehension as to how it would turn out. Perhaps also like me you would ask these questions: Will my image look crisp and sharp? Will my colors match my original or what I see on my computer screen? Will it have the impact and emotional appeal I want based on the size I chose? All these are valid questions. I know I was not the only one because we hear these same questions all the time. So what do you do about this? I have observed 3 ways artists and photographers at FinerWorks approach this: An artist’s proof, a contact sheet, and soft proofing.

Saturday, January 26, 2013 2:32:56 PM - If you are looking to more closely match your monitor to display your images as they will look in print, we now have a new color calibration print.

Sunday, November 18, 2012 7:42:29 PM - Sometimes artists like to add their own margins within an image and wonder how it will affect the sizing of their print. Other times they choose a border from our order form and want to know if it will be printed on the inside or outside of the image. I go into detail to explain what happens when you embed a margin versus choosing a border from our order form.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012 5:13:03 PM - Go behind-the-scenes with us as we discuss the best image preparation practices for exceptional prints. Learn what type of files to submit, and how resolution really affects your print quality.

Saturday, July 14, 2012 12:26:46 AM - So what is the difference between an inkjet print and a more traditional photo print used by digital color labs. Here I discuss the two as well as the advantages and disadvantages of both. If you are new to printing photographs this article is meant for you because it will help you better understand how the two processes differ.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 11:57:36 PM - Fine art prints should be as close to the original artwork as initially done by the artist. This is also true with drawings or sketches. But when artists forget to account for the original paper their drawings were created on, it can lead to poor looking print.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 10:05:29 PM - White is not considered a color. An area in your image which is meant to be white will actually show in the print as an absence of any ink. That is because digital printers used for photo and fine art printing does not use white inks. Traditionally they use a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black mixed at different levels to achieve various colors. Modern printing systems now have adopted some additional colors to extend the depth of possible color but it is impossible to mix the different colors and get white. So if you have a painting you want to reproduce but you used a very bright white paint like titanium white in parts of it, you will not be able to get the same level of white in a print unless the paper has that same level of bright white. This poses a potential problem for some artists since they want to get the most accurate colors in their prints possible and the favored papers for printing tend to be not as bright (see our article on bleaching agents). Even though that is the case, all is not lost. Our eyes and brain are trained to take in the entire picture within context. Therefore even bright white fluffy clouds on a blue sky, printed on an off white paper will be appreciated by your viewers.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012 10:45:17 PM - Metamerism is a term in the printing industry that describes the ability of colors to retain their perceived accuracy regardless of the light source a print is being viewed.

Friday, March 2, 2012 11:48:57 PM - A common question we see is how and where do you go to have prints made of your artwork. The question rises from artists having paintings in which they want to make giclee or other types of art prints and which they can sell them online or at art shows.

Sunday, September 18, 2011 3:55:15 PM - Making sure any signatures are visible and consistent is important if you want your signature or logo included as part of your print.

Monday, July 25, 2011 9:40:28 AM - A common question arises when people are trying to order about image cropping and why this happens. The reason this can happen is because the original file being submitted does not match the same aspect as the size being ordered for print. The result is a a crop to fit method which is the common default standard in the art and photo printing world.

Monday, July 25, 2011 9:40:28 AM - Resolution in printing and resolution with digital files are two very different things. In other words it is not a one to one ratio.

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About James Theopistos Aside from being an enthusaistic promoter of the visual arts field as it relates to individual artists' success, he also serves as the acting Chief Development Officer for FinerWorks.com, an online color print lab for artists and photographers.
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