The world of wide format printing continues to experience rapid change, which has enabled enormous growth in the digital fine art printing sector. In the past, artists wanting to reproduce their artwork needed to have it reproduced via the traditional printing press. The biggest disadvantage was that the artist needed to purchase a run of at least 5000 prints in order to make it worthwhile even to turn on the press. Therefore, the entire fine art reproduction market was dominated by a small group of publishers who financed, printed and distributed the artwork.
Large format printing has totally changed the way artists are now able to profit from their artwork. Artists looking to make reproductions of their artwork are now looking for print-on-demand solutions, and fine art inkjet reproductions are the answer. Artists can now have their original artwork scanned and printed to create fine art prints for a fraction of the cost of traditional printing.
One of the key factors enabling the growth of digital fine art printing has been the development of an archival, aqueous-based, inkjet printer. Many regions around the world are experiencing impressive growth in the sales of wide format prints of photographs and artwork onto canvas and art paper. For wide format print providers serving this market, building relationships with artists is crucial, since expectations need to be set as to the colour gamut achievable by inkjet printers. The colour palettes with which artists work are larger than the colour gamut of the inkjet printer, even though the Canon 12-colour imagePROGRAF printer does come very close to reproducing up to 95% of Pantone colours. It takes time and patience to produce the first fine art reproduction for the artist, but once the proof has been established, a steady flow of residual income can be derived in repeat orders.
So How Does the Process work?
The first step is to “digitize” the artwork by the use of a digital DSLR camera or scanner to produce a raw or tiff image file. When using a digital DSLR camera, a proper lighting setup will be critical to achieving good results. I found that when reproducing an oil or acrylic painting which had a lot of texture to the paint, it was wise to spend a little extra time to get the lighting just right, to enhance the 3D effect of the textured paint on the canvas. If you do not have access to a high resolution scanner or digital DSLR camera, consider outsourcing this service to a photo studio.
Next, load the digitized picture into a graphics program such as Photoshop to size, crop, modify background, do colour adjustments and “clean up” the image. All adjustments are done in this step. As with many areas of large format printing, correct colour management is crucial to get the best results. And because artists are serious about the colour and quality of their art reproduction, they’re unlikely to change a print supplier once they’ve found someone who has captured the essence of their artwork in a satisfactory manner.
Now you are ready to print the picture. You should first print two small 5″x 7″ test prints to ensure that you have correct colour settings and this also gives the customer two options to choose from. Check the printer settings to ensure the output quality is what you are looking for. For example, Canon printers have profiles built into their drivers, so that when you match the paper with the profile in the driver, you get excellent results right from the start, without having to create custom profiles, although anyone doing any kind of serious work will want to create a custom profile for the paper or canvas they are using.
After the customer has approved the test print, you may print on canvas or watercolor paper as many prints as are requested. Keep the digital file and the history of the print driver well stored so when the customer requires more prints, you’ll be ready.
The Finishing Touch
After inkjet prints are made, a finishing touch is needed, especially on canvas. Fine art prints can be prematurely damaged if exposed to moisture or UV rays, so you would be wise to treat the surface after letting the print cure for at least 24 hours. The inkjet inks are water based and will smear if liquids are accidentally splashed on the surface. By applying a liquid laminate over the artwork, it will not only protect the print but it will give the print a real nice “work of art” finish. This can be applied by rolling or spraying on the liquid laminate. In some cases, you may wish to add extra value to a canvas by applying it with a brush, allowing the brush strokes to be visible on the finished surface, simulating the actual painting. A good liquid laminate will also extend the life of the print.
If you have any further questions, feel free to email or call me.