We may as well admit it: all of us secretly want to not only create fabulous art but want the public to appreciate it so much they pay us fabulous prices for it. The wonderful thing about making prints of our work is it a way to earn residual income on our art. If an artist sells a painting for $500 that is a one-time fee; if that same artist also sells 20 prints for $15 each then they have earned a total of $800 on that same painting. Naturally as an artist, you want any reproductions of your art to reflect the quality of the art itself, which means you want to make the best quality reproductions you can find. I have had several artists ask me where they can get good quality prints made at a reasonable price. It’s a good question. There are two ways to go with this: make the prints yourself or get them made professionally.
If you are planning to make them yourself, besides the printer, you will need a good quality camera that takes high-resolution photos (Canon Rebel is excellent but there are others out there). I don’t recommend a point-and-shoot camera or your cell phone if you intend to make professional looking reproductions; although the smart phone photo quality is improving, I did notice that quality seemed to suffer with larger size prints. I would also recommend a good photo-editing program such as Photoshop Elements. I chose Elements because it will service either Apple or PC computers, the basic editing techniques are simple and it does have tutorials.
A printer that prints on a variety of paper products is essential if you are making your own prints. What brand of printer makes the best prints? Well, there are a lot of differing opinions on this, all having to do with what kind of ink will give you the truest colors, how easy they are to use, whether to use ink jet or laser printers, etc. Making the prints yourself does mean that you are probably going to be limited to paper and the sizes you can make; most home printers will only take legal or letter size paper. The printer that gave me the very best prints I ever made at home was an inexpensive Kodak printer. Unfortunately it proved too fragile to last long. Epson, Brother and HP all make good machines that will give you nice paper prints. You can even obtain letter size “canvas paper’ for printing on the internet, although I wasn’t really happy with the quality of the prints I made with it on my home printer. If you are going to make prints yourself, you should consider the cost of the ink. Many ink jet printers devour ink pods like a T-Rex. If you make a lot of reproductions, Ink jet refills can be so expensive that you might find it less costly to get your prints made by a print shop. Laser printers also make good quality prints, but a color laser printer and the toner to go with it can also break your budget. You will need to decide if the cost of the printing will allow you to still make sales at a profit.
The next option is to have your prints made by a professional printer. I am speaking here of commercial printers such as Kinkos or CopyMax’s Impress. The photo departments of Costco, Walgreens, Wal-Mart etc. may not give you a professional quality print because their print programs are designed to “flatten or homogenize” color to an “average” standard, however they also will work with you on this issue because they want your return business. Most of them can also do a canvas print mounted on stretcher bars. Again, ask for a proof because if you have vibrant, saturated or delicate shades you may find your print simply doesn’t reflect these qualities.
To use an outside printer you need a high-resolution jpeg or other type of photo of your work. If you are not a photographer, I suggest you arrange to have a professional take the photo in order to ensure that the photo has no distortions and that the color is true to the original art. You can have the photo transferred to either a jump drive or disc. An issue with having your prints made by someone else that doesn’t come up with DIY (Do It Yourself) printing: calibrating their printer to your photos. Calibrating a printer has nothing to do with the printer type; it has to do with communication between the computer and the printer. Even if the photo from your thumb disc looks okay on their computer screen, the print may still come out darker or lighter than your art. Always ask for a proof before accepting the print because it may be necessary for you to take your disc or jump drive home so that you can adjust the lighting or color of the photo in order to make the print “true” to the original when using an outside printer. If you do this, always save the “adjusted” photo as a separate file and leave the original alone. Making these changes is much easier if you are dealing with a local printer.
The other option for having your prints made is to find a local professional who specializes in making art prints. Here in Fresno we have several but Mullins Photography is the one most favored by local artists. If you bring in your art, they make their own scan and reproduce a print that is virtually identical to the original. Ask other local artists in your area where they get their prints made. Be prepared to open your wallet for this option though; because the cost of the initial set up fee will be more expensive than say Kinkos or Impress. On the other hand, it probably will be a one-time fee for that particular piece of art and the quality will be the best.
You can also order prints from the internet; a number of Internet sites do on-line printing. These sites are sometimes referred to as POD (Print On Demand) sites, and most of them do an excellent job. Fine Art America for instance will not only make your prints on a variety of paper, metal, cards and canvas, but also sell matting and framing and ship to your customer. With on-line printers however, you will have the same difficulties with the calibration as with your local outside printer. Since you can’t demand a proof from this type of site, I would suggest you get a small print made for yourself and adjust the photo. Keep notes on what you did so that you can use them when sending in later prints. The nice thing about most POD sites is your customer may order directly from the site without you having to deal with nasty stuff like figuring out shipping costs.