Prints from your artwork

Original Sketch

Magnified image after reduction in size for printing

While I wait for the initial stage of my oil painting to dry I will say a little about printing your artwork. Not the art forms of printing like etching or lino block but reproducing a painting or sketch as, for example, greeting cards or notepaper.

As the proprietor of a graphic design and printing business I would like to share the advise I would give an artist wishing to have their artwork reproduced as prints or incorporated into a printed item. The printing industry has undergone a huge change in the last 10 years mostly due to new technology, in particular digital printing. This means it is economical to produce small quantities of high quality prints.

There are 2 forms of printing here. Firstly, reproducing an artwork which will be a picture to be framed for example, and secondly, using an artwork as a stationery item. The former requires a little more effort as accuracy is required in producing a print which will be viewed more critically, especially if it hangs on your living room wall as opposed to a greeting card. I am not talking about ‘high end’ commercial printing, which is an involved process, but an amateur artist wishing to have personalised notepaper, greeting or Christmas cards etc. This is not for the neurotic perfectionist unless the budget is unlimited.

If the artwork is too large to be scanned, or the surface textured, photograph it. Use a digital camera. Lie the artwork flat on the ground outdoors, not in full sunlight. Adjust the quality to the maximum, and adjust the White Balance appropriately. Make sure the camera is ‘square on’ the artwork (the edges of the artwork are parallel to the edges of the camera viewfinder. There are several sites online on this subject. The finished photos, take several, can be checked and the best selected.

This is the tricky bit. Continuous tone and single colour artworks are treated differently. Continuous tone (usually paintings) are better if the photo is reduced in size for printing. The problems are usually in the colours. Your printer hopefully will produce a ‘proof’ or one-off print for checking colours and if the colour balance is way-off adjustments can be made. Although the photo supplied should be a guide for the printer. These prints are produced by mixing millions of dots of colours of basic inks. When you consider that the photographs are produced by mixing red, green and blue and the prints by mixing cyan, yellow, magenta and black no wonder colour balance is problematic.

Single colour work, as in the sketch above, are better made at the size they will be printed. As in the sketch, the thickness of the lines are critical. Obviously, enlarging the sketch makes the fine lines look more like brush strokes than pen lines. Reducing the sketch size reduces the thickness of the lines and below a certain threshold these lines don’t print (the second image above).

There are printers online specialising in this kind of work but the format is rigid and picked from a menu. Finding a sympathetic printing house can, by making minor adjustments, produce an unique printed item. For example, if the artwork is not a regular shape the online printer would just crop the image whereas your local printer could change the shape of the print to accommodate the artwork or fit a particular envelope size.

N.B.: Now is the time to think about Christmas cards and calendars for next year. Tempus fugit.