5 Steps To Creating Prints
I was recently asked how to go about getting art prints done so I thought I would share.
When I started, I initially went to an art supplies shop, and the first thing they asked is what paper grades did I want? Did I need Giclee prints? What resolution do I require?
I really had no idea how to answer those questions! So hopefully after reading this you won't stand in a print shop saying 'errrrrmmm' for 10 minutes like I did!
- Making it digital
So you made something pretty and want to make it into prints. It's an exciting time! The first thing to look at is how large the work is and pick a method of making it digital. You can either photograph your work or scan it. Many artists use photography, but it needs to be excellent quality and perfect lighting, so find a professional photographer if you go down that route. If you choose scanning, A4 or smaller you should be able to scan it yourself using a home printer/scanner. Make sure the image is at 300dpi resolution. That means it can be blown up into a much larger image without causing quality problems. If you have created a larger piece, you can take it to a print firm and they will be able to scan it for you. Sometimes that means leaving the art with them for a couple of days so make sure you have some suitable packaging for it so it doesn't get damaged while lying around their office! When you get things scanned, bring in a memory stick or CD and the printer will save the image to that. Ask for it to be in JPEG or PDF format so you can edit it. Once it is done, back it up straight away so you don't lose it! Also consider what your plans are. If you eventually want to turn the artwork into wallpaper for example, don't add a large visible signature. Sign the work after it is scanned in to keep your options open. Your art could be turned into blankets, t-shirts, canvases so it is worth considering that.
- DIY or Professionally done?
You can choose to simply print out your work with a home printer, as long as it is good quality and you can get some suitable paper. This is fine if you want to create a relatively low cost product and don't mind doing the post office runs yourself. I use 290gsm (that is the thickness of the paper) but between 250 and 310 is fine. I found early on that watercolour paper can make the black colours look grey, so I tend to use a more shiny paper to get my black lines looking really crisp. Obviously it depends on your style of work, but watercolour gives a lovely texture.
The other option is to hire a professional printer. This could be the same place as you got the work scanned but in my case I use an online printer to make the prints and a local firm to scan things in. Make sure your printer has some experience doing professional art prints, and can scan large items (some can only do up to A3). What I mean by that is that I had some trial and error experiences with print shops that were more suited to printing flyers and business stationary, and didn't have the expertise in making art prints specifically. I also dealt with a few who were frustrated at my newbie questions instead of being helpful. Remember it is a business relationship so if they aren't polite and helpful from the get go, find somewhere else. It is worth putting effort in to researching, ringing round and visiting them to see if they are a good fit for you because as you get busier you will need to heavily rely on them.
My current printer is happy to send proofs to check I am happy with everything and is extremely friendly to deal with. It is worth paying more for a decent printer with a good reputation, so you can be sure of a consistently good quality product. After all it is you that will get a poor review if something is not right!
- Editing and preparing
Once you have your image saved you can change the colours, brightness and size in an editing program. Many use Photoshop, I use GIMP as it is free to download and does much the same thing. If you decide to edit your work make sure you get a test print done before you start selling it to make sure there are no issues. Colour profiles can get complicated so this is a must! Think about if you want the image to go right to the edge of the paper or if you want a border. If so how thick? I tend to choose a 0.5cm border for A5 and a 1cm for A4 & A3. At this point you can maximise your potential income by changing the colours, for example I sell my cactus print in standard yellow (as it was painted) and I also have a pink version. This means more options for the customer and it takes seconds to edit and save a second version.
- Dropshipping or Postage?
When I started I used to get my prints done at a shop in town and it meant driving there, waiting for it to be done then posting it myself which looking back was madness. I would be cautious about paying out big sums to get loads of prints done that may not sell, so check your social media numbers and see which designs resonate with people. You can choose to do an unlimited print run so you can keep selling the work for as long as you like, or make it limited. This means you only print out 25, 50 or 100 and then you do not sell it again after that. If you choose that option price them higher as you cannot use that image again for more prints later down the line. There are a few postage options now where you can get a courier to come and pick them up from your house or you can do the post office trip yourself. Just factor that in to your day and think do I have time around kids, my day job, family commitments etc.
The other option is dropshipping which is what I have chosen for my business. This means I email my design to the print firm and they print, package and send the product to my customer directly. I send them my business cards and extra bits I want to include in the order. This means that I can scale my business up hugely in future and I can work around my kids. It also means whether I get a sale of one print or a wholesale order of 50, it is no more labour intensive. Sending one email takes a few minutes and outsourcing gives me more time to focus on creating more products, marketing and all the other things that need doing. There is no need to pay for your own packaging supplies but you do still need to pay postage so factor that in to your prices.
- What is Giclee?
You can choose standard prints or Giclee quality. Giclee is a printing process using archival ink and is perfectly colour matched to your original artwork. This means that the print will be of museum/art gallery quality and will last a lifetime. Basic printer ink could fade over time but Giclee will not. It is considered the gold standard of printing but it is more expensive to produce. This is where you need to consider your business model and if you are looking to sell hundreds of prints at a low cost or price for a different market that will pay more and expect exceptional quality. I have chosen to use Giclee as I want my work to be something that lasts, a product that won't deteriorate over time and also I think a higher priced item is always treated with a bit more care. As an artist that uses bright colour I want to retain that brightness and I also aim to be eco friendly so don't want to produce things that will be thrown away after a few years. There is no right answer to this though and you can choose your own adventure!
I hope some of that was helpful! For more art tips, discounts and latest updates you can subscribe here