Posts Tagged ‘printing’

The Best Scanners for Artwork

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Artur emailed me to ask about scanning. He’s disappointed with the results from his local copy shop, and also concerned that he might have to draw multiple versions of the same image to please all his family members.

I started drawing a portrait of my father-in-law. He’s got three daughters and a son. I’m scared if all of them ask me to draw the same portrait… Drawing one thing for many times isn’t what I’m dreaming of … 🙂

No, you don’t need to draw it multiple times! In fact, I’d argue that each would devalue the others. So I suggest you get a really good scan of the single drawing, which I’d reserve for your Father-in-Law, and then supply prints to any other family members who wants a copy. When you’re here next month at the Drawing Dogs workshop I’ll show you a print of my granddaughter – her parents have the original and I have one of two printed copies.

The main point above is the “really good scan”. That costs money but I don’t think the cost is exorbitant, and it’s definitely justified. I’ve tried photographing my work and scanning with my studio scanner. If you are an expert photographer (I’m not) the results can be excellent. I have friend near Redcar who runs a giclĂ©e printing business and he successfully sources some of the artwork from photos he takes – but he does know what he’s doing. I have a good Microtek flat-bed scanner that produces decent results but almost all flat-bed scanners will have problems capturing the very lightest values.

The solution…

The solution I found is to use a laser drum scanner. I’m not suggesting you buy one! I think they cost between ÂŁ15,000 to ÂŁ70,000 each. There’s one on eBay for only ÂŁ500 if you hurry! 🙂

A typical Laser drum Scanner

A typical Laser Drum Scanner

Here’s something I found that might explain the differences between flat-bed and drum scanners:
www.KenRockwell.com/tech/scantek (scroll about 3/4 down the page).

As Ken Rockwell explains: “All the scanners you or I are likely to buy are based on CCDs, the same little chips that you have in your camcorder or digital camera… Drum scanners are good not because of the drum, but because the image is picked up by a much more sensitive PMT [that] is a zillion times more sensitive to light than a moving CCD with teeny weeny pixels.”

There’s only one requirement – the artwork must be capable of bring taped around the drum, so illustration board won’t be suitable. But one thing is certain… Drum scanners give fantastic results! In fact they’re so good at capturing everything, here’s a warning…

Tell the operator you want the paper to be scanned as pure white. If you don’t, and your paper is off-white, the scanner will read the paper as a colour. Of course, you can fix that later in Photoshop, but it’s better to have a perfect scan. I had three scans go direct from the scanning house to the printer – unchecked. The resulting prints look as though a cloud passed in front of the sun. It didn’t affect sales – because only I know what the original looks like – but it’s not a mistake I’d care to repeat.

I use Reprotech in York and have my drawings scanned to CD, at 300ppi or greater. The CD gives me the freedom to choose the right commercial printer, if I want prints made of it, or I can reduce its size for greetings cards, notelets or website use. But each use is derived from the perfect scan stored on the CD.

Laser Scanned images

Laser Scanned images

Finally…

I have three scans to collect from York this week at a cost of ÂŁ20 (about $30 USD) for each of the A3 (11″ x 16″) images burnt to CD. Given the superb quality – that’s cheap!

So, first find your scanner. That should be relatively easy. Every commercial printer will use a pre-press house that has a Drum Scanner. Some printers might have their own but that’s not likely unless they are a large company. Ask your local printer where they get their scanning done, then contact the pre-press house they use. If all else fails, you can contact REPROTECH STUDIOS Ltd on 01904 644 006 – website: www.ReprotechStudios.co.uk. I’ve been using their services for the past few years and have received excellent service and results.

[Scanner illustration from: www.waltzer.com]

Getting started with Printing

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Jonas contacted me through my website’s “Ask a question” feature with this query:

I recently received my new drawing pencils and Mellotex and absolutely love it all. As soon as I finish reading your book I’m
going to begin my first new drawing that I want to sell as prints. So far, everything I’ve done has been commission work so the printing process is new to me. Do you have any advice on how to go about doing this?

This is a huge subject, Jonas, so I’ll try to stick to the basics. You’ll find more detailed information elsewhere in this blog and on my website.

Let’s first tackle a few common questions:

“Does having prints done of an image change the value of the original?”

In my opinion, no, and certainly not downwards! I’ve had a few buyers in the past use this argument to push the price down but as far as I’m concerned an original is an original whether or not a print has been taken from it. I don’t see the value of Constable’s Haywain halving just because we can all buy postcards of the image.

“If you are going to have prints made to sell, will you have to make all of them first?”

It depends on (1) the process, (2) your “sales potential” among the dealers and (3) your pre-publication promotion.

(1) If you print by giclĂ©e then you can print whatever number you need on demand and don’t have to hold unsold stock. If you print by offset-litho then you have to print the entire run in one session – and pay for it, but it’s much cheaper in the long run than giclĂ©e.

(2) If you have a known track record of sales then you will be able to take orders from the trade before you print. In time you can take them even earlier – I’d already sold the first 30 copies of my Cairn Terrier print “The Barn Patrol” before I knew what the setting was.

(3) If you can take enough forward orders then you’ll have the printing costs covered before you print. That’s what the What’s New page on your website is for – already promoting your latest drawing even if you don’t yet know what it will look like. You should be gathering email addresses of interested parties and awarding them “special” status by sending them pre-publication details.

“Does the fact that I want to make prints influence how I draw my picture?”

Yes, to some extent. First, always draw for you and never for your market, because if you don’t have anything personal to say about you subject, you can’t expect your buyers to be interested in it. The only commercial consideration I ever make is to use the most popular colouring for the dogs I include, but that doesn’t affect what they’re doing or how I see them.

From a practical viewpoint, don’t draw on paper so thick that you can’t roll it. To achieve good prints you need a good scan, so follow the lead of the printing industry and use a laser drum scanner. Source the nearest pre-press house in your area and they should have one. It’s not expensive. I pay about £15 ($23 USD) for an A3 (about 30 x 42 cm) image scanned to CD, but it has to be taped around the scanner’s drum, so don’t draw on illustration board or any very stiff paper.

Tip: Tell the scanner operator you want the paper to be read as white! The scanners are so accurate they will read an off-white paper as a value in the drawing.

Printing types – GiclĂ©e printing

GiclĂ©e would probably be a good way to start. The per-print price is high but you don’t need to print many at one time.

GiclĂ©e is inkjet printing but not all inkjet printing is giclĂ©e. It involves state of the art 6- or 8-colour printers using 200-year lightfast inks on a variety of art papers. Just do an Internet search for your nearest giclĂ©e printer – although you can do this almost as well by mail with some of them. You can often have as few as 10 prints made, the settings are stored, and you can repeat the printing as often as you need to.

Printing types – Offset-litho printing

This is much cheaper per print but you need to print an entire limited edition in one print run, or maybe 500 open edition prints, to make it viable. It also means…

Life is fine and rosy until the fateful day when you decide to print. Suddenly you find yourself talking to Printers! The dictionary definition of a printer should be “One who puts ink on paper without any reference to the source image”. I’ve had some bad experiences, as you may have guessed! 🙂

After a while you can train them to look at art as Art and not as just another job. They can even be trained to understand that what you want is a print that is indistinguishable from the original. They however will tell you that this is not possible. And they’re right…… printing is one long agonising fight with compromise. For example, offset-litho printing uses a pattern of dots, and four adjacent round dots will always leave a white hole between them. Hence, the most solid “black” only ever achieves 90% coverage.

I use the duotone printing process that uses two of the four-colour process plates – black and magenta I think. As long as my printer knows which plates, that’s OK! The black plate prints with black ink and the magenta plate uses a warm grey. The two combine to capture the deepest blacks to the lightest of tones.

Incidentally, giclĂ©e printing can print dense blacks, and you can print on demand instead of holding dead stock – but it is ultimately much more expensive per print. Until recently, I used giclĂ©e only for images that didn’t fit into my current market, so I’m not paying to print copies that might never sell.

In-house printing

Buying a giclĂ©e printer can, depending on sales, quickly pay for itself. If, for example, you’re paying a GiclĂ©e Printer £15 per copy and your printer costs you £600, it only takes just over forty sales to pay for it, taking your running costs into account. It’s also an ideal way to test the sales potential of new work or work that doesn’t fit your usual subject matter. I use an Epson R2400 printer that prints up to A3 size. And, of course, you have ultimate control over the appearance of the print.

Do not be tempted to purchase an old used printer that doesn’t use the K3 system of inks. Older giclĂ©e printers mixed the colours to create the greys, and that usually resulted in a colour-cast (called Metamerism). Your print might look black and grey under natural light, but green under fluorescent, and blue under yet another light. The K3 system avoids that, because you can turn off the colours and print using only the black, light black, and light light black cartridges – no colour in the mix so no colour-cast.

Costing

Spreadsheets are an ideal way of controlling your costs and profit. Set up a “what if” spreadsheet so you can alter the variables and instantly see the results. Mine allow for paper and an estimation of ink costs, plus any other costs I might encounter. If you intend to sell your work matted, for example, then factor that in too. Who are you selling to? If it’s to retail customers through your website, set the final profit to the selling price less your costs. If you’re selling to the trade (stores, print shops, galleries, etc) then assume your profit will be reduced by their 50% discount. In my case, I assume 10% will be sold at retail price and 90% wholesale to the trade. If you’re unsure of a figure, always err on the gloomy side – so assume 50% discount for trade sales even if some will accept 40%.

Sales

As your website features commissioned portraits I don’t know what subject matter you want to sell as prints. If it’s animal related you might find associated clubs with websites who might be interested in selling your work. Some may just make mention of your prints and provide a link to your own site, which is just as valuable.

Never fail to follow up a lead, however tenuous it might be. For example, in the days before the Internet, I would always answer a letter with an enquiry about local stores that might be interested in my work – even if the letter was to my Electricity Provider. And every letter and envelope still bears my website address – even if it’s to my Aunt Edith or the Taxman!

You can visit galleries personally (by appointment) or send them a detailed mailing. Visit a few galleries with your originals before you print and ask them to give you some idea of the retail price you could command. They should know – it’s their business.

Run an online search for similar artwork and note their prices. Finally, when you determine your own prices don’t be too cheap. The price reflects your own opinion of your work and “too cheap” is far more damaging that “too expensive”.

Print types

OPEN EDITION : No restriction on the number printed and the image is reprinted every time stocks run out.

LIMITED EDITION : Restricted to a set number of prints, which gives the image a rarity value. Each print in numbered – 652/850 for example – where that’s print number 652 out of an edition of 850. No more will ever be printed.

I changed from open to limited edition prints because, theoretically, the cost doesn’t really matter. When you can sell a £1 offset-litho print for £60, the cost is largely immaterial. I wanted to be able to print to a quality and not to a price, as I had to with my open edition prints.

Finally…

Finally, produce work that tells a story, however simple. Even my head studies tell a story. Before I began each one, I’d decide what the dog had just been doing and was about to do. That made it “alive” in my mind and it became built in as I worked. Each one was never a “drawing” but always a recreation of a living animal.

If your work doesn’t say something, you’ll be an illustrator and not an artist. Illustrations are not widely popular with the majority of the buying public. A botanical illustration, for example, will tell you about the shape, form and detail of a flower, but you won’t be able to feel its waxy petals or appreciate the way it bends in the wind. Illustrations tend to be too “clean” – Nature is a messy creature – so the occasional nibble by a caterpillar in a leaf adds the missing sense of reality 🙂

The story can be complex or simple, the drawing should be your interpretation and not a copy of a reference, and it should contain what you personally want to convey to your viewers and future customers. “Look at this” you should be saying “Look how beautiful it is. No, look closer. Really close…” and they will, and they’ll appreciate something that they only glanced at previously. As graphite artists, we can’t hide behind colour, and that’s a huge advantage – we’re detail-based and don’t have big brushes to suggest anything with a wide sweep. As a bonus, we also tend to stand out from the myriad of paintings in galleries.

If you haven’t already done so, join a good forum where you’ll receive constructive criticism and assistance Obviously I’m going to suggest www.TheDrawingForum.com run by myself and JD Hillberry – but it is the best for constructive critiques and help, and we welcome posts on business and printing issues as well as for artwork.

You can view Jonas’s work on his website at www.Galaxy-Artworks.com

Having Prints Made?

Monday, March 15th, 2010

REPAIRING DAMAGED DRAWING PAPER

My friend Mary Ellen wrote to ask:

I am thinking about trying to get the graphite barn picture I did printed. Can you give me an idea what I should look for and ask from the printer? I have never had a print made so your advice would be invaluable to me.

I see your chosen printer has a Cruse scanner – the best flat-bed scanner many thousands of dollars can buy. My friend Dave in the UK giclĂ©e printing business (www.dace-digital.com) says he finds it to be too good – it picks up the texture of the paper, for example, when that might be a distraction. Personally, I always have my work drum laser scanned – the results are superb!

Are you doing this online or by personal visit? It’s worth pointing out to them, which area is supposed to be read as white. If you don’t, they might not set the white balance point, and all your whites will contain a proportion of tone. I had that happen once. Compare the original to the print and the latter looks as though a maverick cloud has obscured the sun.

If you’re giclĂ©e printing, suggest that they desaturate the image or print using only blacks and greys. What you don’t want is the use of colours to create the greys, because you stand the risk of metamerism, which is an overall colour-cast that varies under different lights.

If you will be offset-litho printing, suggest they use the Duotone process (uses two of the colour plates of the 4-plate colour system) and print using a black and a warm grey.

Choose a decent weight of paper and one that is at least as white as your original. If it’s whiter, that’s OK, because it will simply increase the contrast in the piece.

I’m sure they’ll offer a proof, or a selection of proofs for you to choose from. Don’t necessarily choose the one that is closest to the original – this is a print, so compromise and choose the one that is the most likely to appeal to buyers. Boosting the contrast can help in that respect, hence my advice to choose a whiter paper. The print will be a true reflection of your original but with a subtle contrast shift that helps to catch the eye of potential purchasers – especially useful in a gallery situation.

Talking of galleries: they have tendency to mat graphite works in black. In my opinion that kills them stone dead. Instead, double-mat – use an off-white main mat (it will increase the intensity of the white of your paper) and pick a secondary “colour” from the piece for the rear mat reveal. You could, for example, use green from the leaves or a brown from the timber. Incidentally, browns work well for matting originals, because they bring out the subtle warmth of the clay in the graphite mix.