Digital Print Education
What is the process?
There are two basic steps in the digital printing process. First, a digital image of an original art work is created, either by using a high-resolution digital capturing system to make a record of the original art or by scanning a photographic transparency or negative. The digital image is manipulated on a computer to achieve the desired results and proof prints are produced. The goal may be to create a very faithful reproduction of the original art or to change the appearance in a way that is chosen by the artist. Of course, the same digital imaging process can be used to reproduce an image which is created by an artist from scratch directly on a computer. The second step is the actual printing of the image. The digital file from which the final prints are made is saved on a disk so that the artist can order reprints whenever they need them.
What are the benefits of digital printing?
Digital fine art prints have a two-fold advantage. When properly made, they offer exquisite image quality. Also, the artist can have prints on demand, keeping initial project costs lower than other traditional reproduction processes. Instead of printing an entire edition at once, the artist can complete a limited edition of prints gradually as the prints are sold.
An additional benefit of this process is the high resolution digital file of your artwork that you will receive with your prints. This file can be used for websites, printing promotional materials such as postcards, and for submissions to shows and competitions. Unlike photographs taken with a point and shoot camera, you can rest assured that these files have even lighting, crisp focus and color that is true to the original.
What makes a good digital print?
Not all giclee printers are created equal. There are many levels of quality in the giclee print business. To get a truly high quality print, you need to consider five major components of the process.
The first component is a good scan. The quality of the scan will determine the quality of your final print. The scan should be high resolution. We recommend the digital file be 300 dpi at the size you wish to print. You should also make sure that the scanner operator is careful to preserve all the detail that is in the original artwork, especially in the highlight and shadow areas. If you are reproducing an original artwork, it is always best to scan the original art instead of a slide or other transparency.
The next three components of a good print are the inks, paper, and the printer. Most serious giclee print buyers will ask for this information before making a purchase. The inks and the paper should be certified archival. The most archival inks are pigment-based ink sets. These are available from several different manufacturers.The paper should be a fine art quality, heavyweight paper. It should be acid-free or 100% rag. We recommend any of the papers that are listed in our paper section. The printer should be one that was designed with fine art applications in mind. We, of course, prefer the Canon imagePROGRAF printers. Beware of commercial printers who say they make fine art prints too. They often use the same printers for your art prints that they use to print banners and ad posters. These commercial printers are designed for speed and not quality or fine detail.
What do I look for in a printer?
The last major component are the people who actually make your prints. It is always best to go with a reputable printer who has a proven record of quality and dependability. You need a printer with the technical knowledge to make a great print combined with the artistic sensibility to understand the needs of the artist. Anyone can buy a printer and start up a giclee business. They may understand you as an artist, but they probably do not have all of the technical skills necessary to producing a good print. These printers often have lower prices, but they also have limited expertise and resources. Their quality may suffer because they don't have the knowledge that an established printer has or the money to buy the best scanning equipment. It is also common for these types of printers to suddenly go out of business. An established printing studio can offer you the security of knowing that you can return year after year and maintain a level of consistency that guarantees the last print of an edition matches the first, even over a period of years.
We also encourage artists to beware of large commercial printing outfits that offer giclee printing. While these places do have expensive equipment and the technical experience to run it, they don't always have the sensitivity needed to make fine art prints. These places will most often treat your work like they would their commercial graphics jobs. This means "ballpark" corrections with little or no attention paid to the detail and the subtle nuances of your work.