I Want To Make Prints Of My Paintings. How?

One of our students, Marie, recently wrote and asked how to go about getting prints of her work produced. I hear this question a lot, and I’m sharing with everyone my answer to Marie.

Marie, you have many choices on how to duplicate your work.

Have a professional take a digital photograph of your artwork. If you’re a great photographer, then you can go ahead. As for me, I prefer a professional. I find that if I have ten or so paintings, I can get them to take the photo for $5.00 to $10.00 each. It’s a very quick job. All you want in return is a CD containing their digital photos. Oh yes, you want your paintings back as well.

To find a photographer, I called up several photographers, told them what I wanted. Those that were interested, I met with them, showed them my paintings and they either quoted or declined. I once had over 50 paintings shot this way and the photographer dropped the price to $5.00 each.

All subsequent sessions, he did charge me $10.00.

After you have the photo you need to find a printer.

Call the large off-set printers in your areas. Tell them that you’re an artist and you have x number of paintings in which you need prints. And the quantity of prints. The price is higher the smaller the number of prints. And modern technology is producing new equipment, albeit expensive, (that’s why I told you to call the large printers in your areas as they are generally the only one who can afford them) that produces beautiful, beautiful prints in small quantities. Some printers will charge anywhere from $10 to $40 for such a print. IT also depends upon size.

Now this is real important.

The copyright courts on several occasions have ruled that the derivative works of “prints” belong to the printer and not the artist. So you must have the print sign back to you all rights as pertains to the production and sale of such prints.

Many will argue that the courts have reversed themselves, etc….

Be smart. Get the agreement. And if the printer won’t sign the rights to you, get a new printer.

Generally, its a non-issue with printers.

Having the agreement is important for this reason. In your state, the laws may not assign the rights to the printer, but down the road, such a law could be passed and suddenly you’d be without protection. It’s not a big deal with printers, but its protection for you.

I also caution you to be conservative in the number of prints you order, and make sure of your market that there is a demand for your product before you invest a lot.

Another method I encourage is testing. Have 10 prints produced in your most popular sizes, and put them up for sale. If they sell right away produce another `10 and raise the price. Repeat until they quit selling. Then drop the price until they start selling again. That’s your market and price. And you’ll now be able to gauge a reasonable number of prints you can have made.

I still remember a 35 year old artist who was so proud of his Indian painting that he ordered 5,000 prints. That was 20 years ago and he still has a huge quantity availble for this ‘limited edition’ print.

Enjoy, hope this helps and good luck.

Student Comment

Ladyrose126 said,

Dear Darrell,
I would like to know if you know about giclee (zhee-CLAY).Giclee is an individually produced, high-resolution, high-fidelity, high tech reproduction done on a special large format printer. Giclees are produced from digital scans of existing artwork. Also, since many artists now paint only digitally, there was no “original” that can be hung on a wall. Giclees solve that problem, while creating a whole new vibrant medium for art.

Giclees can be printed on any number of media, from canvas to watercolor paper to vinyl, to transparent acetates. Giclees are superior to traditional lithography in nearly every way. The colors are brighter, last longer, and are so high-resolution that they are virtually ‘continuous tone’, rather than tiny dots. The range, or “gamut” of color for giclees is far beyond that of lithography, and details are crisper.

Since giclee printers can use media in rolls, large print sizes are available, limited only by the length and width of the roll. Billboard sizes are possible. Giclees are typically sold by the square inch or square foot.

Lithography uses tiny dots of four colors–cyan, magenta, yellow and black–to fool the eye into seeing various hues and shades. Colors are “created” by printing different size dots of these four colors.

Giclees use inkjet technology, but far more sophisticated than your desktop printer. The process employs six colors–light cyan, cyan, light magenta, magenta, yellow and black (sometimes TWO blacks)–of lightfast (fade resistant), pigmented inks and finer, more numerous, replaceable printheads resulting in a wider color gamut, and the ability to use various media to print on. The ink is sprayed onto the page, actually mixing the color on the page to create truer shades and hues.

They are priced midway between original art and regular limited edition lithographs. Limited edition litho prints are usually produced in editions of 500-1000 or more, all at once; but giclees rarely exceed 50-100 high-quality reproductions, one at a time.

Giclees were originally developed as a proofing system for traditional lithographic printing presses, but it soon became apparent that the presses were having a hard time delivering the quality and brilliant color of the giclee proofs. Giclees evolved into the new darlings of the art world. They are coveted by collectors for their fidelity and quality, and desired by galleries and artists alike because they don’t have to be produced in huge quantities with their large layout of capital and storage.

In addition, Giclees are produced directly from a digital file, (which can be remotely uploaded,) saving generations of detail-robbing negatives and printing plates used with traditional litho printing.

This can be costly. I would like to know is you know any one who dose this at a lower price?

Thank you, Barbara a. King

Darrell’s Response: Try Wayne Scheible: Flower City Printing in Rochester, New York.