Fine Art & Photography Best Practices

Many modern artists sell fine-art reproductions or giclées created with pigment-based inks on high-resolution inkjet printers. This kind of digital print making saves them from buying and storing in inventory more prints than they need. Pro sailor-turned-nautical photographer Onne van der Wal estimates that his wife, Kristin, outputs between 30 and 40 prints weekly on a 44-inch Canon IMAGEprograf iPF8100 model in their Newport, RI, gallery. “Sizes range from 11x14 up to 40 inches long,” he notes, adding that they’ve done some six-panel jobs as large as 6x10 feet.

The newer high-resolution printers from Canon, Epson, and HP use water-based pigment inks to produce prints that can last for decades when properly protected and displayed under normal indoor lighting conditions. Solvent-based inkjet printers also produce long-lasting prints, but struggle to match the resolution and color gamut of the latest aqueous inkjet technology. Out west in Colorado, Gary Haines, a fine art photographer specializing in nature and wildlife scenes, offers fine-art printing for his and other artists’ work on an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 that he added to his Grizzly Creek Gallery almost four years ago. The 11-color printer uses proprietary Ultrachrome HDR archival ink technology for color consistency and a rich gamut of colors that show depth and detail, said the manufacturer. The 9900 simultaneously uses black, light black, and “light light” black inks, significantly improving gray balance while eliminating color cast for impressive black-and-white printing.

To ensure accurate color fidelity, “calibrate your monitors to the printer,” advises Haines, a former oil painter with an eye for color. He has invested in a high-end, 24-inch LCD photographic monitor from LaCie. “It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it. It’s totally color-balanced: calibrated from edge to edge,” he reports. Reflective art never looks the same as the screen, cautions van der Wal. “You need to do a proof or two and tweak shadows and highlights in [Adobe] Photoshop,” he says, adding that the quality of the Canon printer is “superb” and “the printed work looks awesome.”


Artful Retouching

For photographers and artists doing their own premedia graphic editing/photo retouching, the basic tenet is: the larger the final print, the more care needs to be taken.

“When using Photoshop, gradient lines need to be smoothed out carefully for larger sized prints,” explains Joanne Hartzell, owner of EyeDesign & Photography, which offers professional portrait and other photographic services near Chicago. van der Wal is a Canon Explorer of Light photographer, who now shoots all digital, and also is a Canon Print Master, using all Canon paper and inks.

“If a printed proof looks a little dark, Kristin knows to go over two clicks or so to correct the color. Then that becomes our default [setting] on the printer,” he illustrates.

For landscape shots, Haines uses Fuji Velvia large-format film. “I can blow them up bigger, and the 100f film shows more detail in shadows and scans nicely,” he notes.

His next purchase probably will be a Nikon D800e, a 36-megapixel digital camera in 35mm fomat. “With that, we’ll be able to blow up to close to 48 inches wide,” he says.

Most of Grizzly Creek’s film-to-digital conversions are done on drum scanners. “They are about 400-megabyte files,” Haines reports. “We shoot on transparencies, which are positive, from 4x5 inches to medium-format [sizes].”

Haines’s media of choice is LexJet, which he usually buys in 100-foot-long rolls. “We’ve gone as big as 44x90 inch [7.5 feet] prints,” he says.

The Sunset line includes photo gloss, semi-matte, and archival matte paper as well as a select matte poly-cotton blend canvas. Eleven-mil. Sunset Photo e-Satin 300g is a heavier, more substantial photo paper with excellent ink retention characteristics and a color gamut that is second to none, LexJet said. The paper maintains a traditional E surface finish, providing an elegant texture consistent to that of a darkroom.


Success Starts with Scanning

In the Pacific Northwest, Bellevue Fine Art Reproduction serves the Seattle area with printmaking on the Stylus Pro 9900 as well, but contends that fine-art scanning is the key to output success. “The digital capture of your art is the most important step in the process of fine art reproduction,” according to the firm’s website. “Your print can only be as good as the scan, so every great print begins with a great scan. Our Better Light high-resolution 4x5 digital scanning back camera is considered by museums to be the finest technology available for capturing fine art. We can digitally capture artwork in sizes of up to 6x8 feet without touching the surface of the artwork.”

Unlike drum-scanners, the Better Light camera is not limited to flat or flexible works, and “it is amazing for pieces on stretcher-bars or wood panel,” Bellevue praises. And unlike flatbed scanners, nothing ever has to touch the surface of the piece, making it the ideal method for reproducing fragile works such as chalk pastel, charcoal, or collage.

For oil paintings and large acrylic paintings with high gloss, Bellevue uses a special polarizing system to ensure that color is accurately captured without glare.

Custom Décor

In January, Hewlett-Packard announced a new digital printing solution for wallcoverings, helping print service providers (PSPs) and wallcovering manufacturers to capture more of the growing custom décor market. The solution consists of a modular range of design software, media, printing, and finishing options. Components include the HP WallArt Solution, a cloud-based Web service that simplifies the design, visualization, and production of customized wallcoverings. New partner AVA brings its design software and raster image processor (RIP) for file preparation as well as RIPing with enhanced color management.

HP’s solution also includes a range of compatible wall decoration media—coated and uncoated, non-woven, vinyl, paper, and PVC-free substrates. Automatic, accurate panel cutting is provided by partner Fotoba International.

“In the commercial, retail, and residential markets, demand for unique décor is rapidly growing as both consumers and designers seek new ways to reflect their individual tastes, values, and experiences in their homes as well as businesses,” says Xavier Garcia, VP and GM of Sign and Display for HP. “The new digital printing solution from HP and our industry-leading partners helps PSPs and wallcovering manufacturers deliver this unique differentiation, bringing customers’ creativity to life.”

For customers interested in growing their wallcovering business, the WallArt Solution offers a design tool that allows PSPs or wallcovering manufacturers to design themselves or work with customers through the cloud to produce customized wall coverings. It enables the designer to enter precise room dimensions and easily work around windows and doors, giving them more time to spend creating with an automated measurement process. Customers also can render realistic visualizations of wall coverings using their own content for backgrounds, objects, and text with advanced image quality as well as scaling features. Requiring no special software or infrastructure support, the cloud-based solution allows for fast, convenient client reviews and approvals.


Color Management, Increased Productivity

New HP partner AVA has delivered computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software to the printed decorative, textile, and wallpaper industries for more than 20 years. With its design and file preparation software, designers can work easily with repeated patterns. The software solutions also can improve color management with accurate screen-to-print color matching, accuracy between layers, and the ability to match digital prints to analog in a hybrid print environment.

The AVA RIP gives customers increased color control, faster RIPing times, and a seamless workflow from file preparation to printing. The RIP increases color saturation and gamut for high-quality wall coverings as well as helping achieve realistic colors on non-white media. As part of the fully integrated solution, the software also automatically generates cut marks for the Fotoba cutter, simplifying the cutting process.


Latex Offers Broad Media Compatibility

Once the wallcovering is designed, customers choose from a range of compatible substrates from HP and industry-leading media providers. HP Latex Printing Technologies have been internally tested with more than 25 wall décor media, including embossed, coated and uncoated, non-woven, vinyl, paper, and PVC-free wallpaper substrates.

The Designjet L26500 and L28500 printers allow customers to print proofs or very short runs directly on the production media, eliminating doubts about how the design will appear on the final product. Ideal for design studios or small PSPs, these high-quality HP latex printers are affordable and easy to use. For high-volume production of customized wall coverings, the HP Scitex LX600 and LX850 industrial printers offer media versatility, a wide color gamut, and vivid colors up to 1200 dpi. With unattended overnight printing at production speeds, an optional dual roll kit and prints that come off the printer dry and ready to use, customers can increase productivity and reduce running costs.

HP proofing and production printers with HP Latex Inks give customers a competitive advantage with recognized indoor air quality certifications. HP Latex Ink prints are GreenGuard Children & Schools Certified, meet AgBB criteria and the inks have achieved UL Sustainable Product Certification. These inks produce odorless prints ideal for residential, healthcare, and other sensitive environments as well as help improve the work environment with no requirements for hazard warning labels.


Cutting Solution Reduces Bottlenecks

Transforming the traditionally complicated process of cutting wallcoverings, Fotoba is helping PSPs and manufacturers streamline workflow with automatic, accurate panel cutting. The new XLD 170 WP automatic cutting device is designed specifically for wallcovering panels, delivering precise edge panel cutting on a range of media. The new solution offers horizontal cutting and vertical slitting of multiple panels simultaneously on pieces up to 5.57 feet wide. The XLD 170 WP also works with the automatic cut marks created by a wide variety of RIPs including AVA, Caldera, and ONYX.