We receive a great volume of e-mails and form submissions from artists and photographers who are unfamiliar with the process of reproduction in the digital world, so we are providing this page as an overview of the process to help educate the community of artists and photographers who are interested in having their work reproduced.
If any part of the process as we describe it is unclear, please contact us and we will be happy to help clarify any area and answer any questions you may have. Keep in mind that the process we are describing below is our own. Other companies may use different methods to complete each step, but we have found our process produces the highest quality, which is our goal. If you have more questions about giclee fine art printing, please visit our Giclee Q & A page.
Step 1: Scanning or Digital Capture
The first step is to scan or digitize your artwork, unless your artwork is already in a digital form. We prefer to digitally capture artwork directly, but we can also work from transparencies, slides, negatives or prints. If your original is larger than 12x18, then we will shoot it with a high resolution digital camera back.
We cannot over-emphasize the importance of quality scanning. For example, we reproduced a large original oil for a well known artist who was having a competitor do his reproductions. The competitor actually brought us the job they had already scanned on their equipment and color corrected repeatedly because they had been unable to get the artist to accept the color proofs from their scan no matter how many color corrections they tried. We re-scanned the transparency and sent a proof from our equipment with no corrections and the artist accepted this first proof as is. It is difficult to explain to people the value of our scanning and color reproduction expertise. Ultimately, however, it is the preparation of the digital file that determines the quality of the print, and this is one of our greatest strengths.
Once the image has been digitized, we carefully review it for flaws that were introduced in this phase and remove them. Next we compare the color to the transparency or original and make any necessary preliminary color corrections.
Step 2: Proofing
Once the scan or capture is completed, the next step is to print a first color proof, usually at a reduced size to keep the cost down. This proof is printed on the actual media that will be used for the final reproduction so that any impact the media has on the color can be taken into consideration. We evaluate this proof compared to the original, if we have it, and if there is significant variance in color, we perform additional color corrections and reprint the proof. If we don't have the original or some other type of proof from you, we will usually show this first proof as is. There can be significant color, saturation, and contrast variances with transparencies, so we prefer to not adjust the image until we have your feedback. You can either approve the proof as is, or request additional corrections. If corrections are requested, we perform them and send another proof. This process continues until you are satisfied with the color.
The need for additional corrections and proofs depends on many factors and is difficult to predict. Some artists and photographers are more particular about precise color matching that others, and some originals use colors, such as fluorescents or metallics, that are very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately reproduce. Certain medias make it difficult to achieve some colors, and some colors don't scan or photograph accurately which requires more work to correct. For an exact match, we may go through six or more proofs, and sometimes the artist is happy with the first proof. It is most common for the first proof to be very close and for some additional minor corrections to be required.
Step 3: Printing
Once the proof has been signed off, we can begin printing. Some medias come in sheets, but most are available in rolls, so we try to match the size and quantity of the prints to the correct size of media in order to use the media most efficiently and cost effectively. It is important to consider any margin you want left around the image for framing purposes as part of the print size when calculating the cost of the print, except for canvas prints where we have already included a 2 inch margin for stretching in our prices. Once the prints are completed we trim them to your specifications and examine each one for quality. We then package them for shipping. Our Artist and Premium canvas prints are treated with a special coating to give them further protection against moisture and abrasion, and in the long term, against cracking and mildew. The coating also gives greater elasticity so the canvas can be safely stretched. Canvas prints can either be stretched or shipped rolled. We offer standard stretching and gallery wraps, which is where the image wraps around the edges of the stretcher bar so the canvas can be hung without a frame. The cost of packaging and shipping will increase once the canvas is stretched, especially for larger prints, so if you have a good framer nearby who can stretch the canvas for you, that may be less expensive in the long run.
When deciding on what quantity to print, keep in mind that the greatest financial advantage to digital printing is the ability to print on demand. You can print as few or as many of your limited edition at one time as your budget allows. While there are price breaks on printing larger quantities, it isn't necessary to print more than what is needed for immediate sale. Some artists print their entire edition at once to save money, but most print as many as they feel they will sell in a 3-6 month period. Since we can typically print and ship within 3-4 days, it's common to keep one print on hand and order prints from us as they sell. Because of this, you don't have to make a large investment to make reproductions of your work, which opens up the reproduction market to artists who couldn't afford the financial risk of printing a large edition. It is also perfect for artists who want to test the sales potential of a particular piece.
Step 4: Archiving
Since most limited editions are not printed at one time, we must keep the finished files where they can be easily printed again and match exactly to the previous prints. In order to do this, we archive the files in their ready-to-print state and also make duplicate copies for additional safety. We can also copy a reduced size version of the finished file to your media at no charge, or burn it to a CD for a fee. This finished, color corrected file could be used for a variety of other printing purposes such as brochures, ads or websites without having to pay for these services all over again.
At this point, we can continue to print as requested until the entire edition has been printed. We also offer a Certificate of Authenticity, which is commonly included with the print or attached to the back. See our Giclee Q & A page for more information about certificates.
An increasingly popular option is the addition of hand painted details over the finished giclee print. This is mostly done with canvas prints. The artist can go over the Giclee print and touch the highlights, for example, so that there is some surface texture from the paint, giving the illusion that the print is actually an original. There are also clear impasto coatings that can be applied over the finished canvas. The clear material is applied like paint so that actual brush strokes are visible. Since the material is clear, it is difficult to tell that it is not the actual image that is painted, but a coating. For maximum effect, the brush strokes need to be applied to match the style and location of the original brush strokes. It can be time consuming, but the results are very impressive and the finished piece is much more valuable as a result. Many people apply random brush strokes to the surface to achieve a painted effect. While not as convincing as when the brush strokes match the painting, it is much quicker and easier, and still give surface texture to the print.
We hope this overview has helped clarify the process. If you have more questions, please contact us and we will be happy to help.