Giclee Fine Art Printing – Getting a Great Print Part 1 – Photography of Artwork

A Pigment print is a bit more than just an inkjet print. So what makes it fine art worthy? To qualify, the print must be achieved using archival grade pigmented inks on archival grade fine-art paper or canvas. While we love the look of the watercolor papers and canvas papers we don’t suggest using Giclee “photo papers”. For aesthetic reasons, we recommend that the artist get a fine art photographic print for that. But the quality of the fine art pigment print is not limited to the inks and papers you use. There is quite a bit more that goes into the craftsmanship than just the print alone.

There is a great many details that should be tended to, but the major areas can be broken down like this:

Photography of your artwork
Working the file before testing
Generating a worthy test print
Working the file again to refine the proof
Printing the final units or series

Each of these is important to understand so they may become an effective part of your workflow. Since there is a great deal of information to pass along,  I’ll split the content into a multi-part series.

Photography of art work

Every step in the production chain of your fine art edition is critical, but some steps, if improperly done, can be disastrous to the final viewer experience. The first step, photography of your artwork, is an excellent example. This step is the largest determining factor to the faithful reproduction of your original art. To create a great pigment print, the photography of the artwork should be:

  • Focused properly using high-end lenses
  • shot using a strudy tripod in a vibration free environment
  • photographed using the sweet-spot of the lens
  • in some cases, polarized light and or special lens filters may be required
  • exposed correctly with a critical attention to detail
  • evenly lit using the proper lights
  • correctly white balanced
  • shot in the proper file format and with sufficient resolution
  • shot in a colorspace that is large enough to capture the full range of the painting and supports the full range of the Pigment print

The right glass

Shooting with inferior lenses may result in various distortions, such as smearing around the edges, chromatic aberrations – where some colors focus differently than others, barrel or pin-cushion distortion, lens flares and overall lack of saturation and/or contrast.  Shooting with prime lenses and pro-level equipment will provide the highest possible image integrity and result in a file that achieves the closest honesty to the original.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Lens6a.svg/200px-Lens6a.svg.png

Chromatic aberrations of cheaper lenses result in out of focus images with color fringing.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/91/Apochromat.svg/200px-Apochromat.svg.png

Proper apo-chromatic focus results in all wavelengths (colors) focusing on the same plane for maximum sharpness and detail.

 

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/66/Chromatic_aberration_%28comparison%29.jpg

Bottom photo clearly shows effect of apo-chromatic aberrations.

Distortions, or bending of the image are another issue with lesser quality lenses with “pincushion” and “barrel” being the most common. Pincushion distortion has the effect of the center of the image being further away than the edges while barrel distortion is just the opposite. With barrel distortion, the center of the image appears closer to the viewer than the edges.

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/5b/Pincushion_distortion.svg/200px-Pincushion_distortion.svg.png

Pincushion distortion created converging lines towards the center of the image

Image courtesy of http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/63/Barrel_distortion.svg/200px-Barrel_distortion.svg.png

Barrel distortion creates diverging line near the center of the image

 

A quality image capture is not dependent exclusively on a good camera/lens combination.

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art

A high quality pro level tripod is a must for the artist who is serious about photography of art, and they are expensive.

All elements in the photographic process are important. For example: how the camera and art work are handled during the exposure process will add a measurable difference to the final product.

A good solid vibration free tripod is a must-have if you are serious about photographing your own work.  Any vibration in the camera or the original artwork during exposure will result in “motion-blur” that will visibly carry over to your reproduction prints. While lesser tripods may be appealing just because of their price, they are susceptible to vibration, “ringing”, sagging and slipping during exposure. Think of it this way, if cheapo gear would lead to professional results, then why would there be a need for “pro” gear, and why would the pros invest the top grade gear?

If you want to get the best looking print, and your are committed to doing your own photography of your art do yourself and your art buyers a big favor and use the gear that will get you fine art quality instead of drugstore quality.

A stable support for your artwork is equally important. Any movement in your art during exposure will result in motion blur issues that will leave the image looking out of focus or double-exposed. While it may be tempting to take your art outdoors for the photo session, keep in mind that your painting is much like a sail in the wind. The slightest breeze will result in movement in the artwork. Heavier breezes or gusts may damage your art. And shooting with only one light-source, such as the sun, does not provide even lighting across the entire painting. I know this sounds crazy, but it has to do with what is called “angle of reflection” This is basically a measurement of the angle the light-path takes as it reflects away from the subject towards the viewer or camera and it is always equal to the angle of incidence (the angle the light path takes to get to the subject).

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it's source.

The propensity of light falling on a subject will reflect away at an angle equal to that of it’s source.

Light falling on your canvas is more likely to scatter in a direction away from the light source. So let’s take the example to the right. The light source, in this case the sun, is to the left of the painting and the camera is directly in front of it. As we move across the canvas from left to right, we have less light reflecting in the direction of the camera lens. This results in the right side appearing darker than the left. This is called “fall-off”. Our eyes and brains adjust for fall-off for us, so we tend not to see it with the naked eye. While much of the light will “scatter” off in multitudes of directions, it is not enough to eliminate fall-off.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.

Since our light source is high and to the left of the subject, the brightest area will also be high and to the left.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting indoors gives you the greatest control over your environment for lighting and stability. When possible, setup your tripod on a concrete floor. Wood floors have flex and tend to amplify vibrations like a spring-board. If you must setup on a wooden floor, try to locate the load bearing supports under the floor and set your tripod in that area to minimize vibration. The farther you are away from the supports, the more amplified the vibrations.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series on Proper Lighting and Exposure. You can subscribe to our newsletter or via RSS to be notified automatically.

 

 

 

 

How to Setup Your Digital Files

We want you to have the best possible photographic print or fine art reproduction with the least amount of difficulty. For an engaging experience with outstanding results, simply follow the instructions below!

Recommended Working Color Spaces

While we suggest that you convert to profile for all large format prints (LightJet and Giclee Pigment Prints) we provide you the freedom to submit your files in any color space you prefer. The table below shows our recommended working spaces.

 GicleeLarge Format Photo (LightJet prints up to 49x120)Enlargements and Proofs (Frontier prints up to 12x18)
Recommended Working Color SpaceAdobe 1998 or sRGBAdobe 1998 or sRGBsRGB

A note on filenames

  • File names must have the appropriate .tif or .jpg extension and must not contain characters such as: \ / :*?”|’~ $ spaces right before the period, bullets or foreign characters.

Monitor Calibration and Color Profiles

  • Let’s start with how you see your digital files. Every monitor is different and changes over time. It’s important to keep your monitor calibrated and as close to output reality as possible. The purchase of a quality colorimeter is a good investment.
  • We calibrate our production displays using the X-Rite i1 Display 2 colorimeter. Our monitors are set to a gamma of 2.2 and a color temperature of 6500k. We use Daylight balanced (5000k) illumination for color assessment unless you request otherwise. This excludes backlit trans, which use an industry standard of cool-white.
  • The best prints come from the best digital files. No amount of profiling will accurately compensate for poor exposure, over-worked corrections or inaccurate color. Profiles merely help with attaining a print that is truer to the actual content of the file. We strongly recommend using a properly calibrated display with the correct working space/output profile combination for a given printer or device. If you want to learn more: Color calibration information is available by clicking here.

Turnaround

  • All instructions must be written legibly, verbal instructions will not be exclusively accepted. When supplying a file for output, job turn around times begin on the first business day when we have received all required elements to complete the job.
  •  Compress (zip archive) your fonts if you are uploading your files, or convert your text to outlines.

Please include:

  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Lightjet – converted to our output profile, or in a working space such as Adobe 1998 or sRGB
  • Failure to properly set-up and include all necessary files MAY DELAY YOUR JOB! Any production time required to correct set-up errors, improper color-space, incorrect file type, proportions etc, may result in intervention charges billed at a $60 set-up fee, plus applicable hourly rates. All output pricing is based on the size required to print all data in your layout, including crop-marks, registration marks and bleed. Because we use a multi-platform network, it is imperative that file names be fully cross-platform compatible; no punctuation or extended characters such as bullets, trademark, slashes, dollar signs, commas, etc. Hyphens and underscores are acceptable.

Programs

Our Fuji-Frontier Mini-lab only accepts .jpg and .tif RGB files (sRGB is preferred for the most predictable color). Layout files and or PDF are not printable on this device. Please convert your files to .jpg or .tif before submitting for small format printing.

For large format printing, we accept files from the most current versions of the most popular professional graphics and layout programs listed below. If you are using a different program for your work please give us a call.

Adobe In-Design

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Adobe Illustrator

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Adobe Photoshop

  • Flattened, uncompressed tiff or max quality jpg.
  • Adobe 1998 or sRGB.
  • We reccomend converting to our profiles when applicable
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.

Microsoft PowerPoint

QuarkXPress

  • .native, .eps, .pdf
  • RGB preferred
  • Please convert all text to outlines
  • All screen and printer fonts
  • Linked files
  • A hard copy layout with a color reference if applicable. For uploaded files, please include a client approved PDF.
  • Provide images in the proper color space as listed for each device.
  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Fonts

  • All screen fonts and printer fonts must be included or text converted to outlines.
  • DO NOT use keyboard commands for bold or italic fonts.
  • Use actual bold or italic fonts where applicable.

Layout

  • Whenever possible, prepare your layout to final size of output.
  • If full size is not an option, please use a scaling of 50% or 25% .
  • If bleed is not included within the document area then it will not be printed.
  • If there is no bleed included, we will usually enlarge the print slightly to accommodate mounting.
  • Please inform us of the final document print size, so the job is not delayed while we contact you for that information.

Color

  • All efforts will be made to approximate to your supplied color samples, however, due to the limitations of the different media, we cannot guarantee an exact match.
  • Color corrections that require more than global corrections will incur retouching charges. Items that we scan may require billable retouching time to match an original.
  • If a test must be approved before finals are hit, the finals will have normal turn around times, beginning from the time of approval for color.
  • If Pantone or process color matches are requested, we recommend calling so we can give you the closest equivalent color build for a given media.
  • All devices print differently, and different media on the same device may not produce the same results. An image corrected for one media may require additional retouching time to correct the image for another media.
  • Images supplied by the customer will be charged computer time to match color to a proof.
  • Remember, what you see on your monitor for color is not always a good indication of how the final print will look.

Proofs

  • If a proof is required, it will be done on the same device and media as the final print.
  • The proof will be the full image, printed to an 8″x10″.
  • If a strip test is requested at final size, there will be an additional charge applied.
  • If you require a proof after layout adjustments ie: text changes, image placement etc., we can email a PDF. If the files exceed 50 megabytes, we may print a screen capture of the layout. We will e-mail a PDF or screen capture free of charge.

Removable Media

We accept the following removable media:

  • CD-ROM/ DVD
  • Thumbdrive
  • Micro storage cards
  • You may also send you files via our web upload page.

LightJet – large format photo prints

LightJet Calibration Specifications and Profiles are available by clicking here.
Files submitted for LightJet output must be supplied:

  • In an RGB color-space
  • As non-compressed, flattened tiffs or maximum quality jpeg – no layered files.
  • Use of our profiles is highly recommended but not required.
  • At a minimum resolution of 150 ppi at 100% of final size.
  • For prints smaller than 20×24 it is recommended that the resolution of the file be closer to, but not to exceed 300 ppi. and rely less on the LightJet’s superior built-in interpolation.
  • The LightJet’s maximum resolution in normal mode is 300 dpi. For large prints from lower resolution files, we rely on the lightjet’s internal interpolation algorithms to achieve that final resolution.

Giclee Pigment on Canvas and Watercolor

  • The Pigment printers will print up to a 60 x 120 inch image area on a maximum paper size of 60 inches wide.
  • Watercolor paper or canvas,
  • Raster Images should be supplied at a minimum resolution of 200 ppi at 100% of output size as RGB TIFF- Adobe 1998 or sRGB.

Fuji Frontier Mini Printer for prints up to 12×18

The Fuji Frontier Digital Photo Printing Minilab accepts files in the following formats:

  • sRGB 8-Bit Tiff (no LZW)
  • sRGB 8-Bit Jpeg
  • Greyscale 8-Bit Tiff (no LZW)
  • Greyscale 8-Bit Jpeg
  • File names must have the appropriate .tif or .jpg extension and must not contain characters such as: \ / :*?”|’~ $ spaces right before the period, bullets or foreign characters.

Black & White Chromagenics Offer Stunning Tonal Range and Detail.

Using a chromagenic process to printBlack and White Chromagenic Prints Black & White on canvas offers visually stunning B&W Prints in the same sizes and pricing as we offer in all of our Gicleé Pigment Prints. You will be amazed at the beauty of the expanded tonal range and clarity of detail in these exhibition quality fine art  pigment prints. The standard features include continuous-tone like look, image permanence, tonal control and exquisite appearance while offering the unique advantage of greater dynamic range over conventional wet process printing.