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Serving the Fine-Art Market

(February 2010) posted on Thu Mar 11, 2010

The fine-art printing market requires knowledge and skills the commercial wide-format market does not–here's what you need to know.

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By Jake Widman

Masterlab’s Brown, on the other hand, uses his cameras for the smaller items: “Artwork up to 24 x 30 inches, say, we capture with a high-resolution digital camera, either a Kodak or a Nikon, at 14 megapixels. For anything bigger than that, we shoot a 4 x 5 transparency and scan that on a Scitex/Creo or Epson flatbed scanner.”

Another consideration: Don’t forget that when you’re dealing with original art, you’re in charge of possibly delicate materials of great value. This means you have to be prepared to store and handle the pieces appropriately.

Principle 3: Know your color
To ensure that all the effort you put into good capture isn’t for naught, you need to make sure you have accurate color profiles for your media, printer, and possibly monitor. But the good news is that once you get your color workflow set up and locked down, the proofing and color-correction process becomes fairly straightforward.

Brown says, “At Masterlab, we have a dedicated computer to drive the printers we use for art, and we have a LaCie monitor connected to a Mac and dialed in tight to match those printers. We can fine-tune the colors on that monitor. We use some color profiles from the material manufacturers, and some we make ourselves with an X-Rite i1 calibrator.”

At The Color Group, Nielsen says, “We have a bunch of different stations with viewing booths, going back to when we were a color house. We bring up the image on a calibrated Barco or NEC monitor in Adobe Photoshop and compare it to the original. We’ll also print color swatches for further comparison.”

Ditto’s Fader takes a similar tack: “For proofing, we pick the best areas of the painting, print strips, and hold them next to the original under controlled lighting. Then we tweak, pull a new strip, tweak further, and so on.”

But, Brown warns, it’s not enough just to have a proofing setup. “You need to have someone who can see and know color. When you copy the painting, no matter how you do it, it doesn’t come out looking like the original. You have to be able to look at the image and know how and where to tweak it.”