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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

Fader agrees. “We can look at a proof and see where it’s off,” she says. “But if you haven’t already messed with the image to get rid of flaws from the capture, it’s easy.”

Principle 4: Know your materials
The range of substrates available for fine-art printing is vast, from specialized paper to canvas-like cloth. Your customers will expect you to know about them, so be prepared for an investment of both time and money. As Nielsen says, “There are a lot of papers out there. There’s a lot of education needed to get into this field.”

Brown advises, “Artists want to know about the materials—what’s it made of, how long will it last, will it stretch well? We give them the manufacturer’s specs, but it’s our experience that makes us comfortable guaranteeing what will work well.”

And, Silicon Gallery’s De Coyte says, the artist will want to see what you’re printing on. “We show the artist paper and canvas samples, and we have color charts for different papers. We’ll stock 15 or 20 different materials, so the investment in the paper and the canvas is pretty high.”

Principle 5: The print is the artwork
You may think of fine-art printing as an exercise in duplicating an original, but artists sometimes want more than that. Many artists regard the printing process as another step in the production of the final work and will ask you to do more than just replicate what they give you.

Dave Witbeck (, a Rhode Island artist and client of Iolabs, is one of those artists. “I’m not a nitpicker when it comes to color, as long as it looks good. I was a professional photographer for 25 years, and by the time my work got printed in a magazine, the color was going to change anyway. That’s the way I am about giclées, too—I just want it to be good.”

“I’ve actually asked for the proofs to be made less like the original, to boost color or increase contrast,” Witbeck continues. “After the first proof, the original painting is almost irrelevant. No one’s going to see it anyway.”