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The Fine Art of Success

(April 2008) posted on Wed Apr 09, 2008

Exploring the potential profits in fine-art printmaking.

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By Clare Baker

Carroll and crew proof on the chosen final media for a print, relying on the thoroughness of the color management throughout their workflow to ensure that the proofing process can be done quickly, accurately, and efficiently. In proofing, Carroll prints a strip of the print at 100% that generally is about two inches wide and includes most of the color range in the image. 'When I first began working here,' says Carroll, 'I would do, on average, about 10 proofs before I was happy. I’d print the strip and then make 10 or 11 adjustments in Photoshop. Now I've got the average down to about four.'

For final output, Artful Color primarily turns to its 44-inch Epson Stylus Pro 9600 with UltraChrome inks, but is looking to soon replace that printer with a 60-inch Epson Stylus Pro 11880. 'We're finding there's a greater demand for larger output among our clients,' says Carroll. The shop also purchased an HP Designjet Z3100 last year to round out its equipment offerings. The images are typically output onto Hahnemuhle William Turner fine-art rag paper, Hahnemuhle photo rag, and what Carroll refers to as a 'secret' heavyweight, matte-finish canvas.

Working with a shop like Artful Color has certain advantages for artists, Carroll explains: 'We and other specialized fine-art shops offer a finer quality of detail and have a higher threshold for what's acceptable. Smaller shops that have people with color science backgrounds oriented in color management and profile accuracy generally offer a product that’s much more accurate. When we reproduce a watercolor, you literally have to look at under a microscope to see the difference between the original and the reproduction.'

The challenge that such a specialized shop encounters is that it only appeals to a small market niche and, as a result, finding profitable customers can be a challenge. Artful Color, Carroll says, aims to work with artists who are successful in selling their work and so need a large number of prints output. The alternative is 'working with a lot of different artists who only print a small number of prints, which is a lot of work for marginal return,' he explains.