art business, Painting

Adventures in Leveling Up My Business, part I: making prints myself

I made a lot of big plans for Fairy Tree Studios this year. I wrote out a business plan which includes some short- and long-term goals; I listed out some of my next “big” projects; I researched potential markets to apply to through the end of 2022 and into 2023.

The first painting I attempted to make prints of. This scan (configured for a screen) looks a lot different from the file I use for printing (below).

I also used some of my profit from the Garden Festival to buy a very expensive printer.  

One of my goals for FTS has been to do start producing some of my art prints in-house. I’m fortunate to live near a really good print shop, but some of their services and fees are quite expensive, especially for new project setup — there’s process charges, and fees if you want them to scan the art for you, and etc. Prints themselves are reasonably priced, but there can be a hefty initial cost for prints of a new painting.  

I noticed on social media and through some art shopping of my own that a lot of artists produce their own prints. I spent weeks researching the best wide format printers for artists and finally settled on a pretty expensive but highly rated Epson model; after another week or two of waffling, I bought a Canon model instead. I have another Canon printer already and I’ve been really happy with (I used to to print both my yearly planner and the guest book for my wedding).  

I know a little bit about digitization and printing from my publishing and graphic design days, and there are plenty of online resources that explain ways to get the best results from your printer. Paper type and quality also makes a huge difference. Even so, my first few test prints with the new printer on paper I already had at home (which classified itself as “premium copy” paper) were not great. Some tweaks in Photoshop and my monitor settings got me closer, but the prints still weren’t good enough to sell. The color matching was the main issue: the lights were too dark and the darks were too light and the in-between shades are a little too cool in tone compared to the original painting.  

The particular model I bought is highly rated and frequently recommended by artists, graphic designers, and photographers on dozens of websites (plus Amazon and Best Buy and etc.). So I had to assume the problem was me. I hesitantly ordered a $50 ream of 100# Royal Sundance “premium” textured cardstock, similar to the paper my local print shop uses. Once it arrived, I tried some new prints of a painting with a different color palette. It still took some tweaking, but the results were immediately much better. By the second or third test, I was getting prints that were good enough (and much mnore accurate, color-wise) to sell, which was a HUGE relief.

I don’t know if the color difference is as dramatic on your screen as it is on mine, but this is the file I print from to get a printout that looks like the first image above.

The batch of prints for the first painting (my “Red Lilies”) on the new paper were much better after a little more tweaking, too. I don’t know how interested anyone is in the technical details, but both Photoshop and the printer have settings that can be adjusted depending on the weight and texture of the paper, PLUS Photoshop obviously has dozens of editing tools and color settings. And of course no matter what you do, it’s nearly impossible to get what you see on your monitor to match what comes out on paper.

Despite all that, I’m really happy that I went for it. Now I can do things like make prints on demand, which means I can expand my online shop without having to take up space in my studio (or paying for a batch of prints before I know that they’ll sell).

If anyone is interested in the technical details or wants to know more about the prints-at-home thing, let me know — if there’s enough interest, I can make it a future post topic. In the meantime, look for an expanded range of prints soon!

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