The fine art of reproducing Fine Art

Tips when not supplying original artwork

To create the highest quality edition possible, your original artwork has to be transferred to a digital file. While we can work from supplied transparencies and digital files, we have found that allowing us to make the transparency or digital image direct from your original art will always provide superior results as we have perfected an in-house system of image quality control. The digital file format we use gives us the versatility to manipulate an image prior to hardcopy production. Lines, textures, colours and contrast can be altered, enriched or eliminated. All files will be archived for future prints.

tranny illustrationI want to supply Digital Paintbrush with a transparency, not my original art
If you supply transparencies please have them professionally produced. You should use a commercial photographer who is used to the technical accuracy required for superior reproduction. A grey card, at the very least, must be included in the shot – preferably a step wedge and colour bar as well. The minimum size of transparency is 645 format, anything bigger is better (before we switched to digital origination we used 6x8cm and 5″x4″ formats).

digital image illustrationI want to supply Digital Paintbrush with a digital file, not my original art
Right, several factors to take into account here. Resolution affects the maximum size of reproduction. A personal digital camera costing under £500 is likely to reproduce up to A4, pay £1500 and you may be able to go up to A3. Ultimately it is lens quality that wins out – large prints reveal the use of inferior lenses. Image manipulation programs such as PhotoShop are able to resize files, but please resist the temptation to do so. It really doesn’t help at all – it is the pixels that come out of the camera that matter. Again, please get a professional to do the work if you can. Remember the grey card inclusion!

Of course, you may already have a scan from a tranny or a digital file from a previous job or you work in digital media. In this case a good rule of thumb for maximum print size is 200 – 300 ppi (pixels per inch) at final size. We accept files in most formats – TIFF, PSD, EPS, PDF are fine. They can be CMYK but RGB is preferred as it has a much wider colour gamut, they must carry a colour profile or sRGB will be assumed, they can be 8, 12 or 16 bit per channel. An inkjet guide print is invaluable to us – you can mark this up with cropping / colour balance / caption information etc. and is another check for us to be sure that what we see our end is what you saw on your computer.

grey card illustrationWhat is this grey card thing?
If we are reproducing art without the original in sight then colour and tonality become a matter of personal judgement. What we think looks fine may actually be nothing like the original art or your intentions. Therefore, the inclusion in the periphery of the image (and cropped out of the final reproduction) of a known standard value such as a Kodak grey card will allow us to eliminate any colour cast. A step wedge that shows tone steps from white to black gives us a good idea of the tonal value and gamma of the transparency, scan or digital image. The colour bar indicates the level of colour saturation and the purity of colour across the spectrum.

grey card illustrationYou talk about long life – how long?
The system of Vivera pigment inks and matching papers that we use is especially designed for long life. All pigments fade over time, that much is true. The question is how fast and what degree of degradation is acceptable? Independent research conducted by Wilhelm Imaging Research Inc., Iowa, USA http://www.wilhelm-research.com/ has shown by accelerated light stability tests that print life varies from 37 to 250+ years depending on the print medium. Full details are obtainable from their web site but, as with any art, sensible precautions should be taken – framed under glass or plastic to protect from fumes and airborne contaminants and light levels of 450 lux 12 hours per day @ 24°C / 60% humidity. Put simply – frame under glass, avoid dampness and high humidity, avoid direct sunlight and the prints will last a lifetime without fading unduly.

(Independent evaluation of print permanence testing can be found here: www.wilhelm-research.com/hp/Z3200.html )