<< Back to List of Drawing Tips Articles

Reproducing Drawings and Paintings

Making Prints and Reproductions

I am often asked by emerging artists: “How do I make prints?” This article will cover two of the most common forms of reproduction in use today. Many artists use one of the following methods for making print reproductions.

Offset Lithography

This is a traditional printing process involving the use of plates and ink with printing presses. Lithography is a great option for quantity if you plan to print at least several hundred copies of a print and have the funds to cover up front printing costs. Your cost-per-piece will likely be the lowest with offset lithography. To find a quality commercial printer, you may want to contact your local chamber of commerce and ask about printers who specialize in artist prints. Investigate mid-size print shops, as high end shops focus on much larger jobs than artist prints, and small shops may be more geared to lower-end production printing like advertisements, flyers, newsletters and the like. You want the best quality/price ratio you can get. My printer of choice for my pencil drawing reproductions is North Coast Litho.

Sometimes artists are intimidated by the higher initial cost of offset printing. Keep in mind that a commercial (offset) printer often utilizes giant sheets of paper. He may be able to run multiple prints on that same sheet (2-up, 4-up, etc.) This brings the cost per print down even further, something to be considered if you want numerous prints reproduced.

You can save some money by doing the pre-press file preparation yourself. If you do not possess the knowledge and skills to prepare work for reproduction, try finding a local graphic designer to assist you.

Digital Printing

This term covers ink jet, giclee, and other direct printing methods available today. The big plus with digital printing is the ability to print low quantities – even one print at a time. At the lower end of digital printing, you can purchase an ink jet printer (hopefully with archival inks and paper) and print your own reproductions. This assumes that you or someone you know has the ability to prepare the electronic files for optimal output.

At the higher end of the digital printing scale is the giclee print. While still a form of ink jet technology, the equipment used is geared for high-end output such as art prints. Giclee prints can even printed on canvas. Many professional color labs and some commercial printers offer giclee prints. Your cost/print will be higher than with offset lithography, but you can purchase only the number of prints you need. This can be an ideal way for an artist to get started selling reproductions. The same “pre-press” consideration applies here. If you can supply quality hi-res files, you will save money.

A note about archival inks and paper: I have seen artists selling reproductions printed by low-end ink jet printers with regular paper. Look at those prints 6 months to a year later and you will often see a faded image on yellowed paper. It is similar to the effect you see on aged newsprint, and has the same cause – acidic ph of the paper. This highlights the importance of using archival paper and inks for your reproductions. The last thing you want is a happy customer today, who morphs into an unhappy customer next year, because his purchase from you had literally faded away.