How To Make Professional Quality Prints of your Artwork at Home
Have you been thinking about making prints of your original artwork at home but don't know where to start? Perhaps you're already selling art prints through an external source but you want to know how to make them yourself.
This page will take you through each step of the process of making your own art prints, from deciding whether or not it's worth the investment, to choosing a printer, scanner, fine art paper, and more!
I hope that this helps you move forward with making your own art prints with confidence!
Should You Make Your Own Art Prints?
Is Making Your Own art prints worth the investment?
Making your own art prints is now easier than ever, with really high quality equipment available to the general consumer at surprisingly affordable prices. The question is -- is it worth it for you?
Depending on how archival and professional you want to go with making your own art prints, you could spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands and thousands of dollars on equipment and materials.
You have to decide if you're ready to put in the time and money required to get yourself set up as your own printing studio, or if that sounds like way too much effort and frustration. But you can't make an informed decision about it without...well, being informed!
The truth is, for many artists looking to make their own art prints, the process is arduous at best and can get very expensive with wasted ink and paper trying to get things to come out right.
You can always order a short run of prints at a local print shop or online first. This way, you have a low up front investment and you can get just a few of your pieces printed to see how they come out. But... if you care about being cost-effective and producing the highest quality possible for your budget, it can be really rewarding and beneficial to have total creative control and make things yourself.
Still convinced you'd like to make your own art prints? Woohoo! Let's get you started!
Making Art Prints Step 1: Digitally Capturing Your Art
Camera or scanner? What resolution? How many megapixels?
Each component of making your own art prints is equally important - from your original piece down to the paper you're printing on.
The first step in making art prints is capturing your artwork digitally so that you'll be able to print it from your computer.
This is often easier said than done, and this is why professional art print labs and giclee studios are able to charge the hundreds of dollars in set up fees that they do when making high quality reproductions of original artwork for artists!
Professional studios have 'digital capture' equipment which involves an extremely high resolution camera and perfect studio lighting set up to enable them to get the clearest, most accurately colored representation of your artwork possible. Chances are, sadly you do not have this type of equipment in your home or studio.
But... there is good news! You can also achieve a really high quality reproduction at home with the right set up and equipment.
Many artists who create smaller works are successful with a flatbed scanner.
If your artwork is too large to fit on your flatbed scanner, you have some options:
You can try taking a picture with a digital camera, or scanning your piece in installments. Both of these methods involve precision and a unique set of very specific instructions to make sure they produce high resolution, clear, professional quality images for you to be able to use for your prints. Instructions for this and other nuances of the fine art printmaking process will be available to you at Art Print Academy, opening soon! (if you visit the site now you'll see a 'coming soon' page where you're welcome to sign up for the newsletter to be notified when it's live!)
You also always have the option to take your original artwork to a print shop, have them digitally capture your work, and then use the files you get on a CD to print your artwork from home if you desire! This can be quite pricey if you have several pieces in your collection, however, and color correction may not always match up with your set up at home, though, so remember to print some proofs on your own printer before committing to your really nice paper.
High Resolution Digital Scanners for Art Prints
Here are some scanners to look at that will recreate your artwork digitally with the utmost in color accuracy.
For the most control, there are certain settings you'll need to change and disable so that you are getting the cleanest, most un-altered image possible to work with.
I included one super-duper graphic arts scanner in this list. The HUGE plus about this one is it can scan originals up to 12 x 17 inches. This is pretty unheard of for a consume flatbed scanner! Since much artwork is at least 9 x 12 and often 11 x 14, this would be a huge plus and a great investment to have for longterm fine art printmaking at home.
Using a Digital Camera to Digitally Capture your Artwork
Using a digital camera to capture your artwork can be an excellent choice if you have the lighting and space available to make this work.
If you're unsure of whether your equipment or light source will provide you with high enough quality and color accuracy, there are often image capture experts at specialty photo stores you can ask to help guide you in the right direction.
Just a few of the key points to focus on include:
Making sure that your light source is neutral
Making sure your white balance is neutral
Completely eliminating shadows by using multi-directional light sources.
An entire site could exist on this topic alone! But to get you started, a DSLR camera is a must. As with all big purchases, just make sure to look over your options, read reviews, and make the decision that works the best for your needs and budget.
Making Your Own Art Prints Step 2: Choosing a Printer
Inkjet or Laser? Pigment ink or dye ink?
Choosing a printer can be the most daunting part of this whole process, because ultimately the printer is what's producing your results. However, if your prints are coming out unsatisfactory, don't blame you printer right away! Most often, it's an error in color calibration between monitor, scanner/camera and printer that is causing the problem! (More in-depth information about color profiling, calibration and other color issues will be available at ArtPrintAcademy.com!)
Inkjet or Laser printer for making art prints?
Laser printers are great for things like greeting cards or stickers, but for high quality fine art prints, it's best to go with an inkjet printer. This produces the closest to a giclee art print as opposed to a glorified 'color copy'.
Lucky for you, photo printers are getting really good these days, allowing virtually anyone to produce high quality, fade-resistant prints at home. But there are a lot of choices for professional inkjet printers.
Which do you choose?
If archival quality is of utmost importance to you, you'll want to find a printer that uses pigment-based inks instead of dye inks. What's the difference? Well, pigment inks hold their color the longest of the inks offered for printers on the market today. Dye-based inks are more water-soluble than pigment-based inks, but...they are also often more vibrant, particularly with deep black.
Dye based inks won't fade tomorrow or anything, though! I did a lot of research when deciding which printer I was going to use for my art prints, and ultimately decided on the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II. It has dye-based inks, but they are conditioned to last a very long time, particularly if they're not showcased in direct sunlight for long periods of time.
image of the Canon pixma pro 9000 Mark II printer on Amazon.com
The Canon Pixma Pro Printers for Art Prints
I can't recommend the Pixma Pro series highly enough. The quality is really outstanding, and whether you want the long-lasting dye-based inks or the more technically archival pigment-based inks, both are an excellent choice for making fine art prints at home. Their latest, the Pixma Pro 100 is the replacement for the prior Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II and I use it for all of my professional art prints that I sell.
Canon or Epson? Which do you prefer?
There's a pretty heated debate in the art print world with folks that either prefer Epson or Canon printers with incredible loyalty. I happen to have a Canon printer that I adore, but I'm not knockin' the Epsons either! I just haven't tried one.
If you have a Canon or Epson printer, which do you prefer and why is it awesome? Leave your (friendly and courteous!) debate here!
Which is the best printer for fine art prints? Canon or Epson?
Make Your Own Art Prints Step 3: Printing Your Art Prints and Avoiding ICC Profile Problems
This step can get *very* complicated if you're printing your own art prints from home, and it's this component of making your own art prints that most often sends artists throwing in the towel, or pulling out their hair, or both.
For example, I have a Canon Pixma Pro 9000 professional quality inkjet printer. It is AMAZING and I love it to pieces. That said, if I try to print on paper that doesn't have a specific ICC Profile preloaded into the printer software, it. looks. TERRIBLE.
The key to having this process go smoothly is ensuring that all devices you are using to manage your artwork - from camera to scanner to printer to computer monitor - are calibrated with one another. This means that the color values on each system are synched up so the red in a flower you painted looks the same on the screen as it does on your print. This eliminates the guess work involved that so many artists do when making prints, wasting page after page and ink cartridge after ink cartridge tweaking and trying to get things to look right.
If you've found that you're struggling with this as well, here are some helpful resources regarding ICC profiles and different types of paper and color settings for printers.
High Quality Fine Art Inkjet Paper For Art Prints
The paper really makes a huge difference in how your art prints come out. But as I mentioned in the ICC profile/color calibration section, if the paper you choose is not a paper associated with your printer's built-in ICC profile list, be prepared to either attempt to track down an ICC profile for that paper from the manufacturer (which can still often be inaccurate), or be ready to make your own with a calibration device like the ColorMunki.
100% cotton paper makes a lovely statement for art prints. I personally love to use Red River's Aurora Fine Art White.
Helpful Fine Art Paper Tip: If you don't want to commit to buying a whole package of paper that you haven't had the chance to see in person, a great solution is finding a variety pack! Many brands offer sample packs that allow you to test and try them all to see what you like best. This way you can feel them and see how the colors come out and choose what's best for you without a large up front investment.
Make Your Own Art Prints Step 4: Trimming Your Print to Size
Assuming you have survived the ICC profile quicksand, you now have a beautiful fine art print in your hands just waiting to be trimmed and signed. Congratulations!
I've read that some fine artists like the precision of using an X-ACTO knife and a ruler for their prints. Others like rotary cutters and a ruler, or an all-inclusive paper cutter.
Printers can often print your image a little bit crookedly on your paper, so it's always a good idea to make sure whatever method you're using, you've lined up the edges of your image to be trimmed with a border or to the image, rather than just measuring inward from the edges of the paper.
I personally use a paper cutter for my prints, cards, and invitations. It's put out by Carl and it is very easy to use. You don't risk cutting yourself because the blades are concealed under a handle that you just slide to cut the paper. The one drawback is that you don't always have the easiest time lining up your paper, but you get the hang of where the edge is with practice.
It's also convenient because there's a grid right on the board you put your paper on that's marked with inches on the X and Y axis as well as outlining standard picture sizes like 4 x 6, 5 x 7, etc. so you don't have to do extra measuring.
Paper Cutters and Trimmers to Cut Your Art Prints to Size
I love my Carl trimmer and I haven't even had to replace its blade yet! I've included a few different sizes below so you can have a look at what they look like, how they work, and the different pricing options available. You can even get different blades like scoring, perforation, crinkle, etc. for other paper projects.
Replacement Blades and Decorative Blades for the Carl Paper Cutter and Trimmer
You can find a variety of blades that interchange in the Carl cutters which really expands their functionality and usefulness in a variety of projects you might have. You can also get replacement straight cutting blades for everyday paper cutting use.
I have yet to replace the blade on mine, but now that I'm thinking of it I should probably do that! They're really very sharp and easy to exchange, and there is a neat little cubby for them on the underside of the papercutter for safe keeping.
Make Your Own Art Prints Step 5: Packaging and Framing Your Art Prints
So you've successfully printed and trimmed your own art prints. Hooray! It's a great idea to sign your prints, too. Whether you're doing a limited edition run or an open edition, customers generally like seeing your signature, even if it's lightly in pencil in the border or on the back. It makes it more official and personal.
Once you've trimmed and signed your art print, it's time to frame it or package it to sell!
Framing options are seemingly endless, and it really comes down to a matter of personal taste. If you're comfortable making your own frames, you can purchase materials at art stores, frame shops, or photography shops.
If you prefer to leave it to the pros, there are many frameries and art stores that offer great deals on custom framing.
For selling prints, a frame is not always necessary. Since frames are such a personal choice, customers are often better off purchasing their own frame to suit their decor..
I like to slip my art prints into an archival cello sleeve that has a self-sealing edge. This keeps dust and dirt away from the print, keeps it safe in transit if I'm mailing it to a customer, and also protects from general shelf wear or fading. If you have several prints you're getting ready to pack away for a show or to send in the mail, putting them in individual sleeves makes it easy to store them, stack them, and organize them in a folder or drawer.
Some great online retailers for cello sleeves are ClearEnvelopes.com and ClearBags.com They're both the same company, but one deals with higher bulk purchases and the other in smaller orders. Definitely have a look. I've heard of a few other places like Nashville Wraps as well. Basically it comes down to doing your research and finding the best price for your particular needs.
*Art Print Wrapping Tip*: Find self-seal envelopes with the seal on the outside of the envelope. Some put their glue seal on the flap itself, but this can be dangerous because when you pull your art print out of the envelope it could touch the plastic and get stuck or torn. With the strip on the outside of the envelope instead of the actual tab that folds over, you keep the sticky strip away from being able to ruin your print!
So You've Made Your Own Art Prints
I hope this has been helpful to you! I've given you many of the tools and tips to get you well on your way to capturing your artwork digitally, printing your art prints at home, and cutting and wrapping them for display or mailing to your customers
Thanks so much for reading and best of luck with creating and selling your own art prints!
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Are you making your own art prints at home? If not, what do you do to produce your fine art prints accurately and professionally? I'd love to hear more about different people's choices, solutions to problems they've come across, etc. Leave a comment or question here and get the discussion started! :)
Leave Your Comments and Feedback
anonymous on August 10, 2013:
Thank you so much for great information. It really inspired me to keep continue my art work.
Mommy-Bear on June 13, 2013:
I wish I was more creative I love to make my own artwork. Great lens.
anonymous on February 21, 2013:
Lots of great info here! I print custom clothing for fashion brands and events, and have created a checklist for my
clients to follow when creating artwork for t-shirt printing - just thoughts I'd mention it in case any one is doing that :)
The article is on our blog at iconprinting[dot]com
rwhitmore on November 27, 2012:
Some of the cameras suggested in this lens on how to capture the original artwork could do with an update because there are much better options out there at the moment with higher resolutions etc. Otherwise a great lens!
anonymous on November 06, 2012:
How about inkjet printing on NON inkjet papers? There are some beautiful colored art papers out there for drawing but of course they are not coated to avoid ink spread.
Looking to get back into ink jet printing as a pencil and sketch artist. I did photo printing for a long time but got tired of the expense and clogged ink heads and waste. Epson really soured me, their heads are always clogged if you don't use the printer for a week or two. (I have one in the basement I haven't used in two months, guaranteed the heads will all be stopped up.)
1) Is there a better ink or printer type that doesn't spread so much on uncoated papers?
2) Is there some kind of spray coating that could be applied to paper to get the ink to lay down correctly?
3) Are Epson printers still prone to head clogs? Is Canon any better?
southpaw23 (author) on October 07, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi Janet,
For my art prints, I ship them packed against archival backing board in an archival cello sleeve and then slip that into an appropriately sized stay-flat mailer. That makes sure nothing gets bent in the mail. : )
Itaya Lightbourne from Topeka, KS on September 20, 2012:
Fantastic tips for making art prints! Angel Blessings. :)
anonymous on September 08, 2012:
Great information. One question about shipping. What kind of container do you recommend..
southpaw23 (author) on July 24, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi Jennie,
My apologies for taking SO long to reply to this! It somehow slipped by me. I've scanned canvas art before without problems, but I was deliberately painting at a size that would fit on the scanner bed. If it's a bigger piece, many have had success scanning large pieces in sections and piecing them together in photoshop. I've run into trouble with this, however, because on my scanner the glass is not flush with the rim of the scanner bed. There's a slight 'lip' to the plastic, so the piece won't actually be able to sit right against the glass, causing it to come out blurry. If this is a problem you're running into, perhaps taking the lid off of your scanner or finding a local fine art giclee shop that can do image capture would help (though that can be super pricey). If your artwork fits the scanner bed, though, I'd say unless your paint is very thick and varied in its height off the canvas, both canvas and paper scan well. I hope this helps you!
southpaw23 (author) on July 24, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi Bruce,
I'm so glad you found this useful! Unfortunately I'm not too well-versed in the all-in-one printer scene. I have a separate scanner and a separate printer for my work. When I look into things like that, though, I'll usually look for reviews on CNet, and Amazon can be helpful too, for the buyer standpoint as opposed to tech editors. Whatever you end up using, if you're aiming to be scanning artwork and printing art prints using the same machine, I'd say keep an eye out for being able to scan at a high resolution, and using the best inks possible.
Barbara Isbill from New Market Tn 37820 on July 23, 2012:
great / helpful info. thumbs up!
anonymous on June 18, 2012:
Check out http://www.inkjetstation.com/ for the highest quality papers and canvas to make your own gallery-ready fine art prints at home. We offer full solutions for elegant gallery wrap canvas prints including eco-friendly coatings and stretcher bars all in one convenient location. Print more for less at Inkjet Station.
anonymous on June 12, 2012:
Very helpful, thank you!.... Even tho I'm an Epson lover. ;)
anonymous on May 31, 2012:
Thank you, thank you! I searched the other comments and would like to know if you can recommend an all-in-one printer that includes a high quality scanner and printer for scanning my original paintings and drawings to then create multiple prints?
anonymous on March 19, 2012:
What an awesome and informative article. Thank you so much! I have a question though...right now, I'm doing my art on canvas and selling the originals like hotcakes, so I'm interested in making prints. I've done some prints at home by scanning my canvas art...but was wondering if you would suggest using a different material for the original. Does certain paper scan better then canvas would?
southpaw23 (author) on February 06, 2012:
@anonymous: Hi Jude,
I use the Canon 9000 Mark II, not the 9500, but I know they're very similar printers, one using pigment-based inks and the other dye-based.
In regard to your concern about the 35mm border, I definitely hear you on that one! I have struggled as well with cards. I had purchased a pack of the Museum Etching paper to try out when I first got the printer, which has its own setting in the printer properties that imposes the border. That paper is thicker than what I currently use, the Fine Art Photo Rag 188gsm by Canon (partnered with Hahnemuhle).
I have made greeting cards myself on this printer as well, so I'm glad that you reminded me! You will need to set up your own custom paper size in the settings, and for things like photos, this printer does have a print-to-the-edge feature.
I have yet to get that to work properly in the more robust fine art settings, so I've made cards and then hand-trimmed and scored them to remove the border. I'm still attempting to figure out the best solution for that. I've also made cards with pre-trimmed, pre-scored greeting card paper from Red River Paper, but I would like a more substantial cardstock to use and not the flimsy cardstock that is so often marketed as 'greeting card' weight.
As far as output on fine art vs. matte paper selection, I'm not sure how much you have dug into this (I have wasted a LOT of paper and ink), but it really comes down to the ICC profiles for the specific paper you're using and the printer you're using. Anything outside of the Canon brand will require a custom ICC profile, one that either can be downloaded from the manufacturer of the paper you're using that matches your printer model, or you may have to create your own. In addition to selecting the proper profile, you also have to dig into the settings to make sure you have everything working together in terms of whether the printer or Photoshop (or whatever program you're using) is handling the color management, or if you're turning color management off altogether and foregoing using the printer drivers, or if you are using the drivers, what type of rendering intent you're using, etc. It can get really complicated and frustrating.
I haven't attempted my own customized ICC profile before, but there are a lot of tutorials out there for the brave souls who take this on with a monitor calibration device and advanced printer settings, etc.
I'm with you on the art card problem. I've found much success and beautiful results when printing ACEO art cards, and prints, using the Canon fine art photo rag paper. But the border can be an annoyance for sure when moving to heavier weight fine art papers. I know there are some forums out there that discuss this and I'm not sure if there's a workaround. A great resource if you want to read up further on color profiling and preparing your artwork or photos for printing correctly on different types of paper is Tim Grey: http://www.timgrey.com/articles.htm I hope this helps!
Thanks for your comment!
anonymous on February 06, 2012:
review by heavy user who makes fine-art cards at home who says this about your crush (canon 9500M2) : I discovered that I could not choose any of the fine art settings because Canon imposed a 35mm margin all around for any fine art paper selection. I was not pleased with the output using the matte paper selection.
You recommend this so highly for personal art work - funny you didn't think of one of the most common cottage industry art products.
MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on October 07, 2011:
I've been wanting to do this for a while now. Thank you for the info. This lens is worth bookmarking for future reference. A thumbs up to you!
anonymous on August 16, 2011:
succint and helpful, thanks for a great writeup!
editionh on March 06, 2011:
Good evening, nice lens. Your artwork on Etsy is great too!
By chance I am angeling the superb printmaking section ;) so here is your blessing!
GoldenChile on January 30, 2011:
wow, what comprehensive lens. I'll need this in the future.
jp1978 on October 15, 2010:
Must try this sometime with my daughter's art.
southpaw23 (author) on October 04, 2010:
@WildFacesGallery: Thanks so much! It's definitely a trial and error type of process, I think, but I have a pretty good system down that works for me. My only trouble now is if I want to print on different papers that aren't included in my printer's ICC profiles. Then it gets tricky and I want to bang my head against a wall!
How do you make yours? Do you have a flatbed scanner or do you take high resolution images for giclees, etc?
Mona from Iowa on October 04, 2010:
Your lens looks pretty thorough. I'm glad you have actually made your own prints so can talk knowledgeably about the process. We actually do our own printing as well as provide the service for other artists.
Am lensrolling to my How To Know If Your Ready To Make Prints lens.