For many artists, making reproductions of their work is an important way to generate income. Bob asks some very important questions on that topic.
I need some advice. I am new at CP.
As I get going, I would like to be able to save my drawings so I can have a master of each and be able to make copies if someone would like to purchase one of any size. Obviously I don’t want to spend a lot of money because I may not find anyone that wants to buy anything. Here is a list of [questions] that have come to me so far.
- What is a good size drawing to to have when making a master?
- Without spending a lot of money, how do I take a good picture of the drawing?
- What do I do to make different sizes of the drawing?
- What’s a cheap way to keep the master copies?
What a great question! I love talking about the business end of colored pencil art almost as much as I enjoy talking about the creative end of it. You’ve given me a lot of opportunities!
I’ll address each question individually.
Warning! This is a long post!
Before I go any further, let me clarify terms. A lot of us use the words “prints” and “reproductions” interchangeably. Once something gets into the common vernacular, it’s next to impossible to get it out, but there is a difference between a print and a reproduction.
A print is created when an etching is made in copper, linoleum or some other substrate called a plate. The artist spreads ink over the plate, then presses paper onto the plate either by a flat press or a roller. Sometimes the artist rolls the paper by hand.
The resulting image is a print and it’s called that because it was printed directly from the plate. As a rule, a limited number of prints can be made from a plate before the printing process begins to wear on the plate.
A reproduction, on the other hand, is created indirectly from a photographic or digital image. The artwork is finished by whatever medium the artist prefers. Oils, acrylics, graphite, pastels, colored pencils. The finished artwork is photographed, the image is color matched, and then reproductions are created from the digital image. An unlimited number of reproductions can be made from an image.
I understand why so many people call reproductions prints. They are printed, after all. But in the strictest, most art-related sense of the word, they are not prints.
Tips for Making Reproductions of Your Work
What is a Good Size Drawing for a Master?
You can make a good master from any size of drawing, but in general, the larger the original, the more flexible you are in making a master for reproduction purposes.
The more important thing to consider is how you plan to make the master. I’ll tell you how I do it now and in the past.
The Way I Used to Make Masters
When I started making reproductions, my husband suggested a professional photographer photograph my work, so that’s what we did.
The photographer had a set up much better than what I could afford. He photographed the work, color corrected it, and then printed a proof.
When the proof was ready, I compared the original and reproductions side-by-side. Reproductions were then created on just about any paper I wanted, including canvas. My artwork at the time ranged in size from 11 x 14 to 20 x 24.
The reproductions from this method were identical to the original artwork. At least I couldn’t tell the difference. But they were expensive! Photography alone cost about $200 per painting. I received high-resolution images on CD when it was all said and done, but that was still a lot of money at the time.
The advantage is that it doesn’t matter how big or small the artwork is.
The Way I Make Masters Now
These days, I have a good scanner and I scan my own work. I scan at a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch—the higher the number, the better the resolution,) and usually save masters at 3000 pixels on the long side.
My scanner is just a hair over letter size, so all of my work is now small enough to fit on the scanner bed. That way I don’t have to stitch the images together in a photo editor, something that has never worked very well for me!
I no longer make reproductions of my work, but I have used some of those images for printing. Ann Kullberg’s Grazing Horses* tutorial is my work and those images were all created on my scanner.
I also have a piece in her DRAW Landscapes* book, and those images were scanned.
Print versions are available of both of those publications and the printed images look just as good as the originals.
So you could very easily scan your artwork this way and then make reproductions at home.
*Contains affiliate links
Another Way to Make Masters
A lot of artists use medium- to high-end cameras to photograph their artwork.
If you plan to do this, you need proper lighting, a tripod for your camera, and a method for displaying your work flat against the wall.
You also have to learn how to take the best images of your work. Automatic settings don’t always guarantee good results even with the best cameras.
As with professional photography, it doesn’t matter what size your original artwork is.
How To Get a Good Picture of the Drawing?
(Without spending a lot of money.)
The best way I get good images of my work is with a scanner. Even some of the more inexpensive scanners are capable of producing excellent images with good color.
I currently use a HP Deskjet 1510 printer/scanner. It’s an older model, but still available through outlets like eBay. I found several on eBay while writing this article, and prices began at $25.
It’s good quality, scans anywhere from 100 dpi to 2400 dpi and scans artwork up to a little over 8-1/2 inches by a little over 11-1/2 inches.
You also need a good photo editor for fine tuning the scanned images. I’ve use oned of two free downloads. IrfanView is good for basic adjustments. If I need to make more in-depth adjustments, I use GIMP. GIMP is more versatile, but also has a steeper learning curve.
I currently prefer Affinity Photo by Serif. It’s a paid program but it’s very versatile and Affinity has a great set of tutorial videos to get you started.
If you don’t have a scanner and don’t want to buy one, you can always have your work scanned by businesses like Office Max or some copy shops. These companies can usually scan larger work, and produce high-resolution files. The cost per image scanned is usually less than $10, too, so you can have one or two scanned, see how it works, and not pay and arm and a leg.
How to Make Different Sizes for Making Reproductions
Opening an account with Fine Art America is the easiest way to begin. Upload your master, and select the sizes best suited to your master. Fine Art America will do the printing for your customer and ship it.
Basic accounts are free and you can upload up to 20 images the last time I looked. They’re easy to set up and you can market different types of reproductions all from the same master.
No guarantees on sales, but if you want to test the market and you’re willing to do some marketing, it’s a good way to get started.
The only other option I see is to print your own reproductions at home. For that, you need a printer capable of printing larger sizes using archival inks. Those printers are not cheap.
If you go this route, you change the sizes in whatever photo editor you use. Just remember to always save the changes as a new file, and to never enlarge. Always reduce!
The Best Way to Store Masters
Since your masters are going to be digital, you need a computer and/or separate storage device to store them.
How much computer space you need depends on how many high-resolution images you plan to store.
Now I scan most of my work regularly so I have step-by-step progress shots. I also scan the finished artwork. I save all images at 300 dpi resolution and a miminum of 3000 pixels on the long side. That produces a print image 10 inches by whatever the short side is.
I have over twenty years worth of images stored. Not all of them include progress shots, and most of the older ones are not at 300 dpi or 3000 pixels. I saw no need for larger images back then.
At the moment I’m writing this, all of those files (including written painting journals) are nearly 20 gigabytes total. I have them stored on the hard drive of our desktop computer, and backed up to a flash drive (aka thumb drive.)
CDs or external hard drives are also a good way to store digital masters.
I don’t know how likely it is that you’ll have film masters, but if you do, your best storage option is archival album sheets. I know such things are available, but that’s about the limit of my knowledge. Your best bet is to consult a professional photographer who has been in business long enough to have negatives in storage.
My Advice for Making Reproductions of Art
You’ll like my final word of advice (I hope.)
Start where you are.
Your idea to start creating and saving masters of each piece is a very good one and long-sighted. Good for you! Use the equipment you have to create the best possible masters. Remember, larger and higher resolution is better.
Upgrade equipment when you can and after you’ve established a market.