How to Make Prints of Your Art -- On a Budget

I get asked two questions ALL. THE. TIME. One of them is how I author published my books. The other is how I make prints of my art.  Today I'd like to [ f i n a l l y ] answer the latter.

Okay. So. You've got some art. You want to make it available in print form. But how? And how to do it without breaking the bank?

First you need to obtain a high quality image of your original piece.

Some artists have their pieces professionally scanned, and others take high quality photographs of their originals. I find the former pricey, and the latter unreliable, so I take a third path -- I scan my pieces myself.

When I first started selling prints of my art, I used a Canon printer/scanner combo inkjet thinger (an older generation of something like this). It served me well for a year or two, in spite of being finnicky and s l o w.

Then I created a mixed media painting that incorporated fluorescent orange paint. When I scanned the original, the scanned image was gray in the places where it should have been orange. After a bit of research, I learned that not all standard scanners are able to pick up fluorescent colors.

I decided to purchase a new scanner. After digging around on the internets, I landed on this Epson Perfection v600 scanner. A couple years later, I'm still using this scanner, and am very pleased with it. It's fast, produces a great quality image, and is easily compatible with all of the computers I've hooked it up to.

Yes, the Epson scanner is twice as expensive as the Canon, and it does not print or copy. But it does what I need it to do, and does it well and quickly. If you already have something like the Canon, I'd stick with that until you find yourself needing an upgrade . . . but if you're choosing between the two and don't need a printer, then I'd say go with the Epson.

Next, you need a way of producing your prints.

When I first started out, I produced my own prints. I made them using the aforementioned Canon inkjet printer/scanner thingamabob, printed on a cardstock-esque paper.

This resulted in endless frustration, not to mention wasted supplies and money. I didn't have the money to buy really nice paper to print on, and I often had to print an image two or three times to get the quality and colors right, which is expensive when you're using an ink-guzzler -- er, I meant inkjet printer.

So I decided to outsource my print-making. I asked around about local printers, but they all wanted to print bulk orders, and I couldn't afford that and wanted to print-on-demand. Searching online, I went with RedBubble.

RedBubble makes really high quality products. They are fantastic. But the profit for the artist is really, really tiny. I'd recommend RedBubble only if you don't care if you make money, or if you have SO many customers that the few dollars you make off each print really add up.

I do lovehow RedBubble offers cards, which come cello-wrapped with an envelope and can be offered in singles and in bulk. However, I disliked how the link printed on the back of the cards is for your RedBubble shop and cannot be customized (which makes sense for them -- I just don't like it). I'm still looking for a way to produce high quality cards without spending an arm and a leg, so if you know of a way, please let me know!

From RedBubble, I flirted with Fine Art America before moving my print-making business to iPrintfromHome, which I continue to use to this day. They offer high quality prints on a variety of surfaces, including fine art paper, and print with a white border, AND drop-ship to your clients. Which means that when someone purchases a print from my shop, I can order said print through iPrintfromHome's website, and they not only manufacture a wonderful print, but also ship it. I never even have to touch it, which makes this busy stay-at-home mama very, very happy. And I've had customers say, upon receiving their prints, that my shipping packaging is the best they've ever seen. I agree!

I also use iPrintfromHome to bulk order prints to take with me to craft fairs, or to accompany my work at art shows. Again, the quality of the prints is always fantastic, and the shipping conditions perhaps even more so -- and you save money on larger orders.

I do wish that iPrintfromHome would offer matting/cello-wrapping of their prints, as well as cards. Also, they don't ship internationally, so if I get an order from a customer outside of the US or Canada, I have to have the print shipped to me, and then I re-ship it to the customer, which is a pain. But those are really the only bad things I can say about IPFH.

Also, a fun thing about IPFH is that you are very aware in the best of ways that your prints are being produced by fellow humans. They're fun to interact with on Twitter, their customer service is fast and satisfying, and they even send you a little card every year on the anniversary of when you created your IPFH account. I love this about them.

There are definitely other ways to produce prints of your art. But this is what works for me and my budget, with my desire to be as in-control of my work and its production as humanly possible.

And I really think that this is the key with print production -- you need to do it in a way that's affordable and sustainable for you.

If your methods are overwhelming or overly expensive, you're probably not going to produce very many prints. Which is also okay (for example, one of my favorite artists, Micki Wilde, doesn't sell any prints, only original paintings), but again -- you get to decide. You don't have to do what everybody else is doing, or says you should, or is what "real artists" (whatever that means) do. You decide, and then own and enjoy it.

If you're an artist, how to you produce your prints? Do you have any recommendations? I'd love if you could share any advice you might have in the comments. And if you're don't make prints of your art and want to, are there any questions you have that I've left unanswered? Share them in the comments, and I'll do my best to answer them.


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