How to publish prints and why

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How to publish prints and why

How to publish prints and why? That is the big question for artists nowadays. It is big because there have been important developments in the art publishing world over the last few years.

Crucial factor number one.

Artists can make archival quality inkjet prints (giclee) at reasonable prices. Epson and other print machine manufacturers have produced machine and ink products that are an absolute game changer in the publishing world. No longer has an artist got to slave away over litho plates, etching plates, silk screens etc. Instead just set up the system and press a button. Well of course it is not quite that easy, but it is very much more efficient, higher quality, and more assured than it used to be. Artists can use a print specialist or they can set up their own system for affordable prices.

Epson printer

Crucial factor number two.

Print on demand. The same easy-to-use high-quality machines provide a very new feature in the print market. ‘Print on demand’ is changing everything because the artist or publisher need only make prints one at a time. No longer is it necessary to print an entire edition at once. This cuts down start up costs, and it cuts out storage costs, and it cuts down waste, and that means that artists and publishers can offer many more images than they could before using previous technology. This in turn means that many more images can be offered to many previously unused market niches.

Crucial factor number three.

The Internet. Artists and publishers can show their published prints to millions of people all over the world within seconds at hardly any cost. All they need to do is access the World Wide Web either through their own website, or an existing website, or through social media like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or similar. Sites like ArtFinder, Etsy, and others, already exist and millions of existing collectors are easy to access. Even better, an artist’s own website will enable artist self-publishers to by-pass the middle ground and deal direct with potential collectors for the full price of their product.

Crucial factor number four.

Photoshop and similar computer software enables artists to develop and improve their images digitally. In image can be cropped, reduced, blown up, reversed, and more. The colour can be saturated, toned down, darkened, lightened and more. The texture can be changed to include watercolour, pastel, effects etc etc etc. The digital world is the artist’s oyster. Original paintings can be reproduced exactly, or improved, or mixed with photographs, or merged together. Ye Gods! The modern artist has been given the keys to heaven.

So how should artist publish their art?

The simplest way is to make good pictures, take good photographs of the image, upload to Photoshop on your computer, manipulate to get a very good quality 300dpi file at the required size, and then print yourself or get a bureau to print for you, using lightfast pigmented inks on coated fine art paper. Then do your own selling directly to collectors. Oh OK. I made that sound simple, but of course it is actually rather difficult. And then you have got to do it all over again and again.

Or, spend a lot of time and trouble getting a publisher to do it for you. This way you get only a fraction of the income from any sales but in theory you can take your foot off the accelerator once the images start selling.

So why should artists publish their art?

Firstly… Because they can. And it is an exciting way of making art.

Secondly… It just makes very good business sense to create a high-quality, affordable, fine-art product that is less expensive to produce, and market, and then to offer the product to your collectors. That means that you can get a better price for your originals as well.

Thirdly… Business success gurus stress the importance of ‘leverage’. That is where you get the most benefit from a successful product. A good original painting can be reproduced as a print and provide far more income over a longer time period than just painting pictures and selling them one by one can ever do. The potential worldwide exposure of many more of your best images will nurture your brand and expand your collector base as well.

So why do some artists resist?

If the artist really likes making art, and doesn’t see themselves as a professional contender, and doesn’t need the money, then maybe the extra learning needed, and extra time involvement, to be able to master the publishing market is just not very attractive. Fair enough.

But I hope that they do not kid themselves into justifying non-involvement by claiming that publishing, and self-publishing, are anything other than very legitimate and worthy for the rest of us.

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Colin Ruffell was born in 1939, then he was bombed, evacuated, educated, expelled, repatriated, married, bred, qualified and taught; until in 1965, aged 26, he became a professional artist. Since then he is proud and happy to have survived. He qualified from two Art Colleges in painting, design and printmaking, and the Open University in psychology and aesthetics, plus he has a reasonably clean driving license. He has founded, led or organised the following; Spectrum Studios, Artists in Action, Bayswater Road Artists Association, 9-Plus Artists Group, Buckingham Fine Art Ltd., Brighton Artists Workshop, European Fine Art Ltd., The Fine Art Trade Guild, The Fiveways Artists Group, and Crabfish Ltd.