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High-End Capture Processes Enable Large Format Reproductions

By Cassandra Balentine

 

The capture process is essential in the creation of wide format, fine art, and photographic reproductions. In addition to a world of commercial graphics, many printers focus on serving artists. From giclée prints to photograph reproduction, print providers rely on high-end capture solutions including flatbed and drum scanners and camera systems.

 

Without the proper capture equipment—an expensive endeavor—print providers can’t serve a client with an old photograph that they would like to see transitioned into a billboard or wall graphic. Those up to the challenge achieve a better portfolio, more experience, and a satisfied customer.

 

Here, we look at three printers well versed in the art of capture for wide format graphics.

 

Color Management Professionals

Michael Chambers, founder, Picture Element, started a business designed to provide high-end digital capture service for artists. Prior to opening in Santa Clara, CA, Chambers built years of experience as a photographer and photo lab technician. He began his career in the lab, taking artwork from copy film, scanning it to digital format, and reprinting with a Better Light, Inc. digital scanning back.

 

As digital photography advanced, Chambers began researching alternative capture methods. After seeing a Cruse Digital Imaging Equipment Synchron Table scanning system, and unsuccessfully convincing his boss to invest in the machine, he decided to open his own business built around the scanner.

 

Although the company was established to offer professional capture services, print soon became an offering. Picture Element serves two primary markets, photographers and artists. Photographers mainly come in for print work. Artists are looking for capture and print services.

 

Additionally, the business hosts photography workshops throughout the year, aimed at teaching photographers how to produce professional prints from camera to output. Presented by well-known photographer Charles Cramer, Picture Element offers its facility for the printing portion of the workshop.

 

For all of its work, color management is essential to the process. With the help of the latest technologies and skill, Chambers is confident in the shop’s color expertise. Starting with his photo lab days of color correcting images, he learned the basics of color and continued to develop his skills as technologies emerged and evolved. Because of this knowledge, Picture Element offers high-end, consistent printed output.

 

For capture work, lighting is integral to the process and helps ensure color accuracy. As Chambers explains, the Cruse offers an advantage as the lighting remains steady while the bed moves underneath an original as it is scanned. By changing the mode and timing of the bed, the light is manipulated for shadow and texture effects.

 

For wide format printing, the company operates three Epson printers, including the 64-inch Epson Stylus Pro 11880.

 

The shop also experiments with new media, and its selection varies across the board, including favorites from Breathing Color, Epson, Hahnemühle, Ilford, and InteliCoat Technologies’ Museo. Specializing in color, it tests new color ranges and gamut on different materials.

 

“We analyze them and figure out what paper would give us the best output and longevity,” says Chambers. He admits that color technology has come a long way and today’s inkjet printers provide stable color, but it’s not perfect yet. “You’re looking at a monitor and there is still a lot of opinion of what is best. More people are using color management tools and profiling, but we take it a step further and create our own profiles. We go beyond many boxed solutions and determine ink saturation to really push the media to the edge,” he says.

 

While media manufacturers are learning how to offer better profiles for predictable color; the ink settings, whether or not a RIP is used, and other factors, make a difference when it comes to final output. “We’re finding that different combinations of computer systems and software versions create subtle differences that a lot of people don’t see—but we do. We go through tedious steps to make sure these variances are eliminated,” he adds.

 

By building a reputation for quality work, Picture Element accepts a variety of jobs, from museum work to custom projects. Chambers recalls one project for the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies in San Jose, CA. The museum came into possession of the famous composer’s locks of hair and a sketch of a painting. The curator brought the items to Picture Element and said the staff couldn’t touch the pieces, but the museum wanted to reproduce each as artwork for donors. The shop placed the items on the Cruse and created a three-dimensional looking print.

 

The company also captured a valuable old movie poster collection for rock-and-roll star Kirk Hammett of Metallica.

 

Chambers notes several instances where it created superwide format mural files by capturing a large original in pieces and then stitching it together with software. The Cruse’s ability to create steady, stable lighting is helpful for this type of work.

 

Picture Element mastered the craft of color management, which is inherently critical to photographic and fine artwork. With a background in photography and photo labs, Chambers brings years of expertise and an eye for creativity to his business and clients.

 

Raising Resolution

Based in Hager City, WI—near Red Wing and the Twin Cities of MN—Husom & Rose Photographics is operated by husband-and-wife team, David Husom and Ann-Marie Rose. The shop is dedicated to the digital restoration and reproduction of photographs and other historical items. Founded in 1986, the company knew the world of photography and darkrooms would soon transition to the desktop computer. “I don’t think we ever imagined a $100 scanner at Walgreens, but we knew it was headed that way,” says Husom.

 

Giclée is one of the company’s specialties. It scans any size original artwork on canvas, paper, or board in any medium including oil, acrylic, watercolor, gauche, pencil, ink, or pastel. The process incorporates Epson Stylus Pro 9880 and 4800 printers with archival UltraChrome K3 ink and Museo Portfolio Rag to allow the texture of an original to be reproduced as accurately as possible.

 

Husom points out that Museo paper contains no optical brighteners, and unlike many giclée papers, it does not yellow with age or change color under glass. It also uses LexJet Corporation canvas for its quality and durability. Additionally, LexJet UV sprays are utilized to protect canvas and provide any finish from matte to varnished gloss.

 

For capturing its giclée work, Husom & Rose relies on experience and high-quality processes. For larger pieces it shoots artwork using a Nikon Inc. D800 D-SLR camera. Additionally, lighting is enhanced with strobes and cross polarizing effects.

 

Photographic printing is another specialty of Husom & Rose. Digital pigmented prints from Epson printers—which Husom explains is more archival than traditional silver-based printers—have a shelf life of 100 to 200 years.

 

At press time, the shop was working with a local hotel restaurant. Looking for a natural rural feel, it presented Husom & Rose with old 2.25-inch film by photographer Robert Meyer. The final output included three images at 40x40 inches and one at 25x25 inches, scanned using a Scitex Eversmart large format flatbed scanner and printed on its Epson printers.

 

For some jobs, the combination of the company’s photographic reproduction services and wide format capabilities are the perfect mix. For example, a local historical center commissioned the company as part of a restoration project.

 

The Anderson Center of Red Wing, MN’s Tower View is a registered landmark dedicated to upholding the arts of the region and to develop, foster, and promote the creation of works by artists. The location was once a research laboratory for the Quaker Oats Company. Built in 1915, Tower View is one of the only standing pieces of the original farm. In 2012, the final stage of the Anderson Center’s efforts to restore the Tower View estate, The Barn Restoration Project, was completed. Both the barn and silo were restored and winterized.

 

As part of the restoration, the organization wanted to incorporate large photograph reproductions from original 4x5-inch negatives dating as far back as 1915 and turn them into prints as large as 40x50 inches for the restored barn’s walls.

 

Husom & Rose was up to the task. The negatives were scanned using the Scitex Eversmart. After digitization, the files were prepped and proofed using Epson enhanced matte paper at full size. Finals were produced on Museo paper, following a swatch test.

 

The Anderson Center barn restoration included 12 graphics, three 40x50-inch prints and nine at 24x30 inches. All were printed on Museo Portfolio Rag. The images are framed and hung on wood panel walls.

 

Husom notes that one of the reasons he likes the Epson printers is the advanced B&W mode. “It allows us to pick the tone we want for the image,” he explains. The Anderson Center images were printed with a warm tone similar to the warm tone papers from the early part of the 20th century. “We can also do a full sepia brown, duplicate a selenium-toned purplish color, or the slightly greenish black like some of the Ilford papers have,” he adds.

 

Husom and Rose are both accomplished artists that appreciate the value of art and history. The duo is passionate about providing a service for those that want to bring old photographs, paintings, and documents to life.

 

Footwear to Fine Art

Established in 1994, ePrep Services, Inc. specializes in photography for marketing and advertising campaigns that span all forms of print and Web. Located in the Santa Barbara area of CA, the company is dedicated to providing high-quality work through both experience and high-end scanning, photography, design and layout software, and printing equipment.

 

Eric Gordon, president/founder/CEO, ePrep Services, started the company as a prepress service for print shops. Serving a base largely made up of graphic designers and large corporations, typical jobs consisted of scanning and performing color correction and file preparation for professional photographers for use in marketing collateral. To digitize these files, Gordon added drum scanning services. The growth didn’t stop there. Soon, clients began requesting actual content. With a background in photography, Gordon complied, adding commercial photography.

 

In addition to commercial work, Gordon serves the artist community. A division of ePrep, Santa Barbara Giclée came into fruition to serve the artist clientele ePrep had generated in addition to its corporate base. The division specializes in high-resolution capture and scanning; as well as archival reproductions of fine art and photographs. It uses high-quality pigmented inks and coatings on 100 percent archival watercolor papers, canvas, and cloth substrates.

 

“Santa Barbara has a large professional artist community. They originally would come to me to capture and reproduce their work. There was a large need for multiple copies of one piece,” says Gordon. “We were doing that work so much that I decided to do a spin off dedicated to capture and reproduction.”

 

In addition to its scanning and printing, Santa Barbara Giclée provides its artists with an online gallery, as well as local art shows. “We have a show in the Fall that includes nothing but giclée—no originals—of reproductions and limited editions.”

 

For this side of the business, the company relies on photographic capture, a drum scanner, and a Heidelberg flatbed scanner for film or small works of art that need to be captured at very high resolution. Generally, Santa Barbara Giclée considers the application at hand and then determines which of its capture methods to use. According to Gordon, it depends on how it is used, resolution, and price.

 

If an original is bigger than 15x19 inches or isn’t flexible, it needs to be captured using a Phase One digital camera and Leaf Imaging Aptus 8 megapixel camera back.

 

It utilizes a Heidelberg scanner for originals up to 12x18 inches at 5,200 dpi. It also operates an Epson Expression 1640XL, which features a 12x18-inch bed and scans at up to 2,400 ppi. “While the Epson doesn’t offer as high a resolution as the Heidelberg, it does allow us to put the artwork in, move it, and piece it together,” notes Gordon.

 

A 64-inch Epson Stylus Pro 11880 printer, featuring Epson UltraChrome K3 ink in nine colors, including matte black, is used for output.

 

One benefit of this range of equipment is the type of work the company accepts. In addition to photographic reproductions, enlargements, and fine art reproductions, Santa Barbara Giclée works with three-dimensional sculptures and books.

 

ePrep recently used a combination of its capture capabilities to reproduce a children’s book, Sparkle and the Gift by Ayn Cates Sullivan, which was professionally illustrated by Belle DuCray. The book is comprised of more than 72 pages and 60 full-color illustrations.

 

DuCray’s original art was pastel on tracing vellum. “The pastel inks tend to curl and warp the tracing vellum paper when drying,” explains Gordon. To remove the textural details of the curing, and in some cases creased vellum, ePrep used a clothes iron to smooth out the drawings as best as possible. “They were flatbed scanned because the drum would see too much detail and these needed to look more like children’s drawings,” he adds.

 

In some cases, the imperfections in the vellum were too intense to iron out, so these pieces were laid out on a vacuum frame and lit professionally to decrease contrast created by creases and folds, then photographed using a Phase One medium format camera.

 

Additionally, drawings were not only used for the book; but also a series of posters, direct mail postcards, and advertising billboards across the country. “The resolution of all originals needed to be high enough to produce at the book size of 9x12 and 24x9 inches for two-page spreads, as well as up to five times that resolution for posters and billboards,” says Gordon.

 

Wide Format Capture

From fine art to commercial creations, it is important that print providers be well versed in resolution, color management, and ink and media selections. This must be translated to the end customer to manage expectations and achieve the best results.

 

Sep2013, Digital Output

 
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