By Cassandra Balentine
Fine art comes in many forms. To share their work, artists rely on the capture and print process to expand sales and reach a larger audience. Even in the age of digital photography, transitioning non-digital work to digital form—at its absolute highest resolution for reproduction—falls to capture experts that utilize camera systems, flatbed scanners, and drum scanners. Once art is digitized, wide format digital printers are employed for fine art output, taking into account color management as well as the effect ink, media, and coatings bring to the final print.
Here, we profile two companies offering both capture and output of fine art and photography.
A Process for All
With the simple mantra, “nobody walks,” Camarillo, CA-based Museum Quality Art Services strives to have something for everyone. The company started as a framing business in 1997 and expanded to focus on artists with capture and printing services in 2001. Through its connections and reputation, it established a presence throughout Southern CA as well as across the country. Today, about 60 percent of its business is considered retail and its print business—including capture—makes up the other 40 percent.
Jim Brent, owner, Museum Quality Art Services, says the company chose its first printer—a 44-inch Epson Stylus Pro 9500 in 1998. Since then, the firm has continued to invest in wide format digital printing equipment and currently operates seven Epson printers, including the Epson SureColor T3000, which is outfitted for dye-sublimation (dye-sub). Despite not being run every day, each printer is suited for a particular need with different ink sets, from archival to economy. For high-end archival work, the shop uses Epson’s UltraChrome inks, but it currently works with three inks that are consistently tested and used.
For original work that requires capture, Museum Quality Art Services offers varied services, which range in price and quality. In house, it provides a camera setup with a Canon U.S.A., Inc. EOS 5D Mark III DSLR camera and light booth. The artwork is staged and metered to ensure light is balanced to the designated profile. Brent says the camera provides decent quality, and its main advantage is its affordability per scan.
“We have a creative business and we get creative with our scans. Sometimes, we’ll photograph a piece in four to six sections and end up with a beautiful scan. You have to do a lot of trial and testing to figure out placement, and we’ve done all of that,” shares Brent.
For those requiring ultimate scanning quality, the company refers work to Artscans Studio, Inc. of Culver City, CA. “It has an amazing system that runs over an image inch by inch and digitally stitches it together. It’s perfection. We have profiles set up with Artscans and if we send someone over, they capture the image, return it to us, and we go through a quick proofing process. It’s close to dead-on immediately, and from there we’re all set to go,” he explains.
These options enable Museum Quality Art Services to listen to the artists, and based on their expectations and budget, come up with something that truly fits their needs. Brent says this set up works well, as he benefits from the flexibility of not having to price scans to make up the $50,000 investment in a flatbed scanner.
Brent sees in increase in his capture and print business. “We continue to get referrals and artists more aware of the process. It’s motivating. They come in and see what they can get. It gets their motors running and brings them back into the shop. It’s our goal to get those images into our digital locker,” says Brent.
Once pieces are captured, the shop typically works with the client through the process, which typically starts with a proof and then a final print.
In terms of substrates, the company finds success with Premier Imaging Products, and even signed on as a dealer for the vendor. Brent says in 1997 there wasn’t much on the market in terms of substrates, and a lot of companies were popping up—especially on the canvas side. There were many issues, like cracking, as vendors tried to get the canvas to dry faster. “We went through a lot of companies and someone recommended Premier Imaging’s canvas. We brought it in and started using it and haven’t looked back,” he asserts.
Brent says that to test media, he sometimes hangs prints out in direct sunlight. He has had a print on Premier Imaging PremierArt Generations canvas hanging up for two years and it’s held up through sun and rain with only some curling.
When it comes to the print, Brent says it is most important to have accurate colors with the file you’re starting with—whether it was scanned in house, by a partner, or by the client themselves. “You need to proof the file and make sure the client is happy with the color, and there are different ways to manage that. You need to look at the situation and determine what the best call of action is.”
To manage its color processes, Museum Quality Art Services has a basic set up with a calibrated screen and calibration tuning tool. “There is an art to it and many different approaches,” he says.
After the print dries, coating is rolled on to lock in the emulsion. The company utilizes PremierArt Eco Print Shield, also from Premier Imaging. “Its coatings are pretty much proven in the industry. The PremierArt Print Shield and Eco Print Shield are the best coatings out there,” says Brent. With his own tests, he’s noticed no yellowing or cracking.
Throughout the entire process, Brent stresses that you have to remember you’re there to make money. “You can have all the equipment you want, but know that you’re delivering quality and you need to have answers for every client. You also have to know how to start the process and manage expectations. When clients come to me, I tell them we’re not a scanning business, we do offer it, but there are much better guys for that. Usually it comes down to money, which is the case with scanning, printing, and the framing business. You need to listen to the customer and find a way to keep them in the door, and keep them coming back,” says Brent.
Established in 1983, Colorchrome Atlanta, Inc. started by printing custom Cibachrome photographic prints with just two enlargers, one employee, and one 24-inch photo processor. Today, the business looks much different, expanding from fine art reproduction, giclée, and photographic prints to dye-sub, retail point of purchase signage, trade show graphics, wallcoverings, and window displays.
To serve this range of applications, the prior one-man shop has grown to a staff of 25, occupying a 17,000 square foot facility with more than 30 printing and finishing machines. While many of its clients are local to the Atlanta, GA area, the shop serves a worldwide audience.
“One of my sales staff used to say, ‘we print on anything,’ and it’s almost true,” says John Rhodes, president, Colorchrome Atlanta. “We print on wood, vinyl, plastic, fabric, paper, wallpaper, metal, and the list goes on. We try to help our clients find the most appropriate and creative printing method for the best possible output.”
Currently, the company’s core services include dye-sub printing on fabrics up to ten feet wide, and on metal and other hard substrates up to 4×8 feet. For dye-sub, the company operates a 126-inch Mimaki USA, Inc. dye-sub printer.
Additionally, it features UV printing capabilities on roll and rigid sheets up to 8×10 feet. Seven eco-solvent printers, from both Epson and Roland DGA Corporation, round out the hardware portfolio.
The company’s newest—and one of its largest—devices is the Hewlett-Packard Latex 3000, which prints up to 126 inches wide and is well suited for large runs of wallcoverings and vinyl.
With an extensive background serving the art community, fine art reproductions and photographic work is still an important area for Colorchrome.
The company uses two Durst Image Technology US LLC Lambda photo printers, each of which can print 480 square feet per hour of continuous tone photo prints, says Rhodes. It also relies on two 12-color Canon aqueous printers for fine art printing on canvas and paper.
“We started doing digital wide format capture approximately 15 years ago to serve the art community. Before that we were shooting 4×5-inch copy negatives and transparencies,” recalls Rhodes.
Today the range of output Colorchrome Atlanta offers the art community is vast. The company may print a one-off piece designated for a museum or private collections, or a run in the thousands that will hang in public spaces worldwide.
In 2000, the firm purchased a Cruse GmbH scanner capable of capturing a file of approximately 450 megabytes and used that scanner for many years with “great success.” A couple of years ago, Rhodes started hearing about the advanced features of the newest Cruse scanners, and decided it was time to upgrade. Now, Colorchrome Atlanta has a scanner with LED lighting and a moving bed. Rhodes says this is important because it allows the art to always be centered under the lens. This device captures almost two gigabytes of data. “It’s a terrific scanner and is much faster than our old one,” explains Rhodes.
The Cruse primarily captures images from original works. The company also occasionally uses a smaller flatbed scanner from Epson with a 12×17-inch bed and a Durst Sigma scanner for capturing images from film. “All of our scanners are color profiled so that we get the best scan we can right from the start,” says Rhodes, adding that it has two talented scanner operators that are “quite proficient” and able to handle whatever color correction is needed.
“Besides the color profiling we do on the front end, the most important part of the capture process is the skill of the operators running the equipment,” admits Rhodes.
Substrates are another essential consideration. “The company uses a varied assortment of machines to print with and materials to print on. We source our machines from most of the major manufacturers, and our substrates come from an even wider array of suppliers,” says Rhodes.
“We try very hard to come up with the best possible combination of printing technology and substrate to give the client the image they are looking for at a price they like,” he continues.
Maintaining quality is of utmost importance. “We usually stick with OEM ink unless we can find something that performs better than the OEM product. We never sacrifice quality for the price in our ink or substrate choices. We tend to print for the more demanding, higher end clients who want and recognize the quality of output we provide,” he adds.
The company benefits from its range of service offerings and printing capabilities. “The great thing about having a myriad of printing options is that after we capture such a high-resolution piece of art, we can print on anything the customer wants. Some of the time we are making high-end giclée prints on canvas, and some of the time we are printing the image on banner vinyl for an outdoor event or on poster paper for inexpensive prints,” says Rhodes.
There is no limit to what Colorchrome Atlanta can do with its Cruse. Currently, it is working on a project where the shop captured the art. It will be printed on clear film that will be laminated between sheets of glass for building a façade.
Out-of-the-box projects like these showcase the power of high-quality graphics, advanced capture, and wide format print technology. With an upgraded capture device and a range of print and substrate options, the company can rest assured knowing that no job is out of reach.
The Art of Capture and Print
Many artists view print as an extension of their work. Those serving the art community with capture and print understand this by taking extra care and attention to detail and color. The best know that although there are clear limitations to certain technologies, with a little creativity every artist can achieve the desired results—even with budgetary constraints.
Companies like Museum Quality Art Services and Colorchrome Atlanta ease concerns with years of experience and quality services for those looking to recreate their original artwork in printed form.
Sep2015, Digital Output