By Olivia Cahoon
Giclée describes fine art digital prints created on inkjet printers. Graphics are produced from high-resolution images and printed with fade-resistant archival inks onto substrates like canvas, photo paper, and vinyl.
Digital gives artists the advantage of reproduction on demand without the effort of physically recreating artwork. These prints are reproduced at any size, made to last, and customizable for each client.
Catering to artists may seem like an appealing decision for some print shops, however, not all digital printers can produce the high-quality images that artists demand. Fine art digital prints are held to high standards for private buyers and those with the intention of selling artwork to galleries.
Teaching to Printing
In 1975, Fine Print Imaging was established in Fort Collins, CO with three employees in a residential basement. Th e print shop serviced the CO area with film and photo paper processing and printing for photographers who sold their work for art shows and galleries. As quality and efficiency improved, the owners quickly expanded staff and space. Today, Fine Print Imaging has ten employees and works in a 12,500 square foot building. Th e business also runs a frame shop—Colorado Frames—that offers custom assembled art frames.
Mark J. Lukes, president/founder, Fine Print Imaging, credits his clientele in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico, to the contact information he found in a photography book by Ann Guilfoyle, Wildlife Photography: Th e Art and Technique of Ten Masters. It was there that Lukes read about the careers of professional nature photographers and their equipment.
Fine Print Imaging offers scanning, mounting, and printing for fine art, photos, canvas, metal, and slate. Th e shop’s metal printing includes aluminum prints through a dyesublimation process for vibrant color in high gloss or matte. For museum quality, the shop features canvas printing with the look of an original painting and is designed for artists and photographers. Its digital photographic prints are available in four paper surfaces—gloss, luster, matte, and pearl gloss.
Th e print service provider’s (PSP’s) fine art paper for giclée prints are chosen with artists in mind. It uses products from Breathing Color, Epson, Fujifi lm USA, Hahnemühle, and Premier Imaging Products. Th e shop is consciousness about introducing new products and thoroughly tests media. Lukes stresses the importance of premium quality and image stability due to its work with edition printing.
Before Lukes began producing fine art, he was a teacher alongside his future business partner, until discovering they both shared a passion for nature and photography. “We turned his garage into a darkroom and printed as a hobby. Word got out that these two guys are pretty good at printing nature photos,” says Lukes. In the mid 1980s, the duo began working with paint artists and set up an art copy system.
The shop started with traditional equipment like Omega Chromega enlargers and a Pako paper processor, and then slowly updated its hardware as print technology advanced. By 2000, 93 percent of the printing was completed in darkrooms and now over 80 percent of their prints are done on Epson large format printers with the remainder on a Chromira printer and a 52-inch Kreonite processor. “Epson is our first choice for ink printing mostly because it was a leader when the inkjet world really took off,” explains Lukes.
Listen to Your Art
Fine art digital printing combines a passion for the arts and the growing technology of digital printing. “We get to see, learn from, and live through the creativity of thousands of artists across the world,” says Lukes. Through his contacts with the arts, Lukes is the first board president of the Center for Fine Art Photography, the North American Nature Photography Association, and the first board chair for the International League of Conservation Photographers.
Despite its benefits, fine art digital printing still has its challenges. Lukes explains that working with professional artists means that the print shop is catering to the needs of individuals with high expectations of quality. “While artists and photographers understand their craft very well, many do not understand the craft of printing,” he adds. Sometimes it takes the print shop months to create a smooth and effective working relationship with the artist.
Business opportunities in the art world are fragile due to the huge proliferation of art on the web, which is sometimes underpriced, creating a difficult market for artists. “We still see success stories coming from artists who do the ordinary extraordinarily well, from artists who were willing to take chances to create new and exciting art, and mostly from artists who understand the importance of the web and social networking,” says Lukes.
Repeat customers, the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), contacted Fine Print Imaging to promote the projects and photographers of the organization by printing their artwork. The iLCP requested 28 pieces of art from 24 iLCP photographers to be prepared, printed, sprayed, and stretched onto one-and-a-half-inch stretcher bars to be hung at the gallery.
The print shop printed on Breathing Color Lyve canvas and the gallery wrapped the prints in 18×28- and 28x30inch sizes. Lyve canvas is a 19-mil bright white, polycotton blend matte canvas using an acid-free neutral pH coating. A Glamour 2 gloss coating from Breathing Color was applied to the prints and they were backed with an archival mat, nylon coated wire. Lukes says that the art pieces were lightweight and travel better than frames with glass.
For this job, the fine art was printed on an Epson Stylus Pro 11880 with Epson UltraChrome K3 inks. The printer features a maximum resolution of 2,880×1,440 dpi and a width of 63.75 inches. It prints at speeds of up to 16×20 inches per 50 seconds and utilizes nine UltraChrome K3 inks with Vivid Magenta. The K3 inks have three levels of black for a stable and accurate grey balance. They are designed to last without fading for up to 75 years in color and 100 years in B&W.
Fine Print Imaging optimizes the ErgoSoft StudioPrint RIP for image clarity and tonal range. StudioPrint is capable of scaling, nestling, duplicating, and tiling.
After the prints were completed, they hung at the Collective Gallery in Fort Collins, CO for one month and then moved onto locations in other states. Lukes says the gallery visitors were in awe of the canvas images and that some of the iLCP photographers were in attendance. “In the last nine years, we have created, crated, and shipped approximately 20 exhibitions like this for several iLCP projects and photographers,” he adds.
Artists use wide format digital printers to duplicate their work without having to physically recreate it. Print shops that cater to fine art benefit from this precise work because they build relationships with artists who feed the demands of their clientele.
Digital printers must use archival inks and handle a large gamut for the prints to be considered fine art. Artists have high demands, they expect printed artwork to stand the test of time and hope to satisfy customers by offering prints in a variety of sizes.
Print shops like Fine Print Imaging cater to these needs by providing a safe and professional environment for handling fine art. Its staff has years of experience to ensure a professional print is always created.
Feb2017, Digital Output