Whether you’re a professional looking to print your own artwork or you’re an art enthusiast wanting to decorate your home with a print of a famous artist’s work, you need to follow a few basic steps to ensure the quality of your print work. Using ordinary printer paper, the wrong ink, the wrong printer settings, or the wrong printer altogether can result in an inferior-quality image that may leave you disappointed and will certainly leave your viewers unimpressed. If you’re going through the trouble of printing out a piece of art, you want it to look like it’s been professionally printed. Of course, you could always take the artwork to a print shop, but a professional print job can be very expensive, and it’s not very efficient for an artist looking to sell prints of their work. We’ve discussed how to take high-quality photographs in one of our previous blog posts, but this article will focus on how to print high-quality artwork at home, including photographs and prints of other types of media like paintings and drawings. Whether you intend to frame a print so you can display it in your own home or you’re trying to sell a high-quality snapshot from your latest photo shoot, you’ll want to ensure that your printer produces the most faithful representation possible.
Using the Right Printer
While you can achieve decent print results on any multifunction printer, you’ll want greater control over your printer’s features, including the paper size your printer can reasonably print with. Most desktop printers only produce decent image prints on four-inch by six-inch photo paper, but if you’re looking to hang your print in your home (or make your own work a marketable piece of art), you may want the ability to print on a larger page format. Regardless of the desired size of your print work, you’ll definitely want a printer that can produce high-resolution work. Generally speaking, if you want your print to look like a genuine painting or photograph, the higher your printer’s resolution is, the better it will turn out.
The resolution of a given printer will vary tremendously, and your needs will dictate how high the resolution has to be. Laser printers, which take toner cartridges, are somewhat limited in their ability to provide high-resolution print work. They can certainly produce high-quality prints, but if you’re looking to produce a really lifelike art print from a photograph or painting, you can typically get a higher resolution using an inkjet printer. You’ll get a very high-quality reproduction of most visual images using an inkjet printer that can generate pages with a resolution of around 2,400 dots per inch (dpi). However, some really high-end printers can get 4,800 dpi or higher. Anything above 2,000 dpi should give you striking, lifelike results, no matter what you’re printing.
While the printer brand you choose will depend entirely on your personal preferences, your budget, and of course the user reviews from other customers, a few printer models tend to stand out among professionally-reviewed devices.
Canon’s Pixma Pro9000 can print high-resolution images on a format of up to 13-inches by 19-inches. Another highlight this printer offers when it comes to reproducing works of art is the range of color you get. Unlike most color printers, which rely on a mixture of black, cyan, magenta, and yellow inks to produce all the colors in a given image, the Pixma Pro9000 takes eight (8) ink cartridges. You get a much more complete palette with that many cartridges, which include green, red, photo cyan, and photo magenta, in addition to the standard four colors found in most printers.
HP’s DesignJet 800ps printer offers wide-format printing up to 42 inches in width. It also boasts a print resolution of 2400 dpi, giving you very realistic prints no matter what images you’re producing or what format you’re working with. This printer takes black HP10 ink cartridges and HP82 cyan, magenta, and yellow ink cartridges, which are available individually or in a multipack to help you save money.
No matter what type of printer you own, you can help increase the resolution of your print work by using optimal settings with your camera or photo-editing software. Unlike printer resolution, which is measured in dpi, the resolution you get from a digital camera is measured in megapixels. If you’re printing out photographs, use a camera with a high megapixel size to avoid that grainy, pixelated look. Though there is no real standard on what camera specs are the best, many higher-end digital cameras can have a resolution between 20 to 50 megapixels, with some camera developers actively working to push the resolution of future camera models up to 120 megapixels. You can also adjust the size and resolution of an image fairly easily if you’re using an image-editing program like Adobe Photoshop.
Choosing the Right Materials
Another consideration in choosing a printer will be what type of surface you can print on. Many professional-quality photo printers are capable of producing prints on textiles, which you may want, depending on your intended project. For most conventional prints of a painting or photograph, you’ll want to use paper that won’t get overly-saturated with ink. Many professional print makers choose either photo paper or fine-art paper, which is thicker than standard printer paper and won't soak all the way through.
If you’re trying to produce a giclée (pronounced “zee-clay”) print, which is a common type of high-quality, high-resolution art print, you’ll want to use archival-quality ink and printing surfaces. Any high-quality printer ink that is pigment-based is considered archival ink. While dye-based inks often produce a wider range of color tones, pigment-based inks usually last longer without fading over time. Archival printing surfaces are typically thicker materials that are capable of absorbing ink without soaking through and losing their structural integrity. Some common archival printing surfaces include canvas and watercolor paper, though any store-bought paper with a label indicating archival quality will usually be sufficient.
Finishing Up Your Print
If you have a little extra cash, you may want to take your professional-quality art print to a framing shop. These shops will help you mat and frame your print with top-of-the-line materials. However, you can just as easily buy your own frame and mat from an art/craft supply store. You can also get creative by buying an old wooden frame from a thrift store, sanding it down, and staining or painting the frame to your liking. You can find some excellent tutorials on how to mat, mount, and frame your art prints online, or by asking a professional from your local framing store about how to do your own frame work at home.
And that’s it! If you’re making a print of an existing piece of art (like a Van Gogh painting, for example), you’re ready to hang your stunning new print in your home. If you’re an artist making prints of your own work, you can now sell these high-quality prints at an art show, in a gallery, or even online. Remember, you can cut costs and still get incredible print quality by choosing compatible or remanufactured replacement ink cartridges from 1ink.com. We’ve got premium, archival-quality ink cartridges for most major printer models at prices up to 85% off the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) retail cost. No matter what projects are on your horizon, remember to always have fun when you're creating and printing your work!