Trending Articles

Friends of SOAR

For great posts about the business of art, check out The Artsy Shark HERE!
ArtistsBillofRights.org reviews competitions and appeals seeking creative content, listing those that respect your copyrights and highlighting those that don't. Art Matters! publishes calls to artists, and not all of them may be compliant with ABoR's standards. Visit their site to learn more.
We support the Embedded Metadata Manifesto.  Metadata is information such as copyright notice and contact info you can embed in your images to protect your intellectual property, save time when uploading to social sites and promote your art. Click to visit the site and learn more.

Lighting for Art Reproduction

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

All artists know that light is the key. Chiaroscuro is a known, understood, thoroughly documented and well accepted school of art that depends on light and dark. Indeed, without light, art would be as bland and boring as medical illustrations. Although chiaroscuro was known before the Renaissance, it came into its own during that period. Chiaroscuro enabled artists to depict volume, three dimensionality and realism.

In order to faithfully depict fine art for reproduction, light is the key to capturing the texture and realism of the art. Be it canvas, paper, wood, metal or other exotic surfaces, the texture adds to the original. There’s also the matter of the media ranging from acrylic to oil to watercolor to ink sketches to etchings and more. Adding volume, dimensionality and realism to reproductions enhances appeal and value.

The simplest, least expensive light is hazy sunlight that’s been filtered through a soft, even cloud layer or large diffuser. When such conditions are available, take your art outside and either lay it flat on the ground or hang it perpendicular against a neutral color wall. Of course, it’s also helpful if the weather cooperates by not being too hot or cold or windy or dusty. If such conditions are regularly present in your area, please let me know because I want to move there.

Most artists depend on a studio or home office to make photos of their art which can be a hassle of its own. If you have the budget, a large light panel mounted to the ceiling can emulate the sun but it needs several features. First, it should be dimmable and soft. A huge, bright light on a typical 8′ to 10′ home ceiling will be difficult to control. Second, it needs to be reasonably well color managed. The simplest color temperature is between 5000 Kelvin to 6500 Kelvin but, even more important is CRI or color rendering index. This tells you how faithfully color is seen compared to natural light. The best possible CRI is 100 and the lowest score for art reproduction is about 85. As a general rule, stay away from fluorescent lights. LEDs are pretty much the best choice today.

IMG_20200701_102017

LED light, adjustable from 2700 Kelvin to 5500 Kelvin with 2280 lumen output

Two inexpensive (~$73 ea) lights like the Yongnuo YN300 III (left) is all that’s needed for an indoor shoot. Position the lights on either side of your art at about 45 degrees and adjust the intensity so your exposure is good at about f/5.6 at whatever speed your camera requires in aperture or manual mode. Of course, this assumes your camera is mounted on a tripod to eliminate shake.

For about the same price, you might opt for an LED shop light like this Ryobi battery operated model at Home Depot. The downside is that it requires a battery or extension cord and isn’t dimmable. Also, CRI might not be as high as a light designed for photography. Whatever you use, always keep in mind, “Inverse square law” and  “Angle of incidence equals angle of reflection.”

One last word of advice. Don’t use flash, especially not the anemic camera top mounted flash found on many point & shoot and consumer dSLR cameras. Without going into a lot of detail, just trust me that it will be an exercise in frustration.

The post Lighting for Art Reproduction appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Inkjet Technologies

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

For fine art reproduction purposes, there are just two major inkjet technologies. Both are known as drop-on-demand but differ significantly in design. Before we go there, let’s first examine basic inkjet technology.

Inkjet printers (ijp) work by spraying tiny droplets of ink through a nozzle onto media, aka substrate. By tiny, we are talking in terms of 3-5 picoliters. A picoliter is 1 trillionth or 1/1000000000000 of a liter. As you might imagine, a single picoliter by itself would barely be visible on a sheet of paper but, when combined with millions or billions of picoliter size dots, the result is a visible image.

IJPs combine these droplets in many ways including layers, side-by-side, overlap, random and other proprietary patterns as seen below to create a visible image. The dots are not arranged in neat rows and columns or some other discernible pattern.

 

Northlight_P7000 head

Each white pad has nozzles for two colors. This head had 10 colors.

Northlight_dot pattern

Not every nozzle fires every time so the dot pattern appears random.

Of course, there is a method to this seemingly random placement once the final image is visible. Also, no one except geeks views prints at this distance.

Now that you have an idea of the precision we’re dealing with, the monumental task of ejecting a 3 to 5 picoliter droplet at the exact moment to land at a precise location becomes clearer.

To add to the complexity, printers capable of creating fine art reproductions usually use between 6 to 10 inks. It’s not just one nozzle firing at a time. Depending on the printer’s native resolution, the head can have anywhere from ~3000 to ~6000 nozzles and fire up to 50,000 droplets per second. Finally, keep in mind, the paper is being advanced as the drops are deposited so it’s a moving target, if you will.

This is where the two major brands diverge. Canon uses a thermal process while Epson uses a piezoelectric mechanism. Whether one is better than the other is a matter of debate and preference.

Canon’s FINE (Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) print heads use heat to propel ink droplets out of the nozzle. A chamber above the nozzle fills with ink. At the precise moment, a heating element above the chamber heats the ink causing it to rapidly expand and shoot out of the nozzle. Think about that for a moment. Six thousand chambers full of ink being heated to a precise temperature that causes the ink to expand and jet out of six thousand nozzles to place ink at precisely the desired location then refills with more ink to prepare for the next droplet. This cycle repeats as much as 50,000 times per second.

Epson TFP print heads, on the other hand, uses a proprietary piezoelectric system for ejecting ink at about the same rate. In Epson’s system a piezo element flexes when an electrical charge is applied. Based on this phenomenon, a tiny ink chamber is fitted with a piezo element. With the chamber full of ink, an electrical charge causes the piezo element to flex which, in turn, forces a droplet of ink out the nozzle. As the piezo element returns to its original state, it creates a vacuum that sucks more ink into the chamber.

Photos in this article are ©Keith Cooper, Northlight-Images.co.uk, a commercial photographer and printing expert based in Leicester, UK and used with permission.

The post Inkjet Technologies appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Fine Art Reproduction Inkjet Paper

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

There are literally hundreds of different media types (paper, canvas, poster board, metal & vinyl) in many surface textures (matte, satin matte, smooth matte, glossy, high gloss, linen, etc.) Many are available in both cut sheets as well as rolls. Some printers pride themselves in being media mavens, always ready to suggest a different paper or canvas. Giclee Yoshimatsu specializes in reproducing fine art that closely matches the original. Since most paintings and drawings are produced on paper or canvas, this is what we focus on. At a client’s requests, we can produce prints on other media but that may delay the process while printer profiles are created, tested and verified.

Paper for fine art reproduction generally has a matte surface but, even among matte media, there are significant differences. Matte smooth is different from matte textured and different still from matte velvet. In canvas media, there are matte, satin and, even, glossy surfaces. That doesn’t mean the canvas is smooth and slick like a photographic paper, just that the ink-receptive coating is satiny or glossy. The underlying canvas is still textured, just like canvas used for paintings.

Another criteria of critical importance to fine art reproductions is the inclusion or absence of OBAs (optical brightening agents,) chemical additives used to create an appearance of a brighter, whiter finish to the media. Since most media are produced from wood pulp, the natural color tends to age toward yellow/orange. OBAs are added to make the media appear whiter and brighter. The downside of OBAs is that they comprise unstable molecules that can yellow over time, leading to discoloration. For this reason, we recommend that only non-OBA papers be used for fine art reproductions you plan to sell.

Canvas can also have the same issue as most are made from natural products such as cotton, linen and flax. The same cautions apply to canvas prints containing OBAs, even when the print is coated and displayed under UV glass. To avoid OBAs, we recommend Epson Exhibition Canvas Natural (Matte, Satin or Gloss.) Below are two prints on Epson Exhibition Canvas Matte with OBAs. The one on the right is straight out of the printer with no protection while the one on the left has been sprayed with two coats of different varnishes. They’ve been left out in bright, hot summer sun for several weeks for an accelerated aging process. (These photos are simulations. I’ll post the true images in a few weeks.)

   

This is a good point to address varnishes. There many types of coatings and varnishes for fine art reproductions. I’ve tried about a dozen but, at this time, have reduced my choices to PremierArt Print Shield ($15 at ITSupplies,) PrintGuard ($18.95 at Dick Blick) and Krylon Conservation Varnish ($10.50 at Jerry’s Art-A-Rama.) I don’t yet have a favorite and am waiting for the results of long-term testing. Regardless, almost every print, paper or canvas, can benefit from a varnish coat. Many varnishes claim to make the print waterproof but, in general, a better term would “water resistant.”

Having said all this, keep in mind not all OBAs are the same and not all prints require the same longevity. If print permanence is not a primary concern, this may all be moot in your circumstances. To quote Prof. Walter Kotschnig from a speech at Holyoke College, 1937, …keep your minds open—“but not so open that your brains fall out.” Also, new OBAs from reputable companies are much better than older chemicals so it’s possible the OBA issue will fall by the wayside in the future.

Bottom line, we recommend heavy matte papers and natural canvas media without OBA from the company that produced the printer. Epson printers should use Epson media and Canon printers should use Canon media. As always, there are exceptions such as Hahnemuhle, Canson, Moab and a some others but their higher quality may not always justify their higher costs. The bottom line will almost always dictate the best cost/quality equation.

 

The post Fine Art Reproduction Inkjet Paper appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

A Short Primer on Ink Jet Printers

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Ink Jet Printers - image of an ink jet printerFor our purposes, I’m covering only Epson and Canon printers in this short primer on ink jet printers. Fine art prints require a wide gamut (range of colors) which requires printers using 6, 8 or 10 colors. Other than size—13″, 17″, 24″ are the most common—the main difference in printers is dye versus pigment inks.

Dye is exactly what it sounds like. A colorant (dye) is added to a binder (carrier) along with “secret” sauces for each manufacturer. Dye soaks into the paper and is less fade resistant if longevity is important as it generally is for fine art reproductions. It also smears and runs when exposed to liquids. Its most endearing quality is low cost.

Pigment, on the other hand, comprises tiny (0.1 – 2 micrometer) particles suspended in a binder. When applied, the pigment adheres to the surface and is much more color fast over time. It’s generally more resistant to smearing or running but the cost is greater. For fine art, pigment printers are a better choice.

Six colors is the minimum which includes CMYK + LC + LM (cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, light magenta.) Eight-color printers usually have CMYK, LC, LM, gray (light black) and light gray (very light black.) Most printers in this category also have separate matte black (MK) and photo black (PK) inks. However, you can only use one at a time.

Newer printers have 10 colors including CMYK + LC + LM + LK + LLK + Orange + Green (Epson) or Blue + Red (Canon). Canon also counts their gloss optimizer called Chroma Optimizer. As the name implies, CO is for glossy prints and doesn’t make any difference for fine art on matte surfaces. Claims of 12 colors usually count both PK and MK. However only one can be used at a time and Canon adds 1 for CO.

Ink Jet Printers - image of the ink cartridge tray of a SureColor P900 17-Inch Photo Printer

When new users first unpack this class of ink jet printers, they may not notice that some ship with “starter” ink cartridges that contain less than the full size cartridges (carts). This often leads to some angst as prepping the printer can consume as much as half the ink to fill all the internal ink lines and prime the print head. Epson ink carts range from 150ml (milliliters) to 350ml to 700ml while Canon carts include 160ml, 300ml and 700ml sizes. The larger the cart, the lower the cost per milliliter.

Smaller 17″ printers use smaller carts including 50ml for the Epson P900 and 80ml for the Canon PRO-1000. Thirteen-inch printers like the Canon PRO-10 have even smaller ~14ml carts. These can prove costly over the long run. Also, 13″ printers tend to use dye inks as opposed to pigment inks.

The last differentiator is roll versus sheets only. If you intend to print long (tall) prints such as panoramas or tall verticals, a roll feeder is handy. It is possible without a roll feeder but will be awkward. It’s very frustrating to print a long landscape and create a crease while trying to unload it.

Like everything else these days, software is critically important. Both Epson and Canon have eminently usable printing software but a 3rd party printing program like QImage Ultimate can make life easier.

For our jobs, we use an Epson SureColor P7000 24″ ink jet printer and a Canon ImagePROGRAF PRO-4000 44″ printer, both with 10 usable colors.

The post A Short Primer on Ink Jet Printers appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Is Everyone Seeing the Same Color?

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

When the Right Color is Critical

When reproducing art for artists, matching colors is important. But, even when the client is just across town, taking time to meet and compare prints against the original is time consuming. Using video conferencing, we can cut out the hassle of driving to a meeting.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have calibrated monitors. That means what the client sees on their uncalibrated monitor probably doesn’t match what I see on my calibrated monitor. Even if the client’s monitor can be calibrated (some can’t) it needs to be checked regularly to ensure it hasn’t drifted. To quickly test your monitor, compare a can of Coke or Pepsi to the images below.

The left capture is off my calibrated monitor while the right is off an old laptop monitor. This is an extreme case but you get the idea. If color accuracy is important to you and you don’t have a calibrated monitor, you need a printer who will work with you to ensure the colors match.

color calibration - image of a pepsi can and a coke can from a calibrated monitorcolor calibration - image of a pepsi can and a coke can from an old laptop monitor

The best way to ensure a good color match is to mail the original to me. Then I can digitize, color correct and print proofs. I will mail the proofs back to you along with the original. This maintains a consistent workflow throughout the process. Having the initial digital capture (conversion to a digital file) created by the same person who will perform the color corrections and print the final reproduction will go a long way toward reducing “Oops!” moments. However, that’s not always possible.

The next best method is to digitize the original yourself and email the file to me. Then I can color correct and print proofs. Again, I will mail the proofs to you. In order to make this process as smooth as possible, it’s helpful if the artist produces a palette of the colors used while creating the work. You can send your palette to me to match the prints. Below are examples of palettes sent by clients.

palette-1064    palette-0380

By doing this, the artist and I can very closely match the print with the original artwork. As you can see, printing accurate reproductions of your art requires attention to detail and close collaboration. Video conferencing applications make it possible to collaborate just as closely as in person. Further, we can collaborate much more often due to easier meeting coordination.

One last option is to buy a good monitor and a monitor calibration tool. This can seem like an expensive proposition but it can pay dividends in other ways. A “good” monitor generally starts around $500. A quick check of B&H, the largest online photo/video store, shows over 1000 choices ranging from well known brands like NEC and HP to totally obscure entries like GeChic and Upstar. You can certainly do your own research. I’ll give you a head start by recommending this short-list: Acer, Apple, ASUS, BenQ, Dell, Eizo, HP, NEC and Viewsonic. I further winnowed down that list to these 12 monitors that I believe will meet most artists’ needs. My favorite monitor is in that list but I’m not going to point it out to avoid biasing your choice.

Next, you’ll need a monitor calibration tool to create a “profile” that adjusts a monitor’s colors to match a known standard. With your monitor and mine adjusted to the same standard, we can be assured we’re both seeing the same colors on our screens.

Again, turning to B&H, I narrowed down a list of 74 tools to just 9 that will meet most artists’ needs. Prices range from $150 to $1400, but much of the price difference is due to included accessories and software. I’ve used both Datacolor and X-Rite tools. My preference is X-Rite but that’s only because they’ve been more helpful when I had issues.

In summary, depending on your volume, buying a monitor and calibration tool to make online collaborations more efficient and effective might be cost effective. In reality, I would suggest first going the less expensive route of comparing known colors or creating a color palette as you create. Regardless of which route you select, video conferencing has opened up a whole new world. Embrace it and get ahead of the curve.

 

The post Is Everyone Seeing the Same Color? appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Collaboration in the Age of Covid-19

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Collaboration with Video Conferencing

Today, anyone who can fog a mirror uses Zoom, the video conferencing app du jour. To hear some talk, you would think they invented video conferencing. I first used video conferencing in the early 1990s to conduct engineering project status reviews. We were in San Diego, the customer was in Japan and the technology was in the Dark Ages. The video was herky-jerky and the audio snapped, crackled and popped worse than a bowl of Rice Krispies. Worse, syncing the two was laughable. We just waited 10-20 seconds for the image to catch up to the voice. Still, it was cheaper and more productive than flying 5 engineers to Tokyo for a week.

From that humble beginning, I knew video conferencing was the future. Ten years later, when I started teaching photography classes, I tried to use video conferencing to widen my market reach. The technology was vastly improved but the human penchant for clinging to “the old ways” was far stronger than I ever imagined. Students wanted a traditional classroom with a “real” live instructor. Even the college administrators where I taught wanted a warm body. Defeated, I gave up on video conferencing.

Covid-19 has reignited my passion for video conferencing as a way to collaborate with other artists in ways never before imaginable. Today, I’m semi-retired from photography and my interests have shifted to fine art printing. I no longer get up at “zero dark thirty” to catch “the first light”. Instead, I obsess over prints, searching for ways to better match the print to the artists’ original vision.

But, all is not yet peachy in this brave new world. Collaborating on works of art brings a new set of challenges.

TFine Art Reproduction by Yoshimatsu - Collaboration Video Conferencinghe photo to the left is Red Cloud by a local artist. In the lower left corner, you’ll see a stroke of purple that is just outside the gamut of inkjet printers. (cropped and enlarged to better see color, below)

Red Cloud corner-0302 -Collaboration Video Conferencing

Zoom has a Screen Share function that lets me share images on the viewers’ monitor. Unfortunately, most clients don’t have calibrated monitors so we can’t be sure we’re both seeing the same thing. It would be too much to expect artists to buy $1000 monitors and $500 calibrators, not to mention gain the experience needed to create accurate profiles.

My next post will address how people meeting via video can be sure each is seeing the same thing. (hint – this involves objects with known color.)

The post Collaboration in the Age of Covid-19 appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Photography in the Age of Cell Phones

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

The More Things Change…

As I mentioned previously, I recently presented a talk to a retirement community photography club. I could tell my talk was way over most members’ heads. At the same time, having taught college and corporate classes, I’m always loath to “dumb down” my talks for several reasons. First, I don’t like being insulted and I don’t like to insult others. Second, people rise to their own level but will sit and rot if the water never rises. And, third, I dislike baby talk. If the audience doesn’t understand, it’s their responsibility to ask questions or simply ask me to repeat myself.

As I was writing this post, I read an article about photographs of the Chuckwalla Mountains and desert from the early 1900s by Susie Keef Smith and Lula Mae Graves. The photos themselves are just mildly interesting only because I’ve driven near, by or through places like Desert Center, Mecca and the Chocolate Mountains. However, the backstory of how the photos were saved was what caught my eye.

Susie Keef died in Leucadia, CA in 1988. Subsequently a county estate administrator threw her life’s work into a dumpster. A quick-thinking archaeologist saved it. Today’s cell phone photos are lost every day, every minute. The parallel struck me as the current equivalent of tossing photos into a dumpster. As each cell phone dies or is replaced and cell phone owners die, how many photos are irretrievably lost?

Photography in the Age of Cell Phones - The parallels with how today's cell phone photos are lost every day, every minute struck me as the current equivalent of tossing photos into a dumpster. As each cell phone dies or is replaced and as every cell phone owner dies, how many photos are irretrievably lost?

The post Photography in the Age of Cell Phones appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Photo Printing Resources

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Photo Printing Resources

Retirement Community Camera Club – Articles, Videos & Tutorials

In January 2020, I was invited to speak to a local retirement community photography club about photo printers and printing. As any photographer knows, this requires knowledge and understanding beyond just which printer to buy. My program covered basic topics I deemed most crucial to photographers new to printing: monitor calibration, photo printers, viewing conditions and software. I created this post to list the photo printing resources and URLs, making it easier for readers to find them at one location, my blog.

Monitor Calibration

Good overview of monitor calibration tools/techniques
Good overview of common monitor problems/defects

Color Management

Color Management straight from the experts
Colorimeters explained
Clear explanation of color space
Fun test of your color perception
Glossary of CM terms
Spectrophotometers are used to produce printer profiles

Web Browsers & Viewing Environment

Are your online viewers seeing the same colors?

Printers & Printing

Epson Print Academy – tutorials mixed with marketing fluff
Jose Rodriguez, loquacious but some good info
B&H Explora, potpourri of everything electronics related

Software

Analyzing & understanding color space, gamut and profiles
Affinity Photo, possible Adobe Photoshop alternative
Luminar, possible Adobe Lightroom library alternative
QImage Ultimate, quirky but useful printing program
Irfanview, lite, fast photo viewer

The post Photo Printing Resources appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Hello from My Little Corner of the World!

This post is presented courtesy Giclée Yoshimatsu at Giclée Yoshimatsu.

Hello from My Little Corner of the World - we are here in the galaxy

Hello from My Little Corner of the World!

This blog attempts to simplify and explain the intricacies of fine art inkjet printing. Before we go further, my definition of fine art is any art of value that is intended to be framed and hung longer than a few days or months. Like all definitions, there are exceptions. Grandma may hang a grandchild’s cherished art with hopes that it will last forever. But its colors will soon fade and paper disintegrate. One might buy a colorful painting at a flea market but it soon loses its luster and heads for the next yard sale. Fine art is subjective so, with apologies to Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “I know it when I see it…”.

Like the image above, the field of inkjet printing is vast. My little corner tries to explain what I think I know but there’s a huge body of both known and unknowns out there. As I used to tell students “Keep an open mind but not so open that your brain falls out”. Professor Walter Kotschnig.

I’ll cover a range of topics from basic to complex, from easily proven to, at best, intuitively obvious but false. As H.L. Mencken once wrote, “Every complex problem has a solution which is simple, direct, plausible—and wrong”.

Starting with the next post, I’ll cover why monitor calibration is such an important task when printing fine art prints that require accurate color matching. After all, Thomas Gainesborough, titled his painting “The Blue Boy,” not The Purple Boy.

To properly set expectations, my posts aren’t tutorials or step-by-step guides. My posts are intended to be food for thought. That’s why Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie said, “…if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn”. I plan to show you how to figure out your own printing problems. Then you won’t have to rely on some guy on the Internet who may or may not be blowing smoke.

Like any good blogger, my intention is to sell you something, in my case a training class. If you have questions, feel free to contact me so I can keep you engaged until you feel you absolutely need and are willing to pay for my knowledge, wisdom and wit.

The post Hello from My Little Corner of the World! appeared first on Giclée Yoshimatsu.