As a digital portrait artist, one of the questions my photography studio clients often ask once the portrait is complete is: How should I get this printed? To answer this, there are two things to be considered:
- What is the style and technique of the work?
- How are you marketing and positioning digital painting in your photography business?
What is the style and technique of the work?
Unlike traditional media, painting digitally allows the artist to mix and combine media that could never be combined with their traditional counterparts. With Corel Painter, for example, you can literally mix oil (paint) and water (color). How do you print the final result? The answer depends on how you are marketing the piece (see next question) as well as what technique and style was used in the painting. For instance, Painter’s Impasto brushes mimic the three-dimensional look of thickly-applied paint. This means it looks quite a bit like an oil painting already, and so canvas would probably be the best fit.If the style is very loose and airy, it may look best printed on paper. One of my customers, Sterling Hoffman, commissions a lot of watercolors from my studio. Working together, we’ve designed a “look” for these that includes a loose border, printed on paper, with a two or three inch border of white paper. Sterling then has his framer “float” these prints inside a frame, in the manner of museum-quality watercolor paintings.
What is your market for this painting?
Adding digital painting to your product offerings is a great way to increase your profits. They are easier to sell as large prints (30×40 is not uncommon), for one thing. And they are truly hand-painted, which means you will be able to charge quite a bit for them over your standard print price. You should know that art galleries always charge more for oil paintings than for watercolors. The public perception is that oil paintings are somehow worth more. Perhaps they seem to be more heirloom-quality. Whatever the reason, you should also price your prints on paper lower than your prints on canvas. Sterling Hoffman uses watercolors as an entry-level to digital painted portraits, and charges much more for the works on canvas.
If you’re going for a formal, high-end, traditional portrait look, you’ll most likely want to make the finished product look like an oil painting. The presentation here calls for framed canvas, or possibly a gallery wrap canvas. The image can be printed onto canvas, or the photographic print can be bonded to canvas. Gallery wrapped canvas looks like oil on canvas with a more contemporary feel. Most printers offer printing on canvas, and the pricing is quite competitive with printing on paper. If you’re going to use a frame, you can either have the printer (or your framer) stretch the canvas with wooden stretcher bars, or you can have the canvas mounted to foamcore. Keep in mind that stretched canvas requires a frame designed to hold a deep canvas, whereas foamcore will pop into any standard photo-type frame.
To find out more about your options for printing, start by checking out the websites of the recommended printers listed below. They are all known for their canvas work, though some of them also offer printing on paper. Based on experience (and some very unhappy clients) I would recommend that you avoid using anything described as “hand-painted brush strokes” by a printer. The reason for adding this type of texturing is, ostensibly, to make the product look more genuine. It has the opposite effect, I’m afraid, and looks very tacky. When you print a digital painting on canvas, it is going to look like an oil painting, believe me! Added texture is not needed, in my opinion.
One final note: a “giclee” (pronounced ghee-klay or jee-klay) is a made-up marketing word, from the French for “sprayed on.” It’s a word meant to help dispel the stigma surrounding digital works on paper. This is nothing more nor less than an inkjet print. Check out the lightfastness ratings for any printer you go with, and make sure they are using archival materials, no matter what they call the finished product.
- Simply Canvas
- Miller’s Professional Imaging
- Digital Arts Studio
- H&H Color Lab
- White House Custom Colour
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- Painter and Photoshop FAQ
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- Marketing: Standing Out in the Digital Crowd – Part Two
- What is Digital Art?
- Tutorial: Create a Watercolor Portrait with Corel Painter