When I first started selling my art prints online, I knew I had to find a good, reliable, affordable printer. But as soon as I started Googling, I realised that this task was much harder than I'd first thought! There are thousands of printers out there, so how do you know which will be the best fit for you and your art? Below I've broken down the steps that I took below, and highlighted the most important things I think artists should look out for when selecting their printer.
Why is a good printer so important for artists?
Finding a good art printer is essential for artists who sell art prints because it directly affects the quality and presentation of the artwork. A good art printer will produce prints that are faithful to the original artwork, with accurate colours and crisp details. This is important because customers who purchase art prints expect the print to be a high-quality representation of the original artwork. In addition, a good art printer will use archival-quality materials, such as acid-free paper and pigment-based inks, which ensure that the print will last for many years without fading or deteriorating. This is important because customers who purchase art prints want to be able to enjoy the print for many years without having to replace it due to fading or discolouration. In addition, a good art printer will have the expertise and equipment to produce a variety of print sizes and formats, which is important for artists who want to offer their customers a range of options. If you think of your printer as your partner, and take the time to do your research, you'll end up with beautiful represtenations of your artwork that both you and your customers will be happy with and proud of.
What kind of prints do you want to create?
There are several popular printing methods for art printing, each with its unique characteristics and advantages. It's a good idea to identify which kind of print you'd like to make early on, so that you can ensure that you find a printer that uses this technique. Here are some of the most popular methods:
Giclée printing: Giclée printing is a high-quality inkjet printing method that produces high-resolution images with vibrant colors and exceptional detail. This method is often used for fine art prints, as it can reproduce the subtle nuances of color and texture found in paintings and photographs.
Screen printing: Screen printing is a printing method that involves pressing ink through a fine mesh screen onto paper or other surfaces. This method is commonly used for printing posters, T-shirts, and other promotional materials. It produces vibrant colors and a bold, graphic look.
Lithography: Lithography is a printing method that uses a flat stone or metal plate to transfer ink onto paper or other surfaces. It produces sharp, detailed images with a smooth finish. Lithography is often used for printing high-end art prints and limited edition prints.
Digital printing: Digital printing is a versatile printing method that uses digital files to produce prints directly onto paper or other surfaces. It can produce high-quality images with vivid colors and fine detail. Digital printing is commonly used for printing photographs, art prints, and other materials.
Each of these printing methods has its strengths and unique qualities, and the choice of which method you use will depend on your preferences, the desired look and feel of the print, and the intended use of the print.
What sort of paper is right for you artwork?
There are many different types of paper that are suitable for printing art prints, each with its unique characteristics and advantages. The paper you choose largely depends on the style of your artwork, and the end result you're trying to achieve. Here are some of the most popular paper types:
Fine art paper: Fine art paper is a high-quality, acid-free paper that is specifically designed for printing fine art prints. It comes in a variety of textures, finishes, and weights, and it produces prints with exceptional color accuracy and detail. Some examples include: Hahnemuhle Photo Rag, Hahnemuhle William Turner, Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper, Moab Entrada Rag, Somerset Enhanced Velvet, Museo Max, Aquarelle Rag, and Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige.
Photo paper: Some types of high-quality photo paper, such as luster or pearl paper, can also be used for printing giclee art prints. These papers produce prints with a slightly glossy finish and vibrant colors. Some popular examples are: Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper, Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl, Fujifilm Crystal Archive Professional, Kodak Professional Endura Metallic, and Canon Photo Paper Pro Luster.
Canvas: Canvas is a popular alternative to paper for printing giclee art prints. It provides a painterly, tactile quality to printed images and is ideal for printing fine art reproductions.
When choosing your paper type, it's important to choose a surface that is compatible with the chosen printing method and ink type, to ensure the best possible results. Top Tip: I always ask the printer for a sample pack first so that I can feel each paper type, and then I order a test print to check that it works well with my art.
This video by The Printspace is a great introduction to paper types for art prints:
What price should you sell your art prints at?
When selling your art prints online, it is important to ensure that you're making a decent profit after all the printing costs, expenses and taxes have taken into account. I truly believe that artists should not undervalue their work, as this can lead to a perception that their work is of lower quality. To determine the appropriate price for your art prints, do some market research to see what similar artists sell their artwork for. You should also consider the materials used, your experience as an artist, the platform you're selling on, and the level of detail and time invested in creating the artwork. Don't forget to factor in any additional expenses, such as shipping and handling, seller fees, packaging materials, and marketing costs.
By carefully calculating all of these costs, you should be able to arrive at a price that's fair but also one that makes you a decent profit. Once you have decided the price point you will be selling your artwork at, you can figure out a budget for how much you can spend on printing. This should help you decide whether a printer is affordable for you or not. As a rule, I try to keep production costs lower than 50% of the RRP. This means that after additional expenses and taxes, I will usually be making a profit of at least 20%.
How sustainable is your printer?
If sustainability and environmental impact are important to you as an artist (which hopefully they are!), you'll want to check that your printer's values are in line with your own. Here are a few things I consider when selecting a printer:
Look for a printer that is carbon neutral or actively working towards reducing its carbon footprint. This means that they are taking measures to minimise their energy consumption, reduce waste, and limit greenhouse gas emissions.
Some printers use Green Couriers, which are delivery services that use low-emission vehicles or alternative transportation methods to reduce carbon emissions during delivery.
Do they use eco-friendly and sustainable packaging materials? This can include using recycled or biodegradable packaging materials, or even offering a packaging-free option for customers.
See if the printers offers carbon emission offsetting, which involves investing in projects that help to offset or reduce carbon emissions in other areas, such as renewable energy projects or reforestation initiatives.
Look for a printer that uses paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or made from recycled materials. Some printers may also offer alternatives to traditional paper, such as bamboo paper or other sustainable options.
How will you be selling your art prints?
Before selecting your printer, decide how you will be selling your art prints. If you're planning on selling art prints using the print-on-demand (POD) model, you will need to find a printer that offers this service. This will mean that you'll upload your artwork to an online platform, such as a website or marketplace, and when a customer orders a print, it will be printed and shipped on-demand by a third-party printer. You'll earn a percentage of the sale price, typically after deducting the printing and shipping costs. The advantage is that there is no upfront investment required, and you don't need to run to the post office every time someone places an order! However the disadvantage is that you have less control over the printing and shipping process (so you really need to trust your printer).
If you choose to sell your prints wholesale, this will mean you'll need to buy a larger quantity of prints upfront from your printer, and then sell them individually or in smaller quantities to customers at a markup. With this method, you'll take on the risk of holding inventory (that may or may not sell) and you'll be responsible for storage, packaging, and shipping of the prints. However, you'll have more control over the printing and distribution process.
Whichever method you choose, make sure that the printer you have in mind fits the bill and is able to fulfil your orders in the way that you need them to.
Will you be shipping internationally?
If you're planning to sell your prints all over the world, it's important to consider shipping costs when choosing your printer. International shipping can significantly affect the cost and lead time of the shipment, as well as the overall customer experience, so make sure you have all the facts before you list your print for sale everywhere from Austria to Australia! Find out what the lead time is for international shipping, as this can vary greatly depending on the destination country, and see if the printer offers an option for a speedy 'Priority Delivery', in case your customer is in a rush. It's important to communicate these lead times to customers so they know when to expect their print, especially during busy times like the holidays. It's also important to ensure that the printer ships to all the countries where you expect to have customers, as some printers may have restrictions on certain countries due to customs regulations or other factors.
Which printers do I use?
After a lot of deliberation, trials, and testing, I have been using the following two printers for over three years and I can honestly say that I am very happy with their services:
I use these guys for all my UK, Europe and ROW sales and I've never had a problem. I mainly produce high quality giclée art prints on museum quality paper, and the Printspace does this perfectly. They use the latest best-in-class Epson Sure Color P9000 printers, capable of producing print resolutions up to 1440 by 2880 DPI. They also have an excellent range of the best archival art papers from the world’s top producers, including Hahnemühle, Epson and Canson. In addition, their customer service is top notch and they have an easy-to-use portal that allows for print-on-demand. They have two studios, one in the UK and one Germany, so they can easily and quickly fulfil all of my UK and European orders.
I use The Stackhouse for all my printing in the USA and Canada and have had a great experience. They specialise in fine art printing and have a great rage of museum quality paper and high-quality archival inks. They are also committed to using sustainable materials and practices, including using eco-friendly paper and packaging, and offsetting their carbon emissions.
In conclusion, choosing a printer for your art prints is a critical decision that requires careful consideration. A good printer can make all the difference in the quality of your prints, and it's important to take the time to choose one that meets your specific needs. By weighing all of the factors above and doing your research, you can find a printer that will produce high-quality prints that accurately represent your artwork. So, take your time, do your research, and choose a printer that will help showcase your art in the best possible way!