Making prints from original paintings is a perfect way to create inexpensive wall art for home decor. Reasonably priced, high-quality digital prints can be made at home or at a photo lab. The main challenge is capturing the painting digitally, with a scanner or a digital camera. Once this is accomplished, printing is relatively easy, and there are many options available. If you plan to do the digital reproduction and printing yourself, you should be familiar with Photoshop or similar digital imaging software. Otherwise you can outsource these tasks to a lab.
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Decide whether to scan or photograph your painting. Scanning is the easiest choice, but only suitable for small, matt-surfaced paintings, like watercolours. Oil paintings, for instance, can be tricky because the scanner's lights reflect off the glossy surface and create unwanted highlights. If your painting is smaller than 8 1/2-by-11 inches, it will fit on a standard flatbed scanner--although some labs have larger scanners. For large paintings, you'll need a high-resolution digital photograph. Unless you are experienced at lighting and photographing artwork, this task is best left to a professional photographer or a lab.
If your painting can be scanned, decide whether to scan it yourself, or have it done at a lab. Most photo labs will scan and retouch flat artwork for prints. If you are comfortable with digital imaging software, save money by doing it yourself.
If you're scanning the painting yourself, scan it at a resolution of 300 dots per inch, or DPI, at the final size of your print. For instance, if your painting is 5 inches by 7 inches, and you're making an 8-by-10-inch print, your scanner's output settings should be set at 300 DPI for a target size of 8 inches by 10 inches. If you are making a large print, you can get away with a lower resolution--150 to 200 DPI should be fine. If you plan to have the prints made by a lab, contact them about scanning requirements.
If you're preparing the digital file yourself, open the image in Photoshop or other digital imaging software. Save a copy of the image file. This way you can always go back to your original file. Remove any dust and scratches. Adjust the colour balance and contrast so that the digital image matches the original.
Decide whether to make the prints at home or at a lab. If you are making the prints yourself, you'll need a printer with archival, lightfast inks. Prints from low-end inkjet printers fade quickly when exposed to sunlight. Check your printer's manual if you're not sure.
Choose a printing surface that will best capture the essence of your original painting. There are a variety of papers available: textured watercolour papers, photographic papers, even canvas that can be stretched to look like an original painting. Craft stores sell many speciality printing papers. Labs will have paper samples for you to look at.
Make the prints, either at a lab or at home. If you are making your own prints, make sure to set your printer's settings according to the paper manufacturer's recommendations.
Tips and warnings
- If you are looking for a photographer to photograph your paintings, contact local artist organisations and guilds. They will be familiar with photographers in your area who specialise in photographing artwork.
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