I'm an artist. Do I need to print my own art prints? Everything you need to know before you invest in a fine art printer.

I'm an artist. Do I need to print my own art prints? Everything you need to know before you invest in a fine art printer.

As an artist and an owner of a print shop I’ve been in both positions and thought I’d shed some light on whether as an artist you need to also be your own fine art printer. Just like all the big questions in life it’s not really a black and white, yes or no thing but I’ll do my best to break it down.

First off, let’s talk about what kind of art printing we are talking about. I’m not talking about printing your art off on your office printer that you use for your kid’s homework. I’m talking about fine art printing which is classified as a giclée (French word pronounced gee-clay) reproduction using high-quality inks, papers and canvas. The combination of these inks and substrates create a long lasting print which will last at least 100 years when properly cared for. These prints are considered heirloom prints because they will last for generations. Okay… now that we are clear on the kind of art prints we are printing let’s dig into whether you want to print for yourself.

I’ve studied with many great online art mentors and many of them encourage you to take control of your printing and buy a printer because ultimately (once you pay off the printer) your profit margin will be higher than if you outsource your printing. And, yes, this is 100% true. But some factors to consider when investing in a printer is not only the cost (nowadays for a few hundred dollars you can get a pretty decent smaller printer) but also the cost of inks and papers which can add up. Additionally, you have to consider are you going to be printing enough to really utilize the printer to the best of it’s ability? These machines actually work better the more you use them. You don’t want a printer and all the inks in the printer sitting unused for weeks at a time. Are you a techy person? Do you like problem solving? I, for one, hate it! I just want to turn the car on and go and never want to worry about putting gas in it or gawd forbid, having to take it for an oil change. I don’t like reading manuals, googling, watching Youtube videos or calling the manufacturer to problem solve. I know that sounds harsh but with any machine there are going to be things that pop up and that’s just not in my wheel house, hence, my business partner (and husband) who is really good at all that. So if that’s not your cup of tea then I’d say it’s well worth outsourcing your printing because think about all the time you could be painting instead of being your own geek squad. And that’s not even all the tech stuff that goes into it! Let’s assume you never have one “issue” with your printer. Great! This still means you have to know how to color correct your scan or photo of your artwork. Maybe you’re a wiz with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Great! I hope you are because you’ll have to be. But if you’re not (like me) then you’re going to have to learn or have someone do this for you. Each piece of art will have to be scanned or photographed then color corrected and then tested on your printer to make sure the print matches the original to the best of your ability. This can be challenging because even if you have your printer and computer expertly calibrated to match there’s still a difference between what the artwork looks like on screen vs. in print. This can be time consuming and frustrating. Not to mention that lovely paper that you decided to splurge on can get wasted on test print after test print until you get it juuuuuuuuuust riiiiiiiiiiiight! But let’s assume you love all that techy stuff and you’re detail oriented and all of that sounds like a walk in the park. Great!

Something else to consider is, do you have room for a printer? Even if you are talking about a smaller printer that could fit on your desktop you still need to maintain a clean, spill-proof, kid-proof, pet-proof area to print. You’ll need space to lay out prints, cut prints and package prints. I know a few artist friends who have their own smaller fine art printers and I think one out of five friends truly has the time, space, patience and inclination to really make her own prints well. The rest can do it but I have heard the horror stories about the endless tech nightmares and how truly time consuming fine art printing can be. In hindsight, does it actually save you time and money if it takes you away from your main goal which is to be painting, creating and making? Maybe not.

So I’d say if you think everything I’ve mentioned above sounds like a fun challenge and excites you go for it. Buy a printer and do it! You will reap the rewards. But if it sounds like it will be taking you away from your highest goal which is making more artwork then delegate and send your printing needs to a professional fine art printer. Because the more things you can take off your own plate the more time you’ll have time to create.

There are a lot of great fine art printers out there and a lot of subpar ones out there. I think the most important thing to look for when outsourcing your printing is, of course, to make sure the printer is truly printing giclée quality prints. Then once you’ve figured out if they are printing on the paper or canvas or whatever you are interested in, then it’s all about trust. Can you trust the printer to spend the time on getting your print juuuuuuust riiiiiiight? When my husband and I started Studio Giclée our idea was to take our experience both as artists and his tech know-how to print from the artist’s point of view. We know how important the integrity of color and quality is to an artist and our goal is that your prints will look almost just as good as the original. I invite you to try us out and visit our website for more information. Our motto is, “Fine Art Printing BY Artists FOR Artists.” We share a lot of our process (videos & photos) on our Instagram so check us out on Instagram. We are happy to walk you through the process and answer any questions. 


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