fine art printing methods for art collectors

October 26, 2016

There are several different mechanical methods of fine art printing. Art collectors need to understand the methods behind printing to establish not only value but potentially the age of a print where provenance is involved (being asked for $40,000 for a giclee print from the "1940's" won't fly).

Giclee Prints: A color transparency is made from an original piece or painting by taking a high resolution picture or using a drum scanner. Most giclee art prints are produced by ink jet printers attached to computers and unless an artist or trades person actual is the one to print them, they can suffer from inconsistent color reproduction. They are have become high quality options but do remain flat and produce untextured reproduction art.

Art-a-graph: The art-a-graph is an interesting copy production method recreating not only the color of the original, but also the surface texture. The reproduction is completed by taking an actual silicone mould of the original oil painting and using it in the fine art copy. This is an excellent option for heavy paint textures that lend themselves to be incorporated into the fine art piece along with the actual image. The issue with these prints is that not a lot of fine art curators or collectors are willing to have their fine art pieces covered in silicone, especially if they are older and not contemporary art.  This makes the options for art-o-graph fine art reproductions very limited, and is often reserved for the artists themselves before the original art even hits museums or galleries.

Digital reproduction: This is the type of reproduction reserved for coffee mugs and t-shirts, but it often plays an important part of marketing original works and supporting museums.  A photo or scan is digitized and then that file is color-corrected as best as possible to resemble the original fine art piece.  From there, the file can be uploaded to a website or to external vendors for a museum and printed on-demand.

The Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art in New York is one of the top places that does a great job of distributing fine art reproductions so that many of its visitors can enjoy the original important art pieces. See their site and gift store here.