Not all companies that offer fine-art reproduction services are equally well equipped—particularly when it comes to the most important phase of the process: the digital capture. Significant variations exist in the type of capture equipment and lighting set-ups used.
If the original artwork isn’t captured at sufficiently high resolutions and under the correct lighting, the intricate brushstroke detail that adds texture and nuance to a work won’t reproduce as well as you might like—especially if the painting is enlarged from its original size. And some areas of the reproduced painting may show more detail than others. Color quality can become a concern if the printmaker lacks sufficient experience in the finer points of digital color reproduction.
One printmaker who values the importance of high-res capture and color management is Geoff Graham of Graham Editions in Canoga Park, CA.
Having worked as a commercial photographer for more than 25 years, Graham has acquired an in-depth knowledge of color along with the high-end imaging equipment needed for top-quality fine-art reproduction. He is totally committed to achieving the best possible quality during every step of the art-reproduction process.
For capture, he typically uses a Sinar P2 4×5 view camera with a PhaseOne FX scanning back. Combined with his powerful North Light 900 HID lighting set-up with UV filters, he can create ultra-high-resolution files with all of the detail required to make beautiful, consistently detailed reproductions.
“I’ve been using large- and medium-format cameras since I can remember,” says Graham. “The scan back cost $37,000 when I first purchased it, and the quality it reproduces is mind-blowing. It has an area of 10,500 x 12,600 pixels and the detail is phenomenal. I use high-end reprographic lenses so I can get as close to the image as I need to. I also have lots of flexibility in my lighting.” This flexibility enables him to adjust the lighting according to the nature and texture of each piece of art.
He typically reproduces originals painted with oil and acrylic on canvas in sizes from 16 x 20 in. up to 48 x 72 in. but he has captured paintings larger than that. He says, “If it’s any bigger than 48 x 72, I can shoot it in sections and blend in Photoshop.”
The files are output on one of three Epson printers. Graham generally uses the 44-in. Epson Stylus Pro 9600 for black-and-white printmaking, the 44-in. Epson 9800 with fine-art papers, and the 64-in. Epson Stylus Pro 11880 with LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas. Having each printer dedicated to certain types of jobs makes it more efficient to keep the workflow totally color managed.
Geoff Graham has considerable expertise in color management, which he regards as the key process in fine-art reproduction. He did some consulting in the early years of the digital color management, and knows how to use and interpret profiles. He uses ProfileMaker software and i1 color-measuring devices now sold by X-Rite to create custom profiles for all of his capture, display, and output devices.
He keeps the studio exceptionally clean, which is particularly important during the printing and finishing phases. Graham meticulously coats all canvases by hand. He typically applies two coats of varnish and creates profiles for his print media based on how the prints will look after the varnish is applied.
Graham doesn’t expect clients to understand all of the technical reasons why this fine-art reproduction workflow produces great-looking results. Instead, he simply shows them the high level of printmaking skills he has attained since going into the fine-art reproduction full-time business several years ago.
Clients can inspect the high-end reproductions on the walls of the studio, view samples of previous jobs, or examine some of the high-res files that he has captured. “I zoom in 100% and let clients see the dots in the canvas,” explains Graham. “Even at 100%, each corner is razor sharp.”
When you talk to Graham, you quickly understand that he’s not only passionate about reproducing the art to the best of his ability, he’s also passionate about the art. As he explains to visitors to his website, “I serve the vision of you, the artist, and put you in the driver’s seat while using state-of-the art technology.”
When some customers ask why doesn’t do serigraphs or lithographs, he explains that those methods aren’t “print-on-demand.” The prepress set-up requirements for serigraphy or lithography make it cost-prohibitive to produce only a few prints as needed. The ability to print only as many copies of a print as you can sell is a key advantage of digital-printing technology.
Plus, advances in inks and materials make it possible to produce prints on canvas and paper that will last for 100 to 150 years under typical gallery display conditions.
Inkjet printing technology has improved to the point that it’s nearly impossible to tell that the print is created from dots. As Graham observes: “Digital printing technology is so evolved, I don’t think anyone will go to lithography again.
For more information, visit the Graham Editions website: www.graham-editions.com