Your Guide to Making Fine Art Prints

So here it is — everything you ever wanted to know about producing fine art prints! Well… probably not everything, but definitely more than nothing. This is a HUGE topic and it’s difficult to discuss because the official rule book for making fine art prints has been missing from the holy temple of photography for quite some time.

So we did our best to discuss the important aspects of the subject, and the fellow artists leaving comments on the articles have been more than helpful. If you haven’t read through the entire series of articles, take a stroll through the archive. And definitely read through the comments at the very bottom of each page — they probably contain more content than the actual articles. I offer up a big thanks to all who participated in the discussion — you guys are great!

INTRODUCTIONS: Making prints sounds simple at first — just hit the print button, right? Well… yes and no. Prints can actually be quite involved depending on how far you want to go with them. Once you cross the line of producing a signed print, you’re basically putting your integrity on the line. A signature is a “seal of approval” when it comes to prints, and this is something you shouldn’t take lightly. This is an intro to an upcoming series.

PREFACE: Before we dive into the main topics for this series, I wanted to mention a few things to set the tone. These are things that should hold true for the length of the series, and I don’t want to waste precious real estate on repeating myself with each article.

PREPARING: With fine art prints, preparation is probably the most important step in the process. So many things are dependent on other things, it’s imperative that you have a clear path defined. The end product is your goal, but the process is the path you must take. If that path is ill-defined, your final product will be something less than fine art. In this article, we’ll simply talk about the preparation that must take place before producing your final work.

PRINTING: I think we’ve covered the bases for general preparations, so now it’s time to start making that print! This is really the first step in producing a fine art print, but it’s not any more or less important than the other steps. If I could give just one piece of advice in this article, it would be to make the final print at the highest quality humanly possible. Here’s a few tips and advice for making that happen.

SIGNING: Finally, we’re getting to the less discussed topic of producing fine art prints: signing. I’ve had a few people ask the same questions about where to sign, how to sign, what to sign with, etc. If there existed an official rule book, set of laws, or holy parchment that contained the answers I’d direct everybody to the web page. But I don’t think something like that exists, and I know the process of signing fine art is less than defined.

FRAMING: We’re really coming along on this series! Almost to the finish line now! In this article, we’ll be covering the topics of matting, mounting, and framing your fine art prints. These are really the final steps in producing the artwork, and they’re equally important as the other steps. Read on for some tips and guidelines, and be sure to share your thoughts and insights in the comments!

SHIPPING: This article will dive into some of the discussion about packaging and shipping your fine art prints. With each step in the process of print making, the piece becomes a little more complete. At the end, you might have to send it to a new owner, and all that hard work is out of your hands during the transit. Here are a few tips to keep your print safe!

WHAT DID WE FORGET???

Speak up if we left out any topics that you’d like addressed! This is a big subject, so I’m certain that some things have slipped by.

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Great series Brian! So glad you wrote this up and shared your experience. I’m still in the process of figuring out exactly how I’m going to go about it, but I was close to lost before this series. Thanks again!

July 21, 2009 9:50 pm

Thank YOU! You’re actually the one who inspired the whole discussion. I wish you the best of luck with choosing your path for print making. Just remember — there’s really no right or wrong, just produce work at top quality and you’ll be fine.

July 21, 2009 9:54 pm

A fantastic series of articles Brian. I’ll have to spend some more time reading through each time. The framing part is the biggest hassle IMO hence why I don’t offer that service.

July 21, 2009 10:11 pm

Great series of posts. I haven’t had a chance to comment on each of them, but I’ve read them all. I had commented on the “pre-series” post, when you said you would be doing these topics, about having trouble deciding how to go about framing/matting/signing my prints to sell or enter into an art show. I’ve been working on getting everything done, and am glad to say that with some of the advice on here, and a lot of reading on APUG, photo.net, and other sites, I’ve finally got everything ready to go and get the final product done. Hopefully within the next week or two I’ll be set up at my local farmers market to try to sell some prints and get a real taste of how hard this business will be.

July 21, 2009 11:12 pm

Terrific post! Thanks for sharing

July 22, 2009 4:28 am

I enjoyed these posts so much, and shared them with a couple of photographer friends. I also printed each one so I can keep them in my notebook for reference. Thank you so much for all of your input!

July 22, 2009 12:26 pm

GReat series Brian, but you forgot the most important part… How to make lots and lots of money!!! When will that article come out?

July 23, 2009 3:43 pm

my question is, how do you price fine art photos? I’m new to this and have only sold a few prints at fund raising auctions. I was asked the value. How do you assign value to a photo?
Thanks.

July 27, 2009 9:13 pm

That’s a tough one indeed! Part of the cost to the customer will be time and materials. How much did you spend on the piece and how much is your time worth? The rest of the cost is basically a guessing game based on how well-known you are, the scarcity of the piece, and how “good” the artwork is to the public eye.

I can’t give any hard-set guidelines on this topic, but here’s what I see happening most of the time. Absolute beginners will charge in the ballpark of $100-$300 for signed/limited work. Those with some sort of reputation will charge between $500-$1000 for signed/limited work. And if you’re making a consistent number of sales and/or getting your stuff shown at high-end galleries… well, the sky is the limit.

Anybody else have some ideas on how to approach this subject?

July 27, 2009 9:19 pm




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