Since I just went through this process myself, I thought I would share what I learned. Deciding on how to get my illustrations printed in order to sell them was a topic that I was unable to find any good information about online. So, I will cover three types of printing that I believe many artists and illustrators will look to use and the reasons you might want to choose them. Since all of my illustrations are created in Adobe Illustrator, I will include information about that is well.
Offset Printing – The first illustration I chose to print in 2009 was this illustration of Chicago:
Since the style of this illustration is very poster-like, I decided to go with a printing process that matched that look. Many places can be found online that do this type of printing. I chose Large Format Posters. This type of printing is great because it is cheaper. As long as you set your settings to CMYK, I thought it matched the colors in Illustrator very well. The down side is that it does look very mass produced. If you are an artist, you probably want it to feel more authentic when you look at it. Since the Chicago poster was popular, I was able to sell a lot of them, so it made my choice of offset printing a smart one. On the other hand, I did a couple other posters that were not as popular and I wish I would have thought it through more.
If you are thinking about getting art prints done, I would not suggest offset printing. Art prints should have a feeling of authenticity that is hard to achieve with offset printing It is much better suited for promotional posters, flyers or a more mass produced use. I used it recently to print a promotional poster and it worked out great. It even helped me land a few clients while in Sydney.
Screen Printing – A few months ago, I decided to get two more illustrations printed. This time, I wanted to use something other than offset printing and keep the number of prints lower. In turn, I knew the cost of each print would be higher because I was using a more expensive printing technique. After looking at what other artists and illustrators use, I saw there were two main ways of doing it: screen printing and giclée printing. From the artists I looked at, screen printing was used more often than giclée printing. The initial problem I had with screen printing was finding someone to do the printing. If you type in “screen printing” on Google, you will find many places that do it on t-shirts and other items, but not people who do it on paper. I wanted to find someone locally in Chicago to do it. After contacting someone I follow on Twitter, he suggested contacting VGKids in Michigan. I wanted to get the following artwork printed:
After getting it priced, it was apparent I had too many colors. Therefore, it would not be cost effective for me. So, I went back into Illustrator and adjusted the artwork so it was more financially manageable. Here are the results:
If you are deciding on screen printing, make that decision before creating the artwork. While I am happy with the results of the print, it did feel odd going back into the artwork and adjusting it for the sake of printing. I went from having a 9-color artwork to a 5-color print. Screen printing is great if you want to sell original artwork. Even though each print is essentially the same, there are little differences between each print because of the way the paper is inked. Plus, it makes a computer generated artwork in Illustrator look and feel much more handmade. If I do another screen print, I would do it with the least amount of colors as possible. If you can create an awesome piece of artwork with only a few colors, it is better for you because you will pay less per print. Better yet…if you are able to do it yourself, then you are paying even less per print.
Giclée Printing – Overall, I did not see many illustrators using giclée printing. It seems that it gets used most often by painters who take pictures of their originals and then sell prints. However, I had an illustration that would not work as a screen print so I needed to know if giclée was an option. Here is the artwork I wanted to get printed:
After researching local places in Chicago, I ended up going to Gamma Imaging. After looking at samples and getting a quote, I decided to get a proof. They showed me glossy and luster paper, but they looked like they were better suited for photographs. They suggested using an enhanced matte paper for this type of illustration. Here is the result:
I was very happy. The colors matched very well with what I saw in Illustrator. Plus, it looked more like a piece of artwork as opposed to just a poster. If you have an illustration that has lots of colors, I would definitely recommend giclée printing. In terms of price, screen printing and giclee printing seem to be rather similar. A lot will depend on the type of illustration you have and your expectations for the final print.