How do I turn my oil paintings into prints?

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Original Post

Hello painters here on Etsy. Before I became a dollmaker I was a actually a painter. I hope to go back to it some day. Dolls just worked better for me with little children around the house...

Now I have a number of my oil paintings I would like to make prints of. How does one do it? I don't want to sell the originals. But I think they are really nice and might sell as prints.
Please, help!

Posted at 8:11am Jun 6, 2010 EDT


Your first step is to get the paintings into the computer. You can do this by either photographing them or (if they're small enough) scanning them. If you're going to try photography, do it at the largest image size/resolution that your camera can hold, and be careful of your lighting--outside on a cloudy day is good if you don't have a studio setup. Make sure that there is no glare off the surface of the painting. (The photos in my shop will show you what happens when you *don't* take these precautions--the background I use is actually white!)

Your second step is to take a look at what you've got and adjust it so that it looks right, so haul your images into Photoshop or the GIMP or whatever and fiddle with the Levels or Curves tools until what you've got on the screen looks like the actual painting. (There are other, more sophisticated things you can do, but Levels/Curves will be enough to fix most basic lighting problems.)

While you're at it, check the size of your picture, because this will affect the size of your prints. The rule of thumb is 300 pixels = 1 inch, so if the image in your computer is 900 x 600 pixels, for example, you will only be able to get a 3" x 2" print out of it! You want something around 3000 x 2250 pixels for a print that will fit comfortably on a normal sheet of 8.5" x 11" letter paper (0.5" margin).

And finally, you have to decide how you're going to go about printing. You have three choices here: do it yourself at home, get it done by a local print shop, or find a printer over the Internet.

If you're going to do it yourself, make sure you have a good quality *ink jet* printer with pigment-based inks--Epson makes good ones. There are plenty of printer-recommendation threads here at the forum that you can read to get exact model numbers.

If you're going to send the images to someone else to print, either locally or over the Internet, follow the directions that give you for file formats, etc., exactly, and make sure you know exactly what they're going to charge you (some places will charge you for each file they have to open, frex). There are plenty of threads on here recommending Internet print shops, too.

Good luck.

Posted at 12:03pm Jun 6, 2010 EDT

AriaArt says


I just investigated this very thing recently for my paintings and I'll share with you what I learned.

I'm not doubting the advice of revisionsandreversls about photoshopping to maximize the accuracy of your own photos, and I don't know about the companies and printers that are recommended here, I'm sure there are many ways of doing this. That being said, I'll share my findings:

My first trial was to take photos with my own camera, which is a pretty nice Nikon D40; it captures the image pretty well, depending on lighting and settings, and I think they loook ok on the computer, but for me the printed photos are not good enough to serve as fine art prints.

I tried it, though, by taking one of my jpgs that I thought was pretty sharp and clear to a local commercial printer (something a step above Kinkos-because they're colors aren't right!). Actally, I conveniently emailed the jpg to the place, told the printer that I hope to make fine art prints for selling, and asked them to print one on watercolor paper for me to check out. Oddly, the lady didn't know what I meant by watercolor paper. Anyway, they printed one, I drove over to look at it, had high hopes, but I had to avert my eyes when I saw it. It looked horrible. Although my jpg seemed ok and I thought the resolution was reasonable, the printed version had lost the brush strokes and the colors were way off. The white areas were light brown and looked like someone had spilled coffee on the paper. Think Xerox copies from yesteryear.

So I googled for other options and found a great indie print place that happens to be nearby that takes their own photos using state of the art lighting, camera and color matching. Now, they charge about $150 to photograph one painting, but they capture the details perfectly, you get to keep the jpg forever and print on demand at any size, wherever you want. He said if I didn't agree that their photo was better than mine, fee waived. Then, if wanted, they will print for a reasonable fee whatever sizes you want on nice archival paper, as many as you want. 2400 dpi clarity. PIGMENT archival ink with permance level of 100 years. And color matched. They have done photos for the Louvre, but also serve everyday artists who want good prints. When I went there to see my sample, I literally could not tell my original from the prints. They were sitting all together and I had to touch them to figure it out. He managed to make an exact reproduction.

So, my feeling is it's worth some money to get a good quality photo, good paper and good INK and color. I'm sure there are many printers out there who can make an excellent image capture for less than $150, so shop around. But I"m sticking with this guy. I've heard the make-or-break question is to find out if your print shop takes its own photos of the work, with good equipment, if not, they might not be that serious about accurate capture and quality, and about making good quality prints. So, shop around and have fun. Best wishes!

Posted at 12:47pm Jun 6, 2010 EDT

Thanks so much for the long explanations you gave! I didn't think anyone was going to respond. But now I see why it took longer...I totally appreciate your advice!

Posted at 6:29pm Jun 6, 2010 EDT

I have always wondered this myself. I am also a painter/sketch artist myself before I started crafting. Marking this. Anyone else have any advice?

Posted at 6:42pm Jun 6, 2010 EDT

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