Where to begin when Printing for Fairs & Art Sales - A Beginner's Guide

For those in the know prints are the easiest thing in the world to make, and great for selling at the fair and art sales, such as the upcoming Auckland Fair on Sunday 14th June - who doesn’t want to put fantastic art on the walls right? For those of you who don’t know much about it, and maybe those who know a little but want to brush up, it’s actually not that daunting - and I am here to try and make things just that little bit simpler.


I am an artist myself, and have been managing compact print shop The Print Room for almost two years now. We are small and we focus only on high quality printing for artists.

This is to make sure that we a) keep our costs as low as possible, b) focus on doing that one thing incredibly well, and c) can give as much one on one personal time and advice as we can to you - the creator.


On that note - here are my 5 top tips on printing good quality work:


1.    Artwork

The first thing you need to do is select which artwork to make prints of - easy if you are a photographer or designer, as all of your work will need to be printed, but if you are a painter or illustrator you will need to decide which works are best to reproduce. Think of it this way, any fair or art sale will be busy, very busy - so make sure to choose bold and eye catching pieces. If you are working from an original, you’re going to need to either scan or photograph the piece before prepping it for print - more on that in tip #3. Test out your choices on your friends, your mum, your colleagues and especially people you know who aren’t artists themselves. Why? Because the image that is your favourite and which you think will sell the best is most often not the one that actually does. People have different tastes and when others look at your work what they take from it will naturally be different from the thought process and emotion that you put into it.

Amane from Amane&Me at the Print Room

Amane from Amane&Me at the Print Room

2.    Paper Choices

Once you’ve selected your artworks you will need to decide which paper is best to print on. There is no one paper that’s better than the rest, they can all give the same artwork a slightly different mood and feel. Whether you want to go for a really slick high gloss photographic paper or you are looking for a premium super-matte poster style paper, there is going to be something that will fit your artwork perfectly. We have a beautiful thick watercolour-style-textured paper that is popular amongst illustrators and painters because often it is hard to tell the difference between the print and the original, and a metallic photographic paper which, as well as being fantastic for B&W and Sepia images, also prints digitally created artwork beautifully and gives it that extra pop. I always have samples on hand if you’re unsure, and happy to print the odd test strip too so you can get a feel for what is going to suit your work best - a good printer should care as much about the outcome as you do!!


I’ll be writing a much more in depth blog post on the best papers for exhibition and limited edition prints very soon if you want more information on this topic, but in the meantime have a look at our Papers page as a place to start

Paper samples at the Print Room

Paper samples at the Print Room

3.    Photographing or scanning originals for print

This is the slightly daunting and complicated bit that often throws people off. Like I said, if you are working from an original, you’re going to need to either scan or photograph the piece before prepping it for print.

Most cameras shoot straight to Jpeg, and unless you understand how to use your DSLR inside and out this is what you’ll be shooting to when you photograph your work. Jpeg, unfortunately, is not great. But you have to work with what you’ve got. Make sure you are shooting with the largest sized Jpeg possible - this will be in your camera settings somewhere -  all cameras are different so read the manual, ask a friend, figure it out somehow. Once you have uploaded your images onto your computer, first thing you need to do is resave the file as either a Tiff or Psd. Why? Because every single time you save a Jpeg file it compresses and deletes information. The more information it deletes, the less likely you’re going to be able to blow it up for larger prints and the more likely visible pixelation will occur. This is especially important if you plan on editing, saving, going back later, editing some more, saving again, going back into the file a little later etc. etc. etc. Also, keep the largest version of your file forever - it’s way easier to shrink a file than it is the enlarge it, so don’t delete your largest copy. Buy an external hard drive instead.

If you can shoot RAW then that’s fabulous, and if you’re scanning, hopefully you can scan straight to Tiff, or even Pdf is better than Jpeg (but ditto on the re-saving as Tiff or Psd straight away - Pdf’s compress also, even if the compression is less). Check out this super informative video for more info


In short: Tiff is the best file type for printing from, Psd taking a close second, followed by Pdf and then Jpeg - all at 300 dpi, anything lower than 300dpi will not produce high quality art prints.


4. Very important pre-print colour proofing

Both of these options will most likely result in you needing to tweak the colours so that there’s a better colour match. This is something I like to do in Photoshop, using “Selective Colour” layers. A good tip is to name your layers as you go along, and use different layers for different colour tweaks, so if you go too far on one, it’s really easy to find and bring it back. One of the most common mistakes people make is trusting their computer screens on showing true colour, especially when it comes to Blacks and Whites. Don’t trust your computer screen. Pull up the “Info” tab in Photoshop and scroll your mouse around - white is 255 in RGB, black is 0. This is where the “Selective Colour” layers come back in. If you’re not hitting anywhere close to either 255 or 0 when you want white and black, select either the Whites or Blacks from the Colours drop-down menu, and pull the sliders around until you get a better match. Just don’t forget to “Flatten Image” before sending it through to print, layers create larger files. (NB: There are other ways to do this, but this is the one that I’ve found the easiest and quickest, Photoshop is one of those programmes where there are often multiple ways to get the same result, it all just depends on how you work)

Thanks to Amane&Me for lending us their image to demonstrate

Thanks to Amane&Me for lending us their image to demonstrate

Alternatively, if you have no idea what you’re doing in Photoshop or where to begin, hit me up and swing into The Print Room sometime and I’ll give you a demo. I’ll also be writing more on this subject in the future, so keep an eye on this blog..


5.    Packaging & Displaying prints

Now this will vary depending on whether you’re selling only prints, or other bits and pieces as well. One thing I will say is this - you will need a combination of boxes for people to rummage through, think cute wooden ones like old wine cases, or baskets. Also have a couple of your prints in frames on display - this will help people to imagine what the work will look like out of it’s plastic sleeve.  Like I said earlier, fairs and art sales get very busy - make it easier for people to imagine what the work will look like on the wall.  Another great display option I’ve seen for larger prints are those old-fashioned wooden skirt hangers - they look great! At the end of the day it's all about the art, and what is going to make it look the best.

These tips are definitely not exhaustive, but hopefully have given you some good starting points to get your head around different ways of printing and displaying your work.

This blogpost was originally posted on the Auckland Fair Makers Blog - if you’re thinking of selling at the Fair but missed the application, it’s never too early to start planning for the pre-Christmas December event! Also don’t forget to check out this month’s event on Sunday 14th June at Shed 10 in Auckland for inspiration..