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Producing Archival Images

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  • Producing Archival Images

    I am looking at producing a series of limited edition prints of some of my photographs for sale as limited edition prints. I am wondering what is the best way to go about this. My images are all digital. At the moment I am looking into either printing them myself or getting a lab to print them.

    My concerns about printing them myself is the longevity of the print and whether people will find an inkjet image acceptable as a limited edition print.

    I have looked at having them printed by a lab but this is going to be very expensive due the quantity I will need.

    Does anyone have a view as to which printer I would be best getting if I print them myself? I was looking at the new A3 Epson that aparently uses pigment ink. But again I am unsure as to whether this is going to be worth the money.

    Thanks in advance for any feed back.

  • #2
    You might want to investigate having negatives made from your digital images for printing on traditional photo materials. It is also possible to print directly to photo (silver) paper.

    I'm not advocating this as "better" (although there are plenty that do), but it does seem to solve some of the psychological problems with digital printing and add perceived (or perhaps actual) value.
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    • #3
      Doug pretty much covers it. I would only add that with the Pigment based inks, longevity isnt much of a problem but metamerism might be. If you use the search function on the site here you will find some discussions and links dealing with this problem. Quality wise, the better ( read more expensive) the printer the better the a general rule. You might also investigate Dye sub units as well....
      From a cost effective standpoint, do you think you can sell enough prints to justify the outlay of cash to aquire a printer,supplies and so on ( which can quickly reach into the $1000.00 plus range ) or would you be better off out-sourcing..its a difficult decision!!
      Transfering your work to negatives is, as Doug pointed out, also an option. The cost for such a service can run from around $12.00 to over $30.00 ( US ) per negative over here...
      Keep us informed of what you do! All feedback is deeply appreciated...and, Welcome to Retouch Pro!!! Tom


      • #4
        There are any number of labs that will print your digital files to traditional prints, so why would you first transfer the files to a film negative? I think you would want to keep the generational losses down to a minimum.



        • #5
          Mike, Probably the only reason to do a film transfer negative would be for archival ( as in put it in an archival sleeve and in a vault somewhere) purposes, and that mainly just as a back up in case something happened to the digital media storing the work. The quality in terms of generational loss in making a negative depends a whole lot on the sophistication of the film transfer device. Those which can output at 16k are usually priced well over the $20,000.00 level, and there is noticable loss of image clairity and detail especially when enlarging. At one time I looked into purchasing a unit simply because some of my customers wanted negatives of their old photos . I decided after much research and hand wringing that digital is the way to go. For Art prints/Limited Edition prints my gut feeling, and again this is just my opinion so dont take it too seriously, would be to skip the in house printing and out-source the work. I personally, and this is strictly my opinion thus probably wrong, wouldnt mess with film transfers as the technology of digital storage is now quite robust and shows no signs of slowing down. With the DVD technology now at affordable levels for storage and backward compatability not an issue, plus the quality of digital prints being excellent both in terms of clairity and longevity, the reasons to do film transfer negatives are dwindling rapidly. Just my opinion though....Tom


          • #6
            I agree with you. For most applications, if you have a good digital file, you can get prints made to either any number of digital printers with all kinds of ouput, ie inkjet, dyesub, or C prints etc.

            Now if you really want to pull my chain start me on the term "archival" and what all that means and why we worry about it.

            But let us first ask if we helped Clare with her question, or did we just muddy the waters a little more? Clare, if you wish, a little more detail may help us form even more opinions, such as the size, number of copies you want to make, subjects, intended market and what ever else you wish to share.



            • #7
              Thank you for your help... I am still a little unsure of the direction I am going to take on this.

              Negatives could be a handy direction to go down as I could then print them myself ( If I can hire some darkroom space!), but one of the main reasons I turned to digital art was the fact that I wouldn't have to spend days on end in a dark closet suffering from lack of sunlight!!

              The sort of images I produce can be found at all feed back is greatly appresiated on any of the images they are all mine.

              I am mainly looking at producing images of approximately A3 or smaller other wise I think people may be less likely to buy them due to the price they would then have to outlay on frames. I understand that if you want images to last that is the best way to keep them.

              I will need to do a run of either 100-250 images I expect. Although hopefully in time I will get a clearer idea of how many I can sell of each piece of work.

              My main question I supose now is should I print my own? If printed on Art paper such as the somerset enhanced ( I have not tried this paper yet but there are some good write ups about it.. anyone got any experience of it or a good alternative?) would this be acceptable to the people who are going to archive the print?
              Thanks again for your feed back.


              • #8
                Very nice web site! I like it!! Perhaps if you could locate someone who owns a high or medium high end inkjet printer and you could obtain some samples of the paper types you are considering using, maybe you could talk them into running off some test prints to see how they would least that would give you a general idea of what to expect.
                The prints I have seen done on watercolor paper on units such as the Epson 1270,1280, 2000 and other printers in that class are very impressive.
                If you do decide to print your own my only suggestions would be to get the best quality printer you can, for longevity the pigment based inks and the printers designed to handle them would be at the top of the list, and plan on spending a few weeks doing lots of test printing to become familiar with your printer..Tom


                • #9
                  Great site Clare! I especially like the work in gallery 1 ..."Clock" and "Immortality Literature". They remind me a bit of the work of a former professor of mine, Kathleen Campbell...I'll try to dig up a link to some of her work.

                  You might try looking into sending your images to a Giclee printer (also called Iris prints). It's similar to inkjet and most fine art galleries will accept Giclee as "prints". I have had several images printed on Arches hot pressed watercolor paper using this method and have been very impressed. There are some issues with dot gain due to the nature of these papers but for the most part the images are very crisp and clear. I imagine a print made with a higher end Epson on similar paper will give you an equally good result. The other advantage to Giclee is that many of the printers are owned and operated by actual artists, so you can be assured they will treat your image as one of their own.

                  Tom's idea of getting test prints is a good one. Many printers will sell or give you small sample prints made on all of their available papers so that you can compare.


                  • #10
                    Thank you for all your help and views on producing archival images.

                    I have recently gone to the paper maufacturers and asked for a selection of test sheets to see what I think of working with there products. I am now going to test them on the epson printer and see what I think. If they give as good an output as I am looking for then thats the way I will go, if not then I will have to look again at outside printers.

                    I also looked at a lot of other artists sites and some of them seemed to be producing inkjet prints so that was encouraging as well.

                    Again thank you for all your help


                    • #11
                      Clare - just some boring technical consideratons on inkjet prints...

                      Paper will probably be limited in the sample pack - if you can use a good image that has both fine lineart detail and colour and neutral tones too that would be good. Other things to note will be highly saturated colours, gradations, shadow and highlight detail, three quarter to shadow transitions and how the paper absorbs the total ink setting in the darkest shadow areas.

                      (Scroll down to the characterization and calibration target links)

                      When you find a paper stock you like - the best results would be obtained with a custom ICC profile for this paper when used with the current inks and resolution setting. This can be done via mail order for around $30-50 with a consultant which saves on purchasing hardware/software and the learning curve etc.

                      You might be lucky and get a good print to monitor match using the standard OEM paper/ink/resolution settings in your inkjet driver - but most people do not have great success once they depart from the manufacturers products - thus ICC profiling (not to mention that even OEM products [Epson, HP, Roland etc] really need custom profiling too, as your hardware and other conditions are unique).

                      Hope this helps,

                      Stephen Marsh.


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