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Profile: Fine Art Printing and Framing

By Bob McIntosh
Many painters, photographers and digital artists believe that the Washington, D.C. area is a great place to be an artist and market their work. Naturally, to grab the glory in this competitive market, the photographers and artists must be extremely talented. Because their original work is their thumbprint on life, they need a way to reproduce it, lest they sell their heart and soul. Besides, in many cases a first edition print can fetch up to $100. The artists could spend their money on an in-house color management workflow that includes ICC profiling software, a colorimeter and a spectrophotometer, and a loaded computer to reproduce their art. But to a young, budding artist it may be more cost-effective and convenient to have their work outsourced to a service bureau. A service bureau will reproduce their artwork at a reasonable price; guarantee a quick turnaround time; and produce quality work, which means accurate color from original to print.

Fine Art Printing, Potomac, Maryland, is a company that offers a variety of services to photographers, painters, and digital artists who prefer to outsource their printing needs to a professional service bureau. In addition to providing its customers an art reprographics service, it offers limited edition prints; quality print enlargements; ultra-high resolution scanning; digital image editing; and print mounting, matting, and framing.

Nick Simon, CEO and founder of Fine Art Printing, says he believes the D.C. area is one of the best places for an artist to be, so he set up his fine art printing business just a stone?s throw from the nation?s capital. His business has been so successful that he plans to locate to a larger studio, where he?ll continue to serve metropolitan Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and their suburbs. When location, location, location is key, Fine Art Printing is sitting pretty, and you can?t help but think that Simon is smiling about this.

When it comes to quality, Fine Art Printing promises complete satisfaction to its clients, which means the print will resemble the original as closely as possible. To make true on this promise, the company relies on a workflow with a color management system that will produce prints that are as close in color and overall quality as the artist?s original. Says Simon, "I feel that there is no field that requires greater color control than fine art reproduction because we have to be able to duplicate with absolute precision the original artwork."

Reproducing prints was not easy at first for Simon. He began his career by printing his own photography; and like all those who attempted this feat without the aid of color management, it was trial and error and expensive. He would scan his original, make adjustments to it in an editing application, and then print. Often his prints didn?t match what he saw on his monitor, and they certainly didn?t match his original. Simply put, he?d pull the print off the printer and go back to square one.

"The Color of Color"

Simon started his segue into color management with MonacoEZcolor, a color management system targeted toward personal use. But to take the leap and run a service bureau meant that he would have to upgrade to a more powerful color management solution, so he switched to MonacoPROOF, also from Monaco Systems.

"Working without color management is not even an option. If I didn?t have this system, I?d be out of business. I would not be profitable if I had to use Stone Age, archaic methods." He determined that it would take him four times or longer to produce an acceptable print for a client. Not to mention the costs of supplies required to operate a service bureau. A six-color ink set costs him approximately $660. A roll of 24" x 100' paper costs $150. He couldn?t even fathom how much resources he would waste without color management in his workflow. Simon says, "You?re exhausting whole resources of expendable supplies that you shouldn?t have to when you don?t have the proper workflow with color management."

The procedure for reproducing a print is straightforward. Fine Art Printing scans or shoots a photograph or painting with a digital camera, modifies it in an editing application and prints it. But before a photograph or painting can be reproduced, the company must first profile and calibrate its input, monitors and output devices.

First, MonacoPROOF is used to profile Fine Art Printing?s scanners, which include a Nikon 8000ED Coolscan for 35 mm and medium-format negative and positive film and an Epson 1640XL for reflective art and transparencies for up to 12" x 17.5". For reflective artwork larger than 12" x 17.5", large format scanners are used, enabling the company to scan artwork as wide as four feet. A photograph or painting is either scanned with flatbed scanners or, if larger than four feet, captured with a digital camera and then modified in Adobe Photoshop 6. When the original is scanned, the appropriate scanner profile is attached or embedded into the image as it is scanned. From there, Simon or one of his employees, using Photoshop 6, edits the digital image. The image may be retouched, adding sharpness, changing contrast and color, and other adjustments, until the desired effect is achieved. 22" Mitsubishi Diamond Pro flat-panel graphics monitors are calibrated by MonacoSENSOR and profiled to ensure comparable displays on different systems on various platforms.

To profile the output devices (e.g. printers or digital proofer) , a test chart is printed and an X-Rite DTP/UV41 spectrophotometer reads the chart, delivering the spectral values of each patch to the profiling software. The proofing system compares the spectral data from the spectrophotometer to the information in the original file to build the output profile. Simon says he prefers to set his input and output devices to the RGB color space--rather than converting the color space to CMYK--which he says gives him crisper and clearer prints. The company also uses a variety of media when printing, including photographic gray paper, smooth fine art paper, texture fine art paper, watercolor paper and canvas, so a printer profile must be created for each type of media.

The nature of the photographs and paintings FAPAF receives for reproduction are varied, taken from around the nation and globe. But when asked what the artists focus on in the D.C. area, Simon is quick to point out the variety of stunning subjects to photograph or paint. As one would suspect, the Monuments, including the government buildings, are among the favorite subjects. But there are also the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial, and the spectacular Great Falls in Virginia. In Maryland, artists capture the CNO Canal, which Simon says is certainly among the favorites. Says Simon, "Artist take nature- and reality-based photos or create paintings to new levels of delight and surprise. Taking an image and being able transcend the subject?s beauty is the goal of the artist." And helping the artists is the goal of Fine Art Printing.

For more information on Fine Art printing and Framing, visit http://www.fapaf.com.

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