Professional printing


Many of you on here are visual artists as well, or have a visual art component to the type of things you do, so I wanted to ask if anyone goes through a professional printer to make/distribute/sell prints of visual work?

I haven’t made prints of my work before, but recently I got a few requests from people asking if I did them, so I’m going to try to set that up.

I looked online briefly and I think something like “drop shipping” would be useful. Where the printer send it out with my name on the return address so it seems like I sent it out. But more important than that, I’d like to go with a place that just has good quality paper (that thick glossy stuff would be nice ; ) and great print quality.

So yeah, does anyone have someone they use who they really really like?



Hi - great question. How many copies are you looking to print? It might sound tacky but for less than 10-25, or so, often the digital printing in your own town is the best first place to look.

If you’re wanting other options, screenprinting two colors (usually black plus a highlight) is also better as a local choice, and you can usually get a really involved and interested press person to help you pick the best paper stock and ink. A typical yield is around 50-100 copies. It can be expensive as you’ll need to pay for camera work on the art, press time, etc. But you’ll be very pleased with the result. Screenprinting is awesome.

If you want to go exclusively online, then the options get very varied. If you’re looking to make 500-1000 copies of something then you have the option of offset printing. Offset is the best kind of printing for mass production but requires some understanding on your part about how inks physically, as a substance, add to one another in terms of density - the most common mistake with offset printing is a print that’s too dark because the designer (you) is calibrating the image off your screen and doesn’t anticipate how much darker shaded details become in a four-color process. This is less of an issue with lineart and flat color but still a learning process. It’s cool to learn about, though, of course.

Digital printing can subsequently be more forgiving, and there’s a LOT of print-on-demand options for you. But few of them would out-compete your local digital printer. Seeing what’s around (Kinkos/FedEx offers large format printing up to 11x17 and then larger with a plotter) - The only thing to watch out for with plotter prints is they can fade over time, so check about what inks they use and what paper when asking. Usually glossy holds up much better over time. With a plotter you can make gigantic prints.

I like Blurb a lot for single copy on-demand prints of books, but can’t speak for posters or prints. - they work as a middle-person inbetwen Ingram Spark, but allow you to make a single copy of something, whereas Ingram asks for a $50 set-up.

I’d avoid ideas about drop-shipping before you know who you’re using. The term applies to sending out copies to your customers directly from the printing plant. It can sometimes be a really lousy mailer that a customer receives (or even mailed to wrong address) and if you’re wanting to make a small edition it can be better to mail yourself.

TLDR: How many copies do you want to make and what size?



I use for print on demand (metal is my favorite surface lately) and drop shipping. I’ve tried so many of these services. Many are equally good. Gooten ticks off a few more boxes than some others.

I use an Epson 7890 at home when I want to get super particular or experimental with paper. (And I’m always game to help other artists experiment!)

I think the key with drop shipping is to send some to yourself first and get a feel for what the experience of receiving that shipment is like. Yes, this costs money, but you have to get your hands and eyes on it before you sell it.

I appreciate these services for saving me time with the less creative aspects of sharing my work.

The idea of using Kinkos is interesting. It’s been so long since I’ve thought of doing that, that I imagine they have a completely different generation of equipment than I am imagining.



Ooh great topic. Lots of nostalgia for plates and acid baths from intern and graduate job days.

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I’ve used them and the like for board game prototype printing. Their machines are … fine? It also varies a lot by location. Since their equipment is expensive, the newer the store, the newer their printers. That said, the pursose of their printers is primarily documents, corporate posters, and the like, even if the quality is decent. I can’t say I would recommend them for a product you want to sell - though it depends on your standards, but they are great for flyers and what not if you intend to sell in person and want signage. I’ll also add they usually have a decent if unexciting variety of paper stock on hand.

I was recently reading about Risograph printing. It’s not for all art styles, but the equipment is affordable and flexible if you decide to invest in equipment. Really nice results.



Woah, this looks very very interesting, thank you!



I’ve also used Society6 in the past. they basically take care of everything, and give you a share (you can define your markup price and that will be added to what they get).
The print quality is good, and they can print almost everything, including canvases. Also they will ship them out framed, if somebody wants that.
There’s a bunch of drawbacks to S6 of course. One is that in their TOS they basically say that you are the seller, not they. Which might put you in a potentially complicated situation due to how things work with sales taxes in most states in the US.
Also, they take quite a big amount of money.
If you don’t mind the hassle of doing the shipping yourself, then I’d also say: look into silkscreening as your first option. Nothing looks as classy as a nice silkscreened poster. Though of course it’s better if you print things with few solid colours. I.e. full colour printing is less ideal, even if you can do interesting things with halftone patterns.

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My day job is in a print workshop at the moment. If there are any specific questions about riso, screenprinting, intaglio or relief I’ll do my best to answer. We use most processes here except stone litho (not enough space unfortunately).



for extremely high quality stuff (museum collection quality) I use these 2 providers in my city. I wouldn’t sell a print from any other unknown printer unless I’ve proofed it and seen it in my hands myself. The last thing I’d want is a crappy print of my work to exist in the world, and the drop ship seems like a recipe for things to get out of my control.

but @EPTC is right, looking in your own city is likely the best option since you can easily proof and build a relationship with someone.

I’d also note that depending on the size of the prints, it’s really affordable to get a super high quality inkjet these days and do it yourself with some online tutorials about color calibration.



I have no personal experience with this place but i do remember an illustrator friend being very happy with the print quality.

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This is a lot of good information! Thank you everyone.

Initially I wanted to set something up that was more hands-off, but I think I will go to my local print shop to see if they can make prints the way I’d like. I’m sure they can. It’s quite a nice place where I’ve taken things to get framed before, so I’d love to give them even more business. Not that I expect to sell a ton of prints (just a few here and there), so doing it this way would actually be the best way.



I really don’t have much to add as I don’t know much at all about the technical side of printing, but I’ve been doing this recently for show posters and have been really impressed with the results. I’ve been getting about a dozen very nice and colorful 11x17s printed using a local printing place for less than 10 USD and the results have been great. The visual quality stands up to other posters to me.

This past time I got an extra two done on heavier weight to get framed. Still total under 10. One was matte and one glossy, and I liked the way the glossy turned out a lot more.

Edit: here it is btw

Edit 2: also, something related to printing that I learned from a friend who does fine art I figured I’d share. If you buy a frame from an art supply store, don’t use the plexiglass that comes with it—it will cause the art to yellow. Buy a piece of archival glass (also sold at art supplies store and use that instead)