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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing Expands Options for Fine Artists

Digital large format printing has taken an increasingly prominent role in the fine arts.

I was both pleased and a bit surprised to see at a recent art league show in Rehoboth, Delaware, just how much of a foothold inkjet printing has taken in the market for fine art prints. It is also becoming accepted as a valid artistic tool by the artists themselves.

Large format print reproduction of photographs on canvas

Among other artistic images, I saw large format photographic works printed on canvas, which was then stretched over wooden stretcher strips. The images extended past the edges of the stretcher strips and were attached to the back of the wood, giving an expansive feel to the artistic works while eliminating the need for a frame. It was impossible to see from a distance whether these were photographs or photorealistic paintings. Of course, the imaginative vision of the photographer made the pieces true works of art rather than mere decoration. The (presumably) digital cameras and large format printing inkjet presses with extended ink sets were tools, just like the art brushes of more traditional artists.

Giclee prints give artistic merit to large format printing

Other artists were selling multiple copies of a few large oil paintings or acrylic paintings. With the originals priced upwards of $4,000.00 and some as high as $10,000.00, high-quality giclee prints of the originals gave art lovers the ability to purchase an otherwise unattainable work. Dithered images created with minuscule specs of color, and produced without halftone patterns, approximated the originals to a striking degree. Given the extended color gamut of the newer inkjet large format printing equipment (including light cyan, light magenta, and sometimes red, green, blue, and orange, as well as a number of different black inks), vibrant large format prints are now achievable. The artists carefully review the prints for color accuracy and then sign them. They are true artistic products.

Screen printing for aesthetics rather than utility

We have spoken recently in this blog about the uses of silkscreen in the graphic arts and large format printing. Of course, this was initially a fine arts process, and many artists at this community show were displaying their silkscreens. Instead of printing logos on t-shirts, they had broken down landscapes or portraits into selected colors and had printed images in register with one another by forcing ink through silk or synthetic screens (one per color, in register with one another) onto fine paper. In some prints I could see how areas of the still-life pictures had been blocked off with a masking agent prior to the ink’s being forced through the stencil. Some artists had gone back into the silkscreen images to build up further texture with paint or gesso, and had even added sand for texture.

Traditional lithography vs. offset lithography

Other fine artists had chosen traditional lithography, in which images are drawn on a porous stone or a metal plate with a waxy, crayon-like implement. The greasy image repels water, so when the stone or plate is wiped down with water and then covered with printing ink, only the image areas drawn with the waxy crayon accept the ink, while the non-image areas accept water and repel ink. Pressing a sheet of fine paper against the plate with a lithographic printing press yields an artistic print. Registering and printing multiple stones, or plates treated the same way, yields a multi-colored lithographic image.

This traditional lithographic process bears a striking resemblance to the offset lithography produced by printing companies, although traditional lithography uses any number of mixed color inks, while offset printing companies use offset lithography to simulate any number of colors by overlaying halftone screens of transparent process inks. The traditional technique doesn’t use screens, but both processes are otherwise the same.

Even offset lithography has found a place in artistic reproduction. An offset custom printing service, by adding touch plates of extra PMS colors, can expand the color gamut of a poster printing run, for instance. The fine artist can have an offset business printing vendor produce a limited run of a vibrant work. Using a loupe you will still see the halftone dots, so the image will not be one-of-a-kind, but the aesthetic qualities and artistic value will still be present.

One Response to “Large Format Printing Expands Options for Fine Artists”

  1. It’s hard to come by experienced people for this subject, but you seem like you know what you’re talking about!


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