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The Fine Art of Success

(April 2008) posted on Wed Apr 09, 2008

Exploring the potential profits in fine-art printmaking.

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By Clare Baker

For all its popularity, fine-art printing is still met with some trepidation by both artists and print providers alike. Artists typically have questions like, 'Should I print my own images?' and 'If not, what print shop should I choose?' For print shops, the questions echo the worries found in other segments of the large-format world: 'How will I get and keep clients?' and 'Will this be profitable?'

To get a handle on these concerns, we’ll examine the arena of fine-art printing from the perspective of four types of graphics providers: the artist printing his or her own work; the artist outsourcing the printing of images; the small, specialized print shop working exclusively with fine artists; and the bigger, more diversified print shop that has devoted some of its resources to the fine-art niche. Each of these viewpoints can shed some light on not only the technologies and methods used by the various players, but also the underlying issues and market strategies.

Artist as printmaker

As digital technology evolves and the cost of high-quality fine-art printers continues to drop, it's no surprise that more and more artists are printing their own work, rather than turning to a print shop. One such artist is Lee Muslin (, a photographer who has been capturing images for more than 30 years and outputting her work for almost a decade.

While educated in multiple fine-art disciplines, including painting, drawing, and printmaking, the focus of Muslin's career as an artist has been on photography. She went back to school in 1995 to further her education in photography, and that was when she began experimenting with digital imaging. 'With digital imaging, I feel like I’m creating images rather than composing them in a viewfinder,' says Muslin. 'I took to it immediately.' To create her digital images, Muslin works primarily in Photoshop to combine photographs that she has taken. 'I really don't enhance the color too much or manipulate the images,' she explains. 'I also don't use many Photoshop filters, although I’ll blur some photographs for effect. The one plug-in I do use is an edge filter, which allows me to create different kinds of edges on the photographs.'