Oct 1, 2013

Making Prints from Oil Paintings

Do you hope to make prints from your paintings that you can gift or sell? I think most artists like the idea of being able to make reproductions of their artwork. Take a photo, print it out. Sounds easy, right?

Uh, no. Not really. I won't even get into the headaches of trying to get a good photograph of an oil painting. That's a whole other topic for another blog post.

Today I'm going to talk about why the surface you paint on makes a difference when you decide to make prints from your image.

The other day I spent a good portion of the afternoon cutting Multimedia Artboard® and foam board and pasting them together. I usually paint with oils on one of three surface types, or substrates: canvas, Gessobord®, or Multimedia Artboard®. Recently I have decided Multimedia Artboard® is my substrate of choice.


Because I have decided to focus my art on licensing, creating art for reproductions on posters, prints, jigsaw puzzles, calendars, etc. This requires good, clean, "flat" digital images. By "flat" I mean little to no texture or glossy bumpiness shows up in the photo. Oil paints are glossy, canvas is bumpy. This is not a good combination for flat photos. But, much of this can be eliminated with proper use of correct light angles and polarizing filters.

So let's say you have your polarizing filters set up, and your light angles just right, so you minimize the glare from the oil's glossy surface, and you eliminate the texture from the canvas surface. There's still one more problem with canvas. It has holes.

By "holes" I don't mean literal holes. But the texture of canvas leaves paint holes on the surface, pockets in the surface's texture where the paint doesn't always get in. I recently finished a painting on canvas of a palomino horse. I spent a good deal of time in Photoshop fixing all those holes that show up as white spots in the photo. Here's an example of that.

See all those little white specks? (If you can't see them click the image for a larger view) Those aren't digital camera errors, or glare. They are from tiny pockets in the canvas' textured surface where the paint did not fill the holes. Interestingly, when you view the painting in real life you don't see those at all. The canvas texture and the paint's glossiness hide all that. But when you eliminate the texture and gloss from the image with the polarizing filters, these specks become glaringly obvious.

I could reduce this problem by working the paint into the canvas more. But that's hard to do because, as I said, you don't really see it in real life, so it's hard to know where it needs to be worked in. Also, working it in would require really pushing the paint around. I'd risk overworking the painting, blending too much, and losing those lovely painterly brush strokes.

So, the solution to this problem is to ditch the canvas and other rough surfaces for painting on. Gessobord® panels are one option. They are very smooth and eliminate the hole problem completely. My problem with them is that they are heavy, which can add considerably to shipping costs if you have to ship the originals somewhere. They are also prone to cracking, chipping, and breaking. Gessobord® is almost too smooth sometimes, too. The paint slips around sometimes and it can be hard to cover it with a nice opaque layer.

This is what brings me to Multimedia Artboard®. It has a little more texture than Gessobord® but not nearly as much as canvas. So you eliminate the hole problem you get with canvas but don't have the paint sliding all around the surface like you do with Gessobord. It's also very light weight, lighter than either Gessorbord® or canvas, so it's cheaper to ship. It's also very thin, so it's easy to stack, store, or travel with.

So why isn't everyone using it? Well, it does have one major drawback. It's very brittle by itself and will snap like a twig if unsupported so it must be mounted onto a support surface. This is why I mount it to foam board. Unfortunately, I don't think you can buy it already mounted so you have to spend some time doing it yourself. But once it's mounted to foam board it is thinner, lighter weight, and even less prone to damage than either canvas or Gessobord®. And it eliminates the paint hole problem. So, overall, though a little more work up front, I think it's worth the time and effort. Give it a try!

Update: Multimedia Artboard® is now available pre-mounted on foamboard!

No comments:

Shop Art Supplies

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...