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Print production – are artists and galleries a special case?

At NEXUScpp we have a long history of working in the art market. One of our living artists has been with us since before he went international. However, working in this market always presents those of us in print production with many challenges, but that is what keeps it so interesting!

Let’s be frank, the purpose of any art catalogue or brochure is to showcase the gallery, the artist and/or artwork. And to do that in a way that reflects

1) The gallery, studio or event brand

2) The individual works being promoted

3) and often, the body of work of the artist(s)

Interested buyers often make initial viewings online where the resolution is restricted because of upload times.  They may view the artwork close up or know of it by reputation. In all of these cases a catalogue or brochure is a great resource to support a decision that is carefully considered, precisely why print works so well in this market.

Paul Cezanne, Still Life with Apples

Buyer motives are very varied. Collectors acquire art for many different reasons, academic, investment, history, decoration, passion. Whatever the intention, a printed catalogue provides the space and time to develop desire

What better way to turn that appetite into action by providing, in their hand, the best representation of the gallery and the artist. That is where our challenge presents itself.


Fine art print production – the short version

You’ve heard me talk before about the messaging within paper. It dictates quality, without doubt, but the paper surface, colour and texture also affect print massively. Uncoated paper softens colour. Silk coated papers keep the vibrancy of the printed colours without adding glare. Hybrid papers create depth and highlights. However, paper is just one of the elements in the mix.

Artists work with a complete palette of colours, infinite shades created by mixing pigments and tints. Texture is added with different media and using different tools. Varnishes and metallics create highlights and shadows. We have to translate all of these elements for print, so where to begin…


Plan to start well and start early

The most important part in art reproduction is the start. Capturing an image so that the artists’ nuances are highlighted.
Quality images from skilled photographers are so important. Get this right and the rest of the process flows. Just slightly off and the retouching process is very much harder.

When you are preparing original art for print production, do think first about the original work. Make sure the work is flat – unless of course it’s sculpture or jewellery – they need a different approach. If the artwork is behind glass, remove it or get your framer to do it.
Be prepared to transport your art to a photographic studio or to turn your space into a photographic studio for the day.

Working with reflected light, the photographer keeps the image’s proportions and does not introduce any skew or shadow.  Working in the light spectrum means exposure levels affect the depth of the original. The image has to be captured as honestly as possible at high resolution. Colour retouching is one of the more complex processes in making art reproduce well, so start early, before your catalogue or brochure is designed.


Detail of texture in oil painting
Converting colours gets images closer to print-ready

As print works in the secondary colour space – we cannot use light. Our papers are the substitute for light, which is why they have so much influence. Our transparent inks, just the four of them usually, together replicate that original infinite palette the artist chose. They do this indirectly from that captured digital image created in a different colour space by the photographer.

The mathematical algorithm that translates RGB to CMYK has always fascinated me. The software we use now gets more and more capable and the screens that we view have better definition and calibration. Retouching large and complex colour images takes lots of processing power as well as skill. When I first started in print production, we did not have the fire power that we have now and retouching skills were very different..

Digital colour retouching is an iterative process, continual proofing an essential. Jumping from screen to print is a step too quick and too far and leads to disappointment. The expertise is comparing the original to the proofed image, adjusting it and reproofing until it is the best that it can be. For master paintings this is about accuracy, for decorative art it can be more about showcasing. This is an important part of the brief to the retoucher.

When on press, standard printing densities, though great for commercial work, are not quite good enough. You need an experienced pair of eyes working alongside the press operator to adjust press settings to achieve the best balance.
As a result,  you get a catalogue that you are proud of and that works hard to impress your discerning audience.

Wood to Water, catalogue print production for James Dodds exhibiting at Firstsite Greeting card print project for James Dodds featuring a selection of his inocuts  John Doubleday: Work book production


At NEXUScpp we pride ourselves in our experience and skill in this process

We know just what can be done and what cannot be done to create the transformation that represents works of art at their best in print. Over the years, we have been trusted with print productions featuring Van Dyck and David Bailey, rising stars and Royal Academicians, artists in drawing, painting, sculpture and photography. It really is a privilege and a delight.

If you have a project where graphics, colour and texture all need to combine completely to move your clients toward a buying decision. You need to talk so someone with a special understanding of how to make high-end tangible products translate on to paper. We are very happy to talk about how we can help. You can email us at or get in touch via the website.


Gill Robinson
20th June 2019


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