Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you find the answer you require here, but if you need further assistance, do please contact us.


Art Capture

What kind of original art is suitable for drum scanning?

Drum scanners are capable of producing fantastically sharp and detailed image files. However, there are limitations on the material that can be successfully mounted on the drum. The scanner has a relatively tight field of focus so, for example, originals that will not wrap around the drum and stay in close contact with it (ie are not flexible, stable, or are cockled) will require a different approach (see art digital scanback capture).

The size limitations for our scanner are: artwork up to 346 x 481mm, with an image area no bigger than 316 x 472mm.

What kind of original art can be captured on your studio system?

This process allows far greater flexibility in the range of art originals that can be digitised. Artwork is mounted vertically in front of a very high resolution monorail camera system. The entire procedure can be carried out without any requirement for surface contact with fragile originals.

Canvas stretchers are held in a rigid clamping system in order to be presented perfectly square to the camera.

The mounting and lighting can be modified to cope with originals that are not naturally flat (including slightly warped or cockled paper, for example). In fact, we can adapt the lighting to emphasise surface texture or even capture 3D objects. Artwork with significant depth may require 2 or 3 captures set at different points of focus (to be merged later) in order to cover the depth of field required.

The maximum art size for capture in one scan is around 1000 x 1000mm. However, sizes up to 1500mm x 1000mm can be covered in two parts, and merged later in Photoshop.

My artwork is quite fragile; is your scanning process safe?

Although fragile media would not be suitable for drum scanning, our studio based digital scanback system allows originals to be captured without movement of the art or contact with the artworks surface.

Even unstable art surfaces such as unfixed pastels can be captured in this way - with complete confidence.

I have oil on canvas originals that I would like to reproduce; I am intending to varnish them, should I do this before you digitise them?

No, please avoid varnishing the originals wherever possible. Surface treatments (especially gloss varnishes) will only make the capture process more difficult. It is still possible to achieve acceptable results from glossy originals, however, both the light source and camera lens need to be polarised (using filters). This technique cuts down light intensity considerably and makes it more difficult to reproduce shadow detail accurately.

I have a good SLR digital camera; can I photograph my own artwork and supply files to you for giclée printing?

Yes, that would be possible. However, fine art photography is rather more tricky than it might first appear. There are a number of factors that are likely to affect the image quality of printed output. In general, the bigger the artwork is to be reproduced, the more critical the quality of the original capture becomes.

Even relatively high resolution digital SLR’s have limits to the detail that can be captured both in terms of the number of pixels recorded in the image and the quality of the lens optics (which may not be designed for reproduction of flat artwork).

The camera system we use to capture artwork is designed for the purpose and allows us to create image files that are potentially far bigger and more detailed than any SLR camera (even those costing upwards of £30k).

In addition we are able to control a number of factors that will affect the quality of your fine art giclée print. These include:

  • accurate edge to edge focus
  • precise colour calibration and contrast/brightness values
  • evenness of illumination
  • direction of illumination
  • flatness and squareness of the artwork relative to the camera position
  • suppression of unwanted surface reflections

I would like to supply digital images of my artwork for you to make giclée prints; what are your guidelines for image files?

Firstly, the files would normally need to contain sufficient pixel information (resolution) to cover the image area of the printed output.

Although the minimum resolution requirement is slightly dependent upon the subject matter of the original art, in general you should aim for a minimum of 275 pixels per inch (108 pixels per centimetre) for each dimension of the required giclée print. For example, an image that is to be printed at 12” x 16” would need to contain a minimum of 12 x 275 pixels by 16 x 275 pixels or 3300 x 4400 pixels.

More detailed originals are likely to benefit from increased resolution. For example, for pen and ink work we would normally capture image files sufficient for reproduction at 375 pixels per inch (dpi) on the giclée print.

Other considerations for file submissions would be:

Colour space - please supply RGB files with colour profiles attached where possible. RGB files will potentially contain more colour information than those saved in a CMYK colour space.

File type - please supply non-compressed TIFF files where possible, rather than (compressed) JPEG files for example. Keep in mind that every time you re-save a JPEG file, a little detail and image quality is lost.

Giclée Print Production

What is a giclée print?

A giclée print is a high quality durable reproduction of a fine art original artwork, digital artwork or a photograph. Although production techniques, materials and hardware differ somewhat between giclée print producers, the basic tenets (as promoted by the Fine Art Trade Guild) are:

  • high quality inkjet based print production using CMYK or multiple inks
  • pigment based fade resistant inks
  • acid free, conservation quality substrates, usually heavyweight matt art paper
  • prints produced to consistent standards as signed and numbered limited or open editions

The term ‘giclée’ printing was coined by Jack Duganne in the 1990s to describe the process by which ink is applied by the inkjet printer (based on the French for nozzle – gicleur).

What does the term ‘limited edition giclée print’ mean?

Limited edition giclée prints are sold on a principle of relative exclusivity. The artist backs this principle by setting a limit to the number of prints that he will produce from a given original. The artist must choose the number of prints in an edition at the outset, and usually sets the reproduction size for his print run. The artist then validates each print produced by way of a numbering system (eg. for the 5th print produced in an edition of 25, the print would be marked 5/25) and by the inclusion of his or her signature. The edition details and signature are often inscribed on the front of the print, positioned below the image in an area of border. These details will often be included in the visible image window when the print is mounted and framed. It is also deemed acceptable practice to sign and number the prints on the reverse side (often referred to as verso signed).

We are not aware of any hard and fast (legal) terms that define the principle of limited edition print exclusivity. However, in order to uphold principle in ‘spirit’ the following guidelines (as suggested by the Fine Art Trade Guild) should be considered:

The artwork or original photograph should not be reproduced in other forms which would be likely to detract from the exclusivity of the limited edition. This would mean avoiding use of the art image in other media such as advertising, posters, products etc.

However, it is often deemed reasonable that such artwork might also be published in the form of (short run) artists greetings cards, or for general promotion of the artists work in art related books, magazines or digital media.

How many prints should I allow for in my limited edition?

There are no hard and fast rules on this. However, we would suggest that unless the demand for a particular image is likely to be strong enough to outweigh the sense of exclusivity that restricted edition length conveys, editions should be limited to 100 or less. Arguably, there is no advantage in setting an edition length that is likely to be well beyond the number of prints likely to be required. However, artists will often need to consider what minimum edition length they should allow, in order to amortise the cost of image creation/image capture for print production.

Editions lengths of 25, 45 or 95 are quite commonly used by our artist clients.

What does the term ‘open edition’ giclée print mean?

Where the artist is unable or unwilling to restrict the number of giclée prints to be produced, or where the artist wants to allow for use of the art in other forms of reproduction, the print run is deemed an open edition. Prints of this type should not be signed or numbered by the artist.

Also see answer for: What does the term ‘limited edition giclée print mean?

Should I choose matt or a gloss paper for my giclée prints?

The vast majority of giclée prints are produced on matt paper.

Where prints are to be conventionally framed under glass, a matt surface has the advantage of minimising internal reflections between the print and glass. The framed image will also be less affected by reflections from stray light sources in the viewing environment.

For reproduction of some fine art originals it is sometimes desirable to simulate the reflective qualities of the original art media. This might be true in the case of oil on board media for example, where the original is perhaps framed without glass. In such instances we have had good results using a combination of matt paper and gloss giclée varnish.

What type of matt art paper should I choose for my fine art giclée prints?

There is a wide range of paper available for giclée print production. The minimum requirement here, is that the paper should be acid free, and of a reasonably heavy weight (230gsm or above). Other factors that will affect the quality of the printed image are surface texture, coating and whiteness.

In practice, the majority of our giclée print output is produced on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright White 310gsm. We have tested a wide range of papers, but find that the unique qualities of this stock generally produce the most pleasing matt art prints.

This paper has a subtle texture which is not so strong as to to be intrusive or conflict with the natural tonal variations in watercolours, for example. The bright white base is able to reproduce the maximum tonal and colour range possible for the media. With this paper we are able to reproduce bright whites such as those that may exist in a pastel original but still retain a realistic warm paper base tone where required for other areas of the image or for the print borders. Some fine art printers prefer to print on warm white based paper (which are inherently less bright), however, it should be kept in mind that the print technology depends upon translucent inks that use the surface behind them to reflect light and give them their vibrance.

What size borders should I allow for on my fine art paper prints?

Assuming that the image is to be framed incorporating a window mount, you will need to allow a minimum of 7mm of paper border (or image bleed) all around the image area, to comfortably sit behind the mount.

If you intend to allow for a visible plain paper border to surround your image within the window area of the mount (of say, 10mm) we would advise allowing for total borders of at least 20mm around your image. Additionally, if you need to allow for a visible signature and edition number below the printed image (within the window area) you should allow for 20mm below your image, plus an extra 6mm for the bottom border.

Do I need to order all the prints for my edition, straight away?

No, this is not necessary. Once your art image has been captured, optimised, and proof tested you will be free to decide the number of prints to produce per order. One of the great advantages over other forms of printing, is that the giclée process is relatively efficient to set up and repeat, making low volume production practical. However, as with any multi-stage process there are savings to be made in time (and thus cost) by producing a number of prints in one session.

As you will see we try to remain as competitive and realistic as possible in our fine art print pricing. Print costs per square metre reduce as the print dimension increases and also as the number of multiple prints increases.

In practice many of our clients choose an economic compromise by producing somewhere between 3 and 10 prints at a time, from their fine art image.

Do your fine art canvas giclée prints have the same conservational properties as your giclée prints on paper?

Yes, unlike many other suppliers, all materials used in the the production process are specified to achieve maximum longevity in the print . The process involves:

  • fade resistant pigment inks
  • acid free heavyweight canvas
  • acid free protective giclée varnish

Drum Scanning

I have read that drum scanners produce better quality scans than flat bed scanners, but is this really true?

Yes, in brief, the advantages of drum scanning are:

  • scans with a wider (and smoother) range of densities and colours
  • sharper images due to superior optics and illumination
  • better edge to edge focus, particularly on warped or curved transparencies (originals are held in close contact with the drum surface)
  • elimination of interference patterns (moire) in scan as a light mounting oil is used to fill any (microscopic) space between original and drum
  • suppression of surface defects and scratches (the mounting fluid tends to fill-in surface imperfections)

Colour Negative Scanning

Why do I get unpredictable colour casts on my colour negative scans?

In general, colour negative scans require a higher level of operator skill in order to achieve good results. This is partly due to the obvious lack of realistic visual reference (when viewing the negative).

To make matters more difficult, every film type has different colour masking characteristics (usually visible as an amber base cast when viewing the neg.)

Fortunately, our high end negative scanner is equipped with the latest software which offers initial colour profile settings for over 100 film types. In addition to this, we have the experience needed to interpret the results and optimise the scanner settings on an image by image basis.

Delivery

How should I send my originals to you?

For precious art or transparency originals, if it is not practical to deliver to us in person, we would normally recommend posting via Royal Mail, Special Delivery. We would suggest adding Consequential Loss Insurance (an option they do not often mention at the Post Office). The cover is relatively cheap at a couple of pounds for £1000 cover, with higher levels possible if required. Without this cover, and in the very rare event of loss, the Post Office value transparencies, for example, at the VALUE OF THE FILM ONLY!

All originals should, of course, be sent in sturdy packaging. We would suggest use of corrugated card or plastic stiffener sheets. It is also a good idea to use a waterproof inner plastic bag to avoid any possible water damage.

In some cases it may be possible for us to arrange collection in person, for your art originals. Please contact us with details of your requirements.

How will you ship my prints and original materials back to me?

If it is not practical to collect your finished work and originals, we would normally ship smaller items by Royal Mail, Special Delivery. This method has the advantage of allowing us to include insurance cover (at a realistic replacement value) for originals and prints. If we are in doubt over the appropriate level of cover for originals we will contact you to confirm this.

Typical postage costs for Royal Mail Special Delivery (mainland UK, next day by 1pm) would be:

£10.85 plus VAT, for a package weighing up to 500grams, including £1000 Consequential Loss Insurance cover.

We can ship larger items by Parcelforce.Typical delivery costs for Parcelforce Express 48 (mainland UK, 48 hour) would be:

£12.95 plus VAT, for a package weighing up to 5Kg, including £200 insurance cover.

Please contact us for an estimated cost of delivery, for your specific requirements.

Payment

What payment methods do Formatrix accept?

Formatrix prefers personal debit card payments which can be made over the telephone on completion of the order or upon collection in person, with no additional charge.  Business debit cards and credit cards are accepted, but an additional charge will be made.  BACS transfers are also accepted.