How to make extra money from giclees

Leverage the time that you have invested in making your art.

Making your work available for sale in the form of high-quality giclée reproductions makes good business sense -- especially if you are trying to make a living as an artist!

So what is a giclée? It is a high-quality print made on fine art paper or canvas that can faithfully represent your work when done correctly. Many fine art museums have giclées in their collection.

So, if you are a painter or a photographer and you don't want to make your own giclée prints, then you will need to evaluate a giclée printing service.

Selecting a giclée printer is a very personal choice. In certain ways, it is like choosing a doctor. You need to be able to trust their experience and their judgment. After all, your printer will be, in many ways, an extension of your work. Some artists will feel more comfortable working with their printer in person. Others don’t mind working remotely with printers via the Internet.  Wherever they are located, you will need to know that you’ve made the right choice.

So, how do you begin? There are three main criteria: quality, cost and value-added services.  The most important starting point is cost.

Cost: The rule-of-thumb is that you should be able mark-up your giclée prints a minimum of at least two-to-three times your cost. If the cost of making a giclée reproduction is too high, it probably isn’t worth your while -- especially if you are trying to make a living as an artist.  The higher your costs, the more difficult it may be to sell.

So, when you evaluate a giclée printer based upon cost, you need be aware of the fees that they may charge. One is called the “setup fee”. A setup fee is a very broad term. It can include the cost of scanning and proofing your original work or it might just mean the time it takes to open your file on the computer and change the media (paper or canvas) on printer. Some printers charge for that effort, whereas others don’t. Another major cost “hurdle” is the “minimum order”. Some printers won’t even talk to you unless you plan to spend a minimum of at least $250! It would be difficult to inexpensively evaluate their quality if they charge so much up front.

Additional fees to look out for are storage fees (to keep your files on record), copying your work onto a CD or DVD and any other rush fees. They can all add up. If you work with a remote printer, you also need to consider the cost of shipping (which is usually offset by not being charged any sales tax).

Quality: So now you have a short list of contenders that meet your cost criteria. Evaluating the quality of their work is the next step. If you are a photographer or a digital artist, you can place a small order – perhaps one or two different images – to check their quality. If you are a painter, you will first need to have your original art scanned or photographed. Then you will need to have the image proofed.

Some giclée printers offer scanning services (capturing your artwork digitally) and build the proofing cost into the fee. Others only offer printing. But the important thing, and this is very critical, is if they understand and know what to look for when making a reproduction of your work. If they have your original work of art as a reference, that would be best. The next best thing would be to provide them with a “match” print, which they can use as a guide. If they have no reference, they can still provide you with a proof to check against your original. It is during this proofing process that you can evaluate the skill and the quality of the printer.

Value Added Services: There are some additional things you should consider. For example, if you sell your work via your own web site or another site, can you rely on your printer to send the work directly to your customer? If they can “print-on-demand” and  “drop-ship” to your customer, that would save you a certain degree of time and money – a definite advantage. Also, do they save your final “approved” image for future orders? Do they backup their files regularly? Do they charge you for that service? Do they have a gallery of their artists work available for sale? These are all important things to consider in the mix.

If you go through these steps and perform a thorough evaluation, you should be set for a long time.

Tom Crozier is Owner of Picture Salon – a fine art giclée printing service in Madison, WI.