How to Capture Your Mixed-Media Fine Art for Reproduction

artwork by Cheryl Holz
Artwork by Cheryl Holz
If you are a working artist interested in creating fine art reproductions of your multi-media art, you may have already found that the task can present some unique and trying challenges. They are not insurmountable. In this article, we’ll help you tackle some of the biggest ones the effort more manageable, and to help you create accurate reflections of the color and texture of your original pieces.

The term “mixed media” is a rather broad one, as it can mean works on canvas or paper that combine pencils, pastels, paints, and/or charcoals, and may even involve 3D components that incorporate fabrics and found objects into a completed piece. In order to print an art reproduction, it is critical to digitally capture the colors of the original in order to create a correct representation of it. However, the textural component becomes equally as important when dealing with mixed media, as is the case with a painting that uses heavy brush strokes with a lot of depth and dimension. This must be captured as well, so that any professional printing or art house will be able to create a faithfully printed reproduction that holds true to the original.

Here are a few fundamental pointers that will help you ensure success:

Set the stage.

    You want to create a proper environment for photographing your art. Consider it like setting a stage. The surface onto which the art is placed should be perfectly level, preferably a wall or floor. The camera (a digital SLR is best) should be set up on a sturdy tripod at its lowest ISO rating, which provides the highest quality digital capture, but requires a steady set up.

Select a single light source.

    Always use a single source of even light in order to achieve the greatest precision in the form, color, and texture in a digital file. Even sunshine is ideal, however it isn’t always easy to predict or control, so the choice of one single lighting type may be ideal. For example, use only your camera’s flash or an incandescent bulb. Sources should not be mixed, or results will be distorted. If possible, lighting should be set up 5 to 10 feet from the image, and at a 45 degree angle toward the art’s front at each side. This is called a 4545.

Establish your white balance.

    While one option is to set your camera on auto white balance, the very best approach is to use a grey card to help set your white balance, either before taking the picture or in post-processing. Another option is to use a color checker reference chart against the original piece in order to achieve the precise color profiling and matching.

Take the highest possible quality picture with your camera.

    Keep in mind that the higher the digital file’s resolution is, the more detailed the printed image will be. This may mean shooting what is known as RAW, or if your camera cannot shoot RAW, to use the highest quality JPEG file available, sometimes called Fine JPEG, depending upon your camera. High quality resolution is important when you output your image for printing, too. artwork, too. Always output your images for reproduction to at least 300 DPI (with a minimum DPI of 150), at the print’s full size. What this means is that if the original piece of artwork is 20 x 30 inches and the print resolution is set for 300 DPI, then the reproductions can be made at any size up to the original without losing detail due to pixilation or loss of information. Using high resolution is critical to the reproduction of greatly textured pieces, because using a resolution that is too low will distort and flatten the final print. To be certain of color correctness, use a calibrated monitor for viewing.

Choose a printing substrate.

      Once the digital file has been approved, the printing process can start. Select a substrate that should represent the original artwork’s unique qualities. Proof the artwork on that substrate, whether that be canvas, photographic paper, or art paper, as they will each provide their own textures and color ranges, as light reflects from them and ink absorbs into them differently. At

    , helping you capture the unique beauty of your artwork is one of our specialties. Our website and blogs provide an extensive amount of information on this subject. During the process of proofing, it is possible to make corrections to the colors within the file as well as to the paper that will be selected. While this may not be a speedy process, and it can seem somewhat frustrating at times, the proofing stage should never be overlooked, as it is entirely necessary to ensuring the accuracy of the print. When in doubt, the experts at American Frame are always available to assist with every part of the process.

Laura Jajko is President of, the nation’s leading online source for custom frames, mat board, archival digital printing services and picture framing supplies. For inspiring picture framing and design ideas, visit her blog, A Good Frame of Mind; and join her on Twitter @laurajajko and Google+.

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