Printing Art

By the way, the Demuth prints came!  They look amazing.  We haven’t decided where to hang them yet, but I’m sure we’ll find somewhere that’s right.

It’s pretty cool – the two prints (both of them are 10×13 inches) cost us less than $8 total.  I’ve been poking around and it turns out it’s really easy to get great art.

The core secret is that an awful lot of cool art is out of copyright.  As a result, it’s really easy to get copies for personal use.  Obviously you wouldn’t want to use images that museums are using for revenue, but there’s plenty of other choices.  The steps look like this:

1) Find a piece of art you like.  The rule of thumb for copyright is that the artist should have died at least 70 years ago.  Matisse is out, but try Monet, Renoir, da Vinci, etc.  (And you may be able to get files for works that are still in copyright – it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask!)

2) Get the high-res digital file.  Most museums take photographs of their artworks, and you can get them without too much trouble.  For the Demuth paintings, I went on the Barnes Foundation website (we had originally noticed them during a visit there) and poked around a bit until I found the Image Licensing page. After that it was just a matter of downloading and signing the Terms of Use, and emailing the Visual Resources Manager to request the files.  She sent me the files, for free, in less than a day.  So cool!  Some museums even have high-res images on their website for easy download.

You can also check Google and Wikimedia Commons, but I’ve found it’s hard to get really high-res files that way.  If you want to print smaller (a bunch of 4×6 prints displayed together, maybe) that might be a good resource.

3) Prepare your image.  The Demuth photographs had blocks of color on the sides – they put various cards next to the paintings when they took the pictures.  I assume professionals have a use for that (probably the cards are standardized and they can use them to make sure the final prints are as close to the original as possible) but I didn’t.  So we opened the files in Paint.NET and cropped out the cards.  We also trimmed out some of the empty space Demuth left around his paintings, because the original paintings were 11×14 and we were getting a different size.  This is probably sacrilegious, but such is life.  (Tip: Paint.NET allows you to set the proportions or size of a selection box so you can be sure to get your crop right the first time.)

Come to think of it, Picasa would also have worked well for this.  Your choice.

3) Upload your files to winkflash or another photo-printing service.  (Winkflash is our favorite for large prints like this.  Their quality is good, and the prices are excellent.  I especially love that you don’t end up paying more for shipping than for your prints, which is such a pain at other places.)  We were going to get a poster, but a large print was substantially cheaper (especially once you included shipping) so we went with that.  (If you’re especially tight for cash, printing them at home works too!  It won’t look as good, but that’s definitely not the end of the world.)

Keep in mind that there is a limit to how large you can print any digital file.  As a rule of thumb, look at the dimensions of the file, and divide the numbers by 200.  So if a file is 2000 pixels by 3000 pixels, dividing by 200 yields 10 inches by 15 inches as the largest you can print.  (Actually you can get a bit larger than that, but I’m keeping things simple.)  So don’t blow something up so big that it becomes pixelated.

4) Enjoy your prints!

They look amazing, and I can’t wait to hang them.  I don’t think we’ll bother with frames.

I’ve been poking around since, and I’ve discovered that the Metropolitan and the Museo Nacional del Prado have high-res files on their sites ready for download, which is nice because that way you don’t even have to find a scanner or fax machine for your signed Terms of Use.  (Why the Museo Nacional del Prado?  It came up while I was watching art history videos on Khan Academy.  Not that that’s really an explanation…)  I’m sure there are other museums who do the same thing; if you find one please let me know.

linking:
36th Avenue
Delightful Order
Sweet Peas and Bumblebees
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