Creating Greeting Cards from your Art:

Part 3- Enter the Computer Age

I have talked about how simple cards can be made with limited technology. Part 3 is about working with a computer, scanner, software and printers. I could spend hours and hours writing this part of the series. Rather than confuse you, I will simply share with you what I use and what I recommend. I work on a MacBook Pro lap with 15" screen.  I have it hooked up to a  wide screen monitor so I can see the image much bigger. It is an old monitor that I had when I had a tower pc. This has helped me to make my computer portable while still utilizing my monitor to see the "bigger" picture. It is 3 years old and has done a nice job for me. I recommend Apple because it is easier to use and seems to think more like an artists' mind, rather than an accountant. The support of One-to-One from Apple is an excellent way to learn how to use the Mac. AppleCare is a great support package that keeps you up and running when you have technical issues. I changed to a Hewlett Packard once and it was awful. I will never stray from Apple again!

The 2 other pieces of equipment you will need, is a scanner and a printer. I recommend Epson. Epson by far has a wonderful range of products for the novice to the professional. I have one of their low end scanners. I bought the Epson Perfection V500 Photo scanner. It can only scan a piece of art 8.5" x 11". I will write in another blog post how I piece my scans together for paintings that are larger than 8.5" x 11". I paid about $200 for the scanner. There are more expensive scanners and ones with a larger format but I have found no advantage to upgrading. I have gotten very professional results for this scanner.

My printer is also an Epson. It is an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and can print up to 17" wide. I paid about $1200 for it. It has archival inks that are guaranteed not to fade up to 100 years. I am not sure how they test this, since the technology has only been around for about 15 years. The reason I picked this printer is because I print my own archival giclee prints. Giclee for those of you who do not know, is a French word that means ; " to spray". It simply means that the process that is used to make the print is via ink jet technology. Many people use the word giclee to describe their prints. If you are selling or buying giclee prints it is very important to make sure that the paper as well as the inks are archival. Archival paper, is paper that has had the acid removed from it. It will say that is is "acid-free". I only work on watercolor papers that are acid free because I don't want them to decentergrate. I also want the colors of my art to be permanent. If they fade it would be very bad for business. Here are a list of considerations you should ask yourself before you purchase a printer.

  1. How much money do I want to spend?
  2. How big do I want to print?
  3. How small do I want to print?
  4. How often will I print?
  5. How long will it take to re-coop the cost of the printer before it starts to pay for itself?
  6. How old is the model I am interested in buying?
  7. What Operating System does it work with?
  8. What kind of work will I be printing?
  9. Where am I going to sell my prints and how many do I expect to sell?

These are some of the things that I took into consideration when I bought my printer. I talked with a few friends who are in the business and all of the answers were pointed in the direction of the 3880. To get a larger format the cost jumped almost $3000. This would allow me to print bigger prints but I had to consider how many of these larger formats I would be printing. I realized that I could not justify the cost. If I have a customer who wants a bigger print, I send out my file to a professional printer and have them do it. I pay the printer and add my cost onto the print. I really have no overhead. If you are just starting out, you may only need a standard 8.5" wide printer. If you are going to send everything to a printer you may only need a cheapo printer for proofs and typed documents. You can get a cheapo printer for under $100, even from Epson.

The last thing you will need is editing software. There are many software programs out there but the one I am most familiar with is Photoshop by Adobe. There are 2 kinds of Photoshop. There is a full version of Photoshop and another version called Photoshop Elements. The difference in price is astounding. PS is about $1000 and PS Elements is about $100. What is the difference? I have both. I teach on Elements and I work on PS. I highly recommend that before you plunk down the big bucks for PS that you purchase Elements. Sometimes you can find it bundled for free with a scanner. I use PS because I have had it for years and have upgraded along the way. Elements did not exist when I first started, I had no choice. Luckily for me I was a student and got it at student cost. If you know a student with a full-time college ID you can purchase it for about 3/10ths the price. Elements will be a smaller version with less bells and whistles, but at this point if you don't know what you are doing, the less you have to get confused about. The one thing that both programs have is a wonderful little tool called "Photomerge". I will talk about this in another lesson.

I hope that this has given you an introduction to the equipment I use and why I use it. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me. What kind of equipment do you use? What has your experience been? What can you add to this post?

As always I value your opinions and questions.


I almost forgot…. Here is painting #30… Swiss Chard

"Swiss Chard" Original Watercolor by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012