I try to respond to these desperate inquiries kindly, and convey as much information as I can. Unfortunately, many people expect the answer to be found in 2-3 easy steps, or on a 4 minute youtube video. It’s a little more complicated - that is if you want the reproductions to look professional!
Much of my previous article focused on the reproduction methods available: offset lithography and digital printing methods. However, before you can start printing reproductions of any kind, you need something to reproduce.
You will need a high resolution, digital image of your pencil drawing. And this digital image will need a good bit of image editing done to it before it is ready to reproduce.
Let’s start with the first part: obtaining the high resolution image. I highly recommend finding a shop that specializes in digital scans of artwork. Getting the appropriate lighting (with no shiny spots or “hot” spots) is work best done by a professional. You may love your smartphone camera, but save that for sharng photos with friends. It's not for getting an image to reproduce your artwork.
Note that a high res digital image, or “raw” scan, may look very flat and unappealing at first. This is normal. If the image is taken by a professional, it will contain all of the digital information needed to create great reproductions. It just needs one more step: the image editing (or pre-press work) for reproducing the art.
You must know something about Photoshop and preparing artwork for a printer to do this pre-press yourself. If you are not skilled in Photoshop, find a designer who understands printing to do this for you. Depending upon where you had the image scan done, they may offer this service as well.
Image editing involves altering the tonal range of the image so that it doesn’t look so flat. And contrary to what you might think - highlights are seldom 100% white, and even the darkest areas of the image are never 100% black. If you edit a pencil drawing with a full grayscale spectrum going all the way from pure white (paper) to pure black (ink/toner), I can almost guarantee you will not be pleased with the reproductions. A skilled designer will know the percentages to hit when setting up the grayscale for the reduction. Typically, the highlights in the drawing should be about 3% to 5% white, and the darkest shadows should be no more than 93% black.
Once you have a digital image that is ready to use, you can move on to making the reproductions. Following are a couple of options for making prints of pencil drawings:
This is a traditional printing process involving the use of plates and ink with printing presses. Lithography is a great option for quantity if you plan to print hundreds of copies of a print, and you also have the funds to cover up front printing costs. Your cost-per-piece will likely be the lowest with offset lithography. Many commercial printers now have “digital presses” as well, yielding volume savings at lower quantities.
This term covers ink jet, giclee, and other direct printing methods available today. The big plus with digital printing is the ability to print low quantities – even one print at a time. At the lower end of digital printing, you can purchase an ink jet printer (hopefully with archival inks and paper) and print your own reproductions.
One way to purchase high quality digital prints without investing in (and maintaining) a nice ink jet printer is to use a print-on-demand service. Fine Art America and Zazzle are two of the most popular sites for this, and they offer store options if you want to sell your images online.