Printmaking 101: Presenting your Prints

This past Sunday marked the end for entries to National Small Works, and we are so pleased by the quality of materials submitted–all of it is professionally presented and our juror will have a hard time narrowing it down to just 50 prints!

We know how hard the applying artists work to not only make their art, but also to present it, and thought this might be a good time to go over some basic presentation tips for new artists and artists that might consider submitting their work to our 2012 juried exhibitions.  The following is just a brief overview of how to present your work.  Teachers, mentors, and frame shops can all help you navigate these steps further.

Overall not a bad starting picture--a little crooked and dark and you can see the table, but all of this can be fixed!

1. Documenting your work–This is probably the most important part of presentation.  Just about everything is done digitally these days, so it’s important to have good digital images to submit to portfolio reviews, juried shows, and galleries.  If you have a little extra money or know a photographer who owes you a favor, it’s best to get your work professionally photographed.  However, you can also kind of “cheat” on digital images.  Here’s how:

    • Set-up:  documenting artwork is best done outside on a cloudy day.  The light is good, but diffused, and gives you the best shot at getting the truest color.  Make sure you have a clean, neutral surface (spreading a white blanket over a picnic table works well), and that your work is protected from anything that might fall (pollen, tree bits, squirrels, rain…).

Using photoshop we brightened the image and leveled it up, cutting out the excess paper and table. Thanks to Carolyn Pomponio for the images!

  • Photographing: Lay your work flat on the neutral background.  Standing over the work (in a way that doesn’t cast a shadow) try to level your camera in a way that the work is square with the picture frame.  If your work is large, you may need to stand on a step-ladder. Once everything is lined up, take a photo!
  • Editing:  In a photo-editing software you can crop the image and make any final adjustments.  Something as simple as the Paint program can help you crop, but if you need to adjust the color at all a program like Adobe Photoshop is better.  Make sure to save a large copy (300 DPI) of the work for reproduction purposes and a small copy (72 DPI) for sharing.

2. Presenting your loose prints–many of the rules we laid out in Printmaking 101: Preserving your Prints apply here.  Do NOT submit loose prints for review in newsprint, only glassine or other archival separator sheets, make sure that the margins of your prints are clean, and that you have a neat portfolio for carrying things around.  This portfolio does not have to be expensive–light prints can be put into red or black cardboard portfolios that start as little as a few bucks for transportation.

Excellent presentation by Jenny Freestone for her suite of "Grass" prints.

3. Presenting your framed prints–you want your artwork to be the center of attention, not your frame!  Unless it truly fits into your concept, leave the ornate frames and colored mats behind.  Your best bet is sleek, simple, metal or wood frames with white or off-white mats.  Also make sure that your mat margins are proportional to the print.  A good general rule (barring very large or very small prints) is 2-3 inches all around, with a 1/4-1/2 inch more margin at the bottom.

Presenting your work in a professional manner helps get it the attention it deserves, and makes you look like a committed artist–making you more attractive to galleries, residencies, and other opportunities.  It takes a while, but the payoff is worth it!