As I explained in this post, I am now printing all orders from my home studio. I do love the printing and shipping process, but getting started was quite a challenge. There were so many supplies I needed, so many process and materials questions that I had, the problems seemed insurmountable. It took a lot of trial and error to get things efficient and streamlined enough to be effective. To save others this same trouble, I've decided to do a series of posts describing what I have learned, starting with my list of materials. Get ready, this is sure to be a nail-biter! (Not. But it will sure be informative!)
The Materials: Scanning and Printing
Scanning: I scan my smaller paintings using an Epson Perfection V550 scanner, which my husband got for me for Christmas. Best gift I've ever received, I think. Makes high-quality scanning a breeze. You can read more information on my scanning process in this post.
Printer: I use the Epson SureColor p800 printer. This is a wide-format pigment printer, so I'm able to print up to 17" wide, which is necessary for the 16x20 prints that I offer. I went with the Epson SureColor brand because my research showed it to be top-of-the-line for fine art printing, and I had many positive experiences printing fine art with Epsons in college. I have not been disappointed.
Ink: I use the Epson UltraChrome Pigment Inks that are required for the p800 series. These are pigment inks, as opposed to dye inks. I chose to go with the more traditional pigment inks for a variety of reasons, after extensive research. I recommend similar research before making such a decision. Here is a good summary to get started. While these pigment inks are expensive (around $500 per set, eesh), I have been extremely happy with their performance; very vibrant with a wide color gamut. I purchase my ink from B&H. A full set lasts me on average about two and a half months, printing an average of five to eight prints per day.
Paper: Currently, I use Red River Paper's Aurora Art White, 250 gsm, which I purchase directly from Red River Paper. I find that my inks and paintings perform best on an untextured matte surface, and the 250 gsm is the necessary weight to get the quality I wanted. Also note that bright white paper is slightly less archival than Natural White, but I choose to use it anyway, as most of my paintings have extensive white space, and the bright white paper helps to make a statement. Given the options of paper brands, weights, style, color, etc., my biggest recommendation here is to purchase samples of a few to test on your printer and see what works best. For instance, I tried Hahnemuhle, Epson and Moab before finally settling on Red River Paper because of its high quality and reasonable cost. I'm glad I did the extra work, because now I never second guess my decision.
Rotatrim: Wow. This was a last minute decision, as I was going to just use an exacto knife or buy the less expensive guillotine paper cutter. Now I would have to say that besides the printer, it is the most loved and most important item I own. The trimmer is precise, easy to use, and doesn't dull. I purchased the 24", so it easily can cut any paper I use. I can't recommend this enough, especially after relying on the horrible exacto knife for years. Money well spent, especially given the fact that I use it for every print. I was shocked and dismayed when I initially realized that paper size does not match up with the typical mat and frame size. For instance, I sell 8x10s and 11x14s because those are pretty standard images sizes. But I can only purchase 8.5x11 and 13x19 paper to accommodate those sizes. How frustrating, right? But with the rotatrimmer, it only takes me seconds to trim the paper to the correct size. No problemo. (I swear, rotatrim isn't paying me for this endorsement. I just really feel strongly about this product!)
The Materials: Shipping
For some reason, deciding on and purchasing shipping materials was especially daunting, probably because so many items were required, and I had to purchase variants for each size. It seemed an enormous investment initially. But once I overcame that first purchase hump, maintaining inventory has been a breeze. I just keep a running list on a white board of what I'm short on, and make my purchases about once a week. I also made sure to become a member of the companies I use, so that I don't have to re-type my shipping address and cc number every time I purchase, and I can just click 're-order' on the items I use a lot.
- Bags: I use ClearBags. What's nice is that they offer bags in sizes just slightly larger than the typical print size; for instance, size 16 1/4"x 20 1/16" for my 16x20s.
- Pads: I use cardboard pads to stabilize my prints smaller prints in their mailers. I use Pratt Shipping for this. They come just slightly larger than the clear bags, which is perfect, because I can tape the print in their bags to the pad. Here is what my product looks like, in its bag, taped to the pad:
- Mailers: I mail my 5x7s, 8x10s and 11x14s in stay-flat mailers. I use Pratt Shipping for these mailers as well. I've had very few complaints about bent prints in the mail, so I'm very happy.
- Boxes: My 16x20 prints go in a box. Again, Pratt Shipping is my choice. The boxes are pretty bare bones, and I have to tape them together using shipping tape, but do their job just fine.
- Bubble Wrap: I wrap my prints in a layer of bubble wrap. I use Duck Brand, which you can get at Wal-Mart or Amazon or pretty much anywhere.
- Filler: I purchase a roll of Kraft Paper to use as filler in the empty space in the box, as it's cheap and easy and pretty lightweight. However, I do save every piece of filler that comes with all the above items that I regularly purchase and recycle and reuse in my own packages. The air bags are my favorite!
- Business Cards: I send a note and business card with every package. I use moo.com for all business cards. I love their paper quality, and they have a nice user interface. I also like that the back side of my business cards can have different images on them!
- HP Printer: I use this for printing shipping labels. I just use 8.5x11 label paper, which has two labels per page.
- Shipping Scale: This cost about $20 off of Amazon.
So those are my materials! It seems a bit overwhelming, seeing it altogether. But I promise, once you get past the first purchase hump, it all gets easier and routine.
Check out my next post, detailing my printing and shipping process.