Art Prints and Limited Editions

Back in April I wrote about “Photography or Art” where I explored when photography became art. I find myself now looking at upcoming fairs like The Accessible Art Fair in Brussels and The Affordable Art Fair which now operates in 11 countries. Due to the high quality ChromaLuxe output of our local Brussels lab, Labo JJ Micheli, we have seen increasing use of ChromaLuxe at the Brussels exhibitions in preference to Diasec prints.

These two fairs do exactly what they say and concentrate on art that is affordable and accessible, typically with maximum prices limited to approx. €5000 – €6000 but with many works at very ‘democratic’ prices of under €100. Artists and photographers are encouraged and invited to exhibit and sell direct to the market.

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Photographs and Photo-Art are often exhibited as prints on fine art paper or using high-end acrylic Diasec prints. ChromaLuxe offers a very valid alternative with its punchy colours and almost 3 dimensional look. Even with the gloss version, images reflect better than under acrylic or behind glass.

A lot of the artworks presented are offered as limited edition prints as these fit well in the price range. But what is a limited edition? There has been a lot of discussion around this and there is no legal definition – it is basically left to the ethics and responsibility of the individual artist. In the days when prints were often made by screen printing or from woodcuts, lithographic stones etc, the edition would be limited by the process being used (which would often wear out) and by destruction of the original plates/medium. With digital images, the rules have changed as there is generally no limit to the print quantity or the size.

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A limited edition should come from an original artist’s work and not from a reproduction of let’s say a famous Master’s work – for example Manet’s paintings reproduced as posters. An edition should normally be between 10 and 150 images plus perhaps a couple of AP (Artist Proofs) which are made to control the consistency and quality of the other prints. Prints should be signed and numbered showing the print number and the total quantity of the edition – 45/120 for example. Each print should also have a unique Certificate of Authenticity explaining the medium, the number of prints in the edition, link to the specific print and artist’s signature. With ChromaLuxe prints, artist’s signatures and print numbers can be added digitally on the face of the image, printed on the rear or engraved – the important part is to link the print to the CoA.

What about a second limited edition of the same image but at a different size and on a different media – perhaps paper prints of 40x50cm and canvas prints of 1mx1m? This is a difficult one and practised by many artists/photographers. It becomes a question of their integrity and position in the market and their honesty with the clients as it does have an effect on the value of their work. What I did see recently which is extremely dubious was a second edition of the same image on the same material at the same size – the only difference was the addition of one person into the image!

Finally – hand embellishment. This is something I personally like. A good example would be a limited edition of 10 prints where the artist has added something to each image by hand. This might, for example, be the addition of some gold or pearlescent paint in part of the image that cannot be reproduced digitally. The edition is limited but each image is also unique. Nice idea.


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.

Do it yourself! Return on Investment (ROI) for Large Format ChromaLuxe

One interesting task that I recently undertook was preparing a comprehensive MS Excel sheet which would allow our clients to calculate the expected ROI time and Profit & Loss for their investment in a large format ChromaLuxe system. You start with the basics like hardware investment cost and compare it with material costs and selling prices. But that is just the start, there are many other factors to take into account.

The good news is that, in the end, you can only come to the conclusion that even a modest volume of work can generate some interesting profits.

Hardware and Software Investment

First you have to look at the hardware investment cost of a printer and heat press. The heat press is the largest cost element and will control the maximum size that you can print. It also needs to be top quality with very even heating and pressure. Some of the presses designed for textile simply do not meet this standard. Prices for a good larger format prFeatured imageess vary from €6.000 to €45.000 depending on the size. €30.000 will provide a good press, delivered and installed, for printing 1.1m x 1.75m plates.

A 44inch (112cm) printer from Epson will cost around €5.000 including a RIP software, depending on local offers. The only other hardware cost may be some colour management hardware and software, if you don’t already have it, at about €2.000. A percentage should also be included for maintenance costs.

When we look at the investment costs, whilst they may seem quite high at first, they are much lower than costs associated with purchase of UV printers, CNC routers and wet chemical silver halide print processes. Given the high gross profit margins available, this is an excellent investment.

Consumable Costs

The next stage involves looking at the cost of the ChromaLuxe plates – easily calculated from our price list, less any applicable discount. In a ROI, I look for the total square metres per week and I have created a mix of standard product sizes in order to calculate this.

Paper and Ink – for printing hard metal substrates, this is a cost but not a high percentage of the total cost. We are looking at between €3.00 and €5.00 per square metre depending on the printer, ink used and most importantly the image. As with all inkjet printing, an image with a lot of white background will use much less ink than a full colour image. WFeatured imagee use a medium-high level image for our estimates.

Sales Prices

Next is your sales price. This has to reflect market prices, best assessed by checking competitors’ web sites! But also take into account your service level – do you offer a high end professional service with test prints, colour management, proofing etc? The prices that should be used here are without VAT tax.

Other factors to consider

Substrate, paper and ink wastage. If you print on a 112cm wide roll but the image is only 30x40cm, there is obviously a lot of waste. Print head cleaning cycles also use ink.

Then there is the electricity cost for the heat press which can be substantial if it is on all day but only limited production is done. Set this up efficiently.

Labour costs are another aspect. One of the great advantages of sublimating prints is the production process which, once a good workflow is set up, is very easy, very fast and very reliable. Calculating labour costs means making some accurate assumptions on print estimates.

But when you look at the ROI, all these extra items have less effect on the total costs than the investmeFeatured imagent cost and main consumable costs.

We offer our clients the opportunity to use our Excel ROI sheet that comes with full instructions. However, we recommend to complete it together so that each item can be confirmed and discussed if necessary. This is a major investment and it is important to be accurate.

One of the great things about owning a sublimation system and heat press, is the opportunities it opens up to create other products – we often say that your imagination is your limit! Gift items, kitchen interiors, tables, whiteboard products, textiles are all items that can be produced with the same equipment.

The Final Result

Our Excel sheet allows you to look at the expected ROI time. You can also choose the write down period.

A second step allows you to enter your own estimated weekly print run with a combination of sizes and to looFeatured imagek at the full P&L calculations. Contribution to building and other overheads can be added.

Sublimation carries a healthy gross profit which at the end of the day can give a fast ROI from just a few prints per week.

Contact us to find out more!


Featured imageCharles Henniker-Heaton has over 30 years experience in the imaging industry, first at Durst and then at Fujifilm as a senior manager involved in retail photo, chemicals and since 2006 as European Marketing Manager for large format printing. He joined ChromaLuxe EMEA in 2014 in charge of European Business Development for large format.