Photographing your paintings – Giclée prints – On line orders

Ordering Giclée prints locally or online from or equal:
This is a rather long and probably overly detailed description, but that’s the way I write.
For those of you, like me, who want WAY more information here is another excellent web page with many articles on details and tips on how to get the best reproductions from your camera, shooting photos in raw or jpg. Using your monitor and calibrating them both, using proper lighting, etc!! Also there is information on megapixels and photo quality and the differences between RGB and CMYK, etc . This quote is from Imaging Arts Printing’s webpage “The “G” in giclée is pronounced like the “J” in Jacques Cousteau. The “I” is pronounced like the “E” in “easy”. The “clée” is pronounced basically like “clay”. Zs-EE-clay. Zseeclay. Giclée.” As of now I have not tried Imaging Arts Printing web services. I will report back if/when I do.
This process from Photographing to Printing isn’t that easy! There is a reason labs charge a lot to scan and process your painting’s image. Their equipment and time is expensive. I have not used CPL Imaging here in Duluth but have heard that if you want the best quality image and giclée print in the area and don’t mind paying for it go to Just an estimated example, their scan for an 11×14 is $50 + $28 for one print.

Preparation to photograph your painting.
I take my time at home to decide the exact cropping dimension best for my paintings. I write that dimension in pencil in the far upper corner of my painting. When you are at the frame shop you don’t want to be rushed thinking about the opening size of your mat!!! 
For your record of this painting, write on a thin piece of paper the following.
Date        Title        Full paper size      Preferred Crop size, and anything else you want to remember.
Include (stick) this paper next to the painting to be photographed.
Include also a piece of an “18% gray card” at the edge of the painting. See my article on “Photo Gray Cards, Color Correct Photos and Monitors
Photographing your painting.
You must have WHITE light (daylight) for your painting’s color to be accurate or a camera adjusted to the existing lighting! See my article on using a photo gray card and setting your camera’s white balance. You can correct color balance with the gray card and using Photoshop but it’s BEST to be correct when you take the photo (then you don’t/shouldn’t need Photoshop (PS)).
Don’t stand/photograph your painting too close. You do not want to be using the “wide angle” portion of your lens thinking that being closer is better.  If you do you will have barrel distortion, a fisheye lens effect. Keep around 5-6’ away and use a little zoom.
Photograph your paintings “dead-on!” You want your lens to be right in the center so you don’t have any angle distortion. Photoshop or Elements can correct this with Perspective Crop command.
Of course no glass on framed art. If the painting is behind glass you can read my article “Photographing Paintings in frames”.
Take several shots to ensure one is in perfect focus. Change (bracket) the exposure if you can on your camera to ensure one will have proper exposure.

I use a Cannon SLR on a tripod, I manually focus and have a polarized filter on my camera and on my external flash to eliminate any glare! I am not going into that process here. If you are interested in how the polarizers works do an internet search on “using Polarized light to photograph your paintings”, or ask me. That detail is probably over most non-techy-artist’s abilities. I also try to use the lowest ISO setting I can and use the self timer to minimize blur. Check your manual for white balance, etc. I know newer cell phones are capable of amazing images. Use my comments below to assist you if that is your best camera. (Some recommend that you shoot your photos in RAW. I use only jpeg right now.)

Photo Processing on your computer
Check focus with whatever software you are using. Open your photos and enlarge them and check which has the best focus. Using Photoshop, I drag multiple images of the same painting in to the program at once. Then I do a Window >Arrange > Vertically. On each photo I zoom in very close to compare the focus. Focus is the priority, not exposure! Note: accurate color saturation is also important.

NOW KEEP THE BEST ORIGINAL IMG 2782.JPG AND MAKE A COPY OF IT AND RENAME THIS ORIGINAL PHOTO. Example  2019 04 Sally.jpg, AND DON’T TOUCH THAT ORIGINAL AGAIN. DON’T DO ANY EDITS ON THE ORIGINALPHOTO. If you screw up something you don’t want to have messed with the original. Or if you learn a new technique later you want a perfect image to comeback to and make another copy! (Note, I’ve read that Jpg files degrade over time due to file compression. Every time you save it it looses some pixels. If you want this image to last, save an archival copy as a tiff file. Tiff files will not degrade.)

White balance if needed:

On the Copy, in Photoshop (PS) do a Levels Command (it is under the layers screen on the lower right of the screen). With the levels screen open, select the middle eyedropper (gray) and click on the 18% gray card in your photograph. This corrects the color balance. If you corrected your camera’s White Balance or are using daylight, your color could be OK.

Perspective Cropping, or straightening if needed:
If you took your photo dead center and without being too close you shouldn’t need any perspective cropping. See perspective cropping command in PS.
If your image includes way too much extra clutter around it, crop it to a few inches too large. Leaving the gray card and your painting details in the image.
Looks good? Save this color corrected image with the gray card and your detail information! If you can, save it in Tiff format and in Jpg format. (Tiff is a lot more megabytes and is better than Jpg)  2019 04 Sally uncropped.jpg   &  2019 04 Sally uncropped.tif

If you ever plan on making prints of this painting you need to ensure the image is saved at 300 dots per inch or px/inch. If you are just taking this for your records or to show someone or to post, this is not necessary.
If you have software capable of this, change the pixels per inch to 300. In Photoshop go to Image> image size. Note that the cropping dimensions are correct, change the resolution to 300 px/in > Preserve detail (enlargement) >OK.  Save this one 2019 04 Sally uncropped 300dpi.jpg

Cropping your image to post or share:
If you want to show, or submit to any contests, a photo of your painting do a crop to your exact size. Save it like “2019 04 Sally cropped 10.5×13.5.jpg”. If you want to upload this image to a web page, Facebook or to email to someone you want to make it smaller. You don’t want to share this full size (LARGE) perfect image. Someone could just print it. Go back into your software and look for a command called “Image” and find something like “resize or resample”. Make it tiny like 600×800 px. Then rename this file “2019 04 Sally cropped 10.5×13.5 small.jpg”.

Printing a Giclée print. 
You don’t need expensive/best quality Giclée paper for every reproduction. Note cards, or small prints can be made with photo paper. Walgreens, Shutterfly, Vistaprint, any Local photo printer, etc..  Beware, quality and consistency varies!
Again about saturation, it is very important that your digital image is “perfect” in order for you image to print accurately. Some labs can adjust/correct your image for a fee. You can pay for an inexpensive sample print or proof to check your image’s accuracy before spending BIG bucks on full size Giclee prints! Some online places will do small Proof samples for $10-15-20 so you predict the look of your expensive prints.

Several printing options:
For less expensive options than going to a professional lab like CPL, check your local areas for photo labs that make Giclée prints. Local photo shop may only print giclée on set standard sizes of paper. For example if you give them  a 10 x12″ image, they may print it on the size paper that it will fit on. In this case they will print it on 11×14 paper and you will have some white border. No biggie. Remember you always want some space behind the mat. Ask very specific questions, giclée prints are expensive! Quality varies based on their process and of course the quality of your image.

When using online sources like Gicleetoday and others you will need to create an online account. Gicleetoday only print in whole inches. They have many choices of paper or canvas.
Go back to your 2019 04 Sally uncropped 300dpi.jpg image. Upload this image, choose the paper and image dimension, and crop your uncropped image. The dimensions can be anything from actual size or some common size for a pre-cut mat, 11×14, 8×10, or some old frame and mat you already have. Depending on the quality of the image you could enlarge bigger than your original! Remember you need to include some additional width and height to account for loss of your image behind the mat or frame! No matter the size print you will loose about a 1/2″ in each dimension (1/4″ a side x 2). I believe you can have gicleetoday add a white border. Some want the border to add an original signature and enter the unique copy numbers like 4/100, 5/100 printed…

Now for the more advanced person with Photoshop: This gets in the weeds.
What if you want to use a 10.5” x 13.5” precut mat for your painting? Then you want at least an 11×14 overall print. So crop the image on-line bigger to account for the image lost under the mat.  If for some reason you want your viewable image to be an exact dimension other than a whole number you need Photoshop.   To have an exact image size with a border, open your “2019 04 Sally cropped 10.5 x13.5.jpg”. (Insure it is 300dpi, if you did this in the order above it will be greater than 300dpi). Make sure in PS your background layer is white, not some funky color. (Over on the tool bar.)  Go to Image>Canvas size> 11×14 inches. And leave the defaults (so it expands from the middle.) >OK.   Now you have your exact image size centered in a ¼” white border with a dimension they can print. For right now I will keep it simple. Lately I have been adding 2″ so I have a 1″ border around the image.

(If you got all the way down to here, To get the é symbol in Giclée, press and hold the Alt key and press 130 and did you know the © is Alt 0169, gawd what I come up with..)
Good Luck, Bill

27 Nov 2019, added info from,  7 May 2019, Added the importance of color saturation. 21 Apr 2019 new doc.