Get into the Computer Age!

by Mindy on September 2, 2012

in How-To, Photoshop, Uncategorized

Creating Greeting Cards from your Art:

Part 3- Enter the Computer Age

I have talked about how simple cards can be made with limited technology. Part 3 is about working with a computer, scanner, software and printers. I could spend hours and hours writing this part of the series. Rather than confuse you, I will simply share with you what I use and what I recommend. I work on a MacBook Pro lap with 15" screen.  I have it hooked up to a  wide screen monitor so I can see the image much bigger. It is an old monitor that I had when I had a tower pc. This has helped me to make my computer portable while still utilizing my monitor to see the "bigger" picture. It is 3 years old and has done a nice job for me. I recommend Apple because it is easier to use and seems to think more like an artists' mind, rather than an accountant. The support of One-to-One from Apple is an excellent way to learn how to use the Mac. AppleCare is a great support package that keeps you up and running when you have technical issues. I changed to a Hewlett Packard once and it was awful. I will never stray from Apple again!

The 2 other pieces of equipment you will need, is a scanner and a printer. I recommend Epson. Epson by far has a wonderful range of products for the novice to the professional. I have one of their low end scanners. I bought the Epson Perfection V500 Photo scanner. It can only scan a piece of art 8.5" x 11". I will write in another blog post how I piece my scans together for paintings that are larger than 8.5" x 11". I paid about $200 for the scanner. There are more expensive scanners and ones with a larger format but I have found no advantage to upgrading. I have gotten very professional results for this scanner.

My printer is also an Epson. It is an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 and can print up to 17" wide. I paid about $1200 for it. It has archival inks that are guaranteed not to fade up to 100 years. I am not sure how they test this, since the technology has only been around for about 15 years. The reason I picked this printer is because I print my own archival giclee prints. Giclee for those of you who do not know, is a French word that means ; " to spray". It simply means that the process that is used to make the print is via ink jet technology. Many people use the word giclee to describe their prints. If you are selling or buying giclee prints it is very important to make sure that the paper as well as the inks are archival. Archival paper, is paper that has had the acid removed from it. It will say that is is "acid-free". I only work on watercolor papers that are acid free because I don't want them to decentergrate. I also want the colors of my art to be permanent. If they fade it would be very bad for business. Here are a list of considerations you should ask yourself before you purchase a printer.

  1. How much money do I want to spend?
  2. How big do I want to print?
  3. How small do I want to print?
  4. How often will I print?
  5. How long will it take to re-coop the cost of the printer before it starts to pay for itself?
  6. How old is the model I am interested in buying?
  7. What Operating System does it work with?
  8. What kind of work will I be printing?
  9. Where am I going to sell my prints and how many do I expect to sell?

These are some of the things that I took into consideration when I bought my printer. I talked with a few friends who are in the business and all of the answers were pointed in the direction of the 3880. To get a larger format the cost jumped almost $3000. This would allow me to print bigger prints but I had to consider how many of these larger formats I would be printing. I realized that I could not justify the cost. If I have a customer who wants a bigger print, I send out my file to a professional printer and have them do it. I pay the printer and add my cost onto the print. I really have no overhead. If you are just starting out, you may only need a standard 8.5" wide printer. If you are going to send everything to a printer you may only need a cheapo printer for proofs and typed documents. You can get a cheapo printer for under $100, even from Epson.

The last thing you will need is editing software. There are many software programs out there but the one I am most familiar with is Photoshop by Adobe. There are 2 kinds of Photoshop. There is a full version of Photoshop and another version called Photoshop Elements. The difference in price is astounding. PS is about $1000 and PS Elements is about $100. What is the difference? I have both. I teach on Elements and I work on PS. I highly recommend that before you plunk down the big bucks for PS that you purchase Elements. Sometimes you can find it bundled for free with a scanner. I use PS because I have had it for years and have upgraded along the way. Elements did not exist when I first started, I had no choice. Luckily for me I was a student and got it at student cost. If you know a student with a full-time college ID you can purchase it for about 3/10ths the price. Elements will be a smaller version with less bells and whistles, but at this point if you don't know what you are doing, the less you have to get confused about. The one thing that both programs have is a wonderful little tool called "Photomerge". I will talk about this in another lesson.

I hope that this has given you an introduction to the equipment I use and why I use it. If you have any questions please feel free to ask me. What kind of equipment do you use? What has your experience been? What can you add to this post?

As always I value your opinions and questions.


I almost forgot…. Here is painting #30… Swiss Chard

"Swiss Chard" Original Watercolor by Mindy Lighthipe ©2012

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie Timmons September 3, 2012 at 8:15 am

Hi Mindy, excellent concise overview. One less expensive printer option is the Canon Pro9000 Mark II. I bought mine for less than $400 on Amazon. I don't skip on paper or ink and only buy Canon Archival quality. The results are fantastic. I recommend picking a printer then googling the heck out of it to find the best price.

Mindy September 3, 2012 at 8:52 am

Hi Natalie,
Glad you liked the post and thanks for the recommendation on the Canon Printer. I agree with finding what you want and then googling it for the best price. I got my printer that way and got a $250 rebate. Great deals are out there, you just have to look for them.

Laura Winslow September 3, 2012 at 9:44 am

Thank you Mindy… for sharing this info.. it was just what I was looking for. I love your work… has always inspired me…!!!!! 

Anita September 3, 2012 at 10:01 am

Hi Mindy, Thanks for sharing. I don't doubt that a Mac is superior to a Windows format in some ways, and most professionals will recommend it, but,  I started with a HP and have stayed with the program, using a Dell now with great results. I'm able to do anything with it that I've needed to do to manipulate and print pictures, using PS Elements and MS Publisher, so can say with authority that it is possible to do fine work using a simple HP. A friend of mine recently purchased a Mac, only to find that none of her previous scans and other history was transferable, and wound up needing a new HP to access it. (She was not a happy camper!)– Epson 2880 is my printer, and prints up to 13" wide material, which suits the size of most of my work, and also uses archival inks, and  use only archival papers for my reproductions and note cards. (also doing some fabric printing now–great fun!) I did have the full PS program at one time but neglected to upgrade, and lost that option, :-( but found(happily) that all tools I use are found in the Elements program.  I also agree that a large screen is very helpful. Mine is a 24 " and it's wonderful. – Anita.

Maria September 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Mindy, your post is so timely for me!  My old HP printer went belly-up recently after 13 years of great service, and I am trying to find a color printer that will handle cardstock and heavier papers.  What do you think of laser printers vs inkjet for printing greeting cards?  Would appreciate any other recommendations from other artists who are using printers in the $300-400 range for cards and prints.

Mindy September 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Hi Anita~ It is true that you can get just as good results with a PC. I know lots of people who use them. If you are new to computers and digital imaging I feel a Mac is much more intuitive and easier to learn. If you already have a PC are are used to it, I wouldn’t recommend switching. The cost of a Mac is more money and then there is new software etc… files between Mac & PC should be compatible. Maybe there is a way to convert them? I have saved my files in Photoshop as Windows compatible. Maybe there was a way to do this and your friend was not aware of it. What a shame for her. I believe that the technology just keeps getting better and better. Desktop publishing has taken a permanent place in the computer world. Big screens are so much easier to work with, that is why I was thrilled when my screen from the tower was able to hook into my laptop….. now I have both portable and big viewing. Thanks for sharing your experiences and the printer that you are using! I know there are others that are looking to buy a printer and this might be a good one in a reasonable price range.

Mindy September 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Laura~ Glad to add some motivation and inspiration into your work!

Mindy September 3, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Hi Marie~ I have found that laser printers are okay. I am not crazy about them. They seem more expensive and less available. I really like Epson because you can get supplies at the local office supply store or online. I usually order online because it is cheaper but there are times when I am in the middle of project and I am out of ink. I know that I can hop in the car and get ink the same day. Not sure this is possible with laser ink. Anita commented about her Epson 2880. she seems very happy with it…. check it out and see if it will work for you. Good luck and don’t forget to let us know what you bought! Happy printing!

Richard Klekociuk September 3, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Excellent, informative and valuable post, Mindy. I too, am a Mac person and I have a Canon printer. I haven't moved yet to print my work as you have, but your post has got me interested.
Regards from Australia!

Laura September 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Hi Mindy
I am so thrilled with this post and series. I live in a small isolated town and have been needing a way to create my own cards and prints. This will get me started for sure. I have a HP photosmart printer/scanner but do not feel that it produces very good results. I find the smaller feed tray does not always "agree" to take in blank cards to print, and colours in the scans are not accurate. 
I just got a new iMac desktop 2 years ago and love it! I'd always used a PC before, and found it easy enough to make the transition. I'm trilled to hear about PS elements as I know how to use basic functions with PS but no longer have the program. 
NOTE FOR ANITA: I also could not get my HP printer to work with my Mac but went to an online HP forum and found the info and link to upgrade my printer to be compatible with the newer Mac operating system. Once I read this the upgrade was simple. 
Mindy, my questions are:
Is there a difference or benifit to having a seperate printer and scanner rather than an "all in one" style machine?
When you make your cards do you use blanks cards and print them or do you print on blank paper and then fold/cut them into cards?
Do you have to adjust the colour of your image in photoshop after scanning or does it capture the true colours of your painting during the scanning process?
Lastly, would consider doing a post sometime about approaching businesses to sell your cards and prints?

Laura Gould September 4, 2012 at 8:21 am

Wonderful info Mindy….I have the Epson Artisan printer/scanner and love it…..  Now I can't wait for your entry on Photoshop Elements 😉  
Thanks for all the great information you so generously share :)  xox Laura

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