What to do when you get your test prints in the mail.

Hello there!  Welcome.

So you go to the mailbox and your test prints have finally arrived!  Now what?  I know that the first reaction would be to get your originals ready to compare.  Don’t.  Leave the originals away for just a few moments.

Sit down.  Open the package.  Were they packed well?  For small prints it’s pretty hard to mess this up, but still take note of their process here.

How do the prints feel?  Do you like them?  At this point we’re not comparing.  What’s your initial reaction to them?  Seems like a silly few questions, but just trust me here.

You have likely spent hours staring at the original while drawing or painting it.  Then more time staring at it while editing.  Then some more time staring while ordering prints.  You know what they should look like.  This is all about how it feels when you see them.

If your initial reaction to the prints is “Ugh!”  then something went wrong.  Now you have to figure out what.

If you feel like they look good, perfect!

After you look at them for a bit and form an initial reaction, then dig out your originals.  Now it’s ok to compare.

There are few things to keep in mind when comparing originals to prints.  The main thing is that someone who is purchasing a print does not have access to the original.  They aren’t going to compare and make sure they match perfectly.  So the comparison step is for your knowledge.  Another thing, sometimes it’s better if the print doesn’t completely match the original.

So you want to double check the colors.  Do they match?  Or at least really close?  Or maybe need adjusted a bit?  They can be off and still be close enough and look good.  You just have to decide if they feel right to you.

You also want to check details.  Did they get washed out?  Blurred out?  Sometimes when editing a picture it’s easy to adjust the white level too far and get rid of any lighter details.  It may be hard to tell on a small image but if it’s a glaring error it should be noticeable.

How does the paper feel in your hand?  Most companies have at least a few paper choices, but do you like this one?  It’s ok if everything else looks good but you’re just not too fond of the paper.

Now if you ordered from multiple companies you’ll repeat this step for each one.  Which company’s prints do you like the most?  Any you can cross off immediately?  There may be a couple that are very similar.

So what’s next?  If they look good and you’re excited about them, it’s time to order a full size print and see how that looks.  A full size print will show more details and it’s important to make sure those look right.  Sometimes these can get blurry and washed out.  Even with a high resolution image to start with.  So pick your favorite company, or two, and order a print or two at the size you want.  Then repeat the waiting and evaluating process.

If you didn’t like the prints you have some research to do.  What about them seems off?  Try to figure out which step seemed to go wrong.  This can be a challenge sometimes.  Was it the original capture, editing, or the print company?  This is where ordering from multiple places is important.  It’s easy to pinpoint the problem if prints from one place came back great and another were terrible.

So I mentioned above how sometimes it’s best if the original and print don’t match.  One time this is very true in my experience is when working on black paper, because black paper isn’t completely black.  When you have an original it looks fine, but if you match the color perfectly on a print it looks really off.  It looks washed out, blah gray.  And in reality it probably is much more of a dark gray than black.  I’ve found that making it a bit darker works for me.  I never take it too dark though, otherwise it’ll lose the black paper feel and it gets a bit eery for my liking.  The same really is true for white paper as well.  If you have it match the original perfectly as a print it can look like it is dirty.  This is why it’s really important to just go by what the print looks like and not compare immediately.  There is a fine line between going with what looks good as a print and manipulating the work though.  Super over editing is ok as long as you’re not misrepresenting what is actually your work, in my opinion.  But then we’re getting into ethics and I should just stick to print making stuff.

So if you need to make a couple editing adjustments, go ahead and tweak them a bit.  Then I would say reorder small prints again and repeat the waiting and evaluating process.  I know it may seem tempting to adjust a bit and just order larger prints to test, but I’d recommend against it until you’re happy with the small prints.  It may take more time, but I think it’s the best method.  (It’s just an opinion though, so toss it out if it doesn’t work for you!)

So what paper to choose?  There are so many options.  You have to think about the look and feel you want for your work.  Next post will talk all about different papers.  Because I print myself, I’ve tested a variety of types.  There aren’t massive differences in a lot of them, and it really comes down to personal preference.

If I missed anything or you have any questions at all please let me know!  You can send me a message through here or track me down on social media.

Have a wonderful day and weekend!

Jessica 🙂