Would you like to get your artwork onto Greeting Cards, Prints, and a Website? Not sure how to get started?

Here’s the thing, once you start this process you can see it can be a bit rabbit hole of work especially if you have been creating for some time and have ALOT of artwork. So, I won’t lie it will take some commitment but once you sort it out you will find it rewarding and less time-consuming as time goes on.

I have found as an artist myself doing this process regularly allows me also to curate some of my past work and collections for moving forward.

So, here are the first few steps you need to take to get started.


Step 1What & Why do you need files?

There are many ways to go about this process but before we start you need to understand WHY you need to be doing this in the first place – I will try to keep this short. The crucks of it is,

You will need DIFFERENT digital files depending on if your need is PRINT OR WEB for each artwork

If you try to use a WEB file that is low resolution (72dpi) and you try to print this you will get a very pixelated printout ie. it will be blurry.

If you try to put a PRINT file that is high resolution (300 dpi) on your website the file will be very large filesize and take a long time to download you will lose visitors and take up a lot of disk space.

If you are confused about the word (dpi) or would like more info on that you can read more about that here on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dots_per_inch  but for now, let’s just call in low resolution and high-resolution files and they have different purposes.

So, for each artwork creation, you want to have both a high-resolution and low-resolution file.
I use their filename so I can easily know which is what.

 Eg. artworkname_print.jpg & artworkname_web.jpg

I will go into more detail on the other types of files that I also include for each artwork as best practice in Part B of this article, but to start with on my computer each artwork has a folder.
It has at least 3 files the original base file, then a high-resolution file and a  low-resolution file.


Step 2 –  How do you know your file is high or low resolution?

Firstly let’s very briefly talk about the 2 most common ways you may get your artwork into a digital file in the first place. Those generally are 1. Scanning or 2. Taking a photo with a camera or phone.

The first thing to think of here is that you want to get your file into the highest resolution you can, because its easy to scale down your artwork it doesn’t really work to turn a low resolution into a high resolution but there is an exception to this (just to confuse things – don’t you love technology) I will explain that a bit further along.

1. Scanning your art

Scanning is generally the best option, especially if you want to sell very high-quality reproductions of your work for print. Regardless of what I want this artwork file to do,  I always recommend just scanning at high-resolution 300dpi and always having an original scan on file as from that I have options I can play with rather than be restricted.  

I have an A3 scanner in my office that will scan up to 1200dpi of drawings and paintings but I generally will scan my works at about 600dpi which will give me about double the print size of the original. I also have a program that will stitch together multiple scans if need be that gives a pretty decent result.

If you have larger artworks or you are selling very high end you may need to take it to a specialised scanning service that does large format scanning. Do a search on Google for your local area. If you find one that specialises in Artworks, they will perhaps also have a printing/editing service.  Alternatively, if you can’t do scanning locally then you can move to taking photos of your work.

2. Photographing your art

Photo Setup for Taking photos of prints

Photo Setup for Taking photos of prints

There is so much information available about photographing your artwork, generally artworks taken on your phone will not be good enough for printing, but probably are ok for your website given you edit them and have some good lighting.

If you have an SLR camera or a really good phone you can possibly take decent photos that you could do smaller prints & greeting cards from. When going down this route you have to be very careful of your lighting and the distortion of the camera lens. There will always be some distortion when taking photos with a camera. Natural lighting is often best and sometimes putting artworks on the ground and taking photos from above or on a wall can be a good option.

My recommendation is to do a few tests and check your file sizes before you go crazy doing all your artworks. You want to test to see before you spend hours only to realise they aren’t good enough to go with or may need too much editing you may like to book in a photographer to do this for you.

Here is a great blog article about: 9 Common Mistakes when Photographing your Artwork with an iPhone (and how to fix them)   – there are so many resources on the internet, do a search and find out more if this is something you want to do.

In general – the plan is to get your artwork into a digital format in as best quality as you can for your use.

Common Mistakes: One common misconception I have seen many artists make is, they don’t realise that once you have your art in a digital format you will STILL need to edit it to get it ready for printing or your website.
There is STILL work to be done on that file.
You will need to crop it and maybe make some colour adjustments, you will need to save it out as different sizes.  I recommend if you are printing you will need to chat with your printer first or check the specifications on the website as to sizes and formats etc.
If you are selling artworks for print, all printers will be different and you may need to tweak the files to the printer. If you are printing on your printer at home, you will see these differences depending on what paper you use etc. So keep in mind there is still some work even after you get the file to this stage. If you are planning on selling prints you will almost always need to do test prints…  I digress (but I like to make sure you get the process 😊

Before you hurry off and do start editing … we want to make sure you are aware of what files you are working you currently have. You may already have some photos taken on your computer so,

Again, How do you know what dpi your jpg files are?

If you have some files you can follow these instructions to see what you have.

In windows, you can right-click on your file and view the properties and on mac, you have to open it up in preview – here is a good website that explains that: https://www.groovypost.com/howto/check-the-dpi-of-an-image/


So basically, whether you are starting to digitise your work or you have some files already you will need to collate & organise your files. 


Step 3 – Organising your files

I like to have each artwork in its only folder which has its own name but you can have them sorted by years, by styles, or all in one, the idea is to have them so you can easily know what makes sense to you what is what.

The lovely caveat to checking your files is that you could have a photo that is in low resolution, but the dimensions of that are so large that it can be converted to a high resolution.
I have seen a lot of artists with photos taken in low resolution (as alot of cameras will do it this way) and their files have been able to be converted enough so that they can at least get a 5X7” print size so this CAN be the case.  So, if you have a file that seems to have A LOT of pixels or large dimensions I would try to see if you can convert this to a high-resolution file.
If you can do that then you can end up with a high-resolution file of your work and then use this one as your base file BEFORE any edits are done and everything from here on out is done from that file.

In this situation, myself as a graphic designer will always just open up files in Photoshop and I am able to check dpi and sizes and save them out from there. When I do this, I can see the print size from this file, and that way I can advise artists on what size that file can print without losing quality. Depending on the original sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t.
This is also why I scan at a higher resolution 600dpi cause it means I can digitally convert it down at it will sometimes double the print size. This is another reason why scanning is better if you can do it.

If you don’t have this option then you can try to do a search online there are some converters or research more information within your skillset on how you can do this yourself, or it maybe you need to get a graphic designer to do this for you.  For customers who are interested in using my print services, I will take a look at their files to give them an indication of what they are working with before we go too far down the track. Or I have been booked to covert files for artists. Its as you can see a time consuming job but if you are going to sell your prints it can be better to select your key works and get the files you need for all your marketing.

To summarize

1. You now know, WHY you will need at least 2 sets of files per artwork a high-resolution (300 dpi) for PRINT and a low resolution (72 dpi) for WEB.

2. You can either SCAN your artworks to get these files or take PHOTOs of your artwork. Get the largest file you can and work back from there creating the 2 files.

3. If you have files already you can check to see what type of file you have to start with from the tips above.  If you have a file that looks to be 72dpi you can see if it can be converted if it has A LOT of pixels or large dimensions from the tips above. From there get to ORGRANISING your work to have a base file for each your artworks.


Step 4…

Once you have a base file for your artwork catalog you are almost there but there are still a couple of steps to go to make these files PRINT or WEB ready.  I hoped this has helped you this far, please comment if you have any questions and get ready for Part 2 which explains the other bits you need to get your Artworks Print & Web Ready this info is useful whether you do are doing this work yourself or if you are sending it to a designer or website developer. 


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Once you have got all that sorted and follow that head on over to PART 2 of this article – Saving your files right.