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Before I get into how to print picture studies, I have two related announcements…. first off, I’m still working on the Bruegel Picture Study Aid and hope to have it available by the end of July. Second, I’ve reduced the size of the Bruegel picture study prints file to 56 MB, so if you’ve had problems uploading that to a printing service, hopefully that helps!
And now on to the post!
“Can you recommend a good way to print the picture studies?”
I see this question a lot. Usually it comes in email form and follows a thank you for the picture study print files and/or Picture Study Aids. It’s nice to live in a day and age where we can find art on the internet and have it in a handy format for printing….but how exactly do we go about actually printing it?
I’m going to share a few resources today that I’ve used to print picture studies as well as others I’ve seen recommended as well. Hopefully by the end of this post, you’ll have a good source for including high-quality prints in your own picture study time!
Online and Office Supply Store Printing
I’m grouping online services and office supply stores together as you can often upload your files through office supply store websites and then pick up the prints in your local store, depending on the size of the file. For your local store, you may also be able put the files on a thumb drive and bring that in – whichever is easiest for you!
The process here is usually pretty straightforward. You choose “Document Printing” and upload your file, then make your paper/ink/finishing selections. A good rule of thumb is to get heavier paper (see below), color, one-sided, and matte or, if possible, silk cover or coated. I don’t recommend laminating (which I’ve done in the past) as it adds a gloss that can sometimes make it difficult to actually see the art (also see below). If it’s a local store with pickup, they’ll email you when your order is ready.
I few tips on ordering prints from your own files:
- Choose heavy paper. I have found that when I printed ours on regular copier/printer paper (around 22lbs.), they don’t last long. I think printing them on a higher-quality and heavier-weight paper not only provides a longer-lasting print, but also adds a sense of quality that lighter paper doesn’t offer.
- Unless you’re displaying your print on a wall by itself, I don’t think you need to go larger than 8.5×11 (or A4). I think picture study is more immersive for each student when they have their own copy of the piece that they can hold in their hands to look at, so 8.5×11 paper is ideal.
- Don’t print on glossy paper. Many printing services offer printing options on glossy paper for photographs, but I don’t think this is the way to go for prints as glossy paper reflects light so the prints may be difficult to see, and fingerprints will definitely be a problem (if that sort of thing bothers you :)). Matte or semi-matte paper works well for picture studies, but coated is even better, though most printing services do not offer this option.
(For the prices I list below, I used the six-page Johannes Vermeer picture study (35 MB) and the highest settings offered. They’re more to give a general idea of the average cost as these prices may change at any time and can vary by area.)
- Staples ($3.41 per set plus tax) – Upload different file types (including PDF and JPG) at a max of 50 MB. They also offer same-day pickup in some cases. (Also get 4% cash back from eBates!)
- Office Depot/Office Max ($3.24 per set plus tax) – Upload different file types (including PDF and JPG). No sizes mentioned and I was able to upload a 56 MB file with no problems. They also offer same-day pickup in some cases. (Also get 2.5% cash back from eBates!)
- The UPS Store ($4.50 per set plus tax) – Upload different file types (including PDF and JPG) at a max of 150 MB.
- FedEx Office ($4.14 per set plus tax) – Upload different file types (including PDF and JPG) at a max of 150 MB. (Also get 5% cash back from eBates!)
- Best Value Copy (price per set varies with shipping) – This is the company that my co-op uses for picture study prints. Their quality can sometimes be hit or miss, but when they make a mistake, they are quick to remedy it and have sent me replacement prints that were much better at no extra cost. A caveat, however, is that they only offer free shipping for orders over $125, so it’s better to order from them in collaboration with other families as otherwise, their shipping is very expensive.
- Shutterfly – Many homeschoolers have used Shutterfly to make photobooks of their year’s prints. This is an option if you don’t mind having them bound. (Also get 1% cash back from eBates!)
- Lulu – Upload PDFs. This is another option if you don’t mind a bound book. I’ve used this option to print some of the Picture Study Aid prints with a coil-binding and it has worked very well (see above image).
Print At Home
A more economical option is most likely to print your own picture studies at home. Obviously I can’t cover the full range of printers here, but I can share what I use as well as offer a few tips that could be used for any printer.
I own an Epson ET-3700 and I can not sing the praises of this printer enough. I started using Epson large-format printers in college when I was taking a digital photography class and I’ve been hooked on the brand ever since. This is an eco-tank model, which means that instead of buying cartridges, I buy bottles that are the same price as the cartridges and use those to fill the ink tanks. I do a LOT of printing. I use my printer for school, for my business, for co-op, for random creativity…really for everything and I go through a LOT of ink. Whereas before when I was buying ink cartridges usually once a month, I have only had to fill the tanks ONCE in the year-and-a-half that I’ve had this printer. It also came with an extra set of ink bottles, so I have not had to buy ink in over a year-and-a-half.
It’s pricey for a printer, but the print quality is fantastic, you can use Epson’s specialty papers (more on that later), and deals on it or similar models can definitely be found. For instance, when we bought ours, Best Buy was running a promotion where you could trade in an old Epson printer for $100 off the purchase of a new EcoTank printer. Costco also has other EcoTank models, including one for $180.
Okay, I’m done bragging about my printer. 🙂 When printing at home, try and find the highest quality paper you can get. For Epson printers, I’m partial to Ultra-Premium or Premium Presentation Paper Matte (single-sided). The Ultra-Premium is slightly heavier than the Premium, but I think both work well and the Premium is usually quite a bit cheaper. You could possibly use these papers with other printer brands, but I have never tried this so I’m not sure about the results. Hewlett Packard also offers Premium Presentation Paper that may work with other printers as well. I don’t recommend photo glossy, semi-glossy, or luster paper as it can make it difficult to see the prints well. I know paper probably doesn’t seem like a very important thing, but the right kind of paper can really make a huge difference in print quality.
You could also print on a generic cardstock, but I’ve had mixed results with this, particularly for darker paintings as the ink basically just soaks into this kind of paper and makes everything even darker and not as clear.
When you print, obviously use the highest quality settings possible appropriate to the paper you’re using (eg. matte vs. semi-gloss) and let each sheet dry well before you take it off the printer or put through another print job.
Websites that Sell Print Sets
If you have flexibility with the pieces that you cover each term and aren’t following a specific artist rotation, the very easiest route to take is to probably buy sets that are professionally printed. There are a few of these that I know of, but if I’m missing one, please let me know!
- a humble place – That’s me! I’ve started to offer professionally-printed, high-quality prints at very affordable prices in my shop. Right now I have Vincent van Gogh and John Singleton Copley, but I will be adding more to that in the future. Unfortunately, at this time I’m not offering any prints related to the Ambleside Online artist rotation as I want to be respectful of their copyright terms. Hopefully, if you’re following that rotation strictly, you’ll find the rest of this post helpful! My sets are $5 (for six prints) plus shipping (usually around $2.75 for media mail).
- Riverbend Press – Riverbend Press, the same place that offers The Cloud of Witness, also offers artist prints and some of them also include articles from the PNEU that discuss those specific works of art. They include six pieces at $8, plus shipping, per set.
- Simply Charlotte Mason – This is probably the most well-known source for Charlotte Mason picture study prints as they offer their Picture Study Portfolios. They sell individual sets of 8 prints for $9.95 plus shipping, or you can buy an entire kit that includes a book about the artist and each piece as well as the prints for $18.95 plus shipping.
And finally, another option that I know many homeschool moms used before the advent of the internet was finding large-format art books and picking pieces to study from those. These can often be found in the bargain section at Barnes and Noble or through used book sites (bookfinder.com is an excellent way to search most of them at the same time!). Often, when I’m working on a Picture Study Aid and find a book from the library that I need longer than I’m allowed to borrow, I’ll buy a used copy and the prices are generally pretty reasonable.
Another option is also old textbooks as they are usually very high-quality, contain many different options from which to choose, and can be very affordable as, in my experience, college professors like to make you buy newly-published, $150 art history books every semester. 😉
So there are a few tips, but let me know if I’ve missed anything! What is your favorite source for picture study prints?