I originally published this post in 2019 but felt the need to update it this week as it continues to be a question I get pretty often!
“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 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?
Today I’m sharing a few tips on how to print picture study art both from my own experience as well as other options that I’ve seen recommended. 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. For your local store, you may also be able to 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” or “Copies” or some variation of that and upload your file before making 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) or glossy paper as it adds a reflection to the print 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, sometimes the same day.
A 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 believe picture study is more immersive for each student when they have their own copy of the piece that they can hold in their hands while they look at it, so 8.5×11 paper is ideal.
- Don’t print on glossy paper. Many printing services offer glossy paper for photographs and some people alos use it for picture study art, but I don’t recommend this option. Glossy, and even semi-glossy, paper reflects light, so the art may be difficult to see, and fingerprints might be a problem (if that sort of thing bothers you 🙂). Matte or semi-matte paper works well for picture study art, but coated is even better, though most printing services do not offer this option.
Below are a few options for office supply/copy stores that can be found all over the United States. Keep an eye out for local, small-business printing shops as well, as often they’ll be even more affordable. For instance, one of our local print shops, Tri-Lakes Printing, has excellent prices on high-quality color prints and they can have them ready for you very quickly!
- Staples – Choose the “Professional Print” option. You can upload different file types (including PDF and JPG). They also offer same-day pickup in some cases. (Also, get 5% cashback from Rakuten!)
- Office Depot/Office Max – You can upload different file types (including PDF and JPG). They also offer same-day pickup in some cases. (Also, get 4% cashback from Rakuten!)
- The UPS Store – Choose “Copies and Quick Prints.” You can upload different file types (including PDF and JPG).
- FedEx Office – You can upload different file types (including PDF and JPG). (Also, get 2.5% cashback from Rakuten!)
- Shutterfly – Many homeschoolers have used Shutterfly to make photobooks of their current year’s prints. This is an option if you don’t mind having them bound. (Also, get 1% cashback from Rakuten!)
- Lulu – Here you upload PDFs. I’ve used this option in the past to print various books, and the quality is very good. This is another option if you don’t mind a coil-bound book (you can flip the pages over to display the individual pieces – see image above).
Print At Home
A more economical option is most likely to print your own picture studies at home. I can’t cover the full range of printers here, but I can share what I use and offer a few tips that could be used for any printer.
Since 2017, I’ve owned 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 took a digital photography class, and I’ve been hooked on the brand ever since. This is an EcoTank 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, my business, and 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 had to fill the tanks only a few times in the four years that I’ve had this printer.
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 are not hard to find. 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 (it’s $50 now). Costco usually also offers EcoTank models, including one right now for $250.
When printing at home, try finding 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. I don’t recommend photo glossy, semi-glossy, or luster paper as it can make it difficult to see the art. I know paper probably doesn’t seem very important, but the right kind of paper can 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, the ink essentially 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 (e.g., matte vs. semi-gloss) and let each sheet dry well before you take it off the printer or send another job to the printer.
Websites that Sell Print Sets
If you’d rather not have to go through the possibly-complicated process of ordering prints from a local printing shop or don’t want to deal with printing them on your own, the very easiest route to take is to buy sets that are professionally printed. If your chosen curriculum as chosen pieces that aren’t available anywhere online, keep an open mind and see if one of the options below at least offers that artist or another artist from their time period and/or movement. You don’t have to go with the artist or artwork chosen by your curriculum! I’ve mentioned a few below, but please let me know if I’m missing one!
- a humble place – That’s me! I offer professionally-printed, high-quality prints on durable, thick cardstock with a smooth finish at very affordable prices in my shop, along with my Picture Study Aids. My print sets are $8.99 (shipping varies). I also include a set of art prints with my Picture Study Aids, which are $18.99 plus shipping (again, this varies, but I offer free shipping for certain orders over $75 – see terms).
- Riverbend Press – Riverbend Press, the same place that offers The Cloud of Witness, also sells artist prints. They offer six pieces at $8 (or $5 for smaller sizes), plus $7 flat-rate shipping.
- Simply Charlotte Mason – They recently increased their prices (as of 2022) and now sell individual sets of 8 prints for $11.95 plus $7 flat-rate shipping, or you can buy a Picture Study Portfolio for $21.95 plus $7 flat-rate shipping.
Art Books and Other Options
Two options I know that many homeschool moms used before the advent of the internet was finding wall calendars for specific artists or movements, or large-format art books and picking pieces to study from those. The books 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 simultaneously!). Often, when I’m working on a Picture Study Aid and find a book from the library that I need longer than my checkout time allows, I’ll buy a used copy, and the prices are generally pretty reasonable.
Finally, another option can be old textbooks as they are usually very high-quality, contain many different options from which to choose, and can be very affordable. In my experience, college professors like to make their students buy newly-published, $150 art history books every semester that they’ll have to sell back later, which means someone else gets a deal. 😉
So there are a few tips, but let me know if I’ve missed anything! What is your favorite source for picture study art?