Preparing Art for the JordanCon Print Shop

by Paul Bielaczyc

Wherein Paul walks us through how to prepare your prints for inclusion in the Print Shop

For many of you that have submitted art to a Print Shop before, you can probably skip this tutorial. But if this is your first time to participate in a Print Shop, you may want to read ahead for a few pointers on how to prepare your prints.

All artwork that is submitted to the Art Show's Print Shop must be bagged and boarded or “bagged and backed,” as it is often called by art shows. This helps protect your artwork as people handle it. While all prints must be bagged and backed to be accepted into our Print Shop, you are free to decide if you would like to mat them as well, or not. That part is up to you.

Bagging and Backing

So you may ask, “What exactly do you mean by bagging and backing?” Well, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Your print is put in a sealable plastic sleeve (or bag), with a stiff backing board. The bag prevents damage from people handling your prints, dirty fingers, scuffs, etc. The backing board keeps the print from getting bent, or damaged if dropped. I personally get all of my print supplies from Clearbags (www.clearbags.com), but there are many online and offline sources, including art supply stores and comic book shops.

Bags

The plastic bags should be clear and are usually made from polyethylene, polypropylene or polyester. You should avoid bags made of PVC plastics, since the plastic touching your artwork can damage it over time and people buying your prints may not always frame them right away.

Clearbags.com sells two different types of Crystal Clear Bags. One has the adhesive strip on the fold-over flap; the other has it on the bag, not the flap. I can't stress enough how important it is to purchase the Protective Closure Bags (adhesive on the bag, NOT the flap). The reason is that, while both bags make it easy for you to slide your art in, remove the adhesive cover, and seal, the side the adhesive is on matters when you have to reopen the bag and pull your print out. What if a customer wants the print signed or personalized?

With the first type of bag (adhesive on the flap), you have to be extremely careful when sliding the print out to ensure that the adhesive doesn't come in contact with the print. With the Protective Closure Bag, the adhesive is on the back side of the bag, and there is no need to worry about the adhesive coming into contact with your art. There is no difference in price between the two types of bags that Clearbags offers, so really, no argument for buying the other type. If you do decide to purchase from Clearbags, here’s a link to the one you want: http://www.clearbags.com/bags/clear-bags/pc

One important thing to remember is always get bags that are about one-eighth to one-fourth larger than the print and backing board size, especially if you plan to mat your artwork. You may even want to go a little larger if you plan to double mat your print. Remember, you are bagging three boards’ worth of thickness at that point! If you try to push it in anyway, the bag will split apart. (Those of you who are comic book fans may be familiar with this issue if you've ever tried to fit a Silver Age comic book into a Golden Age bag!)

Backing Boards

The best backing boards are made of acid-free, lignin-free cardboard. You'll often see these marketed as “archival quality” or “archival safe” boards. But that isn't necessarily required, especially if this is your first Print Shop. I recommend Clearbags’ standard 4-Ply backing boards for this purpose. They have always served me well without a problem. While Clearbags doesn’t guarantee that the backing boards are 100% archival, most people are going to take your print out of the bag and frame it before that could become a problem. Plus, unlike the bags, the boards are only touching the back of your artwork, not the front. You can find the boards I use here: http://www.clearbags.com/mats-backing/board/4-ply-white

When bagging and backing the art, I find it easiest to slide the backing board about halfway into the bag. Then slide the print into the bag, sliding it in the same amount as the backing board. Then carefully push both the print and the backing board fully into the bag. The reason that I recommend doing it that way is because if you fully insert the backing board into the bag and then try to slide the print in, oftentimes static will make the print get stuck halfway. Then the print can get bent or creased while you are trying to slide it the rest of the way in.


Illustration 2: Inserting the print in the bag. Red outline is the bag, green is the backing board, yellow the print.

Matting your Art

Most people don't mat their prints in a Print Shop. The idea is that your work in the Art Show is typically fancier, more expensive, matted, and/or framed. The prints in the Print Shop are the economy-level stuff for people to buy when they can't afford the items in the Art Show itself.

But some people may wish to mat their Print Shop submissions. We are fine with artists matting their prints, as long as the size of the matted art is less than 16”x20”. Excepting a few specific cases (which require approval by the Art Show directors in advance), the final size of all submitted prints should be 16”x20” or smaller. For example, I typically sell 11”x14” prints, which mat up nicely as 16”x20.” Either of those sizes would be acceptable in the JordanCon Print Shop.

Adding an Original Element

I personally don't mat my artwork that I submit to Print Shops. Typically I only mat the prints I hang in the Art Show. One thing that I have found over the years that helps with making more sales is to add a custom, hand-drawn element to the matted prints. This is a great way to increase your print sales with a minimal amount of extra work.

If you do plan on matting your prints in the Print Shop, I wouldn't recommend adding an original element to those mats, as that would be a significant amount of work. If the Print Shop is supposed to be the economy level for purchases, matting and customizing the mats would make them cost more than most attendees may care to spend. I feel that the ideal price for prints in a Print Shop is around $20.

I hope these tips are helpful to you. As always if you have any questions or need further assistance with anything related to the JordanCon Art Show (and Print Shop), just send us an email to artshow@jordancon.org.