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How could I most accurately print a physical picture, such as a painting I created? I want the colors to be as similar as possible and for even the tiniest micro details to show.

Would I use offset printing or digital? Process or spot colors? Specially made ink?

  • And to make your print as precise as possible in sense of details you will need something like: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intaglio_(printmaking) and this is quite expensive and more appropriate for mass production. – Romeo Ninov Jun 13 at 19:01
  • It may, or may not be possible to create a decent duplicate. It depends on how your painting was made. For instance a watercolor painting can generally be reproduced quite accurately. An oil painting, not so much. If you provide some detail as to what your original is you will get better answers. It varies from a somewhat hard, but doable problem, to an impossible one. – doug Jun 15 at 22:40
  • Teach an art class in which students duplicate your paintings. Toss a few extra strokes into the best ones. Profit. – xiota Jun 16 at 7:24
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I do not mean to be rude, but I will be flat honest. Your expectations are unreal.

even the tiniest micro details to show

What is micro for you? Most of the texture you see at a "magnifying glass" level is given by the paper, for example, a cotton based paper is almost impossible to print because of the roughness is specially made to receive pigments in watery form.

The oily sensation an oil-based paint has volume has a glossy reflectiveness only oil paint can give.

You chose a medium for paint because of the materials of the paint.

Almost any reproduction system is based on a limited amount of inks screened in some way to simulate gradients. That is the difference between continuous tone and halftone.

Would I use offset printing or digital?

... ! ... Do you need one? or one thousand? That is the parameter to decide Digital vs Offset.

Process or spot colors?

... ! ... This discards digital all together... Is your paint monochromatic? go for a Pantone... if it is not...

Specially made ink?

Does your painting have a strange finish unreproducible by a standard printing system?

I do not know what you want for an ink... You can use chocolate muse if you want... but you could need silkscreen for this.

I want the colors to be as similar as possible

If this is a real question...

Use a color calibrated workflow.

  1. Light with good CRI index.

  2. Use a color chart for reference.

  3. Chose a good lighting technique.

  4. Get a good camera and lens. There are some other posts on the forum about this.

  5. Calibrate your editing software with the profile you have with point (2)

  6. Use a good quality printer, probably inkjet-based.

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For high quality prints of artwork photography is the first step in the reproduction workflow. It is a specialized field that, when done properly, requires extensive and fairly expensive equipment to do at the highest levels of quality. High end, commercial grade artwork reproduction normally uses most of the following types of equipment:

  • Medium or large format camera, either film or digital. Most commercial services that specialize in high end artwork reproduction now use cameras with digital scanning backs. Unlike a typical digital camera that exposues the entire frame almost instantly using a grid of pixels, a digital scanning back runs from one side of the focal plane to the other scanning a single line at a time much like the scanning element in a flatbed scanner. Full frame digital cameras are beginning to approach the resolution need to do high quality art reproduction if the reproduction is fairly small in size. A 50MP digital camera can handle reproductions up to almost 30 inches on the long side at 300 pixels per inch, but for fine artwork reproductions 600 ppi is preferred, and this limits the long side to about 15 inches. Scanning backs also avoid the disadvantages inherent in using a Bayer-masked sensor.

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  • Lenses with focal lengths at least twice the diagonal of the camera's format size. These lenses must be of very high resolution, free of geometric distortion, and have a very flat field of focus. Think Zeiss Otus quality in medium or even large format! Depending upon the reflectivity of the artwork, polarizing filters may be needed on the lens to minimize glare from reflections
  • A shooting table similar to an enlarging table upon which the artwork is laid flat and the camera is mounted above it looking straight down from a fairly large distance. The camera should be perfectly centered and perfectly perpendicular to the art if it is a flat medium. When using a digital scanning back, larger pieces are usually reproduced by moving the camera over different sections of the work and stitching together the resulting scans. A very precise system of rails is needed to maintain the correct angle and distance from the table. If using a conventional film or digital camera, such a table for larger sizes of artwork requires a studio with unusually high ceilings. One also should be able to totally control the ambient light in the room. No rooms with vaulted ceilings and skylights would be appropriate unless one is committed to working only at night or willing to fit the windows with 100% opaque covers.

  • High quality studio lighting capable of very high color consistency and power output consistency from one shot to the next. These lights should be properly modified to evenly disperse the light over the entire piece and be placed at an angle sufficient to give enough contrast to the texture without creating excessive shadows. Depending on the reflectivity of the artwork, polarizing films may be needed between the lights and the art to minimize glare from reflections. If the camera uses a digital scanning back, the lighting must be continuous, rather than stroboscopic. This also adds to the cost.

Beyond the required equipment to do it justice, the skill needed to utilize the equipment is substantial.

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“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland. Photographing artwork and making a faithful reproduction is a most difficult task.

The reason is: In the left hand is the original – in the right hand the photograph – they never match. The camera uses red, green, and blue additive colors. The print uses cyan, magenta, and yellow subtractive colors. To date we have never achieved perfection. We can come close but no cigar.

I suggest you compose your setup and place a sheet of gray construction paper predominately in the scene. Use this gray hue as a target. Now adjust the setting of your photo editor until you achieve a good match. That’s the best you can do, all the other colors will fall in line, as best they can.

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Your question is a bit unspecific in the type, quality and means of reproduction you are looking for, but I thought it is good to give an answer referring to a new area of 3d scanning and printing, which aims to create (indistinguishable) 3d reproductions of oil paintings.

For example a Dutch University, the TU Delft, is researching this topic.

Or see this article by 3dprint, a news organization dedicated to bringing you up to date on all the latest news from the 3D printing industry.

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