Creating art books that can successfully compete in ANY museum book store

At Art Book, we make a pretty bold claim that our art book design and printing is of  “museum quality.” It is very rewarding to see one of our books prominently featured in a museum bookstore. It is as important to study what others publish as it is to be educated about the newest art book printing technology.

Creating art books that can compete in any museum book store

Grand Rapids, MI, where I live and where our studio is located, has a wonderful institution called the Grand Rapids Art Museum  or GRAM. Unbeknownst to many visitors, the museum owns a huge collection of art books spanning more than a century of fine art book publishing. I often visit there for inspiration. I also encourage our design staff to sometimes take an hour away from the busyness in the studio to get recharged. There is no better place than the art museum! Often when a client has trouble verbalizing their vision of what their book should look like, I will then send them to their local museum to spend time with the books. While brilliant in many ways, our mid-western institution is overshadowed by major metropolitan museums. My wife, Marianna, and I recently had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles  and The Art Institute of Chicago  . My wife, who is an accomplished pastel artist (, can get lost in the French modernist galleries.  I admit, however,  to spending most of my time in the museum bookstores. I carefully examine many books with a design and manufacturing eye. At the MoMA, I found a few gems that I purchased for my own personal collection. Here I learned about the idea of using a clear plastic dust jacket, silkscreen printed. I have now learned how to print this material and have several clients very interested in using this technique for their next art book project.

Museum stores prove that top quality coffee table book printing will not soon be replaced by digital books

Beautifully printed art books are found in the bookstore at all three museums. It is also wonderful to see so many visitors purchasing books with substantial price tags. Clearly, top quality coffee table book printing will not soon be replaced by digital books. There is so much more to an art book than the quality of the printing. The archival-quality (acid-free) coated paper, the meticulously sewn signatures, the foil stamped fabric on the cover and three-dimensionality are all inherently found in a printed coffee table book to add to an unspoken testament of the artist featured.

With Art Book, all of my clients in the last decade have published books of a standard that is equal to, and often much better than, what I found in the bookstores of the most prominent museums.

Since my first visit to Hong Kong in 1994, I have learned how to create an art book that stands apart from what conventional and digital printers, who claim to be our competition, can produce. And I know how to create such a book, when necessary, on a limited budget. Having visited these large museums, I am confident to say that each of my clients in the last decade have published books of a standard that is equal to, and often much better than, what I found in these bookstores. I will address the concept of “quality” in upcoming articles in much greater detail, but I can say without hesitation that with Art Book, a self-publishing artist can compete with any book in the museum stores from coast to coast.

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Art-LA Magazine Features Art Book Printing

It was so fun to be interviewed by Art-LA Magazine about fine art book printing and what it takes to publish an art book. You can read the full article of my interview by clicking on this  link.

With the advent of the internet, an artist has many more choices when it comes to printing an art book.What are the most important things to look out for when choosing a company?

There are quite a few “printers” online who can make one, two, or maybe ten copies of a book. These books are not commercially feasible of course. The unit cost is prohibitive. But more importantly, digital presses are no match for hi-end offset presses when it comes to color reproduction in fine art book printing. With, an artist or gallery can print a real coffee table book, printed and bound par excellence… like the books you find in a museum store. In fact, many of the books we create are sold in museums and art galleries from New York to Miami to San Francisco. We also create exhibition catalogs with critical color accuracy. So how then, you may ask, can a top quality fine art book printing be affordable in a very limited edition print run?

Fine Art Book Printing- Affordability

To print an art book is a significant investment. Working with many museums, galleries and individual artists we have distilled a combination of exquisite materials and processes that meet the needs of even the most judicious clients. Using these standards, we find economies that translate in affordable prices. Do we print in China? Of course we print in China, as long as the quality and price point is of great benefit to our clients. In East Asia, we print on the most modern German and Japanese presses. They allow us to set up for color in minimal time with minimum waste, adding to the affordability for fine art book printing. With fine art book printing, excellent quality art books are our business and our passion. For our clients, art is their passion but also their business. Our typical client has an audience that can absorb at least 300 copies of a coffee table book or exhibition catalog. We fill the niche between the on-line digital printer and the large commercial outfits. This niche is ideally suited for the gallery and museum market.

Fine Art Book Printing- Personal Consultation Versus Software Systems

You may wonder how important is personal consultation in producing a custom designed art book, given that some companies have automatic software systems on their websites? I firmly believe that an art book should be as individual in design as the artist it represents. I am of the opinion that these on-line design templates are of no use to an artist looking to print an art book. Templates are fine for a wedding album or baby picture book, I suppose. Designing an art book is like hanging an exhibition. The order of the work, the color palette, the lighting… it is all so important. Having said this, the design does not have to be complex or expensive.  Our clients live all over the country and abroad. Most of our clients never have a chance to visit our studio. We work with them using a direct link called DesignLiveTM that allows a client to actively participate in the layout via hi-speed internet.  Some of our clients choose to work with a local designer. We provide a layout file for the cover and dust jacket so it is easy to make everything fit correctly. Yes, design and layout can be a significant part of the budget, but it is critical to the success of a fine art book printing project. I cannot begin to tell you how many clients I work with started out spending a lot of money with a digital-only on line printer. They ended up with a cookie-cutter book of – what I consider– sub par quality. Another key component is accurate color proofs. We include a full color proof in the base price of our proposals. The digital world has allowed the graphic arts tremendous benefits. The big downside is that many people view digital images on all sorts of monitors that are not properly calibrated. We provide designers with tools to calibrate their monitors to certain standard. We want our clients to have hard, color accurate proofs that can be matched on press. It is an essential step towards success.

Fine Art Book Printing- Prior Preparations

You have to be prepared for — and be realistic about — the financial commitment of course. At, we provide a custom quotation on every project. We work with clients ranging from the absolute novice to the most sophisticated print buyers. Bar none, the most important thing an artist can do is to make sure he/she has high quality professional photography or the original art. What works ok for web will not suffice for art reproduction in fine art book printing. Most word processing programs (WordTM is probably the most common) will work fine to determine the copy for each page. Just set up a document with the same number of pages as your book and flow the copy for each page. That is generally all we need.  We can assist with barcodes, ISBN numbers, etc.

Fine Art Book Printing- Self-Publishing

As soon as an artist puts a work of art out there, he or she IS a publisher. To own an original work is a privilege an artist can extend to only one admirer of that work. He or she can offer a Giclée print or a casting to a select few. Printing an art book will allow an artist to offer a collection of the best work to a larger audience. A book is a gallery that can be visited and enjoyed over and over. We can assist in placing books with and we can prepare marketing tools, but we do not fill the role of the publisher.

Fine Art Book Printing- Turn-Around Time

A typical timeline is 3-4 months from first contact until receipt of the book. It varies widely. Of course, off-shore printing must allow for ocean freight. That takes 4-5 weeks. We take care of all the details and deliver to the client’s door, but it does require advance planning for all parties. It seems like we more and more often ship advance quantities via Fed Ex. That cuts it down to 4-5 days. All our production is done under one roof, so the total production timeline is in fact shorter when we print a book in China. If you plan an exhibition catalog we sometimes do not have enough time. We can print and bind art books domestically. It is a lot more expensive and in my opinion the quality is just not as good, but there are times that there is no other option.

Fine Art Book Printing- The Importance of Quality

In addition to answer # 1,  the printing of a short-run art book, the cost of materials is not the largest component in the overall budget, unlike hi-volume newspaper inserts, for instance, where a few pennies per pound makes a large difference. The extra cost to get the best is not that much because we do not use that much paper in the first place. A premium coated, acid-free paper will allow for much sharper and richer printing. We use very high quality fabrics and boards for the covers that are made to resist warping. Our books really stand out for quality. I want to serve the kind of client who is looking for the best possible presentation of their art.

Fine Art Book Printing- Tips For First Art Book Publishers

It is interesting to note that 80% of our clients are FIRST-TIME art book publishers. To be published in a book is a highlight in an artist’s career. It may sound cliché, but I would want it to be fun. The journey is a huge learning curve. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Have realistic expectations. Allow yourself enough time to do it right. Understand the total budget. To help the process we produced two important publications. My book titled The Art of Producing an Art Book features different papers, fabrics and foil swatches. It shows how full color, hi-res print looks on different substrates. Using this book, you can make informed decisions on how to get the most value for an investment in a book or catalog. When a client is ready to move forward with a book project, we share a complimentary copy of this book. It has been a huge help, both for the client and for our staff. To prepare for the process and to stay on target and in budget, we have prepared a document titled Starting the Journey Together. From getting set up as a client, enter a contract, prepare text and images and so much more. We try to cover as many variables as possible.

Fine Art Book Printing- Lets Do Business!

Our website, is the best place to start. My personal contact information is right there. I personally work with all new clients to assure their project is off to the best start. I then build the team of designers, production and logistics experts, and others around the needs of the individual. Each artist’s journey is special and different from the next. Fine Art Book Printing Quotes are Free. Click here to get started.

Is China the best place to print art books? You will be surprised to learn why!

Is China the best place to print art books? At Art book Printing, today we still answer that question with a resounding “YES!” But you will be surprised to learn why!

Many people suspect that we print and bind books in China because of cheap labor. While it is true that labor rates are generally lower than in the US, this is not the main reason. In fact, master pressmen earn wages competitive to their US counterparts. Paper and equipment costs in Asia are similar to those in the US. Of course, international container freight adds a lot to the overall cost of printing an art book offshore.

Why then is China the best art book printing location? Here are the main reasons.

 Best Art Book Printing Location – evolution

As printing evolved in the 20th Century, US printers invested in large presses capable of producing long runs. Large magazines and catalogs, newspaper inserts and massive direct mail campaigns are still the staple of commercial printers in the US.

To be an art book printer requires massive investment in highly specialized equipment. It is truly a specialty. To print a coffee table book, US publishers traditionally worked with printers in Italy and Spain. However today, the best quality art book printing is done in China, Singapore and South Korea.

Best Art Book Printing Location – latest technology reduces cost

We require a press that can print perfect registration and delivers consistent color on every sheet. New technology offers many improvements in these areas. In the US, the average offset printing press is 15 years old. We print art books on presses that are on average less than four years old. Because art book printing typically means short runs and high page count, the capability to change plates very quickly is of crucial importance. When I started my career in the printing business in the 1980’s, it would take two hours and 500 sheets of paper to change from one signature (typically 16 pages) to the next. Today, a modern Komori press is capable of changing plates in just a few minutes with 50 or fewer sheets wasted. Considering that a 96 page book in 9” x 12” requires twelve such plate changes (48 total plates), it is easy to see how such a press has a distinct advantage. In addition, while the older presses require no less than three operators (five workers in union shops), the presses now being installed in Asia can be run by one press operator and one assistant.

Best Art Book Printing Location – From pre-press to bindery all under one roof

Our partners have sophisticated pre-press departments that make accurate proofs and book prototypes. The ability to print and bind under one roof also offers significant advantages in the area of quality control. The Asian plants we represent are exclusively specialized in printing and binding the highest quality art books. It is all they do. The cost advantage and superior quality make it a clear choice if you are looking to produce a coffee table book fit for a museum store.

 Best Art Book Printing Location- The World is Smaller

It is true that printing a full color coffee table book or exhibition catalog in East Asia is not without challenges. Language, time, currency and cultural barriers stand between the US publisher and the promise of top quality book printing at amazing prices. And international shipping means understanding import/export logistics, ocean containers and US Customs. Clearly, this is a leg of your art book printing journey you do not want to travel alone. We have worked with our Asian partners for many years with excellent results. As part of our US representation of their plants, we have agreed on complete but rather complex purchase orders and financial arrangements that address the interests of all parties.  We can get great quality at very competitive prices.

 Best Art Book Printing Location – Production of High Quality Books Take Less Time

It comes as a pleasant surprise that the actual production of hard cover art books in China actually takes less time than in the US. It is one of other advantages found in working with an Asian book printing company that is 100% dedicated to the production of ultra high-end coffee table books. When every part of the book is made under one roof, production can flow very rapidly from proofs to press to hard cover case making.

 Best Art Book Printing Location – Time management 

Good planning includes allowing plenty of time for careful proofing, production and shipment of your precious cargo. But, if needed, we can produce a complex art book printing project quickly and efficiently, even though our customer and our printing plant are 8000 miles and twelve time zones apart. We can arrange for shipping of books via FedEx, but this is expensive. However, in the greater scheme of things, it is entirely feasible to send a small quantity of books via airfreight for a special event such as an exhibition opening.

Click here for a no-obligation quotation and samples. Like us on Facebook

Art Book Printing Size – What is the best size for an art book?

At 3’ tall and 2.5’ (915mm x 762mm) wide, the Kiss Monster book owns up to its title! You literally can fit an electric guitar between the covers! In contrast, visit and you can find miniature art books as small as .5” (12mm x 12mm) square. Art books are produced in a large variety of sizes.

What is the best art book printing size for your coffee table book?

Defining “size”, “dimension”, “format” and “extent”

In printer lingo, the horizontal dimension of a page is always listed first, followed by the vertical dimension, as you would hold the book to read the text. For example, a 6” x 9” book has a page size of 6” wide by 9” tall.

“Size” or “dimension” is always expressed by the dimensions of the text pages, not the dimensions of the cover.  If the book has a hard cover, the physical size of the book will be larger due to the cover overhang.

Orientation or format for an art book can be portrait, landscape or square. Square seems to be a more and more popular format. Following the above logic, a 6” x 9” book would be “portrait” and a 9″ x 6″ book would be “landscape”

Art Book Printing Page Size

The decision to make your book portrait or landscape is best determined by the orientation of the art that you are featuring. This is a good first step when you make your decision. The cost difference between portrait or landscape is minimal, so this should not be a determining factor (unless the book is over 14” wide)

If economy is important (and when is it not?), you may think a standard commercial printing size for books, such as 8.5 x 11, 9 x 12, 11 x 11 or 12 x 12 is best. In Asia, however, paper is custom cut for each art book, giving us a larger range of options. A ½” larger or smaller is easy to do. To do a size that is “different” may be one way to set your book apart.

While we can get paper in many size, In our calculations, we will consider that most printing presses for full color book printing allow for maximum overall sheet size of 28” x 40”, with a “live” area of 26” x 39”. Using these expensive printing plates efficiently, we try to fit as many pages as possible on the sheet. This way we will help you get the highest quality look as affordable as possible.

Art Book Printing Size – Extent

Without getting too technical, the preferred page count in a book is either a multiple of 8 (for landscape and portrait) and a multiple of 12 (for a square book). The extent of a book summarizes the main components, as follows: “Page count + endsheets + cover + jacket” is a typical way to summarize a hard cover book.

 Art Book Printing Size – Thickness

Your Art book is a three-dimensional object. Thickness is the third step in determining your Art book printing size dimensions. Naturally, the number of pages is the most important determining factor here, but the caliper of the paper makes a large impact as well. 157gsm (100#) paper is the most commonly used paper for art books, but stepping up to 180gsm or 200gsm can give a book with lower page count a boost in perceived value at a relatively small extra investment.

Unlike most other book printers, we use heavy-duty binder boards that are at least 3mm thick.

Art Book Printing Size – The Quote

We are happy to explore several sizes and formats to determine the art book printing size for your book during a quote process. You will be able to make an intelligent decision as you consider these options. Then, when your preference is revealed, we provide you with a complete paper dummy to those specs so you can touch and feel the exact book before you commit to production.

We do whatever we can to offer the absolutely finest quality printing and binding at the most economical cost. One of the most effective tools towards that objective is found in limiting the options we offer for the various  “ingredients” of a book. For example, we offer five high quality interior paper choices and hard cover board in just three calipers. 99% of our professional clients have found our options more than satisfactory.