Printing a high quality art book using uncoated paper

As a printer of high quality coffee table art books we typically use matte or gloss coated paper

Gloss or matte coated paper is the ideal substrate for optimal print quality of art books. It allows the printer to print a superfine dot that does not soak into the paper.

Coated paper also looks and feels more “expensive” than uncoated paper.

Recently two clients asked specifically for uncoated papers. I advised them that color accuracy would suffer if we use uncoated paper. Because inks soak into the paper, halftone dots spread and deform (this is called dot gain).

Generally, on uncoated paper:

  • The range of color is reduced
  • The brightness is reduced
  • The density range is reduced
  • Highlight and mid-tones get darker, but the shadow areas get lighter.

Why then would an artist want to use uncoated paper for the printing of his or her coffee table art book?

Why would an artist choose uncoated paper for the printing of his or her coffee table book? Uncoated paper offers the advantage of greater legibility, but this is not a major concern in art book printing. Budget-wise, uncoated paper is really not much more affordable than coated paper.

Uncoated paper offers the artist natural, earthy, recyclable and earth-friendly properties

The best color reproduction in an art book is of secondary interest to the clients who choose to print on uncoated paper. They go for a certain “feel” that coated paper does not offer. Even though many coated papers are now FSC certified, it is hard to find post-consumer recycled paper in coated category. There are some beautiful uncoated papers that are 100% recycled. Uncoated paper is also available in off-white shades.

Uncoated papers are available in many shades of whites and finishes

If you are considering printing on uncoated paper, you can request swatches of different surface finishes and color shades. We always try to accommodate your ideas!

Recommendations for printing on uncoated paper

Invest in a wet proof

My first recommendation to clients who express interest in uncoated paper is to invest in a wet proof. You can read more about wet proofing in my previous article here. Comparing your color file printed on uncoated vs coated paper will help you make the correct decision about how to proceed.

Plan your files for optimal color on uncoated paper

Secondly, plan your file preparation correctly for successful printing on uncoated paper. By opening the separation, the actual dot size is decreased and the space surrounding the dot is increased. This can be done in Photoshop → Color Settings → US Sheetfed Uncoated.

Consider printing part of your art book on uncoated and part on coated art paper

Another option may be to print part of the book on uncoated… and part on coated paper! This is what Adam French did. Part of the book features his concepts, notes and sketches – the parts printed on uncoated paper – and part of the book features his finished artwork. Reproductions of the art are printed on coated paper for optimal color reproduction.

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The smallest quantity to print a professional quality art book

The smallest quantity to print a professional quality art book by a professional art book printer

This article addresses a common question: “What is the smallest quantity to print a professional quality book? The minimum quantity order we offer is 300 copies. At Art Book Printing we print and bind coffee table books of museum quality. We do have digital printing equipment available, but only for certain applications (such as consecutive numbering of limited edition books). Color reproduction is always done on offset presses. There is no equal in quality. Our modern presses waste very little paper during set-up. But to match the colors on the printed sheets to your original art, we use up a fair amount of paper. It is not economical to print fewer than 300 copies.

Printing 300 copies of an art book may still be prohibitive for some artists. It is not long ago that that minimums were much higher. Only because of recent technical innovations in book printing can we now offer the finest quality in such small editions.

You will have the cost to professionally photograph your original art. You will incur cost to design and proof the book. These costs are fixed no matter how few or many copies are printed.

Exceptions to the minimum order requirement

There are exceptions to the minimum order requirement. We have printed art books for clients who demanded the finest quality but who authorized completion of only a very small number of books. I sometimes say tongue in cheek: The smallest quantity to print a professional quality art book is 1! And really, in one case we produced just eight copies! These ultra-limited edition art books are often autographed (personalized) by the artist. They are typically very valuable because only a very small number of collectors can own a copy.

To publish my own art or photography book, what is the right quantity of books to order?

Of course, I wish I knew the answer to this question. It is different for each publisher of art coffee table books. A better question I ask artists is: “Do you have a market for at least 300 copies of your art book?” If the answer is YES, then the investment in design, printing and binding an art book is well worth it. If NO, why would you spend a significant amount of time and money in such endeavor? Some of our art book clients test the waters with this minimum quantity of 300 copies. Often they come back for reprint after reprint. Others do not sell as many but they take tremendous pride in creating the crown jewel of an art career.

Ask for a quotation to print a range of quantities to make the right decision

We can provide you with a quotation that shows the unit cost in a range of quantities, such as 500 – 750 – 500 – 1000 – 1500 copies. That shows you break-even points at your intended retail price.

Often your original art is financially out of reach for many admirers. And to be real practical, collectors have limited wall space. To print a coffee table book can be a wonderful addition to an artist’s offering to his or her audience.

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Coffee table artbook printer – your pit crew

To print with ArtBook Printing is comparable to a stock car race. Of course YOU, the client, are always in the drivers seat!

That time between 10:00 and 11:00AM, when we know that first fully-finished copy of a new artbook has arrived at our client, we sit on pins and needles to receive “the phone call”. By the time that book reaches you, this completely custom-made product has literally traveled through hundreds of hands, each requiring a specific professional skill set.

“First of all, IT IS GORGEOUS! We are all so pleased with how it turned out. The production value of this publication is exponentially higher than we anticipated. It’s just beautiful. Well done everyone! I’m so grateful for all of your hard work and diligence in seeing it completed with excellence.” 

 Your team at Art Book Printing… your “pit crew”

While “going fast and furious” is not recommended in our line of work, to design and print an art book with Art Book Printing is in some ways comparable to a stock car race. Of course YOU, the client, are always in the drivers seat! You make the final decisions …and determine how fast to reach the finish line! But the often unsung heroes in the pit crew are the professionals who make it possible for you to make your art book a reality.

Let’s find out what your pit crew does and why each member is so important.

Project Engineer/Sales Consultant

I am the first person you get to know when you contact Art Book Printing. I have many years of experience in all aspects of artbook design and production. After our first discussion I will prepare a custom quotation for you. Often many important decisions (quantity, size, paper etc) have not been finalized when I first meet you and that’s totally ok! I work with you one-on-one to help you make the right decisions for your book. This is why I do not offer a cookie-cutter price list. I help you make the best selections from hundreds of available options. I help you optimize your budget so you get the very best value for each dollar you invest. I make sure you receive the correct samples. During the entire production, I will be available to address concerns or new ideas that may come up.

Book Designer

I am one of four designers specialized in artbook design. I work with you because my design aesthetic best complements your art. I take in your files and make sure these “ingredients” will allow us to print and bind the finest quality artbook.

I consult with you about the creative approach and I provide you with concepts. I then build the cover and interior pages to the parameters you developed with the project engineer. I send you PDF proofs every step of the way as the book is developed. I will discuss options with you, not just in page design but also when it is time to select case fabrics, foil stamping tints and other embellishments. I value your input and direction!

Pre-press Manager

If you provide print-ready files, I make sure your files are indeed “ready to print”, meaning that they meet the specifications of the sales agreement and that they meet the needs of the production team. This is called Pre-Flight. If concerns pop up, I will provide you with details. You can then decide to adjust the files or we can do this for you. I make sure you receive templates for the cover and jacket. I will make sure our production team fully understands the file hierarchy.

Production & Logistics Manager

I am your go-to person as the project travels through production, from hard color proofs to printing, binding and shipping. I put together the production schedule with the team at the plant. If you need special consideration, such as advance copies for a show or opening, I go to bat for you to work out the best compromise.

I also manage the shipping and logistics after the books are completed. I make sure your artbook arrives at your final destination in pristine condition. I make special arrangements if your final destination does not have a loading dock or if this is a non-commercial address.

Sales & Production Assistant

I make sure that you receive everything you were promised, when it was promised. I can also assist you with cost updates and other information. I make sure you feel like you are our most important client ever and I take a lot of pride in accomplishing this.

Most importantly, we all work together for a common goal: to produce a coffee table art book of the best quality; the accomplishment of a lifetime!

Organizing your art book for design and printing – a roadmap to success

Organizing your art book for design and printing

Now that your time has come to print the best quality art book…Consider this:  the design and printing of a coffee table book about your art is not unlike hanging a gallery. The sequence of the art, the story you want to tell… organizing your art book for design and printing involves many decisions only you can make!

Carefully organizing your art book for design and printing; deciding how your art and your thoughts will fill the pages before you begin your journey with, is critical. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Which pieces should I feature and why should I exclude others?
  • What is my message in just one clear statement?
  • What moved collectors to purchase my art (over all other art out there)?
  • What will entice someone to purchase and then display my book in such a prime spot in his/her home or office?

I have visited many ateliers and photo studios. In some, every brush and every tool is immaculately arranged. But in others… it seems only the residing artist can decipher the clutter! If you can identify with the latter, you probably have a bit of extra work ahead!

 An example of a well-organized plan to design and printing a luxury coffee table book.

A great example of a client understanding the importance of organizing their book for design and printing resulted in Circle of Life, by Daniel and Charmaine Myburg. The Myburgs take clients from all over the world on African safaris to shoot wildlife… not with a gun, but with a camera!  The wilderness of Botswana is one of the last places on earth where lions, elephants and rhinos still live in their natural habitat. The images, captured with the latest telephoto lens technology, are truly breathtaking ( Deeply aware that this paradise is rapidly losing ground to human greed, Charmaine’s profound poetry complements the images. Together, they created a book that displays beauty, but also rattles the consciousness. I am grateful for the opportunity to design and be the printer of this amazingly luxurious photo art book.

Daniel came to us with his vision clearly laid out and his images carefully selected, properly named and organized. Indeed, he sent us an Excel spreadsheet showing how the images were to be placed on each page spread and with accompanying captions. The various articles and the poetry came in a Word document. The message was compelling and clearly organized.

It is our desire to use the budget for design and print of your art book, not on wasting time figuring out what image belongs with what text

Organizing your art book for design and printing can be a painstaking process. Surely, things are never cut in stone during this initial design phase of the project, but spending a few extra hours on organizing your thoughts is well worth the effort. Together we can produce a coffee table book that will define your artistry for decades to come!

Design and print an art book or art catalogue. Where do I start?

“So I need to design and print an art book or exhibition art catalog. Where do I start?”

If you do not have a relationship with a trustworthy printer capable of printing hard cover full color books and you do not have a friend who is a professional graphic designer, you probably Googled “print an art book” or “coffee table book printer” or “high quality hard cover book printer” and you found us. We are so glad you did!

 Learning the art of printing an art book

When they first contacted us, many of our new clients did not have any experience in the world of book publishing. You are not alone! As part of our mandate to be “The Best Printer of Coffee Table Art Books in the World”, we have made it our priority to make this challenging project rewarding, educational…and fun! And yes, along the way, you will become very educated in the art of producing a coffee table book or art catalog.

Preparing a budget for a coffee table book project

On the menu bar, you will find a Request for Quotation form that is simple to fill out. Strange as it may sound in 2015…We also welcome your phone call! We love talking books and we love to listen to your ideas and share our vast knowledge. To speak directly with someone who can answer all your calls is literally just a call away.

 Getting a quotation for the printing of an art book or gallery catalog

Based on this communication, we prepare a quotation. Every quotation is custom prepared and takes a few days to get to you. If you are looking for a very general idea, we can look in our database while you are on the phone with us.

 A sample book

Our online portfolio has many good photos, but we also want you to see a live sample. We send it to you at no charge.

 Getting started with

When the investment seems attractive and the quality of the sample is exactly what you hoped your book would look and feel like…what’s the next step?

Starting the Journey Together

To assure the end result exceeds all your expectations, we follow a delicate yet clearly marked trail. Our art book production process is spelled out in our document Starting the Journey Together (details for designers). This interactive PDF’s will answer many questions and help you avoid unexpected cost increases and disappointing results.

We want your financial investment in a coffee table book to be sound and secure. Since 2010, is part of InnerWorkings (; NASDAQ:inwk), the largest print management conglomerate in the world.

Off to a Good Start; the Fine Print

Financial stability also demands that we execute a proper working agreement with you. This does involve some paperwork and we appreciate your patience and cooperation getting this in place before we start the journey. Please request the PDF titled Off to a Good Start; the Fine Print (of a legally and financially sound investment in an art book project).

 Please request a copy of these free documents. And of course, never be afraid to ask questions. Creating a high quality coffee table book has many complexities. Even after hundreds of books…we still admit to not having all the answers. But working together, we can achieve an unprecedented level of excellence.


Fool-Proof Proofing for Art Books – An Essential Proofing Process

We have a multi-step, fool-proof proofing process to ensure your art book not just meets, but exceeds all your expectations.

Every book project eventually reaches that pivotal moment when all design and pre-press is signed off on, plates are made and presses get green light to start printing. Expensive virgin-white paper is finally transformed into the pages of your art book.

Our quality control teams, both in Grand Rapids and in Shenzhen, adhere to an extremely strict system to assure everything is exactly correct at this critical time. Nothing is left to change. Read more

Making your artbook look more expensive (than it really is!)

In my daily conversations with clients, I often find myself saying: “this makes the book present itself as more expensive.” Expensive-looking, in haute couture art book production, is a desired quality. It means your customers are willing to pay a premium for your book. I will never advise you to buy a budget-busting upsell. I have found several high-end features that cost a lot less than the value they add to your book project. Here is a partial list that I use often in delivering high quality book printing to my valued customers:


Hard cover

A hard cover binding is the most obvious example of a moderate increase in investment with a large return.

Page dimensions

It is not always true that a larger page size adds proportional value to a book. I am now producing small books (7”x 9” and smaller) that are truly exquisite. However, if your art demands a large-scale presentation, it is good to explore larger sizes. Ask us to address  different sizes in your proposal. You may be surprised to learn that a larger page size does not always translate into a larger budget!

Printed endsheets

Plain white endsheets are the quintessential of boringness. In contrast, black endsheets say: “timeless elegance”. We can match any Pantone color to compliment the book design. Most often we print a solid color wash, but you can print any pattern or halftone. Simulating marbled endpaper can be very effective in both traditional and modern layout.

Ribbon marker

Allow your collectors to enjoy the art in your book over several sittings to avoid sensory overload! Markers are available in many colors. Ribbon markers are probably the most overlooked option in artbooks but for the low investment of $.12 – $.15 a wonderful addition.

Transparent fly sheet

A transparent flysheet immediately says: This book is deluxe! Usually placed between the endsheet and page 1 of the interior, a flysheet can be blank or printed in one, two or four colors. If carefully designed, a flysheet can elevate the design to a whole new level.

French flaps and french folds

French folds (hardcover jacket) and French flaps (soft cover) add a distinct touch of quality and care to a cover or jacket at a very reasonable cost.

Please visit our portfolio to see examples of these options. If you have ideas not listed here, please contact us!

Producing an Art Book: The Delicate Balance

“My book… it is all about my art, but it also is a work of art!”

Producing art books is our business and our passion. For our typical client, art is their passion, but it is also their business.

“A delicate balance” is probably what best describes our approach to a new project. On one hand, our clients demand that their book reflects the unique beauty of their art. Just as it is near impossible to put a rational price tag on art, a great art book entails infinitely more than ink and paper. On the other hand, as connoisseurs of the art of bookmaking, our priority must be to find the absolute highest value for each dollar invested. Before we present a budget, each enhancement is carefully discussed, quoted and cataloged to make an educated, tight budget for a wise investment.

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The Ten Commandments of Art Book Design

Designing an art book is like hanging an exhibition. Nothing is left to chance.

In modern graphic design, as in modern art, rules are made to be broken. Creativity cannot be stymied by archaic do’s and don’ts. But the rules (like the tools and media) must be mastered before they can be challenged creatively and effectively. For example, Pablo Picasso had a better understanding of human anatomy than most medical doctors.

Design of an art book is entirely different from publication or advertising graphic design. The “Ten Commandments” en force in our studio did not come from a college textbook. Rather, they were distilled from actual comments from our clients as well as some of the top designers whose visions we helped make reality.

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