How to create a huge canvas reproduction from a very small original

reproductions of fine artwork studio art direct

Recently, Studio Art Direct was asked by Dawn Carlton at Hennebery Eddy Architects to take 10 original works from Oregon State’s famous Art About Agriculture collection and reproduce them as museum quality works on canvas that could be hung in the newly remodeled Strand Hall.  The trick was, the originals were small – really small, and Dawn had designed the reproductions to be huge – really huge.


Paul Gentry’s “Willamette Country” original was 4.5″x10″. We enlarged it to a whopping 60″ x120″

For example, one work of art by Paul Gentry was 5″x8″ and we reproduced to a whopping 60″x120″. Yep.  That is a big, scary jump – especially with a wood-block original.

To get perfect results, which means no pixilation, great depth and color, and the “real thing” look, I am sharing some tips with you, learned through 8 years of hard knocks in the art biz:


This illustration by Dawn Carlton of Heneberry Eddy Architects shows the original paintings in relation to the final reproduction size.  Some works were enlarged as much as 1000%.  Enlarging originals can be very tricky business.

Find the right printer:  Going big to me, is printing over the 60″ in height.  That means you need to find a fine art printer who has a press that can do 100″ canvas yet be sensitive to art – the calibration of color, the depth and feel of brush strokes.  There are commercial printers in Portland who do super large format printing but they are geared towards clients like Adidas and Nike. When they hear the word “art,” they triple the price, and unfortunately, do not triple the quality.  They use inferior canvas and sometimes inks. Fine art printers vary widely in the cost per square inch.  So shop and compare.  Be sure to have the printer give you a sample.

Begin with great canvas & ink:  There are many weights, finishes, and qualities to canvas.  It is almost like shopping for sheets – and we all know what a nightmare that is.  You want a heavy weight canvas with a gloss finish and a bright white color.  You need to be sure that when the canvas is stretched over stretcher bars and that it will not crack at the corners. The inks need to be UV protected and I prefer printers who have 16-jets so that the subtleties of the artwork colors can be picked up.


Here is the reproduction of Ebey’s Prairie Farm being installed at Strand Hall. The original was only 16.5″x19.5″ but the final size shown here is 400% larger. This extra large reproduction shows the beautiful depth of color and layering done by artist Donna Trent, that is actually much harder to see in the smaller original.

Image capture is everything:  A museum quality reproduction needs to print at a minimum of 150 DPI and be adjusted to match the original color and feel.  Now that sounds fairly easy, until you realize it has to be 150 DPI at the full size it is going to print at!  That can be a digital file that is up to 5 gigs in size. So the original must be photographed in small segments then stitched together. And after that, the color and feel of the digital file needs to be adjusted to match the original. Finally, the format and color profile needs to match to printers. This takes an expert.  Taking an average art photo capture, then trying to “res it up” in PhotoShop or Genuine Fractals will not heed the quality results we demand here at Studio Art Direct. Start with the right image capture.  It will make all the difference.

Stretcher bars and framing must be high quality:  We are stretching and framing snobs here at Studio Art Direct because permanent art collections need to withstand a beating. You never want to use frames from Larson Juhl or other China-made molding companies that are not solid wood – when they scratch they are unfixable and the scratch is obvious.  You can sand out and restain a wood frame for years and years.  But balancing high quality solid wood framing with budgets is challenging.  We have a local guy who creates custom solid wood reveal frames right here in Portland.  They are simple, sturdy and affordable.    So go solid wood, always.  And be sure that the stretcher bars are made with cross bars and cross corners. The fabrication of the stretcher bars are equally important to prevent sagging and warping.

Manage the artists and their expectations: We work with about 120 regional artists creating reproductions.  It can be a delicate matter for artists to allow their works to go into reproduction.  It requires negotiations, a contract,  and, in most cases, a royalty or licensing payment to the artists.  (In the state of Oregon, art laws regulate that absolutely no work of art can be reproduced without the permission of the artist.  Even if you own the original, the artists carries the copyright to the original for their entire lives. Use it without permission and you will sued.)  Once the contract has been agreed upon, it is important to share with the artists, that a reproduction is produced with an entirely different medium than what the artwork was originally created in. And therefore, the finished product will have it’s own unique character.  However, it is very important to respect the artists original intent – matching color, content, style, stroke and other details of the work.  If you do not, you lose the soul of the art, and the trust of the artist.

Good luck going big!