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New-found techniques for hand-embellishing fine art prints

Hand-embellishing is something I like to do with the earliest prints of any series, adding a higher degree of unique-ness to the prints within my limited runs.

Up till recently, I’ve had but two techniques at my disposal for the hand-embellishing of prints: First being painting upon canvas or fine-art paper giclees.

When embellishing giclees, I paint in acrylics and hand-varnish each piece. This can be a bit time-consuming, as I have to allow proper time for each piece to breathe before painting, and also have to hand-varnish these works afterward. Especially involved are those pieces where I get carried away, as I have sold several giclees which were almost their own new paintings with all I’ve added and redone within the piece.

To me, this is not only a way to make pieces unique, but I also enjoy the ability to go back and do things I might have thought to have done with the original works: adding detail to existing elements, enhancing colors, or often creating new elements within the piece.

But when it comes to the metallic prints, I’ve mostly been limited to details in silver and gold metallic inks. Such is something that meshes incredibly well with the black and white engravings (especially when accenting prints made from works in which the originals had gold or silver leafing on them). With color metallic prints, however, I’ve often been limited to adding a bit of metallic glimmer to rivets and nails, adding various reflections to shiny bits within the works, or adding a bit of metallic shine to stars in the background, perhaps even creating new constellations.

Recently, I gave pigment ink markers a try, beginning with markers sold especially for photo coloring/ photo tinting – Zig Photo Twin Markers – markers typically used for making color photos out of black and white photos.

I am pretty happy with the results. Going into this, I was concerned that I might only be able to color and shade with them, and that the differences in color or texture would be obvious enough to break the piece. The inks however added themselves nicely to the prints, leaving little to no change in surface reflectivity.

There was also a lot more control in tinting than I had expected. With the first stroke, I was somewhat disappointed, as the color I laid down only barely showed up at all. But, with another stroke more color and definition showed, and another, until I had just the right amount. I continued this process, not just to add color and shading, but to add definition to stitches and wood grain. Eventually I was also adding new ropes and cords, new flowers and blooms floating through the air, and shadowy tentacles within the mist and fog.

The fine brush-like tips on one side of the marker are perfect for detailing or for coloring large areas, and the fine tips at the other end add more than enough control for this sort of work. That the color lays down evenly and gradually, makes possible everything from the slightest color shifts, to stark new creations.

I think future print projects may involve printing some of my works out completely in black and white, and then hand-coloring each print. I don’t know which pieces I could do this for, just yet – but it will be of future and yet un-released works, since I fear making something that special of existing works would not be kind to those who have bought prints of those works already.


In case you are wondering which of these prints come hand-embellished – the general rule is that the first artist print (I of II), plus the first five percent of a limited and signed edition (for example #s 1, 2, 3 of a 50-print edition), are hand-embellished. If a buyer happens to land themselves one of these, I write just to make sure that a hand-embellished print is what they want… on the off chance that they would prefer a vanilla and true to the original print.

Many artists might prefer to hold onto their A.P.s, #1s, hand-embellished versions, and other special items for dead last – offering them as the special items they are (and priced accordingly). I, however, tend to give these at the standard price, to those people who order first, as a reward for kicking off a series.

The reason for this being that, though I can show you many images of my works online, they will never match up to the high-resolution and full size prints. I believe that seeing these prints in person, is what makes people want them most. I often watch print sales “bloom” out from those localities wherein my prints already reside, and often hear from buyers that they’ve seen one of my works on the wall of a friend, in a hotel lobby, dentists office, or other venue.

It serves me well to get my works out where they can be seen in full scale – one of many reasons I am thankful for, grateful for, every last buyer I have had.