Studio Tips part 5 Framing

Studio Tips part 5 Framing

This is the last post on studio setups for a while. I may revisit it again later if I think of something more to say or my setups change drastically.

Framing will always be an artist’s largest expense. Because of that I recommend a couple of things to help alleviate the financial pain. If you are represented by galleries make sure you have a stipulation in your contract about framing. Use consignment sheets when you work with a gallery or retail space and make sure you not only note the paintings you consign but also the frames.

Galleries can be very sloppy with taking care of frames so you have to hold them to a higher standard. If a gallery damages a frame then they must replace or repair it don’t let them get away with dumping it back in your lap to worry about. Once you consign a piece of art, the gallery is responsible for it and the frame you put on it, until it is sold or returned.  

I buy my frames and supplies in bulk to cut down on cost and shipping. For my frames I use lots of different sources depending on type and quality of frame needed. All my supplies come from United Manufacturers; I find them inexpensive and reliable.  When I enter shows I use  Airfloat reusable containers to  ship my paintings.

I know how many paintings I sell a year and I make sure to have enough frames just to get me through each year so that at the end when I do my taxes I do not have to carry over a frame surplus. To buy in bulk it is important to get a resale license to not have to pay sales tax on the items purchased.

I have a separate area in my studio for framing; in it I have utility shelves to store packing material and the frames themselves. The cats think I built it for them to play on and I’m not telling them anything to the contrary. I also keep stretcher bars for making canvases.

For panels I use Sourcetek panels; to see how to make panels you can read about it here.  I have a cabinet for the hardware. To see how I frame a painting you can read this here. I have a cabinet organized for framing hardware and shipping supplies, a workbench and desk.

By keeping things organized and ordering in bulk I maximize my time for painting. More painting time allows me to expand my markets and explore motifs outside my comfort zone and that flexibility creates greater opportunities for my work.

In Search of a Perfect Palette

Armand Cabrera
An artist’s palette is their life’s blood. In some ways your palette defines your style more than your mark making does. The perfect palette has been searched for since artists started applying pigments to cave walls.
I think an artist’s palette should be organic and morph as our artistic tastes change. It should also reflect what we believe about painting. Whatever palette you choose as an artist it will serve you better if you make conscious decisions about the pigments you include.
When I started painting I was 15 and a sophomore in high school. I was given a set of acrylics for my birthday. I never questioned the pigment choices in the set and just began painting immediately. This type of palette is most artists’ first introduction to painting and I call it a stage one palette. A palette is chosen for you by someone who is hopefully more knowledgeable about painting than you are.  All of the pigments are there because someone told you to put them there and it doesn’t really matter who that person was. Many people stay in this stage for years never questioning their palette.
A stage two palette is an augmented stage one palette. It usually occurs when an artist’s ability catches up to their philosophy and they start to question their art to improve it. One of the ways we improve is by changing things up and the palette is a prime target for change. You start to see colors and values in other peoples work that you don’t see in your own. This usually leads to an inclusion of more colors to the palette, and more influences from videos, books and workshops and other artists as you expand your abilities with other pigments.
The final stage for an artist is a personal palette. A personal palette isn’t static and unchanging but it is self-directed. The artist through study and practice decides to include every pigment on their palette. The palette allows them to express themselves to their full potential as an artist. The palette may be limited to just a few colors or not, but all the colors are there for reasons the artist has decided upon, not anyone else.
My palette comes from years of exploring stage one palettes. I use a piece of glass on my studio table. My palette is a prismatic palette consisting eight pigments which are: Viridian, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Alizarin Permanent, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cadmium Yellow Pale, and Titanium White.  I not only use this palette for landscapes but also still life and figure painting. By removing earth colors and pure black I am forced to mix my grays which give me the opportunity to find more vibrant color choices than pure neutrals allow.

Photographing Your Art Part 1

By Armand Cabrera


 It is always good to have high resolution images of your paintings for possible licensing deals, illustrations and editorial write-ups.  If you can’t afford professional services hi res digital files can be taken now with reasonably priced digital SLR cameras.
If you choose to shoot digital photos of your work make sure to burn them to CD or DVD.  I talk about archiving here.
Set your image quality to Camera Raw or at least Fine this will give you an image at 300 DPI.  Make sure the image of the painting fills the view screen.  If you don’t own a digital camera, it’s time to buy one.  You can get a reasonably high-quality, 24 mega-pixel (18 x 24 inch, 300dpi image) camera for fewer than 800 dollars (at the time of this writing).
When the weather cooperates you can shoot outside. I choose to shoot in shade not direct light because I think it gives me the best color balance for my paintings.
While taking images outdoors will work it’s better to have a place indoors you can setup and not have the weather dictate your schedule.
If you can have your work professionally photographed then you should hire a photographer.  A professional photographer that specializes in shooting traditional art will make your life easier and save you time that you could use for painting. Shooting your own images requires the proper equipment. If you would rather do it yourself you will need some things to make it easier.
Easel or Tripod
It’s good to have a studio easel and tripod for taking photos of your paintings. I like a black sheet placed behind the easel and then position the painting so that it is within the area of the sheet when you look through the view finder of the camera. I set up the camera 4 ft from the painting and make the painting perpendicular to the angle of view for the camera.
If you also paint outdoors your tripod for your pochade will work just fine just swap the quick release plate from your painting box to your camera.
I recommend a bank of  at least four 48 inch fluorescent or LED daylight bulbs for indoor work. The bulbs should have a CRI rating of 90 or more. I have an article about studio lighting here.
Camera or other device
A good image for print ads would be 9 x12 inches at 300 DPI. Most current digital SLR cameras, tablets or smartphones can shoot at that level of detail. The difference is the quality of the image and lens. Obviously a good digital SLR camera has a better lens and sensor than most other devices. It comes down to your budget. If it is another device other than a camera though, Make sure you can attach it to a tripod for stable shooting. If you want to make prints of your work for sale then you will need a better camera that can shoot a larger file.
Computer and Software
You will need a computer and image editing software for correcting your photo. I recommend Photoshop or Photoshop Elements for image editing but it depends on your needs and budget again. I use my software for thumbnails, image generation, and photo editing, not just for shooting paintings.


Next week I will go through the steps I use to clean up my images with Photoshop.

Photographing Art Digitally Part 2


Armand Cabrera

Digital images are easier to manipulate than traditional film. Digital tools allow anyone with the money to buy the software and with a little study and practice be able to edit their own images.  I use Photoshop for all of my image correcting.

This is not a Photoshop tutorial; if you don’t know the basics of Photoshop I recommend buying the software and using the online help tutorials that come with it to learn its basic functions. These online help features are the equivalent of reading the manual.

I want to make the image look almost as good as the original. This idea is very important.  It is very easy to make a painting look better than it actually is with digital tools. As an artist selling my work I want to avoid this at all costs. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing the physical painting and realizing that the image was manipulated to look better than the artist was capable of painting it.
I am currently using Photoshop CS5 on a workstation PC. If you have an apple computer I feel sorry for you and this article is not for you.
When I open the image in Photoshop, I first crop it using the crop tool and square it using the free transform function. Once the free transform function is activated I position the control points while pressing the control key on my keyboard while I work. This activates the distort function which allows me to pull any point handle independently of the others.  I avoid using the auto correct functions on the image. The goal is to make it like the original, not some predetermined idea of what a good photo is.
Next I open the color balance tool and adjust the color.
Then I open the brightness /contrast tool and adjust the brightness and contrast.
The last thing I do is open the Hue /Saturation Tool and adjust the saturation.
All of this should get me close to the original painting. If not I will go in and using the selection tools adjust elements of the painting individually for color, saturation and value. When I am finished I save the image as a jpeg file on its highest setting at 300 DPI. I label it for print and then open up the image size tool and make a copy for my web postings. I set the DPI at 72 instead of 300 and set the longest measurement at 800 pixels.
 That size is just enough for someone to get a good idea of what the image is but not high enough for someone to make prints of. And that’s it. Professional images that are good enough for print publications and the web.




The free transform tool is found in the Edit dropdown menu. You must have an active selection (Already selected something)  to select it from the dropdown menu.
The Image size and crop Functions are found under the Image dropdown menu


The Color Balance Tool, the Brightness /Contrast Tool and the Hue/Saturation Tool are all found under the adjustments fly out panel, under the image dropdown menu.

Changing Mediums for Inspiration


Armand Cabrera
 We as artists can fall into painting things the same way all the time if we are not careful. Artistic scrutiny gets traded in for symbols. We do this when we start painting unconsciously but we can also do it for expedience after years of working. Instead of observing what we see and trying to honestly record that experience, we use shorthand; it’s the symbol we’ve made for water or for trees or for the sky or clouds. These symbols get repeated too often and they are used without thoughtfulness because we know they work.
opposite bank watercolor
 Professional artists have deadlines and client expectations that can work against growing as an artist. It’s hard to turn down jobs to continue to do exactly what we’ve always done in favor of risking the quality of our work in the short term for becoming a better artist in the long term. As hard as it seems I think it is essential for an artist to force those changes over the course of their careers to avoid burnout and stagnation.


red roses watercolor
One of the best ways to break this habit is to switch mediums. When I am learning to control another medium the change forces a more thoughtful approach to painting. Switching to transparent watercolor, acrylics or digital painting help me take a break from oil painting and they always force me to slow down and see more carefully. The new medium makes things that have become unconscious patterns to be dissected and thought about in a more purposeful way because those oil painting symbols won’t work. Ultimately this reprogramming helps me to be more thoughtful in a way I couldn’t have without the change.