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The Downside of Print On Demand Site Cropping

My dilemma with Print on Demand has partly to do with  cropping. For my art, choose the “no crop” option if you can.

One of the strengths of my compositions, and also a glaring potential weakness, is in the reliance of the composition on every aspect of it working together as designed. When a print service crops the image, it loses impact. When the image is stretched to conform to a conventional print size, it also loses impact but I won’t address that here. When it’s printed too dark or contrasty or washed out it suffers and that’s yet another issue.

Gallery wrap prints are one way an image gets butchered and the only way to make them work is to build the composition to meet the wrap dimensions from the start. Otherwise it’s garbage. Gallery wrap is when the image is printed along the sides of a canvas. In my work, that doesn’t fly unless the composition is built with that in  mind from the start. Even shaving off a quarter of an inch pretty much ruins most of my art. It needs what’s there to be there.

When I paint, I typically stretch the canvas for that treatment and then when I paint the picture, the sides are rendered so as to improve the image rather than as an afterthought. Older paintings were all stapled to the sides and require either a frame or a complimentary solid color to be applied after the fact (leaving the staples visible in all their glory).

This is an image sized for the calendars I’ve been printing at Lulu.comcalnewah-1200x933

Here’s what happens when you allow cropping to fit a 9″X12″ print, gallery wrapped.

calnewahbadcrop2Here is an image I built for a square format. Then a carefully crafted revision for the calendar format. It shows the “Lotus Position” which one assumes when working with problems behind the dash. I built a garage with typical lighting and wall  hangings and such then had to make some changes to the new ratios. I didn’t make radical changes, but ended up introducing blur to keep the focus on the central subjects.

lotusposition08-1200x1200callelotuspositionJust cropping (shaving off parts of an image to make it fit a certain size) sometimes works, but my experience strongly suggests that adjustments to the composition will restore lost impact.  That happened here:

calspritewatering-1210x941Compare to the original image:

spritewatering-962x1200Revamping the image required me to reassess how it’s elements worked together to tell the story. The original image shot itself in the foot by over sizing the little Sprite. So while I was at it, redesigning the image for a horizontal calendar format rather than a vertical one shown here, I altered the composition to show the car as the little thing that it actually is. This would not have been effective if I’d simply cropped it.

Summary: an image can be designed to work in different presentation formats, but just cutting off parts to make it fit them is not the way to do it.

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