Where is Picture Element located?
We're located in Silicon Valley in Santa Clara, California. About 35 miles south of San Francisco in the south bay area. Go to contact information...
How long has Picture Element been in business? What is your experience working with photographers and artists?
Picture Element was started in 2004 and is managed by Michael Chambers. Mike brings over 20+ years of experience working in the industry with photographers, painters, and other artists. Read more
What sets Picture Element apart from other fine art print makers?
We have the best equipment, material, and the experience to produce top quality prints. We are experts with color and color management and all our equipment have custom profiles made for them for a complete color accurate workflow. We are artists ourselves and understand the subtleties of a fine art photograph or painting. We also have the technological expertise to make our equipment perform the way we want. We have 20+ years of experience producing fine art reproductions for all types of photographers and painters around the country. We try to accommodate drop-ins when we can, but we meet with clients mostly by appointment. We have a small lobby and no customer service person... We prefer you speak with us directly since we will be performing the work for you.
How do I make copies of my painting? What are my options?
It all starts with a Cruse Synchron Table scan of your artwork. Our Cruse ST outperforms other cameras and scanning back systems for capturing fine detail and even texture of your original. This gets the best quality information into the computer. Then we can print the scan with your choice of a variety of print materials. We'll be happy to discuss them with you if you can't find the answers here or on the rest of our site.
I am a photographer, how do I begin working with Picture Element?
That depends on your needs... We work with all types of photographers, from weekend snapshot shooters to world reknown fine art image makers and everyone in between. We can help as much or as little as needed. Usually, we prefer to have you come in and sit down with one of us for a first time session where we can discuss your images and make printing and enhancement suggestions. We can also do this over the phone simultanieously viewing your images with clients out of state. We can send jpegs of corrections for approval. This first session is free as we like to get to know you and your imaging style. We have a small fee per image for future work. This includes sizing, cropping, general color correction, saturation, broad dodging and burning, and sharpening. Extensive masking, and/or retouching are billed separately on a per case basis. We specialize in making your images their best possible and are happy to provide referrals upon request.
How much will it cost to reproduce my painting? How much will it cost to print from my digital file?
It varies considerably depending on size of original and your choice of print media and finishing options. All our prices are listed on our website as separate services. Some print makers like to bundle these together to simplify quotes. We feel this does a disservice to the client by packaging things they don't really need in the bundle. Each job is unique, and we prefer to itemize most services separately. We can still give you a very accurate estimate. Please contact us if you need help with options or a quote.
Do you have any references or testimonials from clients available?
We're working on gathering testimonials from our clients. We work with many fine artists and photographers and will be happy to provide references upon request.
What level of artists do you work with? Do you offer any training?
We work with all levels of artists; Amateur to professional. We adapt our services to meet the needs of our client. We also offer training sessions for 1-4 people wanting to learn how to perform some of the computer work themselves. We charge 180.00 and hour, and most sessions take at least 2 hours. Learn how to manage and maintain an accurate color workflow, or learn some of our Photoshop tricks and techniques. Let us know, and we'll tailor it to your needs with practice files and handout information you can take home.
How big is your studio?
Picture Element has expanded several times since its opening and we are currently in a space close to 4000 sq. ft. We have several printers, computer workstations, and scanners. We have many areas including our lobby, scanning room, mounting area, framing and finishing areas.
Do you offer any discounts or specials?
Yes, occasionally we have promotions that we send out to our clients on our email list. Join our list. It's free and we never sell or give out any of your information. We also offer discounts for quantity orders. Just ask us, and we'll be happy to provide a quote.
Do I need to come in to your studio to submit work?
No, we have clients all around the country that work with us. We have ftp services for submitting files and can send proofs and originals via FedEx or UPS. If you're in the area, we'll be happy to meet with you and show you samples of our work.
What is file archiving? Do I need it?
We provide you a digital file on CD/DVD when purchasing a Cruse Capture with or without a print for no additional charge. We recommend that you make copies of critical file information and save one copy in a safe deposit box or at least another location in case of fire or other catastrophe. This way you'll always have a backup. This is especially important if an original piece of artwork is sold and only the digital file remains. For a small charge we can archive your file with us or burn an extra copy for you. We have a 12 terabyte RAID 5 server on our premises for our immediate file needs. We do daily incremental backup copies for our archives to other computer hard drives. Go to pricing...
Cruse Digital Capturing questions:
What types of originals can you capture with your Cruse ST scanner?
We can and have produce high resolution digital files from paintings, photographs, scrolls, quilts, circuit boards, blue prints, etc. Our unique Cruse Synchron Table scanner can produce tack sharp focus corner to corner from original up to solid 5x8 feet in size, or even larger with a rollable canvas/artwork. With it's unique lighting system, we are even able to capture the most subtle texture of an original or scan directly though glass without any reflection.
Some of our more interesting scanning work to date includes an original document from Abraham Lincoln, an old portrait of James Lick (from the Lick observatory), a large horror movie poster collection from Kirk Hammet (of the rock group, Metallica), and Ludwig Van Beethoven's hair! Yes, along with several old paintings and prints we even scanned many locks of his hair for a local museum.
What does the "ST" in the Cruse name stand for?
Synchron Table... The Synchron Table model is the latest Cruse model and surpasses the quality and accuracy of the other already great Cruse scanners.
Can you scan my film?
Yes. We scan photographic film on a dedicated film scanner or drum scanner for the larger photographic formats. We scan x-rays and other larger film types with the Cruse scanner.
How big is the Cruse scanner?
It's BIG. It occupies a whole 17'x17' room. The scanner itself is approximately 8 feet long, by 6 feet wide, and 9 feet tall. It weighs nearly a ton!
How big of an original can I scan?
From a 2" photograph up to a 25 foot painting and anywhere in between. We can scan up to 4x6' in a single section and almost infinite in multiple sections. Because of the nature of the fixed lighting, the scanner can produce flawless stitching with a little help from the scanning technician.
Does my original touch any part of the scanner?
No... Well, only the bottom side of a stretched canvas, photo, frame, or other back side of artwork. The art rests on a table and is directly below a high res digital scanning camera and lighting system. The table moves the artwork below the stationary camera without touching anything.
What is the max resolution of the Cruse scanner?
The maximum resolution of the capture depends on the size of the original. Picture Element's Cruse is equipped with the highest resolution head available. It has a variable resolution feature and can scan up to 830ppi on sizes up to 20x30 inches, down to 300dpi on very large pieces, and various resolutions in between. Resolution plays a small part in getting a great capture though. The actual "quality" of the pixels is where the secret is in the cruse's sucess.
How does Picture Element's Cruse compare to the Better Light and other scanning back capturing systems?
The Better Light company are great people and it's camera is a fine product that we have used in the past, but the Cruse system is superior in every aspect for digitally capturing artwork. The difference is especially noticeable on larger images. The Cruse is specifically designed for this one purpose, while the better light and other scanning back systems have other uses. We did a lot of research before buying the Cruse ST. We saw a significant quality advantage despite its high price tag (Our Cruse ST system costs about 5 times more than Betterlight). Read more about the qualities of our Cruse system...
Why are Picture Element's digital captures better than other companies around?
How is the Cruse capture cost calculated?
The Cruse capture costs are calculated by size of the original and the needed resolution of the capture. Smaller sizes and lower resolutions cost less. Cruse capture costs are comparable to other reproduction shops "hi end" scanning services while the quality is actually much better. In fact, on smaller sizes, we beat prices of many other reproduction shops while providing a superior product. See our Cruse pricing chart...
What resolution should I scan my original?
It depends on what uses the scan is intended for... giclée reproductions?, archiving?, offset press?, web?, etc. For a fine art giclée or reproductions (at the same size for the original, or a little bigger), 300 ppi is recommended for todays printing technology. Someday, printer technology may benefit from a higher resolution scan, and scanning higher now may be good for posterity. Printing at bigger than original sizes will also need larger resolution scans. See our resolution chart...
Should I bring my original painting in for scanning before or after I varnish?
We can scan your original before or after. The lighting on our Cruse is positioned so it is optimized for virtually no glare when scanning. On pieces with large amounts of texture or uneven surfaces, we can get stray bits of glare. When this happens, we solve it with the Cruse cross-polarization system that attaches to the lights and over the lens optics eliminating it. Using polarization filters works fairly well, but will increase noise in the scan due to an increase in gain adjustment needed for the extra density of the filters. This can be noticeable when zoomed in on the final scan, but usually does not affect the print output since it is so small. Our suggestion on varnish is... If the varnish will not change the look of your painting a lot, then give it to us unvarnished, otherwise go ahead and varnish it first.
My original is framed and/or under glass. Do I need to take it out of the frame?
Ideally yes, you'll get the best possible capture. However, we have scanned many of images through glass with exceptional results. Framed pieces without glass are no problem except you will lose the little bit of the original that is beneath the frame. We can even include the frame in the scan if you like, makiing a unique 3-dimensional print.
Giclee (inkjet print) questions
What is a giclee?
A giclée is a print made from an inkjet printer. The term "giclée" was coined by Jack Duganne of Nash Ediitions in the early 90's in an attempt to give their computer generated artwork a more sophisticated name (at least that is one version of the story). The word derives from a french word "to squirt" (as in an inkjet printer). The word "giclée" is now viewed differently throughout the industry. Many people have different feelings about the word. Regardless of the true meaning and origin, people need to understand that printmakers and artists are calling prints made from all kinds of different ink, papers, and printers, giclee. While it may be officially correct, it has become a very nondescript term. Some of the so-called giclées out there are inferior products made with inferior or outdated technology. Some are even made with materials that will fade within a short amount of time! There are all sorts of questions that should be asked when puchasing a "giclée" Printer type and model, resolution, paper type, ink type, finishing sprays, and archival qualities, etc. are just a few. At Picture Element, we choose our ink, print materials and equipment very carefully so we can provide the best in archival quality prints.
What are the archival properties of an inkjet print (giclee)?
That depends greatly, and we're happy to answer your specific questions via phone or email. Also, see "what is a giclée" above.
What printing materials does Picture Element offer?
We print on several kinds of photo, baryta type photo, watercolor, and canvas materials. We even can print on cotton and silk sheeting. Go to our material list...
How do Picture Element's pigment prints differ from other companies?
1.First, we start with our superior Cruse capture when applicable. The capture itself can be the most important factor in providing a sharp accurate copy of your original!
2. We don't skimp on material - Many print makers buy low cost, inferior material so they can sell their prints for less. They go for quantity over quality. We offer competitive pricing without skimping on materials. We use the best material and equipment we can find. We do lots of testing and research on a materials before using them in production. Paper feel and texture, ink saturation, color gamut, durability, and archival qualities are just some of the factors we look for when choosing our products. Our goal is to provide the finest quality, archival material for your work.
3. We have over 20 years of experience making fine art prints for all types of artists and photographers. We are artists ourselves and know the subtleties of a fine art print. We also know our equipment and make our own custom color profiles for our monitors, scanners and printers.
How do archival pigment prints compare with lightjet, chromira, or other digital photo output?
The latest pigment printers (giclee) using "photo-like" material now surpass the traditional photo printers in terms of color range (gamut), Dmax (Blacks), and print longevity. The printers use pigment ink on paper while traditional photo printers rely on chemistry to develop exposed silver halide material. Giclee (or inkjet) also offer many more surfaces and media choices than the traditional photo printers and are more environmentally friendly.
What are the advantages printing on canvas vs other media?
Canvas can be coated and mirror wrapped and ready for immediate presentation without framing. It can also be mounted to board or traditionally stretched and framed without glass. While the initial material cost is higher, it can be a more cost effective solution vs. other presentation methods.
Do you offer a certificate of authenticity?
Yes, we can provide certificates upon request.
Can I "embellish" my canvas print?
Yes, we use an acrylic based UV protection coating on all our canvas prints, and most acrylic based paints and coatings should work fine. We can recommend products, but suggest testing any others first to be sure.
Canvas Finishing Questions
What type of canvas do you offer? What are its qualities?
Our canvas is a thick 21mil poly blend with an exceptionally white coating especially made for our Epson K3 inks. Our canvas also has a lower texture than most other canvases which eliminates most of the specular highlights that plague other digital pre-finished canvases. Everything is acid free and tested to be to archival standards. There are no OBAs (optical brightener agent) present, and we use our matte black ink set with our K3 printers to achieve the deepest black we've seen in an archival canvas. The canvas is "raw" after printing, and we then apply 2 coats of an acrylic UV coating with an HVLP spray system. We can finish it in your choice of a satin, matte, or gloss. The result is the best looking canvas we've ever seen.
What is a canvas wrap?
A canvas print with the edge of the image wrapped around the stretchers and stapled in the back (a wrap). This is suitable for immediate presentation without framing. We can use the sides of the original image to wrap around if there is enough space by cropping in. We call this a "standard wrap" , Or we can duplicate the outside edges of the original in the computer and add a "mirror" flipped image of them around the edge of the stretchers. This makes the image appear to "fold over the edge and continue along the sides to the back. The "mirrored" version allows for reproductions to match the original in size and proportion (a mirror wrap). Go to stretching options and pricing...
What sort of stretcher bars do you use?
We cut and assemble our own using 5/8" , 1" , 1.5", 2.0" and 3.0" thick dried material that we stock from reputable framing suppliers. We glue and assemble each stretcher by hand. All our stretchers are custom made and we do not use any flimsy precut bars like many art stores carry.
Do you use a machine to do your stretching?
We do all our stretching by hand. We have yet to see a machine that can do as good of job.
What are my other options for canvas presentation besides stretching?
We can also mount your canvas print to gator foam, Dibond and sintra. On small sizes you can save costs by mounting the canvas vs. stretching. A sheet adhesive is applied to the material of your choice and the canvas mounted to it. Using thin mounting boards instead of stretching also enables the use of thin frames too small for traditional stretchers. Go to Mounting Pricing...
Mounting and Framing Questions
What is gatorboard?
Gatorboard is a lightweight extremely flat and strong board resistant to warping. It's what we use most for mounting of images. We stock 3/16" and 1/2 inch size thicknesses.
What is fome-cor?
Similar to gatorboard, but more prone to warping. Foam core costs less and works well for images 16x20 and smaller. We only use the acid free version.
What is Dibond?
Dibond is a metal composite sandwich consisting of two thin aluminum sheets encasing a styrene (plastic) core. We use a 3mm version and it's very thin, flat and rigid, and can be presented with mounted work on it's own with only a recessed backing hanger. We can mount photo, watercolor, or canvas to it.
Is the mounting material archival?
All our mounting materials are acid free and/or pH neutral. We employ conservation framing and mounting methods whenever possible. We have mounted and framed many pieces that have gone to galleries and museums throughout the country.
What frame styles do you offer?
We offer hundreds of different styles, materials, and options.
How much will my framing cost?
It varies greatly on size, frame style, matting or mounting, and glazing options. Feel free to contact us for questions.
408-969-0084 or email: