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Gigi Will Know: Why do my illustrations look so disappointing in print?

How do illustrators keep their work true to color?

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Have a query about craft? Need some clarification on an aspect of the publishing industry? Looking for career advice? Email your queries to [email protected] with the subject line “Advice Column.” We can’t wait to read your questions!


Hi Gigi,

I am hoping that you might be able to help me with a question I have involving illustrations for a children’s picture book. The pictures are in pencil. They are lively and colorful. However, when I took them to a print shop to be duplicated and scanned, the results were really disappointing. Not only were the drawings “washed out” looking, but the colors were affected quite undesirably, with a yellowy cast. The printer said that this often is the case when printing artwork, so I’m thinking there must be a better way. Someone mentioned some type of photography? I am hoping that you can tell me what illustrators do to keep their work true to color when preparing it for a publisher’s viewing. Thank you, Gigi…I’m very grateful for any advice you can give.

—Better in Person



Dear Better,

I asked a trusted artist friend about this question so that I could make sure my suspicions were correct, and they are: It’s not you, it’s them.

You need to work with someone who knows what it means to scan art and reproduce art – don’t just go to your local Staples or print-and-bind shop. It sounds like you asked the printer to execute both the scanning and the printing, and my source says both things could go wrong, resulting in doubly disappointing prints. If the resolution on the scanner isn’t set correctly, you could end up with a scan that doesn’t look right or print well, ending up in a washed-out product. And if the printer isn’t set right, you might end up with washed-out results there, too, even if the scanner was set correctly – especially if the printer (the person) isn’t used to working with artwork.

There is one scenario in which it could be you, and not them: it could be that your artwork is so light, your touch on the page so light, that a scan would never work well. In which case, you definitely need someone who works with art specifically to photograph your artwork. (Artists who work in oil or acrylic paint, for instance, might choose to have a photo of their art taken over having a scan of it made – a scan could really mess with the texture of an oil or acrylic painting. Your colored pencil may be the same.) 

You haven’t said where you’re located, but a quick Google search for “art scanners” turns up a bunch of results. Photographs can definitely work. And after that, someone who’s skilled at working with artwork can touch it up in Adobe Photoshop or a program similar to it to ensure that it’s as close to your original artwork as possible.


All best, and draw on,