When it comes to working with a professional printer, we’ve always trusted the fine folks at Skink Ink Fine Art Printing for all of our printing needs. Based in Williamsburg, Skink Ink has generously printed photos for our #WORKinPROGRESS shows. We spoke to the owner, Philip Riley, about his experience working in art galleries, starting his own company, and the future of digital printing.

What inspired you to start Skink Ink?

“Being a customer at Duggal and other places, when first trying to get my art printed (I am fine art painter who turned to digital work) and what I was trying to do was get my work out of the computer. Back then, everything was CYMK, I wasn’t using a calibrated monitor and it was not exactly straightforward for the novice. I found myself spending a huge amount of time and money, getting nowhere and not getting any feedback as to what was going wrong. I got so frustrated I bought my own printer and taught myself. I also quit working for art galleries and got a job in professional graphics so I could properly learn the software. Here I am, 15 years later printing for other people. I modeled my company after what it was like to be a customer of those places where I wasn’t getting any feedback, advice or anything that gave me a way to improve and get a successful print. Later on when I was a retoucher, I bought my first wide-format printer to proof my own retouching and I found myself printing out a job for a friend, which lead to another job for a friend, which lead to another job, and then before I knew it, I was printing for other people. I sort of transitioned out of being a retoucher and ended up being a printer.”

You worked with a lot of galleries and big artists prior to opening Skink Ink, how has your background helped you in the digital printing industry?

“It’s really weird because I had lots of different types of jobs over the years. I worked in museums as an art handler in London. I later ran a gallery in London. When I moved to New York, I was an art-handler again and then moved into graphics, working as a production designer, then later as a retoucher, even working as a website builder. Every job I’ve ever had has seemed to have fed into this job, where I still do everything from packing the work for shipping, which was from my art-handling days, to doing the website myself to the scanning and retouching, which comes from my old graphics days. Every single job I’ve had has fed into this job. It’s like this is what I was meant to do.

Working in so many art galleries for so long and being an artist myself, I think that our principle advantage what we really offer to our customers is we understand the mindset. We understand the way they think because we are the same as they are. So the stuff that they want to fuss about, other printers might be intolerant or impatient or just don’t have time for, that’s what we are here for. That’s what we would fuss about as well. So we’re here to help with that. Working with artists, around artists, and for artists for so long gives the customers’ the confidence that we are going to get it. Also, everyone who works here is an artist or a photographer for exactly the same reason. That way we get it.”

Skink Ink specializes in giclee printing. Why do artists use this method compared to other types of printing?

“Giclee is a funny word. I liken it to serigraph, which is merely an elegant word for a screen print. It’s still a screen print no matter what you want to call it but it looks better when it’s called something else, and it’s something that people do respond to. What it really means is professional inkjet printing with archival materials. I think what’s happening is as silver slowly dies, (unfortunately that technology is going) but artists and photographers are now looking for what is next. How to get their work out of their computer. How to get their work out of their camera. This is the obvious, logical step. You can do digital silver prints, but this way of printing gives you a wider range of materials to work with. You can print on cotton rag papers, canvases, a whole bunch of things you can’t afford to get wet. If it’s a silver-based process, it has to be able to get wet. This gives us a much greater freedom, and it also harkens back to an earlier age of printing. We can use similar kinds of paper to those used in lithography, etching, and even screen printing as well, and so it starts to have the feel of an art object, less the feel of a photograph. So for a lot of our artist clientele, that’s much more appealing.”

Most challenging aspect of digital printing? 

“It used to be getting the color correct. That was extremely difficult for years and certainly something I struggled with for a very long time. Nowadays, thanks to definite improvements in technology, that we’ve got under control and we’re very happy with the way that works. I think for anybody starting out in digital printing, that’s the thing they’re going to have the most trouble with. The moment you depart from the presets in a lot of the software, all of a sudden you’re on your own and it’s a difficult world to fathom, but you can fight your way through that. With the right calibration equipment and the right software, you can achieve excellent color. Certainly with scanning and photography, getting the color correct in the capture situation is still a challenge, and we spend a lot of time color-correcting in order bring stuff up to scratch.”

What is next for Skink Ink?

“Well, the technology is changing so aqueous jet printers were it. They were the new norm. They defined inkjet printing and that’s what was named giclee, but there are other new technologies coming in. We just got our first solvent printer, not intended really for high-end fine art because it’s not archival, but it certainly gives us a lot of ability to produce more murals and other kinds of temporary graphics that are very interesting. But what’s in the pipeline are UV printers and dye sub and a slew of other technologies that are coming through that may augment, perhaps even replace the aqueous inkjet. We don’t know but we’re definitely taking a look at those and we’re definitely going to see if they’re going to fit our customers’ needs in the future.”

For more information, visit Skink Ink’s website.
177 North 10th Street Room G. Brooklyn, NY