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Hard Bound Painting Record Book – Now Easier than Ever, Fun and Rewarding – An Updated How-To

Mar 27, 2019

Nan paints, sometimes a lot. And over the years she has accumulated quite a record of her works. I realized that there was no longer any need for the awkward collection of prints, color slides, digital images and paperwork. I knew it would be simple to put together a hard-bound volume that would give her a handy, classy, beautiful, functional, visual record of her work – something akin to a coffee table book.


This is the the third time I've made this Painting Record Book How-To, this time using the third volume I'm putting together of Nan's painting records. Why? Because things keep getting simpler. The first volume was pcreated in Aperture and ordered through Aperture Books. That one was a major effort – taking Nan's paintings back to the beginning. When it came time for volume two, Aperture was gone – so I used a nice little outfit called MyPublisher. Well, they were bought out by another book printer who's software I pretty much dispise. So, here we go again.

Nan loves having these books laying around her studio. In the past the process has been a bit more complicated, making it lucky that I could do it for her. But at this point pretty much any artist can do it – and actually have fun along the way. Here are the first two on her little studio table:


1– Choosing a printer (possibly the trickiest part of this process). They have vastly different size options, processes, prices, etc. It's almost a game. I don't use the same outfit(s) for Nan's painting record books as for my fine-art B&W photography books. They all do color pretty well and there is no reason to spend that much money. And all of the reasonably priced printers have regular half-off sales – watch for them and save a bundle. This is not going to cost a fortune (and who needs more than one volume anyway).

For this book I tested out the software and process for four of the top rated mid-price range printers. All of these lean a bit too heavily on tacky templates – none of which are very functional for our purposes. This time around, by far the simplest, fastest and cleanest process was MixBook. It's hardly perfect, but there are easy work-arounds for issues. 

2– Set-up and work flow (pretty straightforward).

     –  Right off the bat I put a folder on my desktop to contain a link to the on-line work space for the book (MixBook uses an on-line set-up) and final image files that will have to be uploaded. Everything in one place. When you want to resume work on your book, open folder, click on link, go to work…

Top left icon is the link – if not sure how, just select the URL at the top of the web page and drag it off onto the Desktop. Voila, a handy working link.

     – Then go to MixBook to set up a book in progress account. Then start HERE and click on “Start a Blank Book”. Their 8.5x11 inch horizontal matches the first two volumes of Nan's work, making for a neat set of volumes. This was one of the reasons to go MixBook – a lot of the others do not offer that particular size. I also selected Matte Hardcover with Dustjacket. This will fit right in. And I opted for blank pages because templates are simply not needed for this.

The image below is what the book looks like on the Mixbook site, with a background selected for the jacket and an image uploaded and dragged into the center and resized. Text placement is easy. This is a one-off painting record book process, designed such that anybody, even a painter or cave man can put together quickly and easily. It has begun…

3– Placing Images

     – Click on "Edit" your book, then cliick on "Add Images" and then the "Upload" link. Images will appear in the column on the left.

     – Simply drag the image onto a book page, where it can be resized (drag on the corners for this).

     – Systems like this do not have precision sizeing options (I use InDesign for my books but don't bother for books like this – the workaround is easy.

          a) SIZING TRICK: open to the first page / click on Preview above / Expand the window until the page is 8.5 inches (use a ruler held up to the screen). Then click on Edit and measure the page – 7.25 inches. Just keeping it in your head that every 7.25 inches will wind up measuring 8.5 is a good quick reference.

          b) Even so, it is a good idea to click on Preview once in a while to check. Size you images and arrange them on the page – there are auto-centering guidelines along with alighment guidelines.

          c) There are a number of adjustments for images – none of which I use. The trick I use the most is dragging one image atop another in order to resize it to exactly the same. Another tricks is duplicating a page, placing and resizing a new image, removing the old image, etc.

     – No painting should be entered into the book as large or larger than the original. So a 5x7 shouldn't be in the book any larger than say 6 inches at the most. I like to, generally, scale the 8c10s a little larger than the 5x7s and so forth. This is not always possible, just a guideline.

     – On Nan's first book, the one that went back decades to the beginning, I worked backwards from the front by year. As we got towards the back, we placed images in smaller and more per page. Hey, there is a limit as to how many pages these books hold and Nan has a lot of work out there. On update books, we pretty much give larger paintings a full page with an adjoining title page, with smaller paintings arranged two per spread – and any little 5x7s four per spread.

This is both a display and record book. While you want it to look great, the arrangement or order of images can be functional, almost automatic – we found that, by year, the latest to the fore to be best.

4– Text 

     – I don't bother with page numbering for this kind of book. If wanted – it would be the first thing I would do so all I would have to do is duplicate page sets and change the numbers, rentering placement a snap.

     – Text controls are pretty standard and good. Just be sure and check the Preview view to check your sizing. For duplicating placement of text boxes – simply copy/paste. It will put the box in the same position as copied from.

The amount of information included is up to the Artist. Nan keeps it pretty simple as she also keeps a complete record in a little App called Tap Forms on her iPad, complete with images and syncing to the computer. More on that here at the end.

5– Moving pages

     – There is also an easily missed little icon at the bottom/left of the Edit section. It takes you to a view of all of your page spreads. Here you can drag/drop to change the order of your pages.

Really, there’s not much to it. Any artist, sculptor, etc. can put together a hard-bound, displayable, enjoyable, thorough, record book easily and quickly. Sure, a first volume just might be something of a major effort, with so many pages (like Nan’s first where we even included her earliest efforts, albeit represented somewhat smaller and a lot more per page) but that is simply a matter of adding more pages. After that, subsequent volumes can be a work in progress, adding to it when needed, and ordering when ready. Some might want to separate out a special project for a book, why not. It’s your art, your one-off studio book.


Preparing your images – A few Tips…

     – They will want JPEGs that are at least 300 dpi at the desired size. Over is fine, just not ridiculously far over,

     – Do not include fames in the images. This is a record of the paintings.

     – Images do not have to be perfect, but why not make them the best that they can be, as much like a real book as possible.

     – Images should be sharp enough and have good contrast.

     – Old photos or not-so-great exposures:

          … can be scanned or photo-scanned with a smart phone. Smart phone scanning apps allow you to grab the corners and drag to correct for any angling in the picture. This can not only fix an off-angle photograph of the art work, but will do the same to an old print that is a little off. Slides of course will have to be pre-scanned. Another odd trick for an existing off-angle picture of a work (if you don't have the computer application or knowledge to fix perspective) is to send the image to the phone or iPad / open it in a scanning app / and use the perspective fix there by dragging the corners with your fingers. We all prefer a work of art to look like it is not sitting at an angle.

     – It is surprising how often a photograph of a painting somehow winds up with one of its dimensions off, the proportion off – an 11x14 painting winding up with an 11x13.5 scale image that needs stretching in one direction. This issue can be exagerated even more after correcting perspective.  A number of apps can fix this – I use Photoshop. But since this can be a major issue, and can be daunting for some people, and if there is no other way, there is an extremely cheap application called iResizer that does this quickly and easily.

OR – there is a free on-line service:  https://resizeimage.net  that is quick and easy to use for aanyone not number challenged. Load your image, go all the way down to "Resize" image / click "no fill" and correct pixel to proper ratio (some might just have to use a calculator here to determine your target pixels in the off-dimension.

OR – you can always just stack up all of your images and give them to someone who has a handle on all of this – it's not really asking much because it is all quick and easy for some of us.

Final Thoughts:

• It might seem like a lot of steps here, but it is all straight forward, fun and you end up eliminating a lot of awkward record keeping in favor of an evolving set of hardbound, cool looking record books that can be left lying around the studio.

•• For the book I am working on here – MixBook will hold the almost completed file on line while I add images and info for paintings Nan does during the year. That is unless she decides to correct the jacket text to reflect a more specific point in the year for the end.

••• As far as putting together an art book for sale – I would have to compose a completely different How-To, much longer and involved – not for the timid.


•••• As a companion to her book records, I set Nan up with a little art database for her iPad where she can record everything that is in the book along with sale, exhibit, award, etc. information – Tap Forms (from which records can also be printed at will). Reams of awkward records, slides, pictures, etc. could be thrown out and everything is right there at her fingertips. In fact, Tap Forms syncs between both of our iPads, both phones and both computers. Plus the images are fully expandable. And, Drum roll, it's a piece of cake, following initial set-up which isn’t all that bad (ok, to be honest, the syncing set-up, which many wouldn’t bother with anyway, can be a pain in the ass). Nan loves it and, while she does use an iPad, she does NOT use a computer at all. If anyone is wanting/needing a little assistance initially setting up Tap Forms for keeping art records, I would be happy to do a How-To on that – or even help set it up for them. Let me know.

For this shot of an entry in Tap Forms, I shrank the info view a little in from the right and clicked on the image to show how nice it brings it up. Great art database for the iPad / Computer / phone (I did black out the name of the person it sold to). Nan organizes the index on the left by year and alphabetical. It also allows for multiple images for sculptors, etc. This App rocks and is quite cheap. While I prefer the computer version for my B&W work, Nan, who makes all of the entries herself, uses the much more intuitive iPad version. In the end, it all looks the same.