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Checking a print of Boucher's Madame de Pompadour © Factum Foundation

Factum’s flatbed printer – a modified Epson Stylus Pro 11880 – is unique in that it enables the operator to very precisely over-print the same surface many times. This means that a printed image can be built up in layers of ink of varying opacity and therefore that the tonal range of Factum's system is much greater than that of many commercially available printers.

Printing with the Flatbed Printer

An image file is split into several layers in Photoshop. The layers extract as much information as possible about the different tones that are present in the image - modifying the opacity of each layer allows us to gradually build tone and to retain information that would otherwise be lost from the darkest areas of an image. The first printed layer contains information about the darkest tones in the image. Each subsequently printed layer builds on previous layers – the darkest areas in an image are 'over-printed' the most times to produce a wide range of dark tones. This is particularly significant, for example, if printing an image by an artist for whom dark colours are of special importance.

The other benefit of being able to very accurately over-print a surface – we refer to this as the process of ‘registering’ the printer to the surface being printed – is that it becomes possible to very accurately print colour directly onto relief surfaces of up to 2-3mm in height.

The process of producing a facsimile of a painting usually begins with recording 3D information about its surface using the Lucida 3D Scanner and colour data with panoramic photography. In post-processing, the colour information and the 3D information are very carefully matched or 'registered' to each other. In order to rematerialise this information, it is also necessary to precisely match the colour information to the 3D data during printing. In order to achieve this, a depth map representing the subtle three-dimensional surface of the painting is printed onto a clear acetate sheet and the printer is precisely ‘registered’ to match this information. The acetate is then replaced by the relief surface in preparation for printing over it in colour.

Eduardo López Rodriguez positions a relief surface - in this case for Parmigianino's Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror (1524) - on the printer bed © Factum Foundation

Rafa Rachewsky 'registers' the acetate to the 3D surface © Factum Foundation

Applying the 'digital ground' to help the ink stick to the 3D surface © Factum Foundation

Digital printing in-house gives Factum the flexibility to experiment with different surfaces and types of printing grounds. If producing a facsimile of a painting, for example, the fine surface relief will have been reproduced in gesso on canvas and the process of printing over this surface in colour using the flat-bed printer is the final step before varnishing. Objects with greater relief surfaces require a different approach - the colour is printed onto a flexible 'skin' that is then manually attached very precisely to the relief surface.

Colour for the Hereford Mappa Mundi was printed onto flexible skins that were then attached to a board digitally routed with the relief data © Factum Foundation

Rafa Rachewsky working with the printed flexible skins for the Hereford Mappa Mundi © Factum Foundation

Factum’s printing process, perfected over years of producing exact facsimiles of paintings and other objects, also involves carrying out printing tests using physical colour samples to verify colour accuracy before printing a final version of a facsimile. This also means that contemporary artists who come to Factum Arte to print their work have a huge amount of control over the quality and appearance of a final image.

Rafa Rachewsky printing 'The Ladies Waldegrave'. An advantage of the modified flatbed printer is its size - Factum can print images up to 160 by 350cm. For larger images, the joins are carefully retouched by hand © Factum Foundation

Printing tests for the 'Salviati Ceiling' © Factum Foundation

Printing tests for Parmigianino's 'Self-portrait in a Convex Mirror' (1524) © Factum Foundation

Colour matching for Boucher's 'Sketch for a Portrait of Madame de Pompadour' © Factum Foundation

Checking the colour for Boucher's Portrait of Madame de Pompadour © Factum Foundation

In this video, Factum's custom flatbed printer prints the colour of Diego Velázquez' Saint Thomas, in perfect registration over the 3D surface of the painting, created using a specially-prepared acrylic gesso mix. This ‘skin’, which forms the base surface of the final facsimile, will be then fixed to a backing canvas in a process that is similar to re-lining a painting. © Óscar Parasiego for Factum Arte
A new Flatbed Printer

In 2019 Factum Arte has developed a new flatbed printer able to print an area of 1.6 x 4.5 meters. The substrate can be re-positioned to provide a continuous surface with total control over the printed joint; it is thus possible to print an image that is 4 meters high and, in theory, any length.

The development has taken over a year and has been primarily carried out by Quinner Baird, with support from Dwight Perry, Jorge Cano and Enrique Esteban. Factum's ability to develop both hardware and software is a key part of the experimental workshop mentality that underpins our work.

© Oak Taylor-Smith

Working with Boris Savelev

The long-term collaboration between Adam Lowe and renowned Russian photographer Boris Savelev has led to some of Factum’s most important developments in colour printing.

Savelev’s images play with light and shadow and full of dark areas that contain a lot of information but do not respond well to many contemporary printing methods. The method of printing in layers to build up richness of tone was developed with Savelev at Factum – the process results in velvety blacks that on closer inspection reveal a wealth of detail.


'Yellow boots' (1991) by Boris Savelev - Chernowitz Portfolio - Gesso coated aluminium printed at Factum Arte with digital flatbed printing

'Portrait of Slavik' (1989) by Boris Savelev - Chernowitz Portfolio - Gesso coated aluminium printed at Factum Arte with digital flatbed printing

Boris Savelev - Chernowitz Portfolio - printed at Factum Arte with digital flatbed printing

Factum Arte works with a number of contemporary artists to produce unique prints and digital print editions.

The artist Adam Fuss produced his 2018 body of work 'Roses' at Factum Arte, a series of multi-layered pigment prints of compressed flowers on gesso coated aluminum. The crushed petals appear to leave the surface of the gesso and seemingly gain volume, displaying the innovative results of combining 3D recording with multi-layered digital printing.

From the 'Roses' series (2018) by Adam Fuss © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Arte

From the 'Roses' series (2018) by Adam Fuss © Oak Taylor-Smith for Factum Arte

To inquire about Factum's flat-bed printing email or


Adam Lowe and Boris Savelev / Printing Concept

Rafa Rachewsky/ Printer Design and Process, Factum Arte

Dwight Perry / Printing Engineering

Eduardo López Rodriguez / Profiling, Factum Arte

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