In My Studio -- Working on the 2016 Calendar and Discussing Paper

It might seem kind of early to be thinking about 2016, but, really it's not if I want to be able to market my calendar. Marketing isn't something I'm very good at, but I'm starting to feel like I know what I'm doing when I'm designing my calendars. 2016 will be the third calendar I've done.

The fun part of creating a calendar is choosing the paintings I want to use for each month. It's my first step. I choose them according to what might be in bloom or growing or around in nature during each month. Sometimes I'll also coordinate the painting and the month to incorporate special meanings. For example, the original iris painting I used for this June's calendar was bought as an anniversary present for someone's June anniversary.

The hard part (for me) is creating the text/number part of the calendar. I arrange each month's days and dates one by one in photoshop. Last year I went a little further and hand-painted the color I used to fill in all of the type. That's why the color is not uniform (Matthias thought there was maybe something wrong with the printer when he saw the finished calendar).

calendar, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I guess he's right. Between the small size and the variations in text color it is a little hard to read. I like it, but in terms of practicality, that was one thing I knew I wanted to change in this year's calendar.

My main concern when designing the calendar is that the illustration be sized to fit in a standard frame for use as an art print once the month is passed. I print two calendar pages on one 8.5"x11" sheet of paper, so the size that works best for the prints (minus the calendar) is 4"x6". That limits the size of the text for the calendar, but I figured I still had some room to go a bit bigger this year.

calendar, watercolor, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I also changed the fonts and chose black as the color for the text to help it stand out.

I'm liking the new design and I created a much easier template to use to create each month. It went far smoother this time around than in previous years.

One of the things that is special about my calendar is the high quality paper I use to print them. It's Epson's Ultra Premium Presentation Paper with a matte finish. It reproduces the colors wonderfully and the images and text are very crisp.

I used basic copy paper to make my first proof. Mainly I want to see how the layout will look on paper. It's flimsy and my corner trimmer does not like it at all; it kept getting jammed, crumpling the paper a bit.

My next proof was made with basic white card stock. The page looked pretty good, especially in comparison to the copy paper. For a bit I wondered if I should save money and print on the cheaper card stock.

The third proof I printed was on the ultra premium paper and when I saw the print come out of the printer I was convinced that I can't use a cheaper paper for my calendars.

calendar, watercolor, paper comparison, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Apart from the crumpled paper of the flimsy copy paper proof, the differences might not be easily detected in the above photo. Look carefully. Pay attention to the colors, especially the greens, the blue shadows on the glass jar and the purple of the orchid flowers.

Here's a closer look at the card stock version:

test proof, art print, watercolor, terrarium, calendar illustration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

compared to the ultra premium paper:

test proof, art print, watercolor, terrarium, calendar illustration, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

I photographed them at an angle so you can see the difference in texture of the paper, too. The ultra premium paper has a very fine surface that takes the ink very well and reflects the light much better than the card stock, making it much brighter. Here's another comparison with just the text.

paper comparison, card stock, ultra premium paper, calendar pages, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

Something else that makes a big difference in the quality of my calendar prints is the ink I use. My printer uses seven colors of Ultrachrome ink. It is smudge, water and fade resistant. It reproduces my art wonderfully.

As a final comparison, let me show you one of my archival prints with the same image as the January calendar page (archival prints are available in my Etsy shop):

paper comparison, art print, archival print, watercolor, watercolor terrarium, orchid, Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry

The paper I use for these is Velvet Fine Art paper, toothier than the presentation paper, which gives it the feel of watercolor paper and makes my prints look very close to the original paintings.

I have to do a bit more tinkering before I'll consider this next calendar to be finished, including changing out at least one illustration (a peek at the card stock proofs of the whole calendar can be seen here), but I'm very happy with how it's turning out.

I hope you liked getting a glimpse at my process. If you have any questions, please let me know!


  1. I love watching your process. You can definitely tell the difference in print quality from the paper used. The script writing on the new calender is much more 'you' Anne!

  2. Anne, your calendar will be beautiful! Gorgeous and inspiring work! Big hugs to you!!!!!

  3. I am loving what I see. I think this will be a fun calendar for my studio wall :-)

  4. Wow! Your calendar is beautiful and the font you chose is elegant and readable. Good job!

  5. Thank you, Sharon! I really appreciate your encouraging comments! I'm liking this year's design.

  6. Wow I can clearly see a difference in the papers, thank you for not only pointing it out but sharing your supplies!


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