New Solutions From ARTtrust: Preventing Fraudulent and Unauthorized Use of Fine Art Photography and Artwork

Modern scanning, editing, and printing technology has made it easier than ever to copy an image or piece of art and reproduce it – speaking from personal experience, it can be quite difficult to know which is the original, and which is the copy!

And, of course, we’ve all heard reports and stories about unauthorized use, copying, and outright fraud involving a photographer’s or artist’s work.

The immediate impact is straightforward: money-out-of-your-pocket theft.

But what about the loss of credibility for the artist/photographer – and the reduction in value of a limited edition? Uncertainty about the provenance or number of pieces in the market quickly erodes the value of work already sold – and of course, work that is still on the market.

A company called ARTtrust has created a new, unique solution for these problems – one that helps users to identify and verify authorized work, discourages theft, prevents unauthorized copying, stops “limited” edition over-runs, and more.  ARTtrust makes it possible to provide a unique identity to each print in an edition or to each unique work, whether lithography, serigraphy, design, sculpture, etc.

ARTtrust is an identification and verification system that can be used by individuals, galleries, curators, collectors, museums, and others – the ARTtrust system is easy to understand and implement, and is as nearly perfect a security solution for art and phtography as exists today. ARTtrust provides for control by the artist, owner, authorized organization, or delegated curator or printmaker. Founder and CEO Philippe Serenon likes to say that “ARTtrust is simple, precise, secure, accessible, and authentic”. ARTtrust’s international partners include HP, Innova, Canson, Hahnemuhle, and others.

The ARTtrust system includes:

– A set of three unique identification tags, provided in a set, that cannot be duplicated. One tag is affixed to the artwork or print, another to the Certificate of Authenticity, and the third to the owner’s or printmaker’s file copy or BAT. (more on this later). The tags cannot be removed intact – any tampering destroys the tag. Each set of tags in unique to the individual piece of art.
ARTtrust Bubble Tags

– Each item that is tagged is registered via the ARTtrust online system. A digital image is uploaded, and the unique identification tags are linked to this image. The record can be accessed online by authorized users or a potential customer, providing quick and accurate validation of the item.

– The owner, authorized user, or delegate of the artist can print a pre-formatted Certificate of Authenticity (COA) to accompany the work. The tag on the art work or photograph can be matched to the tag on the COA via the ARTtrust database. Another certificate can be printed for use as a file or reference copy – this carries the third tag.

The technology at the core of the ARTtrust system is the Bubble Tag. This is a 3-D polymer tag which has a one-of-a-kind pattern of bubbles embedded in it. Each Bubble Tag is as unique as a fingerprint, virtually impossible to duplicate. (ARTtrust freely admits that they can’t do it – and they believe no one else can, either.)

The Bubble Tag Compared to Online Record

ARTtrust also provides an on-line gallery for its customers – whether they are individuals or organizations. The gallery includes a digital image, the serial number of the ARTtrust tag assigned to the work, and an image that can be compared to the ARTtrust tag.

An ARTtrust Image Gallery

If you click on one of the images, you’ll see this:

Image with identifying Bubble Tag

Anyone who is interested in buying or exhibiting a print can visit the ARTtrust website, find the online record*, view the bubble tag for verification (compare the tag image on screen to the tag on the artwork – and match the ID numbers), and review additional details about the print, such as availability and pricing.  (*One can enter the serial number on a tag, and easily retrieve the record of the work connected with that tag.)

Interestingly, there is also an iPhone application which can read an ARTtrust tag and provide verification on the spot! You can download the iPhone app on the iTunes App Store – just search for i-ARTtrust.

Here’s a link to the ARTtrust web site – the front page is shown below.

ARTtrust Web Site

Now photographers and artists, individuals and organizations have an independent, secure resource that helps them control and market their work, preserve value, prevent fraud and theft – and it is accessible online almost anywhere in the world.


Disclosure: I have in the past acted as a consultant and beta tester to ARTtrust and some of its business partners. I received no compensation for writing this blog post.

New Post about ARTtrust on the Pro Photo Blog

By Eileen Fritsch

At the PMA 2010 Show in Anaheim this week, the DIMA Innovative Digital Product Award was presented to HP ARTtrust for a joint development between HP and Prooftag that helps photographers and artists maintain the authenticity of their work.

What makes the ARTtrust system so innovative is the ARTtrust Bubble Tag™, in which a random set of air bubbles is encapsulated in a translucent polymer film. There is no technical way to reproduce each Bubble Tag’s tridimensional code, and the tag cannot be removed without altering the visual appearance of the film layer. When an art print is produced for sale, the photographer or artist applies a silver Bubble Tag to the back of the print, a gold Bubble Tag to the customer’s certificate of authenticity, and a blue Bubble Tag to their own copy of the certification document. The photographer or artist then registers the tag number on the print to his or her personal space on ARTtrust Online. more…..

ARTtrust: A Hi-Tech Solution That Can Protect Fine Art and Photographic Prints

Artists and photographers have always had concerns about unauthorized, or even fraudulent use of their work. And digital technology has improved enough that it is not a big problem to make a very high quality printed copy of an original piece.

We can all breathe a bit easier. HP, in collaboration with ProofTag, have developed a high-tech, effective solution to these issues, called ARTtrust. (ProofTag is a French company that has already helped many protect their luxury goods and valuable documents against fraud and counterfeiting.)

The ARTtrust solution includes high-tech, unique identification tags, a highly secure online registration system, and verification via a secure Internet connection.

Other companies that support and promote ARTtrust include Canson INFINITY, Hahnemühle FineArt, ILFORD Imaging and Innova Art.

I have been using the ARTtrust system in beta testing. In my view it is likely to become the security standard of practice in the global art community.

The ARTtrust solution provides:

• Unique print identity

• Traceability

• Proof of authenticity

• Certified information about the pigment print’s longevity

• Confidentiality in all transactions


The ARTtrust solution is made up of a number of resources and components. The core component is the ARTtrust Bubble Tag™, which looks like a label, but is much more.

The ARTtrust Bubble Tag™ contains a translucent polymer film – a set of air bubbles are embedded in the film in a random pattern. They form a unique pattern that cannot be duplicated, according to the company. (see image)

There are three tags in each Bubble Tag set. One for the art work, one for the certificate of authenticity (COA), and a third for the reference or file copy of the print. Once a print is ready for sale, the photographer, artist, or printmaker tags the print, the Certificate of Authenticity (COA), and the file/reference print.

A set of ARTtrust BubbleTags(tm)

Once the tag is affixed to the art work, it cannot be removed without altering the appearance of its metallic film layer. The tag may be applied wherever needed – on the back, the side of a mounted canvas piece, etc.

Attaching a BubbleTag(tm)

Next, the user goes to the ARTtrust web site, and enters the tag number into the secure system. Additional information is also entered, including which HP printer was used, the paper used, and an image of the art work. Here’s an example of the first screen of mine on the ARTtrust web site:

ARTtrust Page for David Saffir

Secure records are available online, making it fast and easy to verify the source and authenticity of a print. The site also provides information about the predicted longevity of the print.

Note that the unique bubble pattern on the tag is connected in the ARTtrust records to the ID number on the tag. One can easily compare the bubble pattern in the tag affixed to the artwork, to the bubble pattern image in the secure online record.

Here’s an example:

Now the artist or photographer, reseller, printmaker, buyer, and collector can have more confidence in the value of the item. One can verify:

• The name of the artist or photographer, and the origin of the item

• See an online image of the artwork, print, or photograph

• Verify the ARTtrust Bubble Tag™ ID number

• Compare the bubble pattern in the tag on the artwork to the bubble tag pattern image shown on the ARTtrust web site.

This last step is quite straightforward, and can be accomplished without using a magnifier, electronic reader, or similar tool. Quite simple, actually.

The ARTtrust site also provides for printing a Certificate of Authenticity (COA), which includes relevant details about the print, its edition status, etc.

The ARTtrust Certificate of Authenticity

Summary and Wrap-Up (quoting in part from the press release) :

For photographers and artists:

• Easy to register, purchase, and use

• Full control over individually identified pigment prints ensures authenticity

• Long term artwork traceability while guaranteeing confidentiality of transactions

• Promotion on ARTtrustonline website

For external service providers and professional labs:

• Higher perceived value for Pigment Prints

• Incremental demand for large format prints from HP designjet Z series printers

• Promotion on arttrustonline website

For artwork owners, galleries and auction houses:

• Artwork proof of authenticity

• Artwork best available longevity ratings (for HP Professional Photo Printers)

The ARTtrust system has already been adopted by world-famous photographers and artists, including Joel Meyerowitz, Thomas Hoepker, Martin Parr, Douglas Kirkland, and Digital Atelier artists Dorothy Krause, Bonny Lhotka, and Karin Schminke.

ARTtrust is endorsed by Wilhelm Imaging Research (WIR), the world’s leading authority for photography and digital printing permanence testing and preservation. At present, ARTtrust provides an individual identity to any Digital Fine Art Collection Pigment Print produced on an HP Professional Photo Printer using HP Vivera pigment inks on any compatible media. WIR site:

Photographers and artists will be able to purchase the ARTtrust solution directly through ARTtrust Online or from printmakers, print-service providers, galleries, or resellers of HP professional photo printers and compatible media. This solution gives photographers and artists a method of individually identifying any Pigment Print produced on an HP designjet Z Photo Printer Series using HP Vivera Pigment inks on compatible media.

Individual artists and photographers who want to create a personal space on the ARTtrust website can do so for a modest fee. The kit includes the items mentioned above, plus a unique ID card for the buyer, which has its own BubbleTag Id as well.

For more information, go to:

Add to: Facebook | Digg | | Stumbleupon | Reddit | Blinklist | Twitter | Technorati | Yahoo Buzz | Newsvine

Tracking Ownership of Fine Art Prints and Preventing Fraudulent Copies

Earlier this year I wrote about Certificates of Authenticity, and how they add value to fine art prints. There is an additional tool available, called the ARTtrust solution that can help track and verify the authenticity and ownership of each print.

Read more in my article on the HP Pro Photo Blog.

Pricing and Services, Fine Art Reproduction

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it costs to create a reproduction of one’s artwork – oil, acrylic, watercolor – whichever is appropriate. Some call it giclée printing, others archival pigment printing, etc.

I did a bit of research on the web among 15 print service providers and found out a few interesting things:

  • Very few print service providers (fine art or giclée printers) charge only by the print, without ancillary charges
  • Most charge for digital capture of your artwork – and use a wide range of technologies, ranging from large format scanners
    to digital cameras.
  • Some will charge a setup fee – in other words, a fee for preparing the image for print.
  • Some charge for proofs, certificates of authenticity, require a minimum order, copying to a CD, and other things.
  • Generally, they provide good info on media types and printing technology in use.
  • Generally, all are using technology that provides a final print of archival quality.

In the end, I found that there is a very wide range in services provided, materials used, charges for setup, computer time, printing, and minimum orders.

Here’s the bottom line for a 20×24 inch reproduction:

  • About half  the sites I visited charge a “setup fee”, the range is $40 to $100. Other sites do not mention this.
  • The charge for digital or scanned capture of flat artwork (camera or scan) is $45-150, if this service is provided.
  • The price for a single print on fine art paper ranges from $55 to 170. 
  • The average charge for computer time/Photoshop time is $50 per 30 minutes. This seems pretty consistent.
  • Total cost to the artist (excluding additional computer time) ranges from 130 to a high of 300. I excluded one provider from the research whose total charge exceeded $500.

As you can see, the price you get depends on how the print service provider has structured their business, service fees, and other factors. There is a  correlation in a limited number of cases between high-tech gear in use and high-level pricing. This is a limited sample, and your mileage WILL vary.

Based on the figures I have in hand right now, prices published by these companies will range from $200 to $300 for the first print, and there may be incremental charges for additional prints,   for archiving a reference print, storing digital files, or other services. After that, pricing/print appears to range from $60-100/individual print. No doubt there are other companies whose services, quality, and pricing differ.

I expect that some people will take issue with these figures. Just think of this as a starting point for your own research, do your homework, and you’ll do just fine. There’s plenty of good people out there doing this work.



More on the Added Value of Your Certificate of Authenticity

This new article (which I authored) is posted on the HP Pro Photo Blog, you can access it via

this link: Add Real Value to Your Fine Art Prints