Choosing The Best Options for a Fine Art Print
Print is the Ultimate destination of a fine art photographic image and, arguably, the only medium for truly enjoying and admiring them.
Printing a good quality fine art photograph has a high learning curve and mastered over time. It requires true passion, dedication and significant investment of time and energy – not to mention the investment in state of art equipment.
I have been printing, framing and selling fine art prints for many years. Major portion of my sales is matted paper prints or large canvas prints 60” and wider. From very beginning I made the decision to print myself because it gives me total control on the final output, enables me to deliver the best performance from an image to my collectors in an interpretation I desire to achieve.
During all my years of printing and selling fine art prints, two questions have come up repeatedly and both are print related. These questions, in my view, point to very important consideration prior to making an investment in any fine art photograph.
1. What are the relative benefits and limitations of matted and framed Paper Prints, Canvas Prints and Metal Prints? In short, how should I decide on the medium when buying your prints?
2. What should be my aesthetic considerations while choosing aspect ratio and size?
The quick answer to both - it depends on many factors. One’s personal taste, surrounding décor, preferences, budget, available space and location where the photograph will hang and viewing distance.
For a detailed answer, let's discuss the merits and limitations of each medium. I hope it helps you make a decision more aligned to your requirements.
T H E M E D I U M
Paper print is the traditional medium for displaying a photograph. Its aesthetic qualities are unique and well understood. In addition, paper gives the most choices in terms of texture and finish. I have been printing on various papers including gloss, semi-gloss, matte and metallic. having many types of paper and texture to choose from, it work well to match the needs of the image with the media to render it in the best possible way. While there is no one paper that fits all however semi-gloss and 100% cotton based matte papers, in my opinion, tends to go with a wide variety of images of natural scenes. Metallic papers bring out the best in an image when the main subject are man-made objects or architecture. Whatever the paper choice, a matted and framed paper print delivers very dramatic gallery like finish with vibrant colors or deep black tones.
Advantages of Paper Prints:
Paper prints exhibit more detail than canvas or metal prints.
Traditional look and appeal that most people are familiar with.
Choice of paper to suit the image brings out the photograph in a very dynamic sense.
Choice of high Dmax papers coupled with HDR inks delivers a very exquisite Black and White print.
Variety of frame moldings helps add informal or formal, decorative accent to your home or office.
Some Limitations of Paper Prints:
Paper prints must be matted and framed behind glass for displaying or wall hanging.
Larger sizes are heavy and exponentially expensive due to frame and glass.
Framing paper prints behind glass introduces some glare and reflections from light.
However, glass could be avoided in some matte prints by spraying protective sealants on the image and framing as is.
Image size is relatively smaller for specific hanging space after accounting for 3.5” to 6” of border around the print for matte and frame.
Canvas can be found in most of the prestigious galleries globally and it has historically been the medium of choice for life size paintings done by world-renowned artists. The combined advancements in printer technology, inks and formulations of canvas has now enabled canvas to offers excellent properties for digital printing and deliver great looking fine art photographs. I have been printing images on canvas achieving very eye pleasing and 'living' images which are equal to or better than traditional papers.
Canvas is inherently a sturdier material and there is a reason why the paintings on canvas have been around for centuries in art galleries. It have excellent archival qualities and, with the use of modern sealants, canvas print are further sealed for even longer life, fade resistance, protection against UV, dust, humidity and other elements. The heavier nature of canvas specially renders it suitable for very large prints say 30” or wider going all the way to width of 100”.
The texture of canvas further enables the prints to stand out when compared to traditional paper prints, which appear relatively flat when compared side by side. The extra pop, painterly effect, and three-dimensional viewing experience that the canvas provides has always drawn attention to my canvas prints and consistently generates a 'wow' factor.
Advantages of Canvas Prints:
Canvas delivers three dimensional and painterly effect that stands out and is aesthetically very pleasing.
The textured nature of canvas is exceptionally well suited for landscape images and nature photography.
Multiple hanging options are available – framed, floater framed, gallery wraps.
Largest image size for a given wall space (no space lost to mats or borders).
Maximizes hanging space by going frame-less and border-less.
Easier to manage extremely large size prints.
Very light weight compared to framed paper prints behind glass or metal prints.
No glare or reflections to deal with as compared to paper framed behind glass OR metal prints.
Canvas’s frame-less presentation creates a window into the scene and blends into any style decor within home or office
Environmentally sealed making canvas prints very suitable for semi-humid conditions.
Creative multi-panels like diptych and triptych give many decorative options.
Some Limitations of Canvas Prints
Photograph cannot be interchanged within a frame like in matted paper print.
More display choices make deciding on the 'Best Option' more demanding.
Need little extra protection during moving or storing the art work.
Metal prints have been around for some time, however recent advancements have generated a renewed interest in metal print among the various print mediums. A properly done metal print is extremely lively, saturated with vibrant colors, and its level of clarity adds to the perception of depth. Much like canvas, metal is a sturdy material and with the added levels of clarity it provides for an image, it is equally suited for small and large images.
Advantages of Metal Prints:
Metal prints render very lively, bright and saturated colors.
They have higher degree of clarity.
Very high decorative value and impact.
Due to extra clarity, metal prints require shorter viewing distance for similar sized prints when compared to canvas and paper.
They bring out luminosity and color quality that supersedes traditional paper prints.
The image is infused onto the special materials that increases the life of the print.
Prints are not susceptible to most environmental elements and do not require any extra protection.
Metal prints are waterproof and can withstand direct exposure to water. For this reason, metal prints are better choice in foyers and office lobbies to complement water based décor like artificial waterfalls, in kitchens and other humid environments.
Some Limitations of Metal Prints:
Costlier to produce and ship compared to other choices.
Exposure to strong light sources can affect image quality over time specially when exposed to direct sunlight rays.
Depending on the type of finish, light reflection and glare can be an issue so hanging, placement of metal prints can pose some limitations.
Sharp objects can scratch an image much like the auto exterior surface.
Larger sizes tend to be very heavy due to stabilizer backing needed and require extra sturdy mounting hardware.
May not work well with certain subjects and images with lot of very dark tones.
Certain galleries may not consider metal prints as Gallery Quality, which could potentially affect the investment value of the artwork.
Compared to canvas and traditional paper prints, metal prints tend to feel less painterly.
I have sold many prints and based on my experiences,
Where large art work is needed, canvas prints are preferred by both - private and corporate clients. In such sizes other print options are cost prohibitive and smaller size do not deliver a dramatic impact. For any office areas, large living spaces, above fireplaces and residential and workplace hallways canvas has been the preferred choice.
Smaller and/or more intimate spaces like living and dining areas or bedrooms have shorter viewing distances. In such proximity, to appreciate and enjoy a fine art print, relatively smaller size prints are suited. Here, I prefer to recommend matted and framed paper prints. They stand apart at close quarters and add a nice accent.
Metal and similar prints like acrylic are also becoming popular. Due to the characteristics described above, these prints have all rounded application and suited for a any number of sizes and environments.
In the end, as with all types or displayed art, its one’s aesthetic taste, preference, budget and needs that eventually guide the decision. I offer free consultation to my clients and am very happy to share my perspective based on your individual needs.
I have been printing and framing myself for years and all my collectors and clients are extremely satisfied with he quality. I am personally fully confident on the quality my prints offer as each print bears my name. For this reason I give One Full Year Fade-Free replacement warranty covering your investment against any material and workmanship defects.