TYPES OF ART PRINTS
Gallery quality..What is the difference?
When collecting gallery quality fine art prints you come to expect the highest level of perfection available in the art market today. With fine art prints the quality is painstakingly controlled from beginning to end using revolutionary techniques. Files for printing are profesionally scanned and manually reviewed for print quality, color accuracy, and any presence of flaws before being sent to the printer. Even before being shipped to the collector, the artwork is inspected further to make sure it is free of defects.
Choices, choices, choices. Today there are more choices than ever when it comes to acquiring art prints and it’s a good thing there is! If you fall in love with a piece of art, then purchasing a reproduction of the original makes it possible to get the perfect size and finish, at the perfect price. We love being a resource for all art admirers so please enjoy the information below that will help you to decide which print to purchase.
An Edition is the number of prints that an artist makes of one work of art. It can be limited or open.
Limited editions prints are set to a particular number of copies and when the last one is sold they won’t be printed again. Since the work of art has the potential of selling out, it can increase in value as there are fewer that are available for sale. It is common to see the price double when 90% of the edition has sold. Limited editions make great collector’s items and are also great for potential investments. The most common type of limited edition is a standard signed and numbered (SN) edition. Special additions are usually reserved for more advanced collectors, with a higher interest in the virtue of investment.
-Priced less than originals
-Priced less than special editions (such as AP, PP, etc. which are listed below)
Most sales consultants do not inform collectors of the intricacies of Limited Editions in order to prevent overwhelming them with too much information. If you are interested in knowing more, than you will find the information below both relevant and important.
There are many types of limited editions with different benefits attached to them. The limited editions that are signed and numbered by the artist and offered to the general public are usually standard limited editions. Please note that more standard editions of the same image may be printed even once it sells out. However, artists with the most integrity will only release it again if it is both in a different size AND in a different medium, or, as a special edition such as the ones listed below. When purchasing a limited edition you should ask your representative if there are other special editions available for that image, or if there ever will be, so that you can make your selection based off of the entirety of the options available.
Limited Edition Options To Choose From
Artist Proof (AP / EA)
EA is a french annotation which stands for “épreuve d’artiste,” translated to “Artist Proof”.
Artists Proofs are a historical tradition. When an artist was commissioned for a project, a portion of the collection was set aside for the artist to do with it as they chose.
Artist proofs are an edition that has an even smaller edition size than the standard limited edition. It is usually the same size and the same quality. In addition to it having a more exclusive edition size, there may be other benefits offered by the artist.
-Gifts of great value may be offered as complimentary gift with purchase. Some artists even offer very valuable gestures such as an original sketch.
-Hand embellishments could be added to the print, making it unique. The artist will generally choose what the hand embellishment are, unless, they offer personalizations.
-Personalizations may be offered by an artist for Artist Proof Editions. This can make it a great specialty gift for a loved one or important business partner.
First Print (FP / BAT )
“Bon à Tirer” is the French annotation that translates to “ready to pull”. In a First Print Edition, only one exists.
First prints are usually witheld for the artist or for release at a later point and can have a higher value to do their exclusivity.
Hors Commerce (HC / NFS)
HC is a french annotation which stands for “hors commerce,” which means, “not to sell”.
They are similar to an AP, as they were intended to be set aside, and only used upon discretion for exhibitions and museums. While most H.C.’s today are identical to the standard Limited Edition prints, some use different papers or inks to differentiate them, and add value.
Printer's Proof (PP)
Printer’s Proof are a small amount of prints from the collection that are generally gifted to the printer as a thank you gift or as a form of payment.
Standard Signed & Numbered (SN)
Standard signed and numbered (SN) editions are the most common type of limited edition for gallery quality works of art.
Limited editions prints are set to a particular number of copies and when the last one is sold they won’t be printed again. Since the work of art has the potential of selling out, it can increase in value as there are fewer that are available for sale. It is common to see the price double when 90% of the edition has sold. Limited editions make great collector’s items and are also great for potential investments.
-Priced less than originals
-Priced less than special editions (such as AP, PP, etc. which are listed below)
Trial Proof (TP)
Trial proofs are created before a First Print (FP / BAT) is decided, which means each one is unique and was changed upon the artist’s discretion during the finalization process.
Open Edtions are reproductions of the original that can by recreated an unlimited amount of times, in an unlimited amount of mediums and an unlimited amount of measurements. They are the most affordable way of collecting a work of art. Established artists don’t always offer open editions and because of the perpetual ability to acquire it, they generally do not increase in value during the artist’s lifetime. Copyrights of the work of art and it’s images belong to the artist and can never be reproduced by another person or entity without the artist’s permission. Reproduction quality may still be to the highest standards in the art industry, or if the artist chooses to, they could offer it in less expensive alternatives.
Acrylic’s crystal clear transparency allows you to admire every detail of the work of art it is placed behind. Acrylic prints are mutli-layered with amazing durability, luster, UV protection and customizing options. The look they give is very modern, sleek and sharp. If you’re looking to make a statement the acrylic prints are as high-end and professional as they come.
Acrylic is also referred to as plexiglass, lucite, or perspex all of which are just brand names for acrylic.
-Color gamut is 30%+ higher in acrylic prints opposed to canvas. Your blacks will be blacker, your blues will be bluer, etc.
-Framing not required which offers additional savings.
-Refractive quality which illuminates the artwork under the right lighting.
-The thickness of the acrylic can give the work of art additional depth.
-UV Protection is generally 70-99% depending on the type of acrylic used.
-Acrylic can be customized to give you different looks and different levels of quality. TruLife acrylic is the only brand of acrylic that is scratch resistant, reduces glare, and has anti-static properties to eliminate dust. It is sold at a considerably higher cost.
-Backing creates protection and durability. Some options for backing used with acrylic prints are another layer of acrylic, dibond or sintra. Another layer of acrylic and sintra are okay for pieces smaller than 40″. Dibond has the most rigidity, especially if sandwiched between two pieces of aluminum, and offers the greatest stability, particulary for larger works of art.
-Glare can be reduced by choosing a certain type of acrylic. TruLife reduces glare by 25% and PP9 reduces it by about 75%.
-Photo paper can be customized when using Acrylic Facemount as your print medium. The 0ptions are generally between a satinm glossy or metallic finish. Metallic paper is very popular as it adds an effect that makes the color pop even more.
-Polished Edges. Diamond polished edging eliminates stress along edges for a smooth and shiny finish instead of a matte finish.
-Thicknesses choices are usually 1/8″, 1/4″ or 1/2″, the thicker the acrylic the more it will reflect and the stronger the 3D effect will be. Acrylic photo blocks are available at 1″.
-Corners can chip or crack if the artwork is dropped or abused.
-Vulnerable to scracthing unless using TruLife acrylic.
-Hidden backing hardware for float effect.
-Stand off bolts.
-Clean with a damp, soft, microfiber cloth.
Acrylic printing options
-Prints adds the ink directly onto the acrylic and seals the back with a white back coating.
-100% moisture protective.
-Ink goes directly onto the canvas so imperfections such as visible dust particles or air bubbles won’t occur.
-Inferior results in terms of color accuracy, vibrancy and permeance.
-Prints first onto paper and then facemounts onto acrylic.
-Appearance is very impressive & stands out next to other prints.
-Color permeance is better (less prone to fading over time).
-Color vibrancy is better.
-Last at least a lifetime.
-Acrylic for facemounting is best when it is a cast acrylic that is 100% free of impurities. Non-glare and anti-glare acrylic is available as well but reduces vibrancy.
-Printing on professional grade photo paper is always going to give you better results. There are many different options that can be used in conjunction with acrylic facemounts. Learn more about photo papers on the main menu.
-Imperfections can occur if dust particles or air bubbles are trapped between the photo paper & the acrylic. This is why it’s important to work with a company that instead of offering a disclaimer, offers gallery quality prints.
-More expensive printing process.
-Not 100% moisture protective.
Recommended Acrylic Brands
Reduces glare by about 75%.
TruLife acrylic is the only brand of acrylic that is scratch resistant, anti-reflective, abrasion resistant, reduces glare, and has anti-static properties to eliminate dust. It is sold at a considerably higher cost.
Fine art boards (usually called archival board) are long-lasting.
A board should be iron-free, at least 50 pt. thick, and either composed of 100% cellulose from wood or 100% rag fiber from cotton. In ideal storing and framing conditions, as well as being buggered to remain acid free, the work will last 75-100 years.
Canvas prints are traditional, yet have become modernized and remain as the most popular type of print today. The fibers allow both paint and printer ink to sink into the fibers stimulating a very close feel to an actual original painting. Acid-free & buffered canvases are the standard for fine art prints. It’s also important to be sure that the canvas is laminated with a post print polish which is applied to protect against UV rays and scratches. An elastic polymer coating helps to resist cracking, which is optimal for stretching and provides long-lasting quality.
-Damage is minimal if it is dropped or abused because it is light weight.
-Prices for canvas prints can be more affordable. Compared to acrylic facemount a canvas print is about 50% less expensive.
Types Of Canvas Materials To Choose From
Previously hemp was used to create canvases but now cotton is the more modern material of choice. The most common and affordable canvas choice is usually one called Cotton Duck Canvas.
-Lasts longer than polyester.
-Price is less than linen.
-Stretches easier than linen since fibers are longer and not as tightly woven.
-Rotting can occur if canvas is exposed to too much moisture over the period of many years.
-Slacking can occur in large works due to it’s ability to contract with moisture. This may require the work of art to be re-stretched which could potentially distort the image.
Linen canvas is in most cases considered superior to cotton canvas since it has the best quality fibers.
-Mold & mildew resistant.
-Textures range from very smooth to very rough depending on the desired effect.
-Colors are more vivid than cotton.
-Price is less expensive than cotton.
-Lasts less time than cotton.
Finishes For Canvas Prints To Choose From
Mounting Options For Canvas Prints To Choose From. Canvases that are wrapped don’t require framing which offers additional savings.
Gallery wraps are great for being displayed without a frame since all sides are wrapped around 1 ½” stretcher bars and the staples are in the back, remaining unseen from all sides.
Museum wraps are similiar to gallery wraps except for that the sides are all white, leaving the entire area of the image visible. All sides are wrapped around 1 ½” stretcher bars and the staples are placed in the back creating a flawless, unframed finish.
Standard wraps are ideal when the collector intends to frame the work of art. The stretcher bars are smaller, at 3/4″, and the staples are visibly placed along the sides.
Ordering your canvas print unstretched can save you on shipping and allow you to completely customize it’s final look with your local framer.
Dibond has a similar look to acrylic and can also be used for mounting (more information on main menu below).
-Framing isn’t required which offers additional savings.
-Price is about 25% less than acrylic prints.
-Price is very inexpensive.
-Scratch-resistance is higher than that of acrylic prints.
-Transparent in desired areas.
-Color vibrancy and accuracy is less.
-Confused with printing on acrylic.
-Light passes through the glass instead of refracting off of it.
-More suited for printing for signs and interiors than it is for fine art.
Metal prints are a very popular medium for printing art that allows the viewer to enjoy the image in HD quality. Metal prints are most commonly printed with a sublimation process (see printing menu below). There is also the option to adhere an image printed onto photographic paper to the metal and then seal it with a laminate, or, to mount it with a transparent top layer like acrylic (see acrylic face mounting above). Aluminum is the most common metal used for fine art printing.
-Framing isn’t required which offers additional savings
Metal direct prints have a very sleek, modern, glossy, and vibrant look. When printing a work of art over 40″ it is best to mount it onto a dibond backing.
-Color permeance can be up to 4x longer than archival paper.
-Glossier finish than metal with photographic paper prints.
-Chipping and flaking can occur if the manufacturer is not producing gallery quality prints, although this is very rare.
-Color accuracy is limited.
-Details that are extremely fine can be lost.
-Quality control is necessary to ensure that no slipping or overcooking occured to the print during the printing process.
Metal direct prints have two base color coatings you can choose from.
White metal is the more popular choice because color accuracy is more consistent and enhanced by HD.
Transparent Clear (Silver)
This base color allows the brushed aluminum backing to show through creating a unique, more vintage look with a modern finish.
Metal Direct Print Protective Polymer Outter Coating Finishes To Choose From
-Glare can exist depending on lighting.
-Glare is the least noticeable in the matte finish
-Contrast of colors isn’t as evident
Satin (Silk / Lustre)
-Close to same finish as matte but somewhere inbetween both glossy and matte.
Metal With Photographic Paper
Metal with Photographic Paper prints are multi-layered and have better color accuracy, permeance, and resolution than Direct Metal Prints. The process requires adhering an image printed onto photographic paper (see paper for photography below) to the metal and then sealing it with a laminate, or, mounting it with a transparent top layer like acrylic (see acrylic face mounting above).
-Appearance is very impressive & stands out next to other prints.
-Color permeance is better (less prone to fading over time).
-Color vibrancy is better.
-Scratch resistant if used with high quality laminates or TruLife acrylic facemount.
Recommended Aluminum Provider
Chromaluxe is a high quality substrate that when combined with high quality ink it is rated to last 50+ years.
Fine art prints should always be printed onto buffered, acid-free paper that has a neutral PH and no optical brighteners.
Paper for Paintings
Fine art paper prints should be made up of rag pulp with 100% cotton content. Along with cotton rag pulp, alpha cellulose and lignin-free are suitable for fine art prints, as well. There are lighter weight options available, however, paper with less than 330gsm is not recommended for museum and gallery quality, limited edition prints. Combining archival inks, with archival paper, and the right paper will create beautiful prints that last for decades.
-Deckle edges are a sign of high quality, hand-made paper.
The best watercolor paper is either handmade or mould-made, 100% cotton rag papers, like the ones that have been produced for centuries. The color accuracy isn’t superb, which causes the prints to look slightly different than the original work of art in comparison to a giclee on canvas. However, it is affordable and absorbent, and the most popular choice for printing fine art prints onto paper.
Paper for Photography
Photo papers are constructed on a plastic base and require a little chemistry to know which combinations of ink, paper, and printers will provide the best results.
Must be mounted or framed before hanging.
There is a hundreds of types of photo paper to choose from. The artist will select the photo paper they think is ideal for the particular work of art.
Here are some examples of popular, high-quality photographic paper.
-Diamondjet Photo Grade Luster
-Fujiflex Crystal Archive Silver Halide (see below)
-Hahnemuhle Photo Silk Baryta
-Lexjet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper
-Lumachrome (see below)
The Most Popular Photographic Papers For Fine Art Prints
One of the highest quality photographic papers in the world. See silver-halide printing process below to understand the reflective qualities that are accomplished through the developement of these images. The finished appearance is as though it is still wet with a visual depth due to the polyester-based surface.
Although fujiflex images can be displayed with an acrylic mount it is extremely difficult and can be very costly so traditional framing behind glass is suggested for lesser budgets.
This medium is used by world-renowned photographers such as Peter Lik.
- Fujiflex Crystal Archive Silver Halide
-Colors last up to 75 years
Lumachrome is a propietary printing paper and process that can only be combined with an acrylic facemount medium, generally TruLife acrylic. It is currently the highest quality, top of the line and best printing material available in the world today.
It’s advanced rendering creates a holographic, 3D effect that appears to be backlit and surpasses even Fujiflex paper prints of today.
-Ability to hold highlights as well as shadow luminosity is unsurpassed.
–Gamut is superior to other photography papers including Fujiflex.
-Lasts up to 120 years + UV protection from acrylic facemount.
-Since this is a proprietary printing technique there is currently only one company offering Lumachrome prints.
Photopaper Finishes To Choose From
Satin (Silk / Lustre)
Wood art prints are not as trendy and are offered by few printing companies. There are eco-friendly options, such as bamboo.
There are very few companies in the world producing bamboo prints and even fewer offering gallery quality bamboo prints. The image is printed onto photo paper, bonded to the bamboo and sealed. It has a soft look to it and the edges of the bamboo print can be hand sanded and stained to give it a beautiful finish.
-Durability is very high
Wood photo mount print. Image is first printed onto photo paper and then bonded so that the wood grains don’t show through as they would with a direct print.
-Price is budget-friendly.
The very extensive process of printing fine art requires an enormous amount of attention to detail and state of the arc equipment. Gallery quality images have professionals scrutinizing every detail along the way. Artists exert extreme care in order to emulate every little detail into a work of art. This is why it’s important that the printing process captures even the hairline details in each and every way. Most of the processes today require that the artwork is captured digitally to be able to remit the original accurately. The colors can change from the original image, to the scan, to the computer screen and then again in the final print. Some printers use a color calibrated monitor to ensure accuracy. Even with top of the line equipment, the professionals who are doing the printing must first have color management down to an art, as well.
The scan is equally important as other factors in the printing process. Capturing the image with a scanner instead of a photograph allows artists to print at a minimum of 4x larger than the image size and still maintain all the details, while elimimating the need to worry about lighting, glare and shake from using a camera. Some scanners can cost over $25,000 and it may take hundreds of trials before the scanning process is perfected.
With a drumroll scanner there are delicate procedures to follow to get the end result. The beautiful piece of film with the printed image on it is wet mounted to the drum that will rotate. Drumroll scanners are very large devices that can weigh up to 500 lbs., take up a large amount of space and require expertise to handle. Even the film chosen is expensive, ranging from $30-$120 per sheet. The film is placed into the scanner, rotated at a very high speed and then, the scanner captures a very tiny portion of the film each time it rotates. The technology takes a visual analog of the image and obtains a high level of light transfer while reducing any dust, scratches or imperfections. A 4×5″ image can turn into a 5 foot masterpiece with a 4,000+ dpi (dot per inch) potential that’s gives a sharp, HD final result. Aspects such as grain detail, color rendition, overall image tonality and shadow detail are much greater in a drumroll scanner when used to it’s fullest potential.
Flatbed scanners have a design similiar to the ones we are accustomed to seeing in our homes and offices. There are some that require the artist to scan their artwork in multiple sections and then meticulously stitch them together by using a computer program.
Photography is becoming one of the most popular scanning techniques. Professionals create a space and perfect the room lighting to accurately capture every detail of painting allowing it to be digitalized for high-quality printing. A high-quality camera with excellent resolution must be used to obtain the ideal 300 dpi (dots per inch) printing excellence standard.
It takes extensive knowledge and ability to reproduce prints that are truly sincere to the original. When the final image has been proofed and approved by the artist then they are ready for production. Even the ink chosen and the way it is sprayed is a study of it’s own. Ink is expected to also have UV resistance in addition to the medium of choice. It’s a spectacular process that requires so much more thought and craftsmanship than most collectors recognize. Please continue to embrace the information we here for you.
The process for chemical printing is similiar to that of a dark room. The process uses traditional chemicals in combination with UV or LED lights
-Chemicals can be toxic.
-Color accuracy and permeance has improved with the inkjet printing process.
C-Prints (Silvery Halide)
Also known as Chromogenic, Dye Coupler, Lambda, & Silver Halide.
A C-print image can be chemically processed or a digital printer can be used to project the image with LEDs or lasers onto pre-treated paper that contains light-sensitive silver crystals. Whichever method is used to project image onto paper is followed by a chemical process to then develop it.
-Great for black & white photography
-Larger images can be produced than with inkjet printers
-Light exposure for up to 60 years
-Color richness is greater with the high-end pigment printers of today
Silver gelatin is a revesal printing method where paper is submerged into various baths made up of safe, light-sensitive chemicals. The silver halide is different than with the c-print as it is suspended into gelatin and developed through a latent method.
Digital / Pigment Printing
Here are some archival pigment print processes.
Inks should be UV resistant, of the highest archival quality. The printer should consist of 8-12 different inks, instead of the typical 4 different inks.
-Improved drastically over past few decades and surprassed other processes such as the C-Print.
“Giclee” (pronounced zhee-klay and derived from the French word meaning to spray or squirt), is a word used to describe Jack Duganne’s advanced method of inkjet printing that began in the early 90’s and is still the preferred printing method of today.
UV inks are used in s specialized inkjet printers and generally intended for use on rigid surfaces such as glass, wood & metal. The printers used have moving beds that move the substrate under the print head that moves from left to right. Roll materials are not used on these printers.
Ink is infused directly onto thin, pre-treated sheets of aluminum by using a heating and cooling technique.
First the work of art is digitally scanned to create a giclee transferable paper print. This is taped to the pretreated metal and placed into a heat press. The sublimation inks are changed from a solid to a gas through the heat and the pressure created within the press. This opens the pores and allows the ink to be absorbed into the base metal. When it cools the pores close and the surface stabilizes and the image is permanently infused into the aluminum.
Traditional printing methods are unique as in they require the hand craftsmanship and manual handling usually of the artist themselves thus setting them apart from the digital reproduction methods of today.
Also known as wet plate collodion.
This process allowed the image to be soaked in a solution of silver nitrate and transferred onto glass or metal.
Cyanotypes used a reversal process and direct contact to develop the image. They are known for their blue hue.
Considered to be the first photographic process to be commonly used by the public, it created a one of a kind image that could not be reproduced. Since it used mercury vapor to expose the sheet of silver-plated copper onto the subject, it is method that has ceased to be used today. Direct metal prints on a transparent or silver background can create a similar look, with a modern finish.
Also known as Cibachrome.
Ilfochrome uses archival, stable dyes that offer longetivity and great color saturation by reproducing film transparencies onto photographic paper. At the time that this process was being offered to the general public, the duration under glass of 30 years was a great advantage.
A method developed in the 1820’s similar to daguerreotyping, however, the metal plate is etched so that additional prints can be made through a pressing process.
The complex process of lithograph printing offsets an image from a limestone plate, onto a metal sheet, and then onto paper using a combination of oil, fat and acid to complete the transfer.
Discovered in the 1800’s this photographic processing method allows monochromatic images to last for thousands of years.
Silk / Screenprinting
Process involves pressing ink through a stencil that’s quality can only be maintained through a limited amount of uses. It was made popular by famous artists such as Andy Warhol.
Risographs are similiar to screen printing however the stencil can be used multiple times making it ideal for mass production. The process requires burning the image into a thermal plate.
Artwork has a natural tendency to curve towards the glass if it is hinged to a matt without being glued to a backing. Mounting is an important aspect for your work of art.
Diasec is a mounting process developed in the late 1960’s that using liquid gel to adhere the image therefore eliminating flaws such as air bubbles. This bonding agent can be applied directly to the face of the image offering additional benefifts such as rich saturation and protecting the photo from harmful light rays and air penetration.
Dibond is a thin board sandwhiched between two aluminum plates and can be used as a mounting or backing agent as well as a medium to be directly printed onto.
A backmounting used with Lumachrome paper and the acrylic face-mount.
Styrene is used by drymounting a flat surface substrace and the image on photographic paper such as Fujiflex together for a gorgeous, flawless finish.
The entire image is on one panel.
The image can be split between multiple panels creating negative space between each one.
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