A lot of my customers have asked about the details and differences between all of the papers that are available, all the finishes and the various options that are available for each when they are setting up an order!? I can completely understand their issue with the subject, as it took me years to figure out everything and what they are good for and when you would want certain options and when you would want to forego them.
For the most part, my customers are not inundated with the huge number of options available to me by my printer as I don’t offer them normally to most of my clients. There really isn’t a reason to offer Cold Pressed Rag Off White Cotton Paper for a 5x7 print of a head shot being used for a family scrap album. I usually offer the Fuji and Kodak Glossy and Matte papers as well as the Kodak Metallic for some special prints that can really use it to bring out detail in the image.
Those selections will allow 95% of my clients to print anything from a wallet to a 30x40 image that can be framed or put in a scrap book or whatever else they would like to do with it. For the artistic prints, business prints, posters, or fine art prints there are a few others options that I like to use. In this post I wanted to go over the normal papers, prints and features as well as some of the more artistic versions. We won’t cover them all as there are a ton of different options available, and this post is probably going to be long enough as it is!
Standard Photographic Papers / Options
The first set of papers and options I would like to discuss are the standard papers and how they are used, look and some of the options available with them. Kodak and Fuji make the standard papers that photographs are printed on, at least the photographs that most people are used to seeing and buying. Whether you buy them at Walmart, the Drug Store or a professional print lab, the papers are usually made by Kodak or Fuji now. The lab that I use to print photographs (and most of my art prints as well!) works with three types of Kodak paper and two types of Fuji Paper. These papers are photographic papers, they are printed the same way as they were back when everyone used film, not using an Ink Jet printer like you would at home. For the most part these are the cheapest options to print as they don’t require ink to get the image on the paper, and the chemicals used to “develop” the photos are used for large batches of images at a time before needing to be replaced.
The standard prints come in the most sizes from wallets to 30x120 prints. That is just over 2 and a half feet tall and 10 feet wide! Though I haven’t printed that large for any project yet, I have done a few 30x40 inch prints that have come out amazing on the Fuji papers. The Kodak’s are the go to papers, but the Fuji gloss and satin are beautiful in their own right, but cost about 25% more! The cost to print a photo on the Kodak papers ranges from about 2 cent per square inch to just over 7 cents per square inch depending on the size of the paper. A 4x6 print is 24 square inches at about 2 cents per square inch so runs about $0.50 to print a final image. The fuji paper would cost about $0.65 to print a 4x6 inch print.
Printing on the standard papers allows for the customer to select a lot of other options like a spray coating that will help to protect the image and give it a different type of surface look such as glossy or satin just like the papers themselves but will allow a satin finish on a kodak glossy print while protecting the image a little better from fingerprints and what not. The customer may also choose a texture from a canvas, linen or even a pebble look. These are actually presses that make the paper have a texture feel to it, making it look like it was printed on linen or a canvas surface. Some types of images (wedding portraits or graduation portraits) look amazing with a texture like linen! You can also mount images in just about any way imaginable. The prints can be mounted on foam core, like you would buy at a art shop for school supplies, or a stronger wood type Masonite board. The photos can be transferred to canvas and mounted on a board, or stretcher frame. There are a lot of different options for these types of photographic prints!
Fine Art Prints / Giclee
Fine Art Prints are a little different from photographic prints. The types of paper and the fact that they are printed on extremely high quality ink jet printers are the main two things that differentiate the two types of prints. The papers that Fine Art Prints are printed on are more like watercolor paper that you would buy at a high end art supply store. Some of the papers are made out of bamboo fibers, some are cotton, some are very bright white, others are warmer or cooler. Some of the papers are pressed together using a cold press some use a hot press. Depending on how the paper is put together it can have a shiny or even glossy finish, while others come out looking like satin, or velvet. These papers also contain no acid (most of the time) and will not yellow as fast as the photographic papers. The ink that is used to print the images on the paper are pigment based, instead of dye based which will stay color fast for much longer.
With the amount of work that goes into creating the papers and the amount of ink required to print a single image, Fine Art Prints cost a LOT more than regular photographic prints. As there is a lot more waste for 8x10 prints compared to the 30x40 prints talked about before, the 8x10’s cost more per square inch than the larger prints. These come in upwards of $0.40 per square inch for 8x10 prints and as low as $0.15 per square inch for 30x40 inch prints. The price is well worth it based on the museum quality of the final product and the distinct look and feel of the print.
Canvas Prints are another type of Fine Art Print. Instead of being printed on various types of fine art papers, it is printed on a specially coated fine art canvas and usually stretched over a wooden frame and stapled in place. Since the wood and the process of stretching and stapling are addition, not to mention that the print has to be larger to fit around the frame, the price of a Canvas Print is much higher ranging from $0.30 to $0.75 per square inch.
The canvas can be mounted in a frame or can be left on it’s own (wrapped on a wooden frame). Either way you can hang them on the wall and they are absolutely beautiful! Again, the prints are made with archival inks on fine art canvas and will last a long time, though probably not as long as fine art prints mounted behind UV protective glass! I love printing this way and having the canvas mounted in a wedge frame. They are gorgeous hanging on the wall!
Metal / Acrylic Prints
The last type of prints I am going to cover quickly are the metal and acrylic prints. These are very specialized and look amazing in their own right! The metal prints are special dyes that are infused to prepared bushed aluminum surfaces. Where ever there is white in the image is usually left clear to show the metal through and it looks awesome shining through the bright colors of your photograph! Acrylic prints are usually done on a white paper, or even on metal then covered with a quarter inch or eight inch piece of acrylic and mounted using four posts on the edges of the print. These look amazing on the wall as well! I have not printed any of mine on Acrylic, but I have seen a few examples around other locations! One last way to print on Acrylic is with the photograph printed on white paper and mounted to a one inch acrylic block. These are usually meant to stay on your desk as a show piece.
As you can see there are a lot of different options in printing, finishing and mounting your photographs! As a photographer who really cares about how your images are seen and shown off, these are all things that have to be thought about when taking a photograph and post processing it for the best possible presentation in the format the customer is looking for. Sometimes that is in a photo album, other times it is large on canvas over the fireplace, or even as you just saw, on Acrylic sitting on their desk at work! Each type has it’s own use, and should be thought about before the customer even gets to the studio to do their shoot! Although, sometimes the customer sees how amazing they really do look in a photograph and changes their mind at the last minute to a Fine Art Print to be mounted in a lovely wooden frame with UV protective glass over it and hung on the wall to show off as their signature piece in their home!