Digital Printing

What paper (or canvas) to use?

A recent question from a client:

"I’m a landscape photographer (not professional) interested in making large prints of my personal collection. They would be mainly for framing in homes. What would be the best medium to print large framed photographs? Can photos only be printed to paper, or do they look good on another medium with giclee. I would love to order some large prints of my photos."

My answer:

"I do a lot of fine art printing for landscape photographers. Most prefer "photo papers" for their work; that is, papers with either a satin or gloss finish. These papers show the widest range of tones and colors and hold detail very well. These prints are typically matted and framed under glass, but can also be laminated to rigid board (ie "plaque mounting") for a different look, usually without glass. My favorite photo papers are Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk (satin) and Harman FB AL (gloss).

I’ve also made a lot of fine art nature prints on canvas. On canvas, the colors don’t pop quite as much, and the blacks aren’t quite as deep as with photo papers. However, for certain images canvas really looks great. Most often I’m finding that people don’t frame the stretched canvases. although that’s what I prefer; we just wrap the image around the outside of the canvas stretcher bars (called a "gallery wrap"). My canvas giclee prints are coated with archival veneer. My favorite canvas is Breathing Color Chromata White.

The third general option is art papers, often called rag papers for their cotton content. Again, for some images, this is ideal. The art papers provide a more "painterly" look to the photos. Detail is well preserved, however, like canvas, the dynamic range of the print is less than with photo papers. My favorite art paper is Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.

Canvas and rag papers typically have about the same color range, or gamut, that they can reproduce. When viewed alone, this difference is not evident – it’s only when the same image is printed on photo paper vs. art paper or canvas that the difference becomes obvious.

Most often, when a client submits images I make recommendations as to what paper or canvas I think would work best. Certain images definitely work better with certain kinds of substrates. It’s important that the substrate wok with the image, not compete with it.

For example, images with large areas of solid color or smooth gradations usually work best on a satin or gloss paper, because the texture of canvas becomes distracting in the solid areas. On the other hand, photos with lots of fine detail, such as leaves, grass, moss etc. can look really great on canvas because the canvas texture enhances the detail of the image.

In some cases, say, where the image has a very wide range of saturated colors and detail in deep black shadows, we must use a photo paper to preserve the entire range of colors."

More info on papers is available on my printing site .

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