Fine art printing is all about balancing artistic and technical details. The finished result is achieved by using museum-quality, archival mediums. Each one of these papers has a unique finish, contrast, texture and lifespan.
There are several qualities that make up a good fine art print as well as things to consider before you make your final decision.
Much of what makes up a good fine art digital printing paper depends on the specific image being printed and the artist’s personal preference. That said, there are some specific components needed to achieve a high-quality, long-lasting fine art print.
Artists should always consider the following factors.
The Material of the Paper
Usually, fine art print paper will have at least two layers. The base is what makes up the bulk of the paper, and the coating is applied on top. For the best results, the finished paper should be acid-free. It should also have a pH value of 7.0 or more in order to prevent discoloration and fading.
Common materials used to create fine art paper include:
- Alpha cellulose: Alpha cellulose is made from wood pulp. This high-grade pulp creates a strong, durable paper that is also inexpensive to manufacture and use.
- Cotton rag: Unsurprisingly, cotton rag paper is made from either cotton rags or cotton liners. A combination of these materials creates fine art paper with some texture.
- Resin coated: Resin coating can cover both laminate and inkjet photo papers. This material can deliver a wide range of finishes, from pearl to glossy.
Weight or Grams Per Square Meter (GSM)
The weight of a fine art print paper is another key component. The weight, which is measured in grams per square meter (GSM), can range from 60 to 400 GSM. For fine art printing, you want to choose a heavier weight. This paper will help support the print and deliver some rigidity, which is especially beneficial when you are displaying artwork.
Choosing a paper with a weight of around 200 to 300 GSM should provide enough support and keep your print from warping.
Surface finish is another component that influences how fine art paper looks and functions. While there are many different types of finishes to choose from, here are some of the most commonly used options:
- Matte: Matte papers are smooth and don’t have any kind of gloss or sheen. This finish helps to bring out texture and detail. It also helps to emphasize the colors and tones in an image, especially in black and white ones. Because of the natural-looking, shine-free surface, matte papers are perfect for displaying behind glass in either homes or museums.
- Glossy: Glossy papers have a resin coating on them, which creates a shiny finish. There isn’t much texture on the paper, which helps to deliver as much sheen and detail as possible. The gloss brings out contrast and color as well. As a result, glossy papers work well with a wide range of fine art images.
- Luster: Luster papers are often used by professional photographers because they offer a deep color saturation. They also resist fingerprints. The finish is essentially a mixture of matte and glossy, making it ideal for individuals who want the best of both.
- Metallic: Metallic papers give off a glossy, metallic finish. Because of the way this paper is made, it delivers sharp detail and gives images a 3D effect. This type of paper is perfect for black and white art.
Typically, you want the paper to be as white as possible if you want to achieve the highest contrast of colors. The amount of brightness in a fine art white paper is usually rated on a scale of 1 to 100. A rating in the mid-to-high 90s range means that the paper is able to reflect more light, causing it to appear extremely bright and creating vibrant prints.
The Best Fine Art Paper at Tribeca Printworks
At Tribeca Printworks, we have an array of expertly curated paper selections for you to choose from. Each paper is composed of either a cellulose or cotton base with a neutral pH, which ensures the finished print is both visually appealing and long-lasting.
Whether you prefer a high-gloss or a subtly textured finish, we have it all. Our team can help you narrow down your options and find the best paper for your image, needs and budget. Regardless of which paper you select, we can produce them in any custom size — from 4 inches by 6 inches to 64 inches by 120 inches.
Our fine art print paper options include:
Giclee Printing on Matte Paper
Matte finish means that the surface of the paper is without shine. Matte papers historically had gotten a bad rap for being “washed-out” and “lacking detail,” but that is not the case with today’s selection of fine art matte papers. These papers are specially coated to provide the deepest blacks and richest colors, without losing vibrancy or depth of your image. The surfaces are beautiful and can be reminiscent of “hand-crafted” papers. All of today’s fine art matte papers are well-suited for both artwork and photography alike. The finishes range from completely smooth to heavily textured. Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of the features and ideal uses of some of our favorite matte papers:
• Hahnemuhle German Etching: 310gsm. This is a beautiful, fiber-based matte paper with a natural white point and an organic texture similar to that of traditional watercolor and printmaking papers. The German Etching is perfect for fine art reproductions (i.e. oil paintings, illustrations, watercolors etc.), but can also do amazing things for your photography. It is especially suited for highly textural landscapes, wildlife photography, and images with subtle gradients.
• Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright: 310gsm. This 100% cotton paper has an optically brightened white point and an organic smooth finish. The Photo Rag Bright is a go-to recommendation for an elegant finish to fine-art portraiture and wedding photography. It is also incredibly well-suited for art reproduction if you prefer a paper with a smoother finish.
• Epson Hot Press Bright: 330gsm. A 100% cotton paper with a completely smooth finish with an optical bright white point. This is the smoothest heavyweight matte paper we’ve found. The bright white point demands crisp, high-contrast black and white as well as color photography. Great for art reproductions originally on smooth art paper and digital illustrations that you’d like to keep crisp and clean.
• Epson Cold Press Bright: 340gsm. A 100% cotton paper with a patterned, toothy texture similar to that of a traditional cold press watercolor paper. We find that the Cold Press is best suited to artwork reproduction, particularly digital illustration. The flat fields of color in any image will adopt the texture of the paper, turning it into a dimensional work of art. The optical bright white point allows for incredibly deep blacks and vibrant colors.
• Epson Enhanced Matte: 192gsm. If you are looking for a simple, smooth matte paper and a lower price-point, then the Enhanced Matte is a great solution. It is also the thinnest of the matte papers and is great if you’re looking for something a little more lightweight. Perfect for portfolio prints on a budget and just about everything else. This paper has a bright white point like many of it’s matte counterparts, allowing for balanced contrast and vibrant colors.
Glossy Paper Giclee Printing
Looking for a more traditional photo-finish to your images? Then glossy is the way to go. Glossy implies that the surface of the paper has an inherent shine ranging from a semi-gloss to a high-gloss finish. The gloss finishes lend themselves particularly well to all photography, but we generally do not recommend reproducing painting and illustration on these papers unless you are really looking to experiment! Here are some of our favorite giclee papers that feature a glossy finish:
• Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl: 285gsm. A fiber-based, semi-gloss exhibition fiber with a pearl finish. This is most similar to a traditional darkroom photo paper and has a slight relief texture adding dimension to any image. Give your fashion and documentary photography the touch of realism it deserves with this high-end photo paper.
• Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta: 315gsm. This is a 100% cotton photo paper with a smooth surface and semi-gloss finish. Bring serene landscapes and vintage photography to life with this darkroom emulation.
• Epson Metallic Glossy: 257gsm. Grays turn silver and yellows turn gold on this high-gloss, smooth photo paper. It is not a reflective quality, but rather a pearlescent finish that allows the metallic tones to come to life. Perfect for inherently metallic imagery or anything you wish to add a pop of luminescence to.
• Epson Premium Luster: 240gsm. Luster implies a semi-gloss finish. This economical option is comparable in weight and feel to that of traditional “snapshot” photo prints. Great for all everyday photography
• Epson Premium Glossy: 252gsm. It doesn’t get any glossier than this. This premium photo paper is unencumbered by any texture, leaving a completely smooth surface for high-gloss, high-definition photography.
Ready to Get Started With Our Fine Art Printing Services?
Our team of fellow artists and art enthusiasts has over 40 years of combined art and digital printing experience. We understand the techniques and materials needed to achieve quality art prints, and we can help you bring your vision to life. With our one-stop shop experience, we’ll collaborate with you from start to finish, ensuring you thoroughly understand all of your paper options before you make a final decision.
For your convenience, we offer our fine art printing services online and in person. Online, simply upload your image then select your desired size and style. If you’d prefer to see our fine art print papers for yourself, you are welcome to come to our full-service NYC studio. With both options, you can always expect competitive pricing and fast turnaround.
Once your print is complete, we also offer various ways for you to receive it. Choose from our delivery options or stop by our Soho studio to pick up your finished print.
To receive a free consultation and quote, be sure to reach out to our team today.