Part of the reason I chose to fulfill print orders through Fine Art America is their wide variety of print finishes. Of course, with so many options, choosing one can be difficult. Paper choice is especially important when printing digital black and whites, because usually a slight color shift is visible. (Toners like sepia eliminate that problem, however.) This guide will help you choose the best paper type for your needs.
To evaluate Fine Art America’s papers, I started by ordering their sample pack, which included these papers and canvases:
As you can see in the photo above, the samples use different images, which makes comparing the papers less precise. So, I evaluated the samples and chose several papers for my own test prints. With the exception of Somerset Velvet, I chose those papers based on a combination of how much I liked them, past experience with the paper, and how well I thought my work would reproduce on it. After comparing the prints myself, I took them to a party to get other people’s opinions. As an illustration of how different the same image can look on different papers, here are two of the test prints I received (watermarks are not on the actual prints):
As you can see, the glossy print has much more depth in the black and white tones, as well as a slight magenta hue. The Somerset Velvet print looks flatter, and the paper’s warm tone gives the print a yellowish tinge.
And now, here’s my evaluation of each paper, beginning with my test papers. I will refer to them as they’re named on the ordering tab where you choose your paper type.
Hands-down the favorite paper, both for me and the party-goers. In fact, my Picture Rag test print sold at the party. I think this is the only print I’ve ever ordered that literally took my breath away. This gorgeous, thick paper produces prints with a soft, luminous feel. It’s also the truest black and white print, with no noticeable color shift. I believe it would be an excellent choice for color images as well. As an acid-free paper on 100% cotton rag, it’s the best choice if you’re concerned about archivability.
ARCHIVAL MATTE PAPER
More tonal range than the Picture Rag, but less than Glossy Photo. Although it doesn’t have quite the same visual impact as either of those papers, it still produces a lovely print. Black and white prints show a slight magenta tint, though perhaps a tad less than the Glossy Photo. Party-goers liked it, and my test print on this paper also sold at the party. This is an acid-free paper, so it’s another good archival choice.
GLOSSY PHOTO PAPER
Maximum dramatic impact, with a fuller tonal range than Picture Rag, plus vivid colors. As you saw in the test print above, black and white photos show a slight magenta tint. Party-goers liked this paper, although the glossiness was a little distracting when comparing it to the other prints. Behind glass, the glossiness will be a lot less apparent. Fans of glossy prints should like this paper.
I didn’t like this paper in the sample pack and didn’t think it would reproduce my work well. However, I ordered a test print because so many people rave about it. After receiving the print, I liked it even less. No one at the party liked it, either. This paper might be nice for a reproduction of a painting, but for photographs it’s far too dull and flat. The background on my print looked kind of weird. Also, although I usually like a warm-toned paper, this one is too yellowish. Please don’t order my work on this paper. I think you would be highly disappointed.
LUSTER PHOTO PAPER
I didn’t order a test print of this because I’ve printed on luster papers many times. Luster is a good paper for portraits, but it’s not one of my top choices for a fine art print. The tonal range is a little washed out for black and whites, and it’s got that magenta color shift. Not bad, but not that exciting, either.
The sample of this paper is called Innova Cold Press Art. I liked the images on the sample all right, and the paper has a nice, thick feel. There also isn’t much color shift in the black and white photo. Like the Picture Rag, it’s also an acid-free, 100% cotton rag paper. However, it’s a highly textured paper with a pebbly sort of surface. Whenever I’ve printed my work on a paper as textured as this, I haven’t liked it. My feeling is that it would work best for watercolor reproductions, as the description implies.
GLOSSY FINISH CANVAS
I love photos printed on canvas. I prefer the Glossy Canvas to the Matte Canvas because it’s got more pop and less color shift in black and whites. Although I didn’t order a test print on either of the canvases, I’ve ordered them before from other places and they’ve always been beautiful. This canvas is an acid-free cotton/poly blend.
MATTE FINISH CANVAS
On the Matte Canvas, images look softer than on Glossy Canvas. As I mentioned above, there’s more magenta tone in the black and whites. Like the Glossy Canvas, it’s made of an acid-free cotton/poly blend. It’s also water-resistant, so it may be a better choice than Glossy Canvas if you plan to hang it in a humid environment.
NOT INCLUDED IN THE SAMPLE PACK:
Just after I received my sample pack, Fine Art America added Metallic Paper to the lineup. I’ve previously ordered my work on metallic papers (both Kodak and Fuji), so I feel confident recommending it. Plus, I’ve read good things about it in Fine Art America’s forum. It’s a very similar look to Cibachrome prints from film – a metallic shimmer that adds an interesting pop and depth. I especially like metallic paper for black and white images, although color prints look lovely on it, too. Previous customers of mine have really liked metallic paper.
SEMI-MATTE PHOTO PAPER
I don’t have a clear idea what Semi-Matte is, though I assume it’s somewhere between a matte and a glossy finish. But since that’s how I think of luster papers, I’m confused as to what the difference is. I haven’t been able to find out anything other than Fine Art America’s description of it. Other artists don’t seem to know anything about it, either, so it seems to be a paper no one is excited about.
With Metal Prints, images are printed directly onto aluminum. Fine Art America prints them with a white background, so white areas will still appear white. (Some labs let the metal show through white areas. That’s the only type I have experience with, so I don’t know how they compare.) Other artists on Fine Art America love the metal prints. They’re sturdy, lightweight, and water-resistant, making them an excellent choice for a humid location, like a bathroom. I’ve read that dark tones print a bit darker on the metal, so a predominantly light image may be the best choice for a Metal Print. Also, several people have said that the edges are sharp, so handle it carefully, hang it someplace where it won’t be bumped into, and make sure to hang it securely.
The Acrylic Prints I’ve seen in galleries have been stunning, and Fine Art America’s have earned raves from their artists. Due to the thickness of the acrylic, large prints will be heavy. For anything smaller than 16×20″, the mounting option with hanging wire should work. For 16×20″ or larger, the mounting posts will do a much better job securing the Acrylic Print to the wall. I love the look of mounting posts, anyway. It’s a sophisticated, contemporary vibe.
I hope this helps you decide on the best finish for your Fine Art America print. I’ll update this information when I’ve got any new knowledge. Please feel free to ask me any questions you have!
© 2014, Karen Joslin