Printers, Paper and Ink: Professional Tips for Fine Art Photographers

It doesn’t matter whether you’re printing for industrial or fine art purposes, it’s important that you find a professional printing service that will last and provide you with a premium print quality. There are a number of different ways you can ensure that your print durability is maximized, and here are a few of these:

Make the Right Choice

The quality of your prints is going to be dependent on the paper and ink combination. Having an excellent fine art paper may not be enough if your printer isn’t capable of delivering good results. So, it’s important that you always make the best investments here, avoiding the cheaper brands that won’t provide you with quality.

It’s advisable to choose acid-free paper that’s of a high quality because these are normally more stable with colors and are therefore perfect for fine art and archiving applications.

It is also vital that you set your printer up correctly so the colors are reproduced as close to the original as possible. This is where a knowledge of ICC Profiles will help you calibrate your color settings.

Avoiding Exposure to Ozone

A change in the dye chemistry is one of the most common causes for print colors changing and this is down to oxidation as a result of ozone exposure. Devices that have large amounts of ozone are air conditioning units and refrigerators that have built-in fans. With that in mind, you should avoid placing your inkjet prints near to these devices, especially if they are unprotected.

Fine Art Photographers

Allowing Prints to Dry

It’s important to let outgassing occur in your prints, and in order to do this, you’ll need to let your prints dry for a minute or two before placing a plain paper sheet over them. Leave them like this for 24 hours before putting them into an album or framing them.

It should not be underestimated just how essential outgassing is to the integrity of the production process and the general rule of thumb to try and work to, is the longer you can allow for proper outgassing to occur effectively, the better the results are likely to be.

The proper that many photographers are contending with these days is that customers often want a fast turnaround and will more likely expect you to find a viable solution to the drying process, rather than expecting them to wait any length of time for their prints.

Implications of a fast turnaround

There are implications attached to trying to take shortcuts with the drying process and not allowing sufficient time for proper outgassing of a print.

Inks need to gas sufficiently. What this means is that once your image has been printed, the carrier elements contained within the ink will need enough time to be able to depart from the surface of the material. If this isn’t allowed to happen due to time constraints on the order, you could end up with further problems.

One of the issues attached to insufficient gassing time is that when there is heavy ink coverage using solvent, inks often require between 24 and 36 hours to allow the ink to completely out-gas, any lesser time could result in any remaining gas becoming trapped under the laminate that is then applied.

You are then running the potential risk of the laminate failing over at some point over a period of time, but perhaps more of a concern, is the fact that especially in the case of water-based inks, an insufficient gassing period could result in color changes as the ink fully dries.

It has to be said that by not allowing sufficient gassing time, you run the risk of causing issues to the quality of the print in some way, although these scenarios should be considered risk factors to consider, rather than being a hard and fast rule as to what will happen if you don’t have the luxury of allowing sufficient time.

If you can allow at least 24 hours between print and laminating, you stand a much greater chance of ensuring that there are no issues with the quality and accuracy of the original color when printed. This is especially important if you are framing your prints behind glass.

Covering Your Prints

Lamination or framing behind glass are the best ways to cover your prints. This will protect them from pollutants in the air, and should help to enhance how durable they are (unless you place them next to a fridge door, for example, which may reduce this).

Fine Art Photographers

Handing Your Prints

When handling fine art paper or canvases, white cotton gloves are the best because they’ll prevent any oil from your hands being transferred onto these. Fingerprints will appear on your prints if you touch the coated surfaces, so avoid this at all times.

Packing and Shipping Your Prints

24 hours should be allowed for your coatings to cure, so you shouldn’t pack your prints until after this. When packing them, you should use plastic bags or sleeves that have been made with polypropylene – these are difficult to tear, strong and flexible. If you’re shipping a gallery wrap, avoid damage by placing cardboard corner protectors on your prints.

Unpacking Prints

In order to prevent any damage from occurring during the unpacking process, it’s important that you have advised your customers of the best way of doing this before they receive your print. As it’s likely that your print will have been subject to various conditions whilst being shipped, this can increase the chance of the plastic wrap sticking to the varnish or paint that has been used. This can result in some of this being taken off the print if it is unwrapped straight away. So, advise your customer to wait 24 hours before opening in order to let the print adjust to its new conditions.

Choosing the right substrate for your photo art projects will help to bring out your inner vision and help you reach your audience more effectively.

Alicia Kessler discovered her passion for photography when she was in high school. She sells prints in shops in nearby towns and enjoys contributing to photo and creative arts blogs discussing photography.

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