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How to Select The Right Medium (Paper or Canvas) for Your Fine Art Prints

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

In addition to ensuring the correct digital capture of paintings and to the printing technique, the choice of medium is an essential feature of a fine art printing process. From an artistic point of view, the right choice of medium should complement the print and create value for the modern art connoisseurs. From a technical perspective, the medium, in relationship with the printing ink and the environmental conditions, will determine the longevity and the durability of a fine art print.

The selection of medium is foremost an artist’s personal decision to help illustrate their vision. Thus, Fine Art Imaging (our studio) recommends and offers a set of tests made from your pictures, printed on different papers or canvases to help you determine the one that is most suitable to your artistic expression.

Note: If you are interested to find out more about the giclée printing technique and reproduction of artwork, check this previously published article.

fine art prints on rag paper 100%cotton

Support medium (either paper or canvas) is one of the main ingredients in giclée printing, contributing directly to the emotional artistic meaning and to the lifetime of the „fine art print”.

Elements to consider when it comes to the choice of an inkjet fine art medium:

A. Structure

B. Color (tone)

C. Weight

D. Texture

E. PH and print permanence

A. Structure:

Either paper or canvas, the fine art medium support generally has two layers:

  • the base material (substrate), made from natural fibre such as cotton, bamboo, wood cellulose or a combination of those

  • the coating applied on the base. Most of these fine layers of coating are microporous and ensure a quick dry. The microporous coating combines better with pigment-based inks versus the alternative dye-based inks.

B. Media color (tone):

  • natural tone (warm), means that no whitening agent was applied, so the medium keeps the unrefined look of the natural fibre

  • brighter (cool), resulting from the application of an OBA (optical brightness agent). This generates a higher contrast, but could also alter printed pigments in time.

If environmental sustainability is important to you, ask your printing studio about fine art papers which are free of chemical brightening additives. At Fine Art Imaging we have several choices of natural white papers, including the Hahnemuhle “Natural Line Collection – Bamboo, Hemp and Agave” and Japanese Awagami paper made of mulberry tree fibre.

Fine Art prints on Bamboo, Cotton, Hemp , Agave fine art papers by Hahnemuhle

C. Media weight and sizes:

Weight is generally described as gsm (grams per square meter), and for premium fine art paper it should be somewhere between 250 to 350gsm, and 300 to 450gsm for fine art canvas. Note: we recommend a minimum paper weight of 190-250gsm for the final product to qualify as fine art printing.

Fine art media comes in flat cut sheets (A4, A3, A2) or rolls, the most common widths being 17inch, 24inch, 36inch and 44inch.

D. Media texture / finish:

Fine art media comes in multiple textures and finishes and is one of the most visible features of fine art prints. As it has a direct influence of the “artistic mood” created by your printed digital image, the structure of the medium’s surface is dictated by the artist’s personal preference. Textured or smooth, matte or glossy, metallic or woody, natural look or enhanced white are just a few examples when it comes to the choice of texture. At Fine Art Imaging, you will be able to choose from a variety of archival-grade canvases (protective UV varnish is always applied, with glossy, satin and matte finishes), premium watercolor papers, as well as fine art specialty papers suitable for fine art photography.

E. PH and print permanence:

The fine art media is normally acid-free reflected by a ph value of 7 or higher. The presence of acid, along with other environmental factors will likely contribute to the degradation of the prints. Fine art prints should be kept indoors, away from direct sunlight and preferably glass-protected for more display longevity. In case of fine prints on canvas, archival UV protective varnish should be applied. The combination of archival media and archival inks will help preserve the color balance for tens of years. Please note that fine art media comes with an archival certification.

Create your giclee reproduction with us:

Whether you are already familiar with giclée fine art printing or new to the process, let Fine Art Imaging be your printmaking advisor from start to finish and help you get it right the first time. We invite you in our studio to discover our advanced print making workflow driven by 12-pigment wide format printers, custom built media profiles and best-in-class fine art media choices.

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