Monday, June 11, 2012

Photo Prints or Fine Art Prints – What’s the Difference Between Our Papers and Processes?

There are several distinctions between the Fine Art papers we offer, and Lumira (digital photo prints). But it might be helpful to start with what they have in common.  Prints on both the Fine Art papers and the photo papers start out with a digital file which is then sent through a R.I.P. to a printing device. Both are archival, that is to say, will last at least 70 years without noticeable fading. The Fine Art papers (with the exception of our Presentation paper and Décor Textured paper) are more archival than the photo paper - they should last at least 100+ years before fading.

Digital photo prints are created using a digital photographic printer. Lumira is our trademarked name for the prints we produce using the ZBE Chromira 5X printer which uses LEDs to expose light sensitive paper. The exposed paper must go through wet processing (developer/bleach/fixer) for the image to show up. The technique is similar to the old darkroom process of using an enlarger to shine light through negative film onto light sensitive paper, except no negative is used and the paper is exposed from approximately one inch off the surface, which, in practical terms, means that there is no image distortion no matter how large a print is being made. Having said that, I have to clarify that the size of the digital file does have bearing on how successfully a large print can be made (and that’s the subject of a whole ‘nother article!).

No inks are used in making photographic prints; it is a chemical process using developer, bleach and fixer reacting with silver halide in the paper that creates the image after the paper has been exposed to light.  Digital photographic prints are printed in the RGB color space, which basically means red, green and blue lights are used to expose the paper.

Our Lumira digital photographic prints are produced on the top-rated Fuji Crystal Archive museum quality photo paper. These papers display superb colors, pure whites and have exceptional color image stability and sharpness. Our photo prints are rated at a minimum of 70 years before they show any signs of fading.  You have four surface choices, all of which have a smooth, slightly “shiny” appearance:

Matte has a less reflective, natural look, making it more suitable for nature photography and art reproduction.

Lustre has a semi gloss look with a slight pebble-like finish which minimizes reflections and hides fingerprints.

Gloss has a high sheen and vibrant appearance.
Pearl Gloss has pearl-like crystals that give the prints a specific luster, creating a distinctive pearl-like appearance. (Available through Fine Print Imaging full-service, not Express.)

The prints on our Fine Art papers (also called Fine Art Paper Giclées) are made using professional grade archival pigmented inks which are sprayed through tiny nozzles onto fiber papers made specifically for the process. It is the same basic technology as your home inkjet printer, just on a bigger, higher quality scale.  We use Epson printers, and, depending on which model, they have either 8 color cartridges or 9.  Inkjet printing is done in the CMYK color space - which is Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and blacK. Our 9 color printer uses Cyan, light Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Vivid light Magenta, Yellow, light blacK, light light blacK, photo blacK and matte blacK inks to produce even gradations and tonal values, exceptional D-Max (maximum density) as well as a wide color gamut.

At Fine Print Imaging and Express, we offer five fine art papers; three premium and two economical:

Somerset Velvet is a 100% acid free heavyweight cotton rag fine art paper with a textured radiant white velvety surface. It provides vivid color reproduction and rich black tones. Somerset has long been a favorite fine art paper choice for watercolor artists. Archival museum quality. Light fastness rating of 100 years.

Fine Art Smooth is an untextured 100% acid free cotton rag, natural white, heavyweight fine art paper. It yields brilliant colors and rich Black and White prints. Great for photographic reproductions, B&W images and artwork with a lot of detail. Archival, museum quality. Light fastness rating of 100+ years.

Hahnemule Bamboo is a natural white 100% acid free heavyweight fine art paper made from fibers from highly renewable bamboo. Its warm tone and matte smooth finish combines beautiful art prints with environmental sensitivity. This is our most eco-friendly paper. Archival, museum quality. Light fastness rating of 100+ years.

Epson Presentation has exceptional color clarity and a wide tonal range. This economical smooth matte paper is suitable for both color and black and white images. Presentation paper is a bit lighter in feel than our three premium fine art papers: Somerset, Fine Art Smooth and Hahnemuhle Bamboo. It also has a slightly shorter light fastness rating of 70 years.

Décor Textured is a bright white, water-resistant textured matte paper made from the highest quality acid free and lignin free alpha cellulose (wood fibers). Specifically developed as a high quality, low cost alternative to100% cotton rag fine art papers. Contains optical brighteners.

Which process to choose depends on a number of criteria, including personal taste, budget, size of print needed, type of image (black and white? super saturated color? portrait? landscape?) and intended use (personal, for sale, donation, etc.)

If you need help deciding which paper is right for your image, feel free to call customer service at Fine Print Imaging, 800.777.1141. We would be happy to give our recommendations and/or send you samples.