A Crash Course on Four Common Types of Art Print

So…

You say you’re in the market for some art prints.

First of all, awesome. After all, art prints have great upsides. They’re an inexpensive alternative to buying original art. They’re typically smaller than big canvas paintings. They can be put into stylish frames. They’re easier to handle, and even replace, than larger, hard-to-ship art.

Sounds great, right?

But there’s just one question.

How do you know what type of art print is right for you?

Now, when we talk about the ‘type’ of art print, we’re not looking at the art style. That’s a entirely different conversation. Maybe you like kittens, or watercolors, or abstract art, or…if you’re looking at my work, crazy dark surrealism. It’s all good. But what we’re talking about today is the material of which your future art print will be made of. Be it photograph paper, inkjet lustre prints, velvet giclees, canvas prints, or mounted canvas, there are more styles of print than most people realize.

Many, many more.

Which is a good thing. It’s always nice to have options, right?

Let’s get straight to it.

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The Different Types of Art Prints


Style 1 – Photographic Prints

Photographic style prints are your entry-level art print. If you buy from most artists, this is the basic style they will offer. Photo-style prints are inexpensive, durable, and provide a quality that most art-lovers find very much acceptable.

What’s the scoop?

This type of print typically uses dyed inks on digital photograph paper. If you’ve ever held an actual photograph in your hand (I say this only because so many photos these days are strictly digital) then you have a general idea for the quality of a photo print. The paper stock used is thicker than standard printer paper. It’s durable stuff, and the colors of most paintings (especially line art or art with plenty of strong, bold colors) will look good. It’s easy to frame, easy to ship, and not particularly pricey. What’s more, this style of print can be made to be glossy, semi-glossy, matte, or even metallic, depending on the artist’s (or buyer’s) tastes.

In short, it’s versatile stuff. And in today’s ever-growing art market, it’s what you’ll see a ton of.

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Style 2 – Fine Giclee Prints

Suppose you want to step up your art print game. You want better color saturation. Better paper. Something longer lasting.

And more than anything, you want an art print that picks up every detail of the original artist’s work.

Giclee prints might be for you.

In today’s world, there are many styles of giclee prints. There’s deep matte, a printing process which carves out any hint of shine, leaving only the deep, dark details. There’s somerset velvet, a smooth, luxurious-feeling print, capturing the subtle color notes in a detailed piece of art. If you see words like Lexjet, Lexjet matte, Somerset velvet, or 100% cotton, then you’re dealing with a high-quality giclee.

In short, giclees are gallery-quality prints printed using pigmented inks (instead of dyed inks) on archival (typically cotton) paper. If the original is unavailable, and a buyer, gallery, or even the original artist wants an excellent reproduction, giclees are most likely what they’ll go for. The paper is much higher quality than photo paper, which allows excellent color saturation and detail. When framed properly, a good giclee will resemble the original painting in almost every way (unless it was a highly-textured original.)

The only drawback? With giclees, buyers should expect to pay two to four times more than the price of a standard photographic print.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for.

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Style 3 – Canvas Prints

Still further up the art print ladder, we find canvas prints.

Similar to giclees, canvas prints typically are excellent, top-notch reproductions of art. Whether created by traditional artists after their originals have sold or by digital artists who desire a physical copy of their work, canvas prints are a superb method of displaying art.

Firstly, they’re flexible. Printed on the thickest, most durable materials, canvas prints are bendy, tough to damage, and easy to trim/manipulate for framing. Even more than giclees, they’re a long-lasting print style, and can be varnished with protective coatings to last many decades (or possibly even centuries…given that the technology used to create them is still relatively new.)

If you’re a collector who wants the best possible reproduction of a piece of art, canvas prints are likely for you.

The good news? While pricier than inkjet or photo prints, canvas prints are typically only 10-25% more expensive than giclees.

The challenge? Canvas prints come loose and in need of (usually high-quality) framing.

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Style 4 – Mounted Canvas Prints

Mounted canvas prints are quite simple, really.

They’re the same as canvas prints, same material, same color quality, same durability.

But they’re stretched and mounted on a wooden frame, and are 100% ready to hang.

For collectors who don’t want to pick out custom frames, and for art-lovers who like to hang art just as it looked in the original artist’s studio, mounted canvasses are a great option. Like standard canvas prints, they can be varnished. The wooden frames (typically 1/2″ to 2″ thick) offer stability, ease of hanging, and true-to-life colors which often match the original work.

Personally, I’ve hung multiple mounted canvasses of my own work (after the originals are gone) and I can’t really tell the difference between them and the original paintings.

They’re that good.

The good part? Original-looking art which typically costs far less than original paintings.

The only drawback? The cost of stretching and mounting the canvas is significant, meaning these are usually the most expensive print option.

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Of course, there are other print options out there. Custom paper styles. Custom finishes. But in general, 95% of what collectors will see in the market today will fall under these four art prints styles.

I hope, for all you art-lovers and artists out there, this article proved helpful. If you have questions or want to chat about print styles, reach out to me at any of my social media links right here.

And of course, I invite you to take a look at my own selection of art prints. Click the pic below and fall into my surreal world.

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Until next time…

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J Edward Neill

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