Choosing Printing Paper for Art
When selecting the right paper for your digital artwork, consider its thickness, brightness, material, and size. Your choice of paper can drastically impact the feel of your art print. Bright paper can make a colorful image stand out, while the same paper can make a muted image look washed out.
How to Choose Art Paper
When choosing art paper, most artists prefer off-white paper with a slight texture to simulate watercolor paper. It’s important to choose an archival paper stock, especially for fine art prints that are intended to last a long time. Archival paper is made from cotton rag, which is stronger, more durable, and holds ink better than paper made from wood pulp. It is also more expensive.
At the very least, you should choose a neutral, acid-free paper made from wood pulp with the lignum chemically removed. If a paper is not acid-free, it will turn yellow with age and may develop acid spots. However, these things are unimportant for printed ephemera like greeting cards or cheaper prints that have no real value, such as posters.
You can purchase archival and acid-free paper from major brands for printing at home. You can also ask your printer about the type of paper they can provide.
Printing Art on Canvas
If you want to print your art on canvas, there are some advantages:
- Canvas prints look great.
- Canvas prints are ready to hang.
- You don’t need to add framing, which saves costs.
- Canvas prints can be wiped clean.
However, remember that cheap canvas prints may not be fade-proof because they use dye-based inks that are not archival. It’s best not to display them in direct sunlight if you want them to last.
For better quality, use pigment inks to print on canvas. Additionally, ensure your canvas print is coated with a UV-blocking archival varnish.
When buying aluminum prints, don’t forget to ask the same questions.
Different Types of Art Prints
There are two types of digital prints available, dye-based inkjet prints and Giclee inkjet prints.
Dye-based inks are not guaranteed to last a lifetime and may fade over time, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. However, these inks are stable when used indoors and will be sufficient for most people’s needs.
Dye-based inkjet printers produce high-quality prints at an affordable price, with relatively inexpensive inks.
Giclee printers use pigment-based inks that are considered archival, meaning they last a lifetime. The manufacturers test these inks in lab environments and claim they can last for over 50 years, sometimes even double that.
However, pigment inks and high-quality paper can be expensive, resulting in a premium price for Giclee prints.
When purchasing a Giclee print directly from an artist, you’ll pay for the printing costs, the artist’s profit margin, and any postage fees.
Printing a file yourself is still a much cheaper option.
Choosing the right resolution and/or DPI
The appropriate resolution depends on what you’ll use the art for:
If your art is going to be shown online:
Facebook image post: 1200 x 630 pixels
Instagram photo sizes: 1080 x 1080 pixels (square), 1080 x 566 pixels (landscape), 1080 x 1350 pixels (portrait)
Twitter post image size: 1024 x 512 pixels
Twitter card image size: 1200 x 628 pixels
Pinterest Standard Pin size: 1000 x 1500 pixels
Artstation image size: either 1920 pixel width, or 3840 pixel width if your system can handle it
Deviant art recommended 1920 x 1080 pixels
For a personal Website recommended 1920 x1080 pixels
Desktop or Phone wallpapers: 1920×1080 pixels will suffice, or you can go up to 2560 x 1440 pixels if you want to be safe
If your art will be printed or put on merch:
A5 paper: 1748 x 2480 pixels
A4 paper: 2480 x 3508 pixels (standard paper size in Europe)
A3 paper: 3508 x 4960 pixels
8.5” x 11” paper: 2550×3300 pixels (standard paper size in USA)
11” x 14” paper: 3300×4200 pixels (typical size for art prints)
12” x 18” paper: 3600×5400 pixels (typical size for art prints)
18” x 24” paper: 5400×7200 pixels (typical size for art prints)
5” x 7” postcard: 1500×2100 pixels
24″ x 36″ poster/painting: 7200×10800 pixels
Where to Print Printable Wall Art
There are three options for printing your art prints: at a local print shop or office supply store, on an online platform, or at home. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, which you should consider carefully before deciding.
- Printing locally may be more expensive, but it allows you to evaluate the print quality before you buy it.
- Printing online can be cheaper, but there is a risk of receiving a lower-quality print.
- Printing at home can be cost-effective, but it may cause more trouble than it’s worth if you use the wrong type of home printer or make mistakes with printer settings.
Local Print Shop or Office Supply Store
If you want the best quality art prints, you should consider local printing services. However, remember that quality may vary depending on the print service you choose. This is because each print shop uses different printers, paper stocks, and has its own quality standards and work culture.
To ensure the best results, it’s important to research your local printers beforehand and only use reputable services. Also, don’t forget to keep backup files in case anything goes wrong.
Approaching a Local Printshop
These are the file types you need to bring on a USB or memory card:
- PDF and JPG
- Must have 300dpi resolution (dots per inch)
- Must be in CMYK color format
Typically, you will receive a JPG or PDF file type as a download. You are unlikely to receive a TIFF file online due to the large file size and longer loading time.
A TIFF file is the artist’s master copy, while a JPG is a compressed file that can be sent digitally without any problem. PDF files were designed as document files, but they can reproduce images to a very high quality. If possible, it is recommended to buy a PDF file, but if you are purchasing printable art, it is usually sold as a hi-res JPG image.
Questions to ask before handing over your USB stick:
- Can I get a proof copy? (It might be free or available at a low cost.)
- What type of printer do you use? (Is it dye-based inkjet or Giclee?)
- What paper options do you have? (Get a swatch and choose one.)
- What is the maximum size print I can have? (The printer will have a limit.)
- What is the cost? (Usually discounted for larger quantities.)
Do not expect your image to be perfect when printed. However, nowadays, the match to what you see on the screen is pretty good. Keep in mind that the original image you saw online may appear differently on different consumer screens. To ensure a closer match to the original, view your image on the printer’s screen as it is calibrated to color match the file accurately.
The print shop will be able to match the colors and tones of your image to create a print that is closest to the original. Make sure that the final printed copy matches your proof copy.
Bring a secure bag for your print, such as a plastic sleeve and a stiff card.
Before leaving the premises, it’s a good idea to check your prints to ensure they meet your expectations.
Here are the things you need to look for:
- Creases on the thumb buckle
- Streaks of ink
- Ink spots
- Roller marks visible on the print
- Scratches on the surface that are noticeable
Office Supply Store Printers
To get the best prices on printing, check various office supply stores for their deals and compare.
Can I Print Printables at Staples?
Yes, you can get your digital printables done at Staples. While they may not offer the high-end quality of a specialist printing house, it’s often a good enough option for most people who want quick and easy service from a store they trust.
Staples is a general printer and is great for minor printing jobs. You can even order prints online and pick them up in-store with just a few clicks.
If you’re looking for affordable prints for personal use, Staples is a great option. You can print fun pictures, kids’ pictures, coasters, puzzles, or gift wrap. Just make sure you purchase a license for commercial use from the artist.
Overall, Staples is a convenient and reliable choice for all your printing needs.
Here are some other options to consider:
- Office Depot is a great choice for printing. You can order online at Officedepot.com by 2 pm and get your prints the same day. If you need your print trimmed, just ask.
- Walgreens is also a good option for same-day pickups. They can print in large format. Keep an eye out for coupons and discounts.
- FedEx offers printing in various sizes for your Etsy printables. They even offer custom frames. I’m not sure if they offer same-day service, though.
Online Printing Services
Online printing services are a practical solution for obtaining high-quality art prints with minimal effort and expense. Consider the turnaround time, quality, and price when selecting an online printing service.
List of Online Print on Demand Services:
- Shutterfly (US)
- Printique (US)
- Mpix (US)
- Photobox (UK)
- Whitewall (US, UK)
- Snapfish (US, UK)
- PosterFactory (Australia)
Another option is to join Printful, which is known for its quality. They maintain standards by printing in-house with many centers around the world.
When choosing an online printing service, it’s important to consider the quality of their prints. Look for services that use state-of-the-art equipment and software to produce high-quality prints. While many services promise the best prints at the best prices, the only way to know for sure is to order something and see for yourself.
Price is also an important factor to consider. The cost of prints will depend on the size of the image and the type of paper required. Most printers offer comparable prices, so you can get an idea of what the average prices are.
Be cautious of prices that are significantly lower than the competition. It’s possible that the company is using cheap 3rd party inks and cheaper paper, which could result in lower-quality prints. Before ordering, thoroughly research the company. Their website should mention the type of printer they use, as well as the paper and ink brands.
Keep in mind that cheap canvas prints may be made with inferior materials.
When choosing an online printing service, it’s important to consider their turnaround time. While many services have a set time frame, some may be able to accommodate rush orders.
It’s also a good idea to request a sample of their work before placing your order. Keep in mind that not all services are equal. Take the company’s customer service into account. Do they have a help center? A reputable company will promptly respond to any questions or concerns you may have about their services and resolve any issues.
Printing Art Prints at Home
If you have an inkjet printer at home, make sure to use genuine inkjet paper for good image quality. Dye-based inkjet printers are suitable for printing art prints and produce images with a higher range of colors than Giclee pigment printers. However, laser printers are not recommended for printing art prints as they are not lightfast and are designed for speed and economy, not quality. Giclee pigment inkjet printers are considered the best option for printing fine art. A3+ home printers made by Canon and Epson produce equally stunning results. Keep in mind that these printers are quite expensive and printing at home is still more expensive than you might think due to the cost of pigment ink and quality paper. If you are a casual user, you can still print good prints as long as your expectations are realistic. The type of art sold as Printables tends to be of simple images, which most basic printers will reproduce well. However, cheaper printers may not accept thicker card stock and may have a limited set of inks, resulting in less vibrant colors and a limited tonal range for black and white prints. For simple artwork and designs, it won’t matter. It’s a cheap way to get prints made.