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Which Types of Ink and Papers Do I Use?

I’ve been meaning to create a “Materials List” for awhile now, to distribute at craft shows, because I’m often asked this question by customers and other artists.

I’m proud of the quality of my prints, and I’ve experimented with a wide variety of papers to find which were best suited to my work.

Epson UltraChrome Pigment Inks

When I first began selling reproduction prints, I invested in a professional-grade Epson printer that uses archival pigment inks. I use the genuine Epson brand UltraChrome K3 inks.
I purchase them online, because ~ alas ~ my local office supply retailers do not carry ink on their shelves for non-“consumer grade” printers. :(
It would be helpful if they did carry professional grade ink, as I always seem to run out of yellow ink, and a quick trip to the store would be ever-so convenient for people who burn the midnight oil to get work finished. (In my case, the oil is still burning at 3:00AM)

Pigment inks, unlike dye-based inks used in most home office printers, are permanent: fade resistant, water-resistant, and archival… the type of ink used to print reproductions found in museums and galleries.

Full Disclosure: I have accidentally spilled coffee on my prints, and although it did leave a faint colored stain on the paper, the ink itself did not smear.
I’ve also left prints lying in the rear deck of my car, in full sunlight … for *a-hem* six months or more… and the colors did not noticeably fade.
Of course, I wouldn’t recommend spilling drinks on your prints, or leaving them to bake in the sun. However, my carelessness can be perceived as an informal test, and my archival inks passed with flying colors!

Epson’s Cold Press and Ultra Premium Presentation Paper

Initially, I was using Epson’s Ultra Premium Presentation Paper (a 5-star rated matte photo paper) for all of my reproduction prints.

However, I learned that this particular style of paper was not truly archival… and while I was hunting other options, Epson sent me a sample of their Signature Worthy line of fine-art papers to test-drive.
I fell in love with their Hot and Cold Press papers, which are thick and textured like watercolor paper, and are made from archival 100% cotton rag.

So I made the switch, and now all of my 5″x7″, 8″x10″, 11″x14″, and various other sized prints are reproduced on Epson’s Cold Press. The texture of the paper, combined with the details of the print itself (in which you can see the canvas fibers from my original scanned piece), combine to make these prints nearly identical in look and feel to my acrylic paintings.

I still use Epson’s Ultra Premium Presentation Paper, which has the weight of cardstock, for my greeting cards, bookmarks, and assorted other printing needs. I prefer this paper to any cardstock on the market… and I’ve tried several brands, including Avery. There is a beautiful vibrancy to the colors which rivals the original artwork they were created from.

I recently purchased some “fine-art canvas prints” from an artist-recommended professional lab, to compare with my own prints… and I couldn’t tell the difference. Seeing how well my homemade prints measure up to the professionals’ has given me the confidence to say that my art reproduction prints will meet (and hopefully exceed) your expectations! :)


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Tara Fly

About Tara Fly

A Crazy Cat Lady ... who divides her time between painting portraits of cats dressed in period costumes, watching BBC mini-series, growing weeds and wildflowers, and baking pumpkin pies seasoned with cat hair. Would you like some fur-flavoured coffee?

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20 Comments

  •    Reply

    Hello Tara,

    Love cats and love your work! Just wanted to leave a few words thanking you for sharing the names of your printing materials. I fully agree with you about transparency in dealing with buyers. I’m self-taught and I’ve been struggling here on my own in the studio, to work through some of the exact things you discussed here in your Blog, so, I wish I had found you beforehand which might have saved some time. I definitely could have used a Mentor who has already been where I am going. But it felt good noting that, apparently, I am possibly on the right track. As an older artist I feel my time is limited – and despite all I have learned – have so much more to discover. As an example, I gave up on my Etsy shop and am going to pioneer my art on eBay, where I have already had an account since 2006. I recently developed my own website, http://www.minakourymartinart.com ( hoping you don’t mind sharing that for me :D ) it’s still being fine-tuned. Also I built several pages on Facebook. We will see where that all leads! It’s a lot to manage, and still find time to actually make Art, don’t you think?

    MKM

  •    Reply

    Thank you for such an informative article. Loved your art work..!!

    I just started painting, and was wondering how much patience all artists have reproducing their work. Thanks for the tips. It was really helpful

    Can you also write on how you pack and ship your work (framed and unframed – both)?

    •    Reply

      Hi Shanthi Sid,

      I ship my prints in cellophane sleeves, with mat backing boards for support, inside a rigid document/photo mailer.

      For unframed paintings, depending on which material I painted on (stretched canvas, paper, wood), I place the piece inside a cellophane bag (like those I use for prints), and sandwich them between thick cardboard and possibly a layer of bubble-wrap (for canvas especially)… inside a box.

      I have only mailed a few framed pieces with glass; I try to avoid shipping glass! So far I haven’t broken anything.
      I place a piece of cardboard (cut to fit) over the glass, secure it with tape, and then wrap it in a ton of bubble-wrap. Then I wrap the entire thing in brown paper, and use cardboard wedges to “float” the parcel inside the box… so it won’t touch the edges. I’ve seen packages get pretty banged up in transit, so I try to keep fragile items away from the edges of the box.

      Hope that answers your question! :)

  •    Reply

    Thanks for your great articles. I have been painting/sketching for years and am hoping to set up an Etsy shop soon. A couple of questions about printing. I have a great printer that can print large images. Will there be noticeable difference in the image if I enlarge from a small original to a larger print? Also, I have not been able to find 11 x 14 art paper for printing. Are artists using the larger 13 x 19 and then cutting it down? Just seems like a waste of expensive paper to do that. Also, are you able to replicate your colors exactly on the printer?
    Thank you in advance for any help you can offer. I so appreciate it.
    Colleen

    •    Reply

      Hi Colleen,

      Happy Easter! :)

      When enlarging images, there *might* be a noticeable difference, depending on the resolution of the file; you want it to be as high as possible. Your final image should be 300 dpi for printing, so if you scanned an 8″x10″ painting at 600 dpi, you could potentially increase the size 4x ~ by re-sizing to a 16″x20″ at 300 dpi ~ without losing any image detail.

      Of course, not every image SHOULD be blown up too large! I have small paintings that look pretty awful at huge sizes …because you can see all the tiny mistakes (that are no longer so tiny!) LOL A stray mark on a 5″x7″ might not even be visible, but enlarged to a 20″x28″, it becomes glaringly obvious. ;)

      With regards to paper sizes, I think you are correct… I have never seen any 11″x14″ fine art paper (at least in the brands that I purchase). I use 13″x19″ sheets. I do, however, agree that it can be wasteful to throw away the excess trimmed paper, so I also print ACEO (2.5″ x 3.5″) mini prints at the bottom of each sheet …and sell them, too. ;)

      You can also invest in rolls of paper, rather than sheets. I am considering using rolls myself in the near future, as I usually print several things at once. One can arrange the image files Tetris-style to fill as much blank space as possible.

      Your last question deals with color-management, and it can be tricky to get an accurate color-match. There are soooo many articles dealing with this topic, and people vary in their opinions of how it’s properly done. ;)
      For my part, I’ve calibrated my monitor, and I can get the colors pretty close, but each print still requires a bit of trial and error first. Sometimes my scanner turns purples into blues, and I need to adjust the color slightly and run a couple of small test prints.

      Best of luck!

      ~ Tara

    •    Reply

      For 11×14 paper, try Red River Paper for a source. I use their 11×17 mostly.
      Steve

      •    Reply

        Thanks for the tip, Steve! I have heard good things about Red River papers, and will probably try their Aurora Art paper soon.

        Which do you use? :)

        •    Reply

          I use their Aurora Natural for art prints and paper Canvas or Pecos Gloss for cards. For photos I like their baryta fiber and metallic paper. I have a pack of Palo Duro Softgloss Rag by Red River that I haven’t tried yet. It’s a 16.5 mil 310 gsm paper and looks nice. I discovered another place to get my favorite watercolor cold press rough textured natural. It’s by Innova Paper and I get it through Freedom Paper. It really makes my mom’s watercolors or oils hard to tell from the prints. Such fun!

  •    Reply
    Pegi Ione Webster February 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you for the tips, and I LOVE your work. (I’m taking too darn long to finish my site and open my Etsy store! Don’t have enough stock yet!)

    •    Reply

      Thank you, Pegi!

      Haha, I know that feeling! My website has been active since 2009, and I am *still* messing with it! Really, it never ends.
      I don’t think my Etsy store will ever be 100% stocked, either.

      We need shop assistants, right? I am supposed to be working on a painting today, but I am sitting here at the computer, adding magnets to my website…. and answering e-mails. ;)

  •    Reply

    Thank-you for your thoughts…
    very informative…
    I am looking to make a book of my drawings and am researching ..
    Small mixed media on cardboard,
    Again thanks,
    Tsutao

  •    Reply

    Hi Tara!

    I came across your blog when researching printing methods. Giclee seems to be a lil too over priced for me at the moment and even maybe a lil over hyped. Your prints look like excellent quality of amazing work and I wanted to know, what is the best way to ask my local printer to achieve the same results for me?

    I do not currently have the fund to buy my own epson printer ( although it is mos def in the books for my artistic furture) Should I give the paper/ink information you provided or is there a similar means of explaining the results I would like to achieve?

    Im looking to get my black and white scratchboard work made into 11×14 prints. I just want quality look and price. I would appreciate any feedback. :)

    •    Reply

      Hi Karla,

      Sorry for the late reply! Thank you for the compliments on my prints.

      They are, in fact, the same as “Giclée prints” ~ however I choose not to use that term when discussing mine. As you say, referring to reproductions as “Giclée prints” is a bit over-hyped and very vague. I’d rather tell people exactly what my prints are: archival quality, using K3 UltraChrome pigment inks and 100% cotton rag paper. :)

      If you want to reproduce your artwork using archival materials, ask your printer if they produce “Fine Art prints”. Most printing companies will mention using Somerset Velvet, Hahnemuhle rag, or some other brand of fancy paper, with pigment inks.

      Check out the price list for IPrintFromHome.com as an example. I’ve used this company before with results very similar to my own printer.

      Hope that helps!
      ~ Tara

  •    Reply

    I do black ball point ink art. Have always found it hard to get good copies. Do you suggest something I could try.

    •    Reply

      Hi Gary,

      Can you be a bit more specific about the issues you are having with making copies?
      I assume your artwork is done on white paper, and that you are scanning it?

      The only thing I can suggest (without knowing more information) is that you edit your scanned images in a program like Photoshop, paying close attention to the Levels and Contrast/Brightness.
      You want your paper to be a crisp bright white, which will make your black ink art pop. If your image is clear and bright, you should have no difficulties in reproducing it well.

      Hope that helps!

  •    Reply

    Thanks for the “Giclee” reply, Tara. I was not putting that word on my prints either…until recently….but also am adding more info as far the the printer, year printed, paper type, and mounting/matting materials used. I was reluctant to add the term at first but still testing the waters. Recently I have just done some fine art reproductions for someone else. Her daughter’s two watercolors that I printed out on canvas and RR Aurora fine art natural papers. Matted and mounted they do the originals justice and she will see them soon. I’m anxious for her reaction! So rewarding for me to do this for folks.
    I watched your African Cat video & loved it….I particularly noticed the lower necklace colors….same as the deadly coral snake (red & yella kill a fella). Thanks for being here.

    •    Reply

      I think providing the information about your printer and materials will help your customers feel confident in their purchase, because it shows that you take pride in your work. :)

      Just throwing around the term, “Giclee print”, does little to explain what you are selling to people unfamiliar with the word. And people who are familiar with it may still be skeptical, as just about any reproduction can be (and is) called a Giclee these days by artists trying to be fancy. LOL

      Transparency is best, in my opinion. ;)

  •    Reply

    Hi Tara,
    Do you consider your art prints to be Giclee prints? Considering your printer, paper and image quality. I don’t recall seeing that you mention giclee on your site.

    SL

    •    Reply

      Hi Steve,

      You are right, my prints are archival and can be considered “Giclee prints”. However, I prefer not to use that term. :)
      It tends to be overused by artists, to describe a wide range of print qualities, which can be confusing to customers who expect consistency.

      Rather than throw fancy French terms around, I choose to be transparent by naming the exact materials I’m using, so potential customers can research the quality for themselves. :)

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