Choosing the Best Paper for Art Prints

Choosing the right paper for your art prints is essential to maximize your work's quality, texture, and longevity. Whether you're an artist planning to sell your prints, display them in galleries, or simply enjoy them at home, understanding the various paper options available is crucial. 

When I started creating art prints I had to deep-dive into fine art printing paper.   To  celebrate my new collection of floral art prints, I’ve decided to teach you everything I know about choosing the right paper. 

The Short Answer: Which Paper is Best for Art Prints?

The best paper for art prints often depends on the artwork's medium and the desired finish. Matte papers are ideal for fine art reproductions with a non-reflective finish, enhancing detailed works. Glossy papers, however, are preferred for vibrant photography prints due to their ability to make colours pop. Selecting a paper that matches your artistic style and print goals is key.

Understanding Paper Types

When selecting paper for art prints, the variety of options can be overwhelming. Broadly, art print papers fall into a few main categories based on their finish and texture: Matte, Glossy, Luster, Satin, and Fine Art. Matte papers are known for their non-reflective finish and excellent colour absorption, making them ideal for highly detailed artwork. 

With their shiny finish, glossy papers enhance the vibrancy of colours, suitable for photographs and prints with rich hues. Luster and Satin papers offer a middle ground with a semi-gloss finish, providing a slight sheen without the intense reflection of glossy papers. Lastly, Fine Art papers (including cotton, alpha-cellulose, and rag) provide a textured surface that adds depth to prints, perfect for reproductions of traditional artworks. 

Each type's weight, indicated in GSM (grams per square meter), further affects the print's feel and durability. Understanding these differences is the first step towards choosing a paper that will bring out the best in your artwork.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Paper

When selecting paper for art prints, consider the artwork’s medium and the desired final appearance. Digital artworks often excel on glossy or satin papers, which highlight their vibrant colours, while traditional media like watercolour or sketches may be better suited to matte or fine art papers that emphasize texture and depth. The choice of paper also depends on the printer's compatibility, especially in terms of ink absorption and paper thickness. Lastly, consider the paper's longevity and whether it is acid-free, which prevents yellowing over time and ensures that art prints maintain their quality and colour fidelity. Once you’ve created your print, consider framing it to further extend its longevity.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the things I’d recommend you consider when choosing paper for your prints.

Color Fidelity and Saturation

Choosing the right paper is crucial for colour reproduction in art prints. Glossy finishes tend to enhance colour depth and make images pop, while matte surfaces offer a more subtle color representation, ideal for artistic works where detail and texture are priorities.

Texture and Weight

The texture of the paper adds a tactile dimension to prints, from smooth to canvas-like surfaces, affecting the artwork's appearance. The paper's weight, indicated in GSM, impacts its durability and feel, with heavier papers often seen as more luxurious and sturdy.

Durability and Archival Quality

For art prints to stand the test of time, selecting acid-free and archival-quality paper is essential. These materials prevent yellowing and degradation, ensuring the artwork remains vibrant and intact for future generations.

Printer Compatibility and Print Quality

Matching the paper to your printer’s specifications is vital for optimal print quality. Inkjet and laser printers have different paper requirements, influencing the final print's appearance. Proper compatibility prevents smudging and ensures crisp, clear prints.

Popular Paper Choices for Art Prints

Among the various options, some papers stand out for art prints. For instance, heavyweight matte papers are prized for their ability to reproduce a wide range of tones, making them ideal for detailed illustrations and artwork. Glossy papers, on the other hand, are favoured for photography prints due to their ability to make colours pop and enhance sharpness. 

Brands like Red River Paper (my go-to paper company for my art prints and notecards)  have a variety of choices catering to different needs, including the textured feel of canvas papers and the rich, deep colours achievable on satin finishes. Papers like the 60 lb. River Linen and Canvas 230 introduce a tactile dimension with a canvas-like texture, enriching the visual experience of the print. 

On the higher end of the spectrum, fine art papers such as the Aurora White provide a luxurious, gallery-quality finish, with weights and textures that can make art prints feel like original works. Experimentation is key, as the choice of paper can dramatically affect the artwork's impact, with each type offering a different blend of colour rendition, texture, and weight.

Specialty Papers and Their Uses

Specialty papers like Canvas and Watercolor papers bring unique qualities to art prints, each suited to specific artistic intentions. Canvas paper offers a textured surface that mimics the feel of a painted canvas, adding a dimensional quality ideal for reproducing oil or acrylic paintings. 

This paper is perfect for artists seeking to replicate the experience of original canvas artworks in print form. Watercolour paper, with its heavy, absorbent quality, is designed to capture the nuances of watercolour art. Its texture and weight handle the ink in a way that mimics the flow and absorption of paint on traditional watercolour paper, making it a top choice for reproducing watercolour artwork. Both types of paper elevate the tactile and visual experience of the art prints you make, enhancing their aesthetic appeal and making them more closely resemble the original works.

Printing Tips for High-Quality Art Prints

Achieving high-quality art prints at home requires attention to detail and understanding of the printing process. Always select the highest resolution setting on your printer to ensure the finest detail and colour accuracy. Use printer profiles that match your paper type to optimize ink absorption and color rendition. Handling paper properly is also crucial; avoid touching the printable surface to prevent oils from your skin from affecting ink absorption. When conducting test prints, it is advisable to adjust colors and settings before the final print. Lastly, storing prints properly in acid-free sleeves can protect them from light and dust, preserving their quality over time.

Final Thoughts: Choosing the Best Paper for Art Prints

Selecting the right paper for art prints is a journey of discovery, blending technical considerations with personal aesthetic preferences. By understanding the nuances of different paper types and experimenting with various options, artists can find the perfect medium to bring their creative visions to life.