There was a long stretch of time when I never printed my own works. Sure, I could recognize a quality print from a lesser one, and I developed partnerships with certain companies that I trusted, but I was too intimidated to actually sit down and try my hand at printmaking.
It eventually got to the point, however, where my curiosity and my drive to more fully understand my artistic process drove me to accept the inevitable. I needed to learn how to print photos. Fast forward a few days, and I’m plugging in my brand new printer, loading it up with photo paper, and hitting print on some of my favorite images.
It was just as bad as I had thought. For some reason, the prints never matched what I saw on my screen. The colors were off, the shadow’s weren’t right, and the detail just wasn’t there. With a new motivation to learn more, I started asking questions, reading about the issue, and figuring out as much as I could. It took a lot of trial and error, and I’m grateful for all the help I received along the way.
I learned that the real trick involves calibrating the monitor to a known standard. From there, one can load a printer profile on the computer and tweak the image to obtain desired results.
Another thing I learned was that computer displays often show many more colors than printers can handle. At this point, it all made sense to me. I realized why we hire professionals who use top-of-the-line equipment when we want crystal clear details and price coloring.
This search ultimately led me to the options that I offer to my customers.
Fuji Crystal Photo Paper
Fuji Crystal Archive Maxima Paper is the gold standard of digital photographic paper. Made by one of the world’s leading brands, this material provides rich depth, vivid colors, and pure whites. Even though there are plenty of high-quality photo papers on the market, this is my go-to paper because of its high gloss and the incredible depth created by the polyester surface.
One important note to make is that we typically frame these photos in a traditional way or we face-mount them to acrylic glass. It’s crucial that we use a substrate to mount the print before framing, as the gorgeous high-gloss paper will show unpleasant ripples if mounted or taped without any substrate. That’s why I always mount this paper to 2mm styrene.
There was a long time when acrylic face-mounted versions of these prints were the top choice for luxury galleries and collectors. In fact, many galleries still use it to this very day. However, face-mounting Fuji Crystal is incredibly challenging because a tiny bit of dirt or dust on the polyester will ruin the entire print. Since this is such a costly error and because the material and operating costs are so high, the number of print shops that work in this medium is quite small.
Despite the fact that this is one of the highest price point photo papers available today, these prints still remain cheaper than a finished metal or acrylic face-mounted print. But, when we add in the costs involved in mounting and framing these prints, the costs can skyrocket and become comparable or even greater than the metallic or acrylic counterparts. This is one of the main reasons that I advocate for the latter options.
ChromaLuxe Sub-Dye Metal Prints
Metal Prints by ChromaLuxe is a bit of a newcomer in the world of photographic mediums. In this short time, though, they’ve earned quite a reputation for themselves, and justifiably so. Basically, the printers use a technique called sublimation to infuse dyes into specially coated sheets of aluminum. The image isn’t printed on top of the metal; it’s part of the metal itself.
Besides their fine detail and beautiful color spectrum, these prints offer unparalleled durability. They don’t fade over time, and they completely resist water and abrasion. This makes them perfect for public spaces like meeting rooms or shared offices. They are also very convenient due to their lightness and their ready-to-hang float mount. Plus, for collectors who want an even more refined look, we can produce them with an additional 2mm styrene backboard and black museum mount.
If you need a piece of art for a space that’s trafficked by the general public, then I fully recommend ChromaLuxe sub-dye metal prints. This medium protects your investment because of its high durability, and it’s lightweight nature makes it easy to move and reposition as necessary.
That said, ChromaLuxe does entail certain downsides. Foremost, the color can sometimes be a touch off. Though most colors are identical to the original file, there are some colors, such as certain shades of green, that don’t match up to the quality that we can achieve with other mediums. These problems are often exacerbated in smaller prints with many fine details.
The second issue to be aware of is that minor slipping of the transfer paper and “overcooking” of the print is possible during production. This results from the fact that the transfer paper is taped down to the ChromaLuxe panel and a heat press is used during manufacturing. This can especially be an issue with cheaper “quick print” photo labs that don’t pay as much attention to quality.
To address these issues, we go through great lengths to ensure quality control before sending out our ChromaLuxe pieces. We put in every effort to make sure your print will last for years to come.
For all these reasons, when customers or other artists ask me about my preferred medium, I give them the following answer.
Lumachrome TruLife Acrylic
There’s nothing better than a beautiful photograph printed in Lumachrome Acrylic. They are truly a sight to behold. These images are as close to lifelike as modern technology allows.
The process starts with creating a photographic print as a transparency. This image is then face mounted from behind to a sheet of TruLife acrylic glass. The result is incredible images that look and feel like 3D representations. Between the unparalleled level of detail and the minute accuracy of the colors, Lumachrome brings something special to the table that’s hard to put into words.
One unique feature of these prints is that when light hits them it becomes ‘trapped’ within the glass. Thus, when properly lit, they positively glow as if back-lit. This culminates in a subtle luminescence, almost reminiscent of a pearl, that makes these prints shine and guarantees their spot as the center of attention. Moreover, these prints also have a dynamic nature; as the light shifts around the room throughout the day, the shadows within the print change as well. This gives a Lumachrome print a truly lifelike quality.
The TruLife acrylic is also a revolutionary material in itself. It has anti-reflective properties that reduce glare and allow the finest details to shine through. Moreover, it filters harmful UV rays, resists scratches, and is completely anti-static. When we put all of this together, it’s not hard to see why Lumachrome TruLife Acrylics are the Rolls Royces of the fine art photography world.
Of course, master craftsmen pay extraordinary attention to producing these pieces. They make each one by hand before inspecting and polishing it, ensuring that every detail is exactly as it should be.
Finally, they back-mount the face-mounted acrylic to a sheet of DiBond, an aluminium composite with a polyethylene core, a material known for its exceptional durability and stability. The last touch is framing it with a handmade Italian ROMA recessed float mount, giving the art a museum quality finish and the collector the ability to hang it with ease.
If you’ve never seen a Lumachrome TruLife Acrylic for yourself, do yourself a favor. You won’t regret it. After all, there’s a reason that, by and large, a majority of my work is printed on this medium.
Though it can be a tough choice to figure out just what medium is the perfect one for you, the truth is that you really can’t go wrong with any of these options. I would never offer a product that I can’t stand behind 100%, and I’m sure that, no matter which one you ultimately decide to choose, you’ll love displaying your beautiful fine art photography.
In the meantime, however, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have or help you in any way that I can. Please feel free to reach out to me directly at any time and I’ll work with you to find the right print for you.