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What is FineArtPrinting?

There is currently no uniform definition for the term FineArtPrinting. In the broadest sense, it includes the approach and attempt to exhaust all possibilities of image optimization when printing an image. It is about the adept reproduction of dynamics, contrast, colours/grey tones as well as image depth, the choice of the right type of paper and the emphasis on the durability of the printouts. The imagery should become a real work of art in and of itself by means of FineArtPrinting and thus stand out from the mass of »average« reproductions. Not infrequently, FineArtPrints are deliberately limited by their creators or offered as unique copies. The work’s original is practically always used for production, as this is the only way to achieve the best desired quality.

In addition to discerning photographers, many artists and painters also rely on the principle of FineArtPrinting to sell their original paintings. These are usually created as acrylic paintings, oil paintings, drawings or watercolours, are limited and high quality reproductions, and then archived in their artist portfolio or used as a reference.

But can every well-made and professionally printed or reproduced photo be called a FineArtPrint? Since quality is often a matter of taste, one could probably leave this question unanswered. However, experience shows that, even on an extremely good private printer, it is almost impossible – or requires a lot of patience – to print a picture in a way that comes even close to meeting the requirements of a FineArtPrint.

The minimum requirements are of course maximum colour management know-how, the availability of a correspondingly first-class printer, the selection of the right type of paper, worthwhile picture motifs that are subjected to individual, millimetre-precise image processing, and of course time, patience and the goal of achieving a »work of art“. At the Göttinger Verlag der Kunst, originals are often both elaborately photographed and conventionally scanned in order to subsequently conduct a detailed analyse of the outcomes. Finally, the finished print is checked by the artist themself, signed and numbered when necessary – otherwise it is destroyed (even if there are the slightest deviations).

Suitable paper

FineArt paper is, in the broadest sense, art paper whose coating has a rather matt and porous surface as compared to normal photo paper. This layer, which in principle consists of silica and binder, usually has a very coarse structure. Good paper should always be based on natural materials, such as cotton or acid-free alpha cellulose.

In contrast to normal photo paper, FineArt paper lacks the usual barrier layer between the paper substrate and the ink absorption layer. Apart from this omitted coating, there are a number of other differences.

  1.   FineArt paper is considered very durable. To meet this requirement, the paper must be acid- and lignin free.
  2.   FineArt paper does not usually use optical brighteners, as these decay relatively quickly and thus diminish durability. If brighteners are used, then usually only a maximum of 1 %.

FineArt paper should feel like high-quality artist paper. There are different choices for the surface, but FineArt paper is usually rougher than normal photo paper. With FineArtPrinting, grammages of over 300  g/m² are not uncommon, but even this can cause problems for some printers. Depending on the manufacturer, there can also be papers of up to 1000  g/m², but practically no printer can process them.

There is a wide range of surfaces in terms of FineArt paper that by far exceeds those of normal photo paper. In addition to the common parameters such as matt, semi-matt and glossy, there are a number of variants, starting from watercolour-like up to canvas-like papers, whose description can vary depending on the producer.