Everything You Need to Know About Art Prints
Wall Art Guide: How to Select, Frame and Look After Your Wall Prints So They Last
How to Select and Buy
There are many types of artwork, from reproductions and iterations of original pieces to high-quality original artwork. These tips will help you create the biggest impact, no matter your personal taste.
Match the Artwork Size to Your Space
The size and shape of your wall will influence how big your print will need to be. Do you have a wide space or entryway? As a rule, your piece should take up two-thirds to three-quarters of the wall. Or, if you’re hanging artwork over furniture, your print should be three quarters of the width of your furniture, or it will feel too small for the space.
Match the Art Work to Your Decor
Have you ever chosen a piece of clothing to accentuate the tone of your skin or bring out the colour of your eyes? Well, it’s the same process for selecting the perfect print for your space. For example, if your walls or your décor feature beautiful blues, you could choose a piece like Ningaloo, with its navy background and cool cobalt accents to highlight the tones in the room and make them pop.
Align the Orientation to Your Wall
Sometimes you can make a big impact in a room that only has a small wall space available. The space between windows or doors might be tall and thin, so select a print with the same orientation to match, or hang a series of smaller, square framed work above one another to give this illusion. My work has been designed to suit both portrait or landscape orientations to give you flexibility when choosing the right artwork for your space.
Select the Style That’s Meaningful To You
When you’re selecting a piece for your home, office, café or business, consider what the piece means to you, and to your potential customers. What will the print mean to those who’ve never seen it before? What kind of impact do you want to make? You may wish to support an Australian business by purchasing a print that’s Australian designed and made. You might like something vivid and colourful from Pop artist and designer, Malika Favre. Or you might find the code artwork of generative artist, Zach Lieberman fascinating. One of my prints R8 is not dissimilar at times to coded, generative art like Casey Reas and Ben Fry’s Processing art (Creators of Processing). Find your style by researching artists that align with who you are and what you want to say. Each will have their own signature style, series and favoured printing method.
Know Your Methods
Printmaking has a long history and while modern technology has brought new innovations to the way we create our work, many of the more traditional methods are still being used today. Each style is suited for different purposes and will achieve different results, so as collectors, it’s important you understand how each type of print will affect the quality and longevity of your wall hangings.
These are a few of the common printing methods you’ll find:
• Offset and standard lithography
• Screen printing
• LED UV
Also known as archival, giclee printing can transform a high-resolution image into a museum grade work. The process uses specialist inkjet printers to spray the paper with small jets of pigment ink. Pigment inks are known for their longevity, and can match the colours of the digital image exactly. And when paired with archival quality paper, the result is a long-lasting print that can last generations.
As a printing process, lithography is an art in itself and has been around for more than 200 years. It involves the process of adding greasy crayon or pencil to a plate (stone or aluminium) that ink will bond to, to create the print. These days, commercial applications of lithography are more likely to use the process known as offset lithography (aka offset printing). Rather than printing the image directly from the aluminium plate onto the paper, the image is printed onto an intermediate surface first, (like a rubber blanket or roller) before it’s transferred to the plate. This extra step means the print media doesn’t come into direct contact with the plates, prolonging their life, and allows them to be used on rough surfaces such as wood, canvas or cloth. It’s versatile and once set up, is ideal for high-quality, large volume print jobs.
The art of screen printing as we know it today originates from China during the Song Dynasty, but you might recognise it best from the work of artists like Andy Warhol and Banksy. It involves forcing ink through a mesh screen onto a surface through a stencil. Traditionally, the printing screen was made of silk, but modern screens are often synthetic, and the stencil can also be made from a wide variety of materials – each yielding slightly different results. Print work can be made onto paper, fabric and even wood, one colour at a time.
Chances are you’re familiar with this method, but the term ‘digital printing’ covers a variety of techniques, using a wide range of printing presses, such as:
• sheet-fed production printers
• cut-sheet digit presses
• production inkjet printers, and
• continuous feed printers.
This print on demand technology provides a cost-effective way of producing low-volume, high-quality without the need for a printing plate (like that required in offset printing). Images can be sent digitally and delivered quickly, making it ideal for commercial use. However, the inks used in many commercial printing presses aren’t designed with longevity in mind, so it’s best to ask what equipment and inks will be used to create your art print before sending it to your standard press.
Innovations in digital printing technology have developed a technique called LED UV printing. This method uses ultraviolet (UV) light to dry the ink as it’s being printed, preventing the ink from sinking into materials. Like standard digital printing, it can be used for a variety of commercial applications (like newsletters, posters, magazines, brochures and stationery). It also gets bonus points for being eco-friendly, because they use less power than standard print machines. It’s no wonder it’s becoming more and more popular.
Questions to Ask Your Printer
As you can see, each method has its own benefits and best uses, so if you’re in the market for a quality print that will stand the test of time, we recommend you ask about the:
• Resolution of original image: Is it 300 DPI (dots per inch)? Ours are 400 DPI.
• What kind of ink is used? Is it pigment based ink? How is it applied and how long is the print expected to be colourfast?
• Paper quality: Is the paper archival quality? (more on this below) If you’re buying an art print from a well-known artist, we recommend you ask about its history and condition.
• Is it an original piece designed by the artist as a standalone work?
• Or is it part of a series?
• Who were the previous owners? (if any)
• What condition is it in?
Look for acid damage and damage from framing or poor storage where the print was potentially exposed to fluctuations in temperature and humidity. The paper might be warped, yellowing or torn. For example, all my work comes on acid and lignin-free Hahnemühle 308g rag paper, using only durable archival pigment inks.
Selecting the Right Paper Quality
The paper your artwork is printed on is more than just the surface for your artwork – it’s an integral part of the art. It can affect the look, feel and character of the work, but also how well it resists tears, fading and general ageing over time. Quality archival paper can last generations. While it might not feel important to have your print outlive you, if you’re buying a print that you intend to keep as an heirloom then knowing what paper your print is on, will make a difference to its longevity and value.
What’s the Difference Between Archival Paper and Other Paper?
For a paper type to be classed as archival quality, it needs to be made up of a pure cellulose (plant tissue and fibre). This paper has low acid content and a PH of approx. 7.5 – 8.5. The higher the acid content in the paper, the faster it will break down and yellow.
There are two types of high-quality paper used for fine art prints:
• High alpha cellulose paper is considered conservation-grade — acid-free, buffered paper made from wood-based pulp. Processed to remove acid and lignin.
• Cotton rag paper is considered to be archival-grade (also Museum-grade) — 100 per cent cotton rag paper made from cotton pulp.
Weight and Finish
The weight and finish you look for in a print will depend on the artwork itself, and your personal preference. The weight (aka the paper thickness) is measured in grams per square metre (GSM) and the higher the number, the thicker and stiffer your paper is. If you’re selecting paper for an archival grade print (such as a giclee print), we recommend a paper that is 300GSM or higher to support your artwork, and are less likely to tear or wrinkle. Also, the larger your image the thicker the paper ought to be to prevent sagging over time. The finish of your paper refers to how it looks and feels. A course, matte paper is more suited to canvas reproductions, whereas photos are usually finished with a glossy or satin sheen. If you’re unsure, a quality printmaker should be able to guide you.
The brightness of your paper refers to the colour or shade of your sheets. Your choice comes down to personal preference, but some artworks are more suited to natural, warmer coloured paper and some a better suited to bright, bluer whites. So how do you decide? Lower or natural paper absorbs blue light. If your print has yellow-based or lighter, natural tones or features natural settings, this warmer paper choice can make the colours feel more natural. Higher or brighter paper is more vibrant, giving richer depth and contrast in colours. Softer, lighter tones may be washed out by this paper. For this reason, brighter papers are often favoured by photographers because of the papers ability to portray a large dynamic range and highlight intense black pigments.
How to Frame Your Artwork
There are many different types of frames to choose from. Whether it’s a Gallery Frame, Modern, Floating, Deep Set, Canvas, Box or Tabletop Frame – your frame should complement the subject and draw your eye to the print’s focal point. Before we get into the colour of your frame, it’s time to consider the framing materials.
Acrylic vs Glass
When it comes to framing and glazing, it can be hard to know whether acrylic or glass is the better choice. While it often comes down to personal preference on the look of the frame and how the print is displayed, there are a few key differences to consider. So, what are they?
Acrylic Glazing Within Your Frame
Because acrylic is lighter to transport and hang, it is a popular choice for collectors. There’s no risk of it shattering, but it’s also a softer material, so should only be cleaned with a microfibre cloth. Like glass, acrylic is available as museum quality, UV safe and low sheen options for minimal reflection.
Glass Glazing Within Your Frame
Glass is significantly heavier than acrylic. It is less likely to scratch, but more fragile and so harder to transport. In larger frames, you may need to provide the frame with extra support to counteract the weight of the glass. In some cases, condensation can also get trapped beneath the glass, causing damage to your print, but some people prefer the look of a glass frame over an acrylic one. When you’re ready to frame your work, it’s worth noting that there are differences in the quality of both glass and acrylic options available to protect your print.
• Clear Glass or Acrylic: Inexpensive and readily available so used in cheaper frames. Protects against dust and marks but has no ultraviolet (UV) protection. Suits low-value artwork or posters.
• Non-Reflective Glass: Etched on one side to reduce reflections so best in a space with lots of light. However, it offers no UV protection so best for low-value artwork, or posters that don’t feature fine details as the etching can cause some clarity to be lost.
• UV Conservation Glass (comes in both clear and non-reflective): Protects valuable artworks from 99% of UV light. Choose non-reflective option that won’t be affected by the loss of clarity.
• Museum Grade Glass or Acrylic: Premium glass that offers 99% UV protection and less than 1% reflection. This has the highest brightness and optical coating so as not to affect colour transmission as some cheaper glass options have a green tint to them. Museum quality acrylic has anti-static technology, to prevent dust from pastels and charcoal art being attracted to the frame. These options are best for valuable artworks that need to be displayed professionally.
This is a must for protecting your wall hangings. Ultraviolet radiation light from the sun, as well as many light bulbs, can damage your print through exposure over time. If you’re going to invest in an archival quality print like mine, I recommend investing in a glass glaze or acrylic that is enhanced with UV-protective coatings. Your print does not have to be in direct sunlight for the UV radiation to affect it, and you’ll notice the difference over time.
Choosing The Colour Of Your Frame
When choosing your frame, you should consider the size, shape and colour of your piece as well as your existing décor and wall colour. Ideally, your frame should highlight focal points within the print, without overpowering it. For example, my Tangerine Dream geometric print looks great with an angled frame and small surrounding matt to let the piece breathe. A detailed image such as a cityscape would pair nicely with a modern gallery frame, that features a larger surrounding matt to highlight the piece. Thin black frames have an understated, elegant yet modern feel to them and work well as an understated border to a canvas print. Remove the matt from a standard print, and the dark frame can help emphasise deep tones and subdued themes within the art. White or floating frames work best with high impact, colourful artwork where a dark frame would only be distracting. Brushed metal frames suit industrial spaces and edgy artworks. Light coloured, woodgrain frames can add a softness to a room or accentuate a coastal theme and highlight softer lines within the art. The right choice of frame will ensure the viewer’s focus remains on central themes of work, so before buying your frame, decide where you’ll hang your print and take note of the décor, the textures and the colours within the print and the room.
• Which aspects of your print attract your eyes?
• Which parts do you want to accentuate?
• What colours within your décor and print can you highlight with your frame?
Gilded Decorative Frames
Gilding is the process of applying a thin layer of gold or silver leaf to what is often a more intricate frame. It’s a more traditional option, that historically, has been associated with wealth and beauty. Because of the level of detail and precision in creating gilded frames, they’re often considered to be works of art in their own right. Gilding was once common for many household items, frames, candelabras and more and if you have an antique, heirloom items, it’s worth investing some time and effort to look after it to help maintain its value. However, you can also buy new ones today. Gilded frames pair perfectly with artwork with a vintage feel, such as old or formal photographs and historical work.
How to Preserve
Whether you’re a collector or wanting to learn how to preserve a favourite piece, knowing how to look after them will help keep them looking great for longer.
Reduce Exposure to Light
As we mentioned above, over time UV light will damage the print and cause it to fade and deteriorate. While it makes sense to avoid hanging your print somewhere where it’ll be exposed to direct sunlight, you should know that even ambient light from the sun and artificial light from indoor bulbs can also cause fading. Of course, it’s impossible to prevent entirely, unless you keep your print in a dark, temperature-controlled room – but then you wouldn’t be able to enjoy it! So, we recommend protecting your print with UV protected frame.
Maintaining a moderate environment is easier said than done, right? Excess humidity, heat, light and pollution can all affect the longevity of your print, so consider your hanging space carefully. Hang your artwork away from lamps, heaters and keep your frames free of dust by using a soft, dry microfiber cloth. Humidity can cause foxing – ugly brown spots sprinkled over the print and will attract pests like silverfish, so inspect regularly for insects.
Avoid Rolling Your Print
If you need to store or transport your print, it’s best done flat between two boards. We recommend you place each print in a separate folder or envelope that can be fixed to prevent sliding while in transit. Rolling can damage the paint on some artworks, so if you have to roll it, take it out as soon as it reaches its destination.
When Framed, Print work Should Not Touch the Glass
Without realising it, the acrylic or glass in your frame might have oily fingerprints and residue that could cause damage to your print. Use an acid-free spacer and mat within the frame to protect it from unknown pollutants. If you need to secure the print with tape, use museum-quality, archival tapes to avoid damage.
Avoid Handling the Print
Oily residues and hidden pollutants on your hands can damage the pigment of your print in ways that may not be instantly obvious. We recommend you avoid touching, or leaning anything against your artwork to avoid damage. Likewise, if you’re storing your print, don’t store one on top of another. Each print should be kept separate in between boards in a climate-controlled environment such as a metal drawer and not in an attic exposed to the elements. We hope this guide has helped you make a more informed choice about selecting, framing and looking after your new art print. I hope this article has better informed you about art prints and assists you when purchasing your new prints!