Thursday, March 27, 2014

Why Canvas?

With the advent of digital technology, having your prints transferred to canvas is cheaper and easier then ever before. Instead of printing your family photos at home on your personal inkjet printer on so called ‘photo paper’ you could instead have it printed on canvas and professionally stretched on a gallery quality frame for as little as 20 dollars. 
Professional canvas services can take a high quality scan of your photograph or use a digital file if the resolution is high enough and digitally enhance it. If there are minor color or lighting issues, these can usually be corrected prior to printing. The canvases used by these services are of a much higher quality then the photo paper available for use at home. The key advantages of canvas prints are as follows:


Canvas has a textured surface that paper cannot compare to, images printed on canvas take on the texture of the canvas and give a realistic appearance. This gives your prints a unique, personal appearance. 

Image Quality:

When you send an image into a studio they are not using the same kind of inkjet printer to print the image as you have at home. They are instead using an extremely high resolution, wide format printer manufactured by one of the best known companies, such as Epson or Canon. This image is going to have a much higher resolution and color accuracy then an image printed at home. Studios can also do slight image enhancements with Photoshop such as shadow or color correction.

Professional Appearance:

Canvas stretched over stretcher bars has a much more professional appearance then any other form of media. Even a fine art print on paper cannot match it, paper must be framed behind glass and canvas can be out in the environment. This leads to less distraction from the image itself and having it look like it came from a gallery is sure to impress your visitors. 


Paper is not the most durable substrate to have a long lasting memories etched on, however, canvas is. Canvas can be left outside uncovered and it will not deteriorate like paper. In addition, it is much easier to mount because instead of having to put a glass framed paper up, one can instead simply mount the framed canvas. 

Price and Convenience:

Never before have high quality prints been available as cheaply as now. It is as easy as sending a digital file to a printer service and paying for it. Prices range depending on the size of the print, but they start at around 20 dollars. 


Most art in someone’s home is purchased to fit in a specific place and canvas prints can be custom ordered to fit perfectly. It can range from 8x8 to as large as 72x54, which gives great variability in the size of your art. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Safe Place: Prevent Possible Damage To Your Work by Storing It Correctly

        Damage over time is expected with paintings as the materials experience environmental degradations. However, many of these negative changes can be mitigated by proper care and handling of your painting. Paintings are traditionally done on a canvas surface, nevertheless paintings on paper and other such mediums is becoming increasingly popular. 
        A constant temperature and humidity are extremely important in keeping optimum color quality and structural integrity of your original work of art. Temperatures that people would be comfortable in are also ideal conditions for paintings, and humidity should be between 40-60 percent. Drastic changes in temperatures can cause artificial expansions and contractions in the canvas or wood, which can affect the colors and strength of the material. Galleries usually have temperature and humidity control systems to minimize damage to paintings. If the work of art is displayed in your home, try choosing an area that has the least amount of environmental fluctuations. 
        Not only is temperature damaging, sunlight or artificial light can be detrimental the color and canvas of a painting. Instead of placing your work of art directly in front of any light source, indirect light is the ideal lighting method, minimizing the damage while still allowing for optimal viewing.
Paintings, done on canvas or a flexible medium, typically require framing. Most commonly by stretching over stretcher bars which, unless you have experience in this area, is usually left to a professional—Since it is relatively easy to damage the painting without the proper knowledge and tools. A nice tool to help minimize environmental damage is to attach a backing board to the stretcher bars. This board covers the entire backside of the bars, which prevents any particles from touching the canvas. But again, just like the canvas stretching, this procedure is best left to a professional to avoid damage.  
         Handling and storage of fragile works of art is also an important factor. Before transporting a painting, moving any potential dangers can reduce the risk of damage.
When storing paintings, avoid places with large fluctuations in temperature or that have high humidity. This includes attics, basements, garages or anywhere where large amounts of sunlight are transmitted. 
         As a precaution, it is a good idea to have a high quality professional make a digital copy of your work of art and have a fine print made—assuring the digital scan is color matched and does not change the format. Keep your prints in an environment similar to where you would have your originals stored, with constant temperature and humidity, and covered by a pH neutral plastic cover. This will minimize any damage to the copy and increase its longevity.

Friday, March 21, 2014

PRESERVE YOUR MEMORIES: Properly Storing and Handling Photographs

Photos are often our way of remembering our happiest moments and significant life events. Taking the proper care of your photos can help you keep these for many years to come. As you may have read, earlier we released an article about properly caring for original photographs, now we will examine the procedures to properly care for your photographs. 

Choosing the Right Paper:

If you haven’t printed your photograph yet, printing on archival quality paper can help extend the life of your work of art. Archival paper, or museum grade paper has 6 characteristics: 

It is acid free with a pH value between 7.5 and 10
Has an alkali reserve of at least 2% carbonate
Resistant to tearing
Free of lignin
Made of cotton
High endurance to breakage by folding

These standards are set by ISO standard 11108 and help the consumer ascertain they are getting a product that can withstand significant handling and last longer then other papers. Unfortunately, this paper does cost more than traditional paper, which is an important factor to consider when printing. However, long-term, this is a better option if truly want to if extending the life of your work of art is a priority. 

2) Printing:

There is a significant difference in the quality of prints made by home printers and high quality commercial grade printers. If you want a professional quality print, then a minimum of 1200 dots per inch (dpi) is the required printing solution. Professional quality inkjet printers, such as those made by Epson and Canon, have the capability of creating color compositions and resolutions unmatched by home printers. These printing services are fairly inexpensive and do color work on the digital file as well as prior to printing. 

3) Display:

It is recommended that photographs are not displayed permanently or in direct sunlight. However, if this will be the case it is recommended to have copies made and displayed while storing the original. High quality copies are almost impossible to differentiate from the original and if they degrade, the original is still undamaged. If the original is to be displayed, it is recommended that exposure times be minimized and only indirect sunlight be present. Framing them with archival sound materials is the best way to prevent damage. 


Originals should be kept in locations that are free of debris, food, drinks, acids and other environmental factors, which could degrade the substrate or inks. Using paper enclosures that have passed the Photographic Activity Test, which determines if the paper is safe to use with silver photographic material, or plastic enclosures will isolate the photographs from the environment and keep them from degrading. Photos should be kept with a temperature of 68 degrees (F) and around 30-40% humidity. 

Digital Copies:

A digital copy of the original should be made in case something happens that would render it unusable to create further reproductions. Digital scans should be color matched and done by someone with industry experience. The file that you originally have should not be changed, if another format is required you should save an additional file with the secondary format. Having a high-resolution digital file lets you easily and cheaply make copies of the photograph as well. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How to Properly Illuminate Artwork

Light color imbalances may be highlighted differently depending on the light source and the wavelengths present. The only colors the human eye perceives are a product of the wavelength of light that a object reflects, blue at 400nm false on one end of the spectrim while red, at 700 nm falls on the opposite end, and all other colors fall somewhere between. Therefore, your goal should always be to show the colors present in the print as accurately as possible, so appropriate light source that includes wavelengths across the spectrum  should be an objective.  

Avoiding light from outside the spectrum is also another key factor in lighting. Infrared and ultraviolet light (light with wavelengths outside of the 400 to 700 nm range) is damaging to both the ink and substrate. The more direct exposure to the damaging rays, the quicker the print will degrade. One’s goal should be to minimize exposure of these rays by lighting a print as completely as possible with indirect light that has the least amount of harmful rays.



The diagrams display wavelengths of the most common light sources. The importance in accurately and consistently displaying colors is to have a constant spectral intensity in the wavelengths, so that one color does not appear brighter. If a light source lacks a 400 nm wavelength, then any of the blue colors that are comprised of that wavelength will not be visible. 

Xenon has the most wavelength consistency of any source and is therefore the best for lighting pictures; however, it is not a very common light source. A combination of halogen and tungsten bulbs is also a popular option. Light Emitting Diodes (LED) are also another option for lighting images, the majority of their light is centered in the 400-700 nm range. However, they do have variability in the strength of the light for each different wavelength.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Brief Introduction to Giclée Prints


The word giclée (pronounced zhee-clay) is surprisingly unfamiliar to customers and artists alike. Loosely interpreted, it means “that which is sprayed or squirted.” The term "giclee print" connotes an elevation in printmaking technology.  Images are generated from high resolution digital scans and printed with archival quality inks onto various substrates including canvas, fine art paper such as Velvet Rag, which is 100% cotton, and photo-based papers such as resin coated (RC) that are generally 10.4mil in thickness. The giclee printing process provides better color accuracy than other means of reproduction.  In order to produce your own giclée prints, some initial investment in basic equipment is necessary. 


  • At a minimum, a computer that supports a Windows or Macintosh operating system compatible with Adobe Photoshop software. 
  •     Here, at our shop, we use Mac Pro's 1,1 with a 32-bit 2.66 GHz Dual-core Intel Xeon processor and 18 Gb's of ram along with a dozen or so other Macs and Windows machines.
Large format scanner
  • For small prints, where high resolution is not so critical, or if you just want a few copies and need to keep costs down, you can create a print using your own digital file or desktop scanner. Scan your image at as high a resolution as possible - for best results you'll want 300 dpi output at the size you want to print. If you use an existing digital file, keep in mind that re-sampling a lower resolution file seldom renders good results – the saying in the industry is, Garbage in, garbage out!” A common mistake is to think that scanning at 3,000dpi is plenty of resolution. What's important is size and resolution. If you have 3,000dpi at 1”x1,” you can only print a 10”x10” print at 300dpi. So, select 300dpi and the print dimensions to create the best scan.
  •       In our studio we use a “Better Light” scanning back on a 4x5 view camera along with infrared and a polarized filter and state-of-the-art, high-intensity discharge (HID) lights with polarized filters to create what is called “cross polarization” that greatly reduces glare or reflection.   
High-Quality printer
  • There are a bunch of mid to high quality printers available today from standard manufactures such at Epson and Cannon. Price ranges will run you somewhere between $500-$28,000 depending on quality and production needs. 
  • Our shop has utilized many printer models from both Cannon. Epson and Mimaki over the years.

Adobe Photoshop software
  • A essential graphics editing program developed and published by Adobe Systems. Unfortunately a rather expensive piece of software the latest version (CS6) costs $615.95.
  •     Over the years (and computers) we've ran many different versions of the software. Photoshop CS3 has been a very reliable version for us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Effectiveness of Advertising With Different Substrates

        Reaching possible consumers is the goal of businesses if you can’t sell products you won’t make any money. For this reason, businesses are constantly on the search for cheaper and more effective ways of advertising to consumers. For short-term promotions or events, it doesn’t make sense to create a large scale, expensive 3-dimensional advertisement. Instead it is cheaper and quicker to create printed works on substrates such as scrim or removable vinyl. Both of these are specifically designed to give a template with an extremely wide color gamut and excellent environmental resistance. 

         Used as banners for events such as trade shows or sidewalk promotions for businesses, this is an extremely versatile substrate. It allows for easily customizable advertisements that are very easy to place. The time between the wanted print being submitted to the print shop and a finished print being created is less then a week. This short turn around time enables promotions to be easily altered depending on consumer tastes. Banners made from scrim are easily customizable, a new banner simply requires a tweak in the submitted file. This is perfect for events such as trade shows that print a different banner for each city, they can have all of them made at once and simply use the appropriate one. 
         The reason scrim is used so extensively for banners and displays are its high levels of environmental resistance. For such a material with its flexibility and color gamut, it is very rugged and is often rated at several months of outdoor exposure before it starts to degrade. This gives store owners who want a sidewalk display or a one time event the ability to leave their banner outside for long periods of time and reach as many consumers as possible. 

Removable Vinyl:
          Removable vinyl has two layers: the top vinyl portion, which has an adhesive on the back and the layer covering up the adhesive. It is perfect for applications such as displays in windows or stickers. Starting off a initially one piece substrate it can be printed on using traditional printing techniques and then applied to the particular substrate. 

         One important factor to consider is the texture of the applied surface. The more area that is adhered between the two surfaces equates to higher levels of strength. This is especially important to think about if it is to be displayed outdoors. The surface of most removable vinyl’s is designed to be resistant to damage by moisture and UV exposure, while providing a high quality surface to be printed on. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Which Bar is Right

        For those unfamiliar with stretching canvas prints and the appropriate sized bars, picking the right one may be a challenge. Picking the correct size bar relies on many factors: aesthetic appeal of the bars, required depth, final tension of the canvas, cost and many more. A comprehensive understanding of these factors is required in order to select the right bar.
        The bottom line is the obvious limiting factor of any operation and thicker bars cut more into your profit margin. Depending on the profit you are making from each stretched piece of canvas, a thicker bar might cut too far into your margins. Understanding the costs that you face and the margins you have can enable you to eliminate certain bars that are too costly.
        While the bar itself will not be seen by viewers, the depth of the bars affects the finished appearance of a stretched piece of canvas. Understanding the desired depth of the finished stretched piece on the wall is a critical limiting factor in the bars to choose. Certain artists necessitate a certain depth and this needs to be used. This may add extra cost but if it is part of the requirements then it has to be done.
        The main factor in selecting the appropriate thickness of the canvas is length versus applied tension. Larger prints will either need a cross bar or a thicker bar. Longer bars have less support in the center of the bar, as it gets older it is more and more likely to warp at these spots. To solve this you can either use thicker bars which have more stability or a cross brace. Cross braces are basically a bar that is put in the middle of the bars and this strengthens the bar. Longer bars can solve this problem simply by being stronger then thinner ones. Typically if anything is over 30”, light bars are insufficient without cross braces, over 40” medium bars need cross braces. With any very large prints, over 60”, cross braces are needed for even the largest bars. Basically the bar loses stability as it gets longer, adding a cross brace turns the bar in essence into half its size in terms of strength which is beneficial. 

        For example a framer making the decision to frame a 40”x50” canvas print would need to determine their desired profit margin which lets them know how much can be spent on the bars. The thickness of the bars is then determined, this is basically up to the artist, thicker bars give a more gallery feel while thinner ones are cheaper. The size of the frame is also a determining factor in the thickness. In a print this size, if thinner bars are used cross braces will be required. Anything up to medium/heavy duty, would require a cross brace and it would not be a bad idea for even heavy duty to have a cross brace in the 50” direction. Certain widths limit the use of thinner bars, thicker bars should be used in this scenario.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Packaging Artwork

        Flawless artwork can be rendered ruined by improper packaging during transit to its final location. Whether it is being shipped from the source to a consumer or simply being carried home after being purchased, effective packaging lets prints reach their intended destination unharmed. As an artist this should be of the utmost priority to you when shipping your product. 
        This has become much more important since the advent of the internet, whereas before artwork was purchased directly from the painter or printer, now it is shipped to the consumer from various origins. Protecting the artwork in the transit period should be of the utmost concern to whoever is shipping it. In order to ensure this the shipper should realize what would damage the artwork, the need for interior cushioning and finally the cost to the consumer.
        Different artwork is damaged in different ways. An impact that would damage a sculpture would not necessarily damage a painting, for example, rubbing against the corrugated container will certainly damage a painting or print. This knowledge can help the shipper design their container. Paintings or prints should be inserted in a container that minimizes contact with the corrugate packaging as this will rub off the ink and paint. An intuitive design for framed artwork on a substrate involves a padded slot in a courage container which is the only actual contact it has with the container. The empty space is then filled by cushioning which secures the painting in place. Design innovations such as these can help make transit safe and secure, which means customers are happy and may purchase again. On the other hand, a sculpture should be more concerned with impact forces, containers should be designed to minimize movement while in transit. This can be done through the use of inflatable plastic pouches that fill all the voids in the container or through padded packaging. Scuffing is also a concern for sculptures if they are made from a fragile material or painted. Keeping what is considered damage to each individual type of art can help make these decisions. 
        Interior cushioning adds extra expense to each package, but prevents damage done to the artwork. For example in the package explained above there is space around the padded slot between the stretched artwork and filled with some kind of cushioning. Typically inflatable pillow packs would be used because these are inexpensive and fill an efficient amount of volume. Other types of fill can be used such as polystyrene ( Styrofoam peanuts) and paper, these all have their respective uses depending on the situation. Corrugate partitions can also be used, this is simply corrugate shaped to fill voids in a package. This is usually inexpensive, the corrugate only needs to cut off the extra space not entirely fill it. As is always the case, there is no right solution it depends upon the amount of protection you need and what materials can be used. For example, in the above mentioned package there is a corrugate partition, cushioning materials and inflated pillow pouches being used. The partition makes the framed canvas sit in the right spot in the box, however, the corrugate causes damage to the canvas so it must be covered with some kind of barrier. Finally, there is extra space in the box and this must be filled with pillow pouches to prevent the framed print from moving. 
        As is the case with all decisions, cost is a limiting factor. The box described above is extremely effective at protection, but is going to be time and resource intensive. Assembling the box and inserting the cushioning materials will take a fair amount of more time then simply loading a standard box. It also will cost much more, the initial box is still in the equation but there have been other parts added to it. All of these are factors, sometimes it is cheaper to simply use a standard container and just use more insulation then to create a whole new design. For high cost, low volume products more resource intensive packaging is more acceptable. Adding an extra dollar onto costs for an object with a high profit margin is acceptable when it means that it will reach the consumer undamaged. However, for lower margin items the extra cost is often not something can be allowed and standard packaging should be utilized. 
        Understanding the different factors that are present that can damage the artwork and the limiting factors in resources available can add to creating the right packaging to ship a piece of artwork undamaged. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Which Ink Is Best?

There are so many choices of inks on the market today, how do you know what ink is best for printing on your particular substrate? It is important to know that inks such as eco-solvent or aqueous inks do not work well with certain substrates, yet provide decent quality prints at a cheaper price when paired with the correctly.
This has made aqueous inks, solvent inks and UV cure the most commonly used inks in the printing industry. Aqueous inks mix the pigment or dye with water as a base, solvent inks use oil or alcohol and UV cured inks solidify when exposed to UV light. 


These inks use water as a base and are therefore polar, which makes them great for printing on substrates such as paper. These are the type of inks that are typically used in a non-industrial or commercial setting and found in most household printers. A selling point for this type of ink is tat it is environmentally friendly and does not contain harmful materials, and can produce a wide color gamut with high definition. 

There are two types of dye and pigment based aqueous inks: 

a. Dye: 
Dye based inks are dissolved in water, when the water evaporates only the color is left on the page. Some negative features of this ink are that is tends to soak the paper and is not highly waterproof or resistant to light. This ink is ideal for normal office use applications that will not be exposed to outdoors or moisture. For any applications that require long lasting color and definition, pigment ink is recommended. 

b. Pigment: 
Pigment inks are very small particles dissolved in water and when the water evaporates the only the pigments are left allowing them bond to the paper. These types of inks have slightly more water resistance then dye based inks, since the particles do not reabsorb the water as quickly. It has a slightly lower level of resolution then dye inks, but it is quickly rivaling the resolution of dye-based inks. It has much better color retention over time and is recommended for uses where longevity is key.


Instead of having the particles suspended in a water-based solution, solvent inks use a chemically enhanced liquid, which provides a superior bonding, color durability and water resistance. They are typically only found in industrial or commercial printers and work great for every day, long-term production. The solvent can penetrate the protective coating on solvent canvas and paper, therefore the ink lies underneath the coating,  which eliminates the need for a top coating. A wide variety of different solvent liquids exists within the filed of solvent inks, falling within either eco-solvent or solvent ink. 

a)Eco-Solvent (Mild Solvent):

The solvents used in these materials are far less toxic then those used in traditional solvent inks, but until recently fell behind the chemical enhancement that made solvent inks the clear winner. It is able to have the color resolution and water resistance that all solvent inks offer, while also able to be used indoors. When compared to solvent inks the only real disadvantage is that it cannot match the range of surfaces that solvent inks can print on.

b) Solvent (Aggressive Solvent):

These inks use toxic that they provide the best bonding between ink and canvas. It is perfect for outdoor scrim or vinyl banners or any non-traditional materials that you would be printing on. Solvent ink is the most widely used ink that is required to have superior environmental resistance or prints expected to last large amounts of time. 

c) UV Cured Ink:

UV Cured Ink is a newer technology that does not have a liquid based solvent. Instead is remains a liquid until it is exposed to UV light at which point it rapidly solidifies. This makes it very easy to use, as the ink is disposed on the substrate through the printhead and a UV light is ran over it to dry. This offers many advantages for a printer: faster production, ink doesn’t clog up the printer (as it cannot dry without UV light) and you can easily see problems in the printing process as the ink is instantly dry. 
One of the main disadvantages of this process is the limited variety of substrates to print on. In addition, the ink cannot be opaque, as the UV rays must reach across the substrate in order for it to dry. It also only works on hard substrates. 

     d) Latex Ink:

Latex Ink systems are a newer technology that, according to HP, is superior to eco solvent inks and comparable to mild solvent inks, without using any of the toxic materials. This means that latex ink systems can be used indoors without any fear of the toxic chemicals that are found in solvent inks and used in similar uses. In addition, they also come out ready to varnish and solvent inks require a drying system. As this is the newest major form of inkjet printing, there are still going to be regular advances in the field and increasing its effectiveness.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Test of Time: Acid Free Paper

An interesting phenomenon currently presented is how documents printed more then 100 years ago are better preserved then those from more recent times. This is highly due to the evolving composition of the paper. 
Upon discovery of the factor the printing industry has made changes to improved their papers—One of the most prominent changes was made by neutralizing and eliminating the acid from being present in the paper, which considerably improve the lifespan of a paper. 
Papers can also be basic, or have an alkaline base, which helps neutralize any acids absorbed from the environment. From the time a paper leaves the factory to the time it ends up being stored in the correct conditions, it is exposed to many potential sources of acid. Air pollutants, glues, papers with acid in them and human hands all contain pollution and can lead to the degradation of paper. Integrating an alkaline base to the papers help neutralize any acid it absorbs. This allows libraries and museums to treat their existing papers and make them last much longer.
A key component of negating damage to prints is proper storage, although this is not necessarily related to the acid content, by properly storing prints you can increase its longevity. For more information on proper storage of prints, check out our article on how to properly store prints.

Acid free paper has allowed prints to reach unprecedented life spans and when combined with a high quality giclee print from an inkjet printer, it can lead to higher quality, long lasting prints. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Two popular techniques exist that get the ink from the cartridge to the paper with a large degree of precision—thermal and piezoelectric printheads.  Both achieve the same final result, using two different delivery systems.

Thermal printheads utilize the heat property, which explains how increased temperature will expand the volume of a substance if all other conditions are kept constant. There are hundreds of microscopic pores in a printhead, which heat is generated through electricity. Then creates an expansion in the ink and forces the ink out of the printhead. This simultaneously creates a vacuum in the printhead that pulls ink from the cartridge to fill the printhead once more. The limiting factor in the number of vacuum holes is how close they are to one another, as the thermal energy cannot be transferred from one to the other, as this would cause imprecise dot placement. Canon was the first company to develop and utilize a thermal printing system, which is still one of their more popular methods. 

Piezoelectric printhead delivery systems provide the same result, using a different method to extract the ink out of the printhead. Instead of a thermal pulse physically expanding the ink and forcing it out, an electric charge expands a piezoelectric crystal in the printhead. This forces ink out of the printhead and when the crystal returns to its previous size, creates a vacuum that draws ink out of the cartridge and fills up the printhead with ink once more. The advantages to this method are:  there is no thermal charge, which can affect the chemical properties of the ink and make it dry more quickly and there is not heat damage to the delivery system. Epson uses a piezoelectric printing system in their printers.

Both printing systems utilize the same principle of expansion to drive ink out of a cartridge. This method has the capability of controlling the quantity and speed of the ink leaving the cartridge through the electrical or thermal strength of the charge. While the properties of both are very similar, piezoelectric printing does have the advantage of not having to rely on the expansion of liquids with varying densities, meaning one type of ink will not expand at the same rate as another, so the thermal pulses must be calibrated for every different type of ink. With a piezo system, the crystal expands at one constant rate, therefore the type of in used in not a factor, the quantity of ink exerted out will remain constant. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

An Industry Transformed

From the Gutenberg’s printing press to modern inkjet printers using state of the art ink and thousands of dots per inch, the printing industry has gone through many stages of transformations. It started out with manual type or mold set images but with the advent of the digital imaging and the internet has changed rapidly.
Prior to digital printers all images had to be manually typeset or created and then printed. Now we have the capability to change and enhance an image on a monitor and mass produce it with the click of a button. In terms of how artwork is created and stored, digital files have drastically changed the industry. Artwork and photographs can be stored on a digital file and transferred anywhere in the world, for instance a printing studio that can make an extremely high quality print of the image.

People in their homes and professional studios can touch up images and do color correction quickly and cheaply using photoshop and wirelessly send this image to an inkjet printer. These advancements have created a drastically different printing industry from 15 years ago and the companies that have kept pace with technology have profited heavily. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sustainability of the Paper Industry

While we all know that most papers originate from wood at some point, the source of that wood plays a critical factor in the sustainability of the process. Until recently, concern for preserving non-renewable natural habitats has not been a priority for the paper industry. Recently, the Asia Paper and Pulp group became the first major player in the paper industry to make a pledge to move towards more sustainable practices.
They currently operate on 2.6 million hectares and have created management plans to eliminate further deforestation and only use the land that has been previously deforested. It marks the current effort by a private market force for sustainable practices in terms of net area. In the developing world, deforestation is more of a concern as there are not regulatory controls on environmental practices and sustainability. A private player making the largest current pledge of not created further harm is a monumental occasion and a boon for the world as a whole. 35% of harvested trees are used to make paper and reducing the footprint of this helps the world out as a whole. 
In developed countries such as the United States, all the land that will have been forested has been and the remainder is protected. Paper companies and suppliers own their own land where artificial forests have been planted and harvest those to generate the pulp and wood. While this has its own concerns, pollutants and chemical runoff from the forests, it is in terms of net harm much less then harvested natural irreplaceable forests. 

For high quality using recycled fibers is not an option, the fibers degrade with each time it is recycled and for anyone reading this article, quality is of the upmost importance. Instituting this policy lets printers have their high quality paper that their business depends on while also preventing further harm to our world.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fine Art Inkjet Receptive Coatings

What impacts one’s decision is ultimately durability and color quality when purchasing a fine art printing substrate. A large portion of these two factors is determined by the inkjet receptive coating that sits on top of the substrate and absorbs the ink. The ink must be able to penetrate and bond with the coating in order to have high quality image quality and long lasting durability. There are three major parts of an inkjet coating: the pigment, binder and additives.
The pigment is usually a porous, viscous composition of silica pigments. Silica pigments have silanol groups that work to absorb and separate the solvent from the ink. The amount of silanol groups is determined by the pH levels of the silica, higher pH equals less silanol groups. It is also a highly viscous substance that is apt to crack if not combined with a binder. 
Binders function in a coating is improve the strength, hold the colorant at the surface and improve the smoothness of the coating. As silica is a highly viscous substance and combining it with a polymer makes it more stable. One of the most commonly used polymers as a binder in the industry is PVOH or PVA, which is a hydrolyzed version of polyvinyl acetate. This polymer works the best with silica in its partially hydrolyzed state, the OH molecules present in the polymer do not shrink as much when it dries which creates more stable color saturation and prevents cracking. 
Prevention of cracking is another reason binders are used, while pigments are great at absorbing the solvent and being porous, they are not the most stable compounds. Combining them with polymers enhances the overall durability of the combination and color accuracy. By itself silica would be able to absorb the ink but would not be stable enough. However, it is important to consider the molecular weight of the particular PVOH polymer used in the combination. If the molecular weight is too low, it will fill the holes in the silica and then the ink will not have a place to bond. On the other hands too high of a molecular weight lowers the viscosity to the point that it cannot work as intended. It is best to use as low of a molecular weight as possible, where the PVOH does not fill the gaps in the silica. Binders reduce the porosity and absorbance of a pigment, but increase the strength and durability. 
Additives help enhance the chemical attraction between the inks and coating. Many of the dyes used in inks have ionized compounds and adding a catatonic additive helps this bond with the coating. The coating would be functional without additives, however, they enhance the final properties of the coating. They can also play a role in altering color composition by changing the wavelength of reflected light. 
Together these components help filter the dye or pigments from the solvent and adhere these colorants to the binder. The porosity of the pigment separates the solvent from the colorant and isolates the colorant. Utilizing a coating provides superior ink adherence over uncoated paper or canvas. Manufacturer’s can create a product which has significantly improved qualities over what was previously available. A previous problem with coatings for canvas was that they cracked if the canvas was ever bent. This was solved with using the correct binders and additives, improved bonds between the pigments and other particle has largely eliminated this problem from printing.  

Chemically evolved inkjet receptive coatings are used on many common substrates such as paper and canvas and understanding the composition can help you make an educated decision about what is the right product for your uses. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

B Grade Products

Artists who print giclees of their work as well as giclee printers often pay retail prices for inkjet canvas and paper, finding the price per square foot a bit taxing. Finding a source for “B” grade printing canvas or paper will make a huge difference in the bottom line.

What is "B" grade Canvas and Paper?

This may surprise you! From what we've consistently found, the downgrade is so minor that the issue is virtually undetectable or so insignificant that the product could easily pass as "A" grade.

Here are a few reasons for a downgrade based upon our observations and reports coming back from customers who have ordered pallets of "B" grade products.

    The white point, which must fall into a specific range, is off by a point or two. What this means, is that the brightness is so slightly out of range that companies that sell their products at premium prices cannot guarantee their customers that the brightness is precisely the same as former rolls. To us as printers, this is an opportunity to benefit from the savings. In reality, no end user will ever notice the difference in the white point unless they are running editions!

    There may be pinholes. While this seems to be a scary issue, our experience has been that the pinholes may or may not show up at all. We had one customers report that he never found a pinhole in 70 rolls! That doesn't mean there will be none, but, when premium products are milled, there are very strict standards and finding one or two pinholes in several hundred square feet would set off an alarm as a premium product. Obviously taking a chance on finding a pinhole that can't be curated as opposed to the savings, is a no brainer for the business minded printer.

    Edge skipping. The coating may have skipped (or skidded) near the edge of the canvas or paper. Given, that we ordinarily print with a white border, this usually isn't an issue. Obviously, even if it's a very minor situation, this isn't allowable for a premium product, so it's downgraded. Other than that, the white point would be perfect and there would be no pinholes, so, chances are that it's a windfall for the buyer, although there may be one or two reproductions out of a hundred or so where the skip might be slightly evident, in our opinion, the savings far outweigh the unlikely event of finding a skip.

If you have further questions, feel free to give me a call!

Monday, January 20, 2014


    One important but highly overlooked part of canvas print is the spray coat. It protects the print from damage during stretching and over the course of its lifetime. If done correctly it goes unnoticed, but if done incorrectly it can highly degrade the visual appeal of your print. The modern standard and most effective tool to use for spraying is a High Volume Low Pressure Spray Gun (HPLV). Following the steps explained below will help you achieve a high quality finish that will protect your piece and will add to its appearance.

    A number of varnishes come with too high of a viscosity to be sprayed and must be watered down. The traditional method of determining the right ratio of varnish to water is trial and error, however, there is an alternative. One can use an instrument called a Zahn Cup, which gives the time that it takes a standard amount of liquid (40cc) to flow out of a opening at the bottom. We recommend that if you choose to use a Zahn Cup to determine the right mixture that you shoot for a time from 24-25 seconds. It is important to make sure that you do the test for the Zahn Cup at the temperature as you do your spraying, higher temperatures increase the viscosity of a substance. Using this method eliminates the need for trial and error and can give a more standardized estimate for the correct ration. 

    After verifying that the varnish is of the right viscosity the next step is setting up your surroundings. The print should be in a well-lit area so that all the varnish is visible when sprayed and any blemishes easily seen and the spray hits evenly from all directions hit in the same place. If it is angled incorrectly then it will accumulate more thickly in one portion and leave a line on the print. Having a location where the print can dry safely after being sprayed is also something to consider. Spraying in a busy studio where it is likely to be hit or moved prior to drying is not the best location.

    Once you have your varnish mixture and location set up, the next step is determining the prior spraying distance and angle. We usually stand where the spray gun is approximately 12-14 inches from the canvas, this gives a nice even coating without being too thick, and a psi range that allows an even coating. The strength of different guns varies at psi ranges so there is no set psi, just find whatever pressure gives you a nice, even coating on your canvas.

    A technique that we have found effective at reducing overlap in coats is to use a different number of passes in every coat. Lets say you were putting on a coat from left to right and the first coat you used 8 passes, the next one you would use a number of passes such as 6 or 10. This spreads out the edges of each pass so that they don’t all end up in the same area and increases consistency.

    We recommend going with multiple thinner coats, rather then one or two thick coats, the reason for this is it reduces room for error. When a thick coat is applied to a canvas it has a much higher chance of running and creating blemishes, while a thinner coat does not have this problem. Matte canvas prints require more coats then a comparable glossy canvas and this should also be accounted for. A larger number of thinner coats also allows for a more precise finish, when you reach your desired appearance you simply stop there.

    Following these simple steps can help you properly coat your finished canvas prints and prepare them to be professionally framed and displayed.