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!