Finding The Perfect Fine Art Paper

By Jack Lawrence

Finding The Perfect Fine Art Paper

There are a million things to think about when starting a photography print business. Which photos shall I sell? Will customers like this photo? How much should I charge? But for me, my most important question was 'what paper shall I use to print on?!' There are hundreds of different types of fine art paper but I had no real experience with using them. Being a perfectionist I knew that I didn't want to sell a product that I hadn't seen myself so I began testing and researching all types of fine art paper.

My Google and Youtube searches lead me to watch this fantastic video by Mitch Boyer. In this video, Mitch explains in great depth how fine art photo paper works and why the permanence of the paper is important. This really resonated with me as I don't want my customers to buy artwork with colours that will fade in a few years. With this new knowledge, I then started to test print my photos.

I first started by printing locally on the Gold Coast and I printed Candy Floss Skies at Gold Coast Prints based down in Burleigh. They did a fantastic job and the quality was great. I liked the idea of the print house being close to home so I could go down and sign the prints and ship them out myself but then another idea popped into my head. Why not print locally in the country of the customer so they don't have to wait for long periods without their artwork? I didn't know if this was possible but after hours of searching the internet, I found my perfect printing partner with five printing labs worldwide. Not only could they print and ship my rolled prints but they could also frame my work ready for customers to hang on their walls. I immediately ordered a sample pack of their fine art paper and received it a few weeks later. There were so many with all kinds of textures and finishes which was a bit daunting to begin with. Which one should I choose?! I thought back to Mitch's video and how he had chosen his papers based on the respect they have within the industry. He had chosen Hahnemühle Baryta Photo Rag 315gsm and Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm. Luckily for me, I was holding a sample of the 308gsm in my hand so I could see for myself why this is an amazing fine art paper. It feels quite heavy and has a matte finish with excellent black saturation and natural white tones. I love the texture and up close it has great detail. I ordered a few prints to see how my photos would look and after a few days I had my gloves on inspecting them. They looked perfect and I couldn't be happier with the outcome. I decided there and then that the Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm would be my fine art paper to print on. 

My advice to anyone thinking of starting their own photography print business is to take your time and do your research. Don't start printing onto a paper that you have not tested yourself.  Why would you want to downgrade your final product with an unknown finish when you have spent all your time creating a beautiful piece of art. Yes, this might delay the launch of your business but don't you want to sell products that you would hang on your walls? Print the same photo onto multiple finishes like gloss and matte and play around with different weights and materials. The photography print business is not a one size fits all. Decide what looks best to you and stick with that.