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Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 11: Turning Prints Into Artworks


With all the effort and time spent in picture making and image editing, your fine art print is almost complete. The final steps in paper preparation, retouching of dust spots, autographing and framing are crucial in transforming a printout into a work of art.


Paper preparation before printing
The best fine art papers are often made of cotton pulp, and as such, the paper surface may hold minute powder pockets generated during the paper trimming process. Abrasion between paper and the addition of lubricating powder during the paper manufacturing process also contributes to this.

Powder is detrimental to print quality as it prevents the adhesion of inks on the coated surface, resulting in white dots on the printed surface. The accumulation of powder in the printer can contribute to printer failure too.

There are two ways to clear the paper of powder before printing:
1) Tapping the paper stack against the table – the vibration will loosen the powder from the paper surface.
2) Using an air blower to remove most of the powder and applying the finishing touch with an animal-hair brush. Do not use nylon brushes as they are too abrasive and may damage the coated surface.


Retouching spots by hand

Retouch by hand

Image by Tsiklonaut via http://4nalog.blogspot.sg

Despite our best efforts, stubborn powder spots can persist. This may leave random white spots in the final print. You are left with two choices—to perform a costly reprint or touch up the white spots by hand. Thankfully, with a fine paintbrush and left over ink from an ink cartridge, filling in the white spots is relatively easy.

Step one – Extract the ink with a brush
Insert a super fine brush into the opening of the ink cartridge to extract some ink. For monochrome images, use gray or light gray ink.

Step two – Check ink density
Apply the ink to your nail or wrist to check for the colour intensity. Dilute with water if necessary.

Step three – Apply ink
Touch the paper lightly with the tip of the brush—do not paint by brushing.


Applying the photographer’s signature
There is another use for the left over ink in your ink cartridge—it’s a great opportunity to customise the print with your signature. All you need is a calligraphy dip pen or fountain pen.

Photographer’s signature

Image by John Dunne via https://www.johndunne.ie

Use a dip pen or fountain pen
Draw ink into fountain pen from the ink cartridge. If you are using a dip pen, simply dip the nib into the ink cartridge.

Write on the coated face
Write normally but do be aware that on cotton based fine art paper, it is normal for the ink to run slightly.

Making notes of your print settings
In the course of finessing a print, multiple test prints may be necessary. For example, you may have used different rendering intent profiles or printed from different imaging software. It is, therefore, good practice to label or tag each test print with the print settings for easy identification. This may seem like an unimportant step, but over time, it’s easy to forget which settings were applied to each print. You can record the print settings on the image via a digital watermark or make pencil notes on the back of the print sheet. Either way, these notes are a valuable learning resource.

Framing the print
For photographic prints, simple aluminum or wooden frames are often used as they elegantly support the print without overpowering the image. Together with matting and mounting techniques, the completed frame enhances the value of the print. Matting refers to the use of a thick cardboard cutout as an overlay over the actual print. The following techniques are available for the photographer’s consideration.

Float Mounting
When a print is in direct contact with the frame’s acrylic or glass sheet, unsightly Newton Rings are formed. To avoid this, float mounting is often used in wooden frames as it creates a gap between the print and the clear top sheet. At the same time, the separation adds depth to the print, giving it a three dimensional effect.

Newton rings & float mounting

(Left) Newton rings
(Right) Example of float mounting


The importance of matting
Matting creates margins around a print to make it look larger. An opening, appropriately sized to fit the print emphasizes the impact of the print.

Prints with different matting

The suggested matting sizes are as follows for each paper size:
A4 - 50mm (Frame width)
A3 - 60-70mm (Frame width)
A2 - 60-70mm (Frame width)

Ultimately, the art of framing is about creating perspective. We suggest using a mat board width that is a third to a half that of the width of the image (for rectangular images). A thick mat board width enhances the impact of the image, turning the printed image into windows of the photographer’s vision. The board opening can also be made larger than the printed surface of the print, giving a glimpse of the paper texture and the insight into the thought process of the photographer.


Creative use of mat boards

Raised mat board

Image via http://www.logangraphic.com

To illustrate how matting can radically influence the image, consider the above framing. Notice the slight shadow created by the top mat board? This lends a dramatic quality to the print and further enhances the impact of the image. You can easily create this effect by raising the top board with foam inserts.


dark mat board

For images comprising of predominantly dark tones, the photographer can also consider the use of charcoal or dark coloured mat boards. The dark border complements the image and makes the image and framing a cohesive entity.

As you can see, enjoying a print is indeed an art form. It requires time, patience and a little technical knowledge to fully understand its potential. We hope that this introduction to fine art printing has piqued your interest. Do speak to your local Canon printer specialist to find out how you can start producing your own fine art prints.


Previous articles:
Introduction to Fine Art Printing
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 2: Colour Space
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 3: Colour Profiles and Rendering Intents
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 4: How Light Affects Colour
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 5: Calibrating Your Monitor
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 6: Calibrating Your Printer
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 7: Selecting a Paper for Fine Art Prints
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 8: Testing the Paper
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 9: Defining Your Colouring and Toning Style
Introduction to Fine Art Printing – Part 10: Interview with EOS Professional Edgar Su


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