Choosing the Right Printing Process & Material Based on Your Needs

By Bestype Printing & Imaging on November 10, 2021
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Our last blog post discussed how printing services use various fine art printing techniques. We looked at how the choices an artist makes affect how the viewer relates to printed artwork. This post will explore different print shop processes and materials professional printers use to reproduce your art. You will learn which combinations of materials, processes, and colors blend successfully and which won’t mix. Bestype printing services’ expertise in fine art printing offers a full range of methods, materials, and craftsmanship. Your fine art print reproduction projects will look amazing, print after print. We can help guide you along a successful pathway from idea to art.

As an artist, you’ve ridden the waves of inspiration. You know your method, materials, and media — you are a pro at whatever art you produce. A professional fine art photographer snapped the perfect images that capture your masterpiece, and now it’s time to share it with the world. As an artist, the choices you make, consciously or subconsciously, are similar to what printing technicians face when they reproduce your art print. Choosing the right substrate (paper or other material) and print processes means thinking about how you want your viewer to interact with your art.

 

Printing Processes and Fine Art Print Reproduction

Each printing method Bestype offers works with a range of designs, stock, coatings, and other techniques we apply to your finished print. We work with you to make sure that the ideas you have in mind work together harmoniously. Most fine art printing falls under four basic processes: 4 Color Process, Spot Color Print, and Embossing/Debossing.

4 Color Process uses the four basic CMYK ink colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and key, otherwise known as black). This process produces all the colors that a human eye can see. Printing services technicians typically use this process for prints using more than three colors, and especially when art or photographic prints’ success depends on fine details.

Spot Color Print relies on the Pantone Matching System to deliver its colorful impact. Pre-mixed inks in Pantone colors deposit specific colors in your print. Print shops typically recommend this technique for prints containing 1-3 colors. Still, spot color printing can create an unlimited number of hues within this range and delivers the detail you want your viewer to notice.

Foil Stamping delivers texture to parts of your final art print design. Print shop technicians use heat and pressure to apply a film to the paper, covering the areas you want with foil. Available in many metallic tones and a wide range of rainbow colors, artists choose foil stamping to add detail, contrast, and texture to their prints. This process can also combine with embossing for additional texture and visual interest.

Embossing/Debossing lends depth and texture to text and graphics. Technicians press images into the paper using customized dies, either raising (embossing) or recessing (debossing) the image. Designers use embossing/debossing in creative ways to please both fingers and eyes, drawing attention to specific areas of a page.

 

Color Options and Your Choices in Art Print Reproduction

What artists can and can’t do with these printing services processes requires a bit more thought. Each process is limited by choices of material, technique, and the finishes you may want to apply on top of your print.

4 Color Process printing can simulate millions of colors in your finished print. However, results will vary because inkjet printing technology varies from machine to machine. Graphic design software works with printer technology to blend colors to replicate the original color. Your print will be a very close match to your original artwork’s palette but can’t always be 100% accurate.

4 Color Process reveals detail in reproducing photos and gradients. It’s great for full-color printing that uses many gradients and shades. However, if you would like to print neon colors, your only option is to go with Spot Color Printing. If you want to reproduce metallics in your 4 color process, you can. Printing services technicians can apply different metallic finishes to your print, each adding metallic luster and texture to the areas you want to make shine.

Spot Color Printing takes advantage of limited color deposited on the page to make a powerful impact on the viewer. The Pantone Color Palette offers more than 1500 colors to choose from, but you are limited to these colors. To achieve color consistency, print shop technicians blend 1-3 specific inks. This process is monitored digitally to make sure colors remain consistently true, print after print. Posters are a good place to see how designers use spot color printing to draw the eye: one primary color, white space, and black text make posters stand out. Photographers often use spot color printing to make an artistic statement — their photos need to be converted to monotone or duotone images first. Then printing services technicians apply a wash of up to three Pantone shades to the photographic print. When you want neon colors to appear in an art print, applying one neon ink creates bright and vibrant highlights to key areas of your image.

Foil Stamped Colors depend on which type of foil you want to use. Artists can choose a standard metal or use blues, pinks, or a wide range of non-metallic colors. Foil adds highly reflective shine to any print, no matter the color you choose. Foil color can vary, so print shop inventories include extensive stock of foil with matching lot numbers. Having matching lots helps printing services technicians maintain the color consistency of your prints, from order to order.

Embossing/Debossing doesn’t involve color itself, but where it’s applied in your design matters. Your embossed or debossed design will always take on the color of your paper.

 

Paper Stock and Art Print Reproduction

Every print shop carries multiple kinds of basic paper stocks. Your paper stock can be dark or light, in many different shades of white or other colors. Paper comes in various weights and thicknesses. Paper can contain more than wood pulp — cotton, bamboo, sugar cane, and many more materials combine for custom papers. Additionally, paper stock can be coated with a light film or be uncoated. Lastly, the paper may contain texture — either texture you can feel and see or only visual texture. Let’s walk through these options and examine their differences in more detail.

Dark/Colored Stocks have a few limitations you need to know about if you choose to print on dark paper. Colored stocks generally are not good candidates for 4 color printing. Artists should be aware that the darker the stock, the darker your ink colors need to be — only darker inks can be printed on dark or colored stock paper. The dark background bleeds through and changes the color of lighter inks. Even dark inks appear different on colored paper. Foil stamping, embossing, and debossing techniques work well on dark stock, adding visual and physical contrast. You can work with our printing services technicians who understand how all these finishes work together. We will help you find the best spot color ink to work with your stock selection.

Thick Stock, including heavier paper, impresses the holder through feel and even can help visual presentations look their best. Stocks with different weights may be coated or uncoated, and all types will accept 4 color printing, spot color inks, and foil stamping. It’s important to remember that the heavier a page is, the harder it is to emboss or deboss.

Coated stock is smooth and can carry varying degrees of gloss. Printers deposit the ink so that it sits on the surface of the coated page. Text and graphics look sharp and bright on top of the coatings. However, if an image uses heavy ink coverage, cracking may occur where the ink lies thick. Otherwise, coated stock can receive all of the techniques we discussed in this article.

Uncoated stock is also smooth but doesn’t have a gloss coat barrier. As a result, ink soaks into the paper, resulting in slightly duller colors than the original art. One advantage of using uncoated stock is that the cracking mentioned earlier doesn’t occur — deep ink saturation can work well here. Uncoated stock is a good candidate for all of the techniques a printer can apply.

Textured Stock provides a “feel” to the paper — think linen, tweed, cotton, and felt. Artists select a texture to add richness to their print. One mild drawback to textured stock is that ink does not apply evenly because of the texture, resulting in some loss of detail. Otherwise, textured stock works with 4 color and spot color, foil stamping, and is an excellent candidate for embossing/debossing.

Visually Textured Stock works well to give an impression of texture without the limitations of physical textured paper. The material used in visually textured stocks is typically uncoated and has fine grains or small fibers embedded into it. Because it doesn’t have a physical texture to compete against, inks perform normally. Visually textured stocks accept 4 color and spot colors, foil stamping, and embossing/debossing.

 

Getting Help Choosing Your Process and Materials

If all of this is still confusing, Bestype printing solutions can help you choose the right paper and process to reproduce your art. Your printing services technicians can guide you through choosing the stock type and weight that works best with what you want to accomplish. We know what works through 40 years of experience as a local print shop supporting artists printing in New York City. When you contact us for your complimentary consultation, we will guide you through all of your printing solutions options. You can visit our conveniently located Soho print shop, and our technicians will show you material and process examples. You can browse through our sample project portfolio — an opportunity to see how various techniques, papers, and color choices work together. Viewing real-life art print projects will help you make the choices you need to reproduce your art. Bestype’s fine art printing experience is ready to help you print your art and photography. Contact us today, and we’ll show you how easy reproducing your artwork can be.

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