SUMMARY: In this blog post learn about the differences between fine art and photo paper and why it matters...
Have you ever wondered what kind of paper your artwork is printed on? Does it make a difference? Spoiler Alert: it does.
Fine Art Paper
Fine Art paper is a higher quality paper, specially constructed to ensure your photographic artwork looks its best for a long, long time. The main difference in Fine Art paper and Photo paper is its composition.
Fine Art paper must include natural fibers, such as cotton. You can also find Fine Art papers made from Bamboo as well as Bamboo and cotton blends. Indeed, some of the best Fine Art papers will be designated 100% cotton rag, so you know you are getting a paper constructed of all natural fibers. Fine Art paper has not been bleached with chlorine or other brightening agents.
Fine Art paper is also PH neutral, sometimes referred to as “acid-free.” The PH neutral nature of the paper ensures that your photographic artwork will retain its sharpness and luster for years to come. In fact, you may also see Fine Art paper referred to as “Archival Quality” as it is particularly suited to preserving archives.
Fine Art paper is ideally suited to receiving inks and pigments. The composition of the surface layer must allow the ink to adhere well over time. Generally Fine Art paper supports intense colors and marked contrasts while also enabling a wide range of grey tones.
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Fine Art paper comes in different weights or thickness, measured in “grams per square meter,” and you will often see this designated as 300g or 330g (meaning 300 or 330 grams per square meter). Generally, the thicker or heavier the paper the higher the quality.
Photo paper is paper that has been coated in a light-sensitive chemical formula such as a resin. Photo papers are generally bleached with chlorine or treated with special dyes to further brighten the white areas of the picture (often called optical brightening agents). They work by converting invisible UV energy into visible light. This makes the picture seem brighter.
Like Fine Art paper, Photo paper is measured in weight. You should see Photo paper measured in grams per square meter, but occasionally you may see Photo paper measured in pounds (only in the US). Paper weight in pounds is determined by weighing 500 sheets (1 ream) in the basis size of a particular paper. If it weighs 140 pounds for instance, that is 140 weight paper. Confusingly, not all papers have the same basis size, so weighing in pounds can give you inconsistent results. Measuring paper by grams is more precise.
Does It Matter
In a word: yes. Fine Art Paper is paper specifically constructed for art. Photo paper may be fine for photos you want to view periodically, but if you are buying photographic art, make sure it is printed on Fine Art Paper.