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What Are the Different Types of Fine Art Inkjet Papers?

By Eugene P.
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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A number of fine art inkjet papers are available for artists who want to reproduce their artwork or print digital works. The papers are classified by their weight, material, finish and texture, as well as special properties such as ultraviolet coatings. Most fine art inkjet papers are heavier than standard printing paper and are made from cotton rag, linen or synthetic fibers. The finish can be glossy, semi-gloss or matte. Surface textures can range from very smooth and glasslike to raised and rough, like a piece of canvas.

Many fine art papers are made from cotton rag and have their surfaces treated or bleached to show a wider range of perceived colors. Cotton rag allows the artwork to have a longer life than normal pulp fiber papers and can withstand different coatings and treatments. Many artists who make giclee art prints use cotton rag because they feel it has a similar look and feel to traditional art papers.

There are three main finishes for fine art inkjet papers. A gloss finish is highly reflective and very shiny, similar to photo paper. Semi-gloss finished papers, also called a satin finish, are less shiny but still very fine. Matte finishes have only a very slight sheen, especially once something has been printed on them, and provide almost no reflective qualities. Once framed behind glass, the finish is not as noticeable as it is when viewed in the open.

The surface texture of many fine art inkjet papers is a result of the pressing process used. Cold-pressed papers have some tooth to their surface, while hot-pressed papers are much smoother. Some papers have very rough surfaces that resemble canvas or watercolor paper. Paper choice greatly determines the final look of a work and, thus, is an important decision for the artist.

Another element of the paper is its weight. The majority of art papers are thicker than normal paper. Some of them are so thick that they cannot be run through an inkjet printer that uses a curved paper roller. Specialty papers that simulate watercolor or canvas will often be much thicker than other papers.

There are a variety of coatings that can be applied to fine art inkjet papers. The most common are ultraviolet protection, which helps to increase light fastness, and special coatings to help improve the visible color gamut. Rarer coatings, such as iridescent finishes or waterproof coatings, also are available.

Rarer paper types exist as alternatives to those most often used. Alpha cellulose is a type of artificial fiber used as a durable substitute for cotton. Some "papers" are actually sheets of printable silk, cotton or linen. Papers can come tinted toward warm or cool whites, or even be an actual color. More exotic holographic papers and translucent mylars also are available for unique applications.

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