- Thomas Upton
Guide to Fine Art Media for Big Island Images
Identifying a favorite image is only the first step creating an art piece for your home.
You must decide how to display it, which involves selecting the print medium, mounting method, and archival requirements. Each of these choices creates still further options. I can't overemphasize that you can obtain very satisfying results by leaving many of these decisions to your print provider. For Big Island Images, this is easily done by going to the "Print Shop", selecting an image, and making basic choices about size and presentation format. But for a truly outstanding and long-lasting presentation, I can help you determine what approach will work best for your favorite image (email@example.com).
After selecting the image, determining the print medium is the next step. For a classic look, a conventional framed print is great and really benefits from careful selection of components. A good choice of frame, mat, and print paper gives the image elegance and the combination of elements draws the viewer in.
For a more contemporary look, metal or acrylic prints are extremely popular and allow for great diversity in the final presentation. Metal and acrylic prints are usually unframed and presented without borders on the print. For me, this look is best when the print is large and the content is dramatic. The image itself must draw you in and size helps accomplish this.
Borderless and frameless prints can also be cut into panels or presented effectively as a collage. This adds a unique design component to the presentation that (when done well) causes the viewer to move through the the panels to absorb the whole image. Though it shouldn't be the only criteria, a REALLY BIG plus to the use of multiple panels for a single image is that the overall cost can be dramatically reduced (printing and shipping). Just try to get a 4' x 8' single acrylic image created and placed in your home! It will look fabulous, but you'd better LOVE it! Here are a couple of examples of multi-panel acrylic prints from my own home:
There are numerous other media to consider (e.g. canvas, wood, etc) and these are great for the right application. But this blog is focused on getting the highest quality image on your wall, so we will stick to frames, metal, and acrylic (and combinations of these).
Framed Prints. I recommend two, fairly standard framing option among the zillions out there. For my best fine art landscape photos, I personally prefer this presentation vs metal and acrylic. I favor subtle colors and mostly simple scenes and a framed print seems to provide a window into these scenes that I like. But there are exceptions!
1. Single mat with conventional frame. Sounds simple, but there are a lot of choices that affect the outcome. My own choice tends towards simple and unadorned presentation. Here are a few basic examples of framed Big Island Images:
Not fancy. The image and print better be good. The next decision is print paper. Color rendition varies widely, as does texture and surface finish. Mat color and texture, for me, follows in importance (I like plain white). Frames are very personal and I have no opinion. I have observed however, that photographs are often presented with the simplest of frames and mats. Museums want the frame to attract, but not distract from the image.
2. Float mount with reveal in box frame. In this approach, the print is mounted so that it "floats" slightly above the background mat. The frame has to be a bit deeper to accommodate (hence "box"). The mat sits behind the image with whatever width (reveal) that sets off the image best for you. To me this look accentuates the fact that the print itself is just a delicate piece of paper (like a drawing or watercolor) that conveys beauty you enjoy. Here is an example:
Metal (Substrate) Prints. The print is infused onto and into the metal surface creating a very durable art piece. The print surface can range from glossy to satin or textured. Color rendition for modern metal prints is excellent, tending towards vivid. There aren't nearly as many choices for print color rendition and texture as for a framed print. If your image is subtle and "painterly", this may not be for you. An important decision for frameless metal prints is mounting method. Since the metal image itself is flat (thin), it is usually "floated" off the wall via a frame built on the back of the print, or using a set of corner posts or "standoffs". It is a dramatic look. Here is an example of a very large metal print collage, spanning 8' x 10', created from a single high resolution image:
Acrylic Face-Mounted Prints. Here, a paper print is attached with complete transparency (amazing!) to the back of an acrylic sheet. Prints presented this way have a beautiful 3-dimensional look, as the paper print is viewed through the thick (~ 1/4") acrylic. It is different than a conventional print viewed through glass. There are a lot fewer choices here. The prints tend towards vivid (in my opinion) and the acrylic is almost always glossy. If this is what you want, acrylic is hard to beat! Primary choices here include glare/non-glare acrylic and mounting method (same as for metal prints).
Here's an example of a frameless acrylic print:
Fine Art Paper on Metal. In some sense this is a combination of the above options. It is possible to have a print made on high quality fine-art print paper and then mounted on a metal surface, to give the look of metal with the surface, texture, and color rendition flexibility of paper. Full disclosure, I have not seen an example of this type of presentation, but it is very intriguing as a way to possibly achieve the best of classic and contemporary print presentation.
Archival Quality. Though not a major driver for me personally (explained below), many buyers desire prints that are demonstrably able to exist in normal home environments for very long periods. The reasons are simple: cost of a great print is significant, its art value to the owner is great, and therefore the desire to have it last a long time is obvious. In years past, digital and film prints could not guarantee this at all. It is not a major concern for me because today, it is now a simple matter to find UV-blocked glass, and acid-free mats, papers, and adhesives. Debates rage over the true longevity of printing inks, but for almost any true fine art media, the longevity will be adequate as an heirloom, if not a museum piece (and probably that too). That said, it is the buyer's choice and opinion that counts!