In modern times prints are commonly made using a photographic process as well, though this was very marginal at first.
All “fine art print” processes share the same goal: to reproduce the original as accurately as possible. However, they differ greatly in the procedure. Lithography uses an oil-based ink that repels water and so is suitable only for limited-edition prints.
Each print is numbered and signed by the artist, but each sheet is also unique in some way, which is what makes it an original work of art rather than just a mass-produced commercial object. It does not require great skill to produce lithographs; simple photocopiers can create them from originals that have been drawn on tracing paper with a light table to transfer the image.
Cibachrome prints are made by contact printing, using ultra-violet light to harden the paint coating. Fiber-based papers are the most common support for Cibachromes, including Ilford Galerie Art Silk and Fuji Crystal Archive paper. High-quality fine art prints can also be made by inkjet printing.
There are many techniques and other terms used to describe fine art prints:
All of the above printmaking processes can create different kinds of fine art print, such as a white-line woodcut, various levels of screenprinting, or lithography that is hand stamped. The printing processes listed here are specific to the medium on which they can be printed.
Digital printing is now more accessible and less expensive than traditional methods of fine art printmaking such as lithography, engraving, and screenprinting, but also has its limitations when it comes to reproducing some artwork (particularly photo-realistic images).
Digital fine art prints
Digital fine art prints are produced using the same inkjet technology used to print full-color postcard images and glossy magazine spreads, but with much more sophisticated equipment. Photographers’ work is often reproduced by inkjet printers because of their speed, accuracy, versatility, and convenience available for commercial or advanced amateur use.
Some manufacturers offer both pigment-based (such as Epson and Canon) and dye-based (such as HP and Epson again) inks that can be mixed to create custom colors. Art prints utilizing inkjet technology can reproduce fine detail with high color accuracy, life-like representations of artworks, rich blacks, and wide color gamuts using 100% recycled products. The higher price point of pigment-based inks is balanced by the lower cost per print, faster drying times, and durability of prints on various media.
There are many file types for digital printing, each requiring a different workflow. Most common are.tif or .eps files. Files must be prepped in an external program before sending them to the RIP software (Raster Image Processor) which then applies a color profile to the file.
Fine art prints can be divided into two categories, limited edition, and open edition. A limited-edition print is one in which a maximum number of impressions are produced by each artist or publisher.