Buying Art Online: Photo or Fine Art Paper? Canvas, Acrylic Glass or Metal Prints?

I know buying art online can be difficult, and having lots of different print options to choose from doesn’t make things any easier. To help sort things out, here are some facts about each of the print surfaces that I offer:

Lustre Photo Paper

Photo paper is a more affordable alternative to traditional fine art paper. The photo paper I use is professional grade and has a subtle “pebble” texture and a slight sheen without being glossy. The lustre surface results in strong, bright, vibrant prints with crisp, rich colors and depth. The look and feel of this paper is that of a photographic print (scroll down for a closeup image).

This paper is a great choice when you want to save a bit of money and don’t mind framing the print yourself.

I especially like the lustre paper for my “bright and happy”, colorful images, like the Swimming Pool series, most of the Ocean / Water prints, and some of the California prints.

Buying Art Online: Swimming Pool prints by Cattie Coyle Photography
Swimming Pool No. 1, 2, and 3

Matte Fine Art Paper

My favorite paper for pretty much any image. The fine art paper I use is a 100% acid free archival cotton rag that has a matte, smooth surface without reflections and glare. Images printed on this paper are a bit more subdued, but still have brilliant colors, deep blacks, contrast, and perfect reproduction of details. The look and feel of this paper is artistic and luxurious.

This paper is perfect when you want a more classic fine art look, and these prints are available both unframed and framed.

As I mentioned, the fine art paper is usually my first choice for all my images, and especially for black and white, softly colored, and more painterly images, like the Beach Days series, most of the Surfing images, or the Sandpiper prints.

Buying Art Online: Black and white picture gallery wall by Cattie Coyle Photography
Beach Days No. 1, Sandpiper No. 1 and 2, Surfing No. 14

Buying Art Online: Lustre and matte paper comparison Cattie Coyle Photography

Canvas Gallery Wraps

Canvas wraps are lightweight, easily portable and an economical alternative to traditional framed prints.

My canvas wraps are created by printing the photo directly onto museum-quality canvas with premium archival inks. The full image appears on the front; the portion of the image that wraps around the sides is mirrored from the original so that there is no need to crop the image or have a solid color on the sides. The print is then hand stretched, wrapped around a 1.5 inch wooden artist’s stretcher frame and finished with a lustre coating to protect against UV light (fading), scratches and scuffs.

The surface of canvas prints have a classic canvas texture, and the images come out more muted and subtly colored than on any of the other options here. They are made with archival materials, and when stored and displayed properly (i.e. not in direct sunlight), they should last 80 years or more without any visible fading.

Buying Art Online: Canvas print by Cattie Coyle Photography

To be perfectly honest, I offer canvas wraps in my store because people have asked for them, and all my images work as canvas wraps, but I personally prefer framed prints over canvas.

Buying Art Online: Morning Meditation - Fine art print by Cattie Coyle Photography
Morning Meditation No. 1

Metal Prints

Metal prints are created by infusing dyes directly into a specially coated aluminum sheet, resulting in vivid, luminous images with brilliant colors and clarity.

Because the image is infused and permanently bonded to the surface, metal prints are very durable, with an ultra-hard scratch-resistant glossy surface. They are also thin, lightweight, and easy to clean. The estimated lifespan of metal prints is 2-4 times that of silver-based paper prints, displayed or stored in the same conditions. Archival paper prints are rated at 100+ years when stored in good conditions, so these prints can last for several generations.

Bying Art Online: Metal print by Cattie Coyle Photography

Metal prints are great when you want a frameless, modern look, and because they are weather and water resistant, they are a perfect choice for bathrooms, kitchens and sheltered outdoor areas (but avoid hanging them in direct sunlight outdoors).

I like most of my images on metal, but I think the ones that really stand out on metal are the more dramatic and “lively” ones, like the Summer Storm series or the “active” surfing prints.

Buying Art Online: Summer Storm - Metal print by Cattie Coyle Photography
Summer Storm No. 2

Acrylic Glass Prints

Acrylic prints are light, shatterproof and resistant to UV light and temperature fluctuations. Acrylic (a.k.a. plexiglass) is unique in that light refracts within it (instead of passing through as it does with glass), resulting in an almost backlit appearance with the right light, and the polished edges give the image an almost 3D look.

There are a few different ways to create acrylic prints; mine are face mounted, meaning they are created by mounting a print between acrylic glass and aluminum DiBond (a rigid plastic core surrounded by two thin sheets of aluminum, very sturdy but still lightweight). The face mount is a more difficult process, but well worth it – the result is a clean, borderless and really vivid, vibrant image with rich colors and depth.

Buying Art Online: Acrylic glass print by Cattie Coyle Photography

My acrylic prints have 1/4” thick glass and come ready to hang with wall mounts installed on the back. They are professionally handmade in the US, gallery quality, and built to last a lifetime.

Acrylic prints are great when you want a sleek, modern, upscale look with wow factor and colors that really pop. I love acrylic for my more colorful and vibrant images, like the Magoito series, “Turquoise Water”, and the Caribbean Sea prints.

Bying Art Online: Turquoise Water acrylic print by Cattie Coyle Photography
Turquoise Water

I hope this was helpful in your decision making process. If there is a print surface you would like that is not listed here, or you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I love to brainstorm! ☺

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