The Best Photography Print Mediums

If you are like most people who are considering a fine art landscape photography print for your home, choosing the best photography print medium that will be beautiful, fit your budget, and stand the test of time is an important consideration.

A serene waterfall in Costa Rica surrounded by lush green vegetation.
'Lost World', La Paz Waterfall, Costa Rica. Limited Edition Of 150.

After you decide on your favorite image, which print styles or 'mediums' do you have to choose from? Why are some more expensive than others? What are they going to look like in person? Do you want a wooden frame or do you prefer the frameless, floating look?

If these questions sound familiar, you are on the right track by beginning with some research to learn about the best options available.

It may be that you have never seen a large, luxury fine art print. Many people who have attended a gallery displaying such works of art often have the same reaction; they are stunned at how amazing a large, quality print looks up close.

Red maple leaves hanging near a gentle cascade available as a print from Dean McLeod Photography.
'Tranquility', Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Limited edition of 150. Framed with a stunning Omega® Light Aluminum Scoop wooden frame combined with a white linen liner.

Let us begin by highlighting an important, indisputable truth; photographic printing is really an art form unto itself. As a general rule, the vast majority of gallery-quality prints are produced by professionals in state-of-the-art labs who have dedicated their lives to mastering their craft.

It is important to stress that viewing an image on a computer screen doesn't even come close to the experience of seeing a gallery-quality landscape photography art piece in person.

A beautifully crafted acrylic face-mounted print will bring an image to life with a three-dimensional look full of sharp detail and eye-popping color. They often appear to be glowing like they are backlit and are absolutely breathtaking to see.

Below is an easy guide to explain the differences between some of the most popular photographic print mediums available today.

Loose Paper Prints

Loose paper prints can be produced from a variety of devices like ink-jet or digital chromogenic printers. These prints are often of excellent quality and can be packaged flat or rolled in a cardboard tube and shipped to your home, but require external framing or mounting of some kind before they can be installed on your wall.

Loose paper photographic print and packaging.
Loose paper prints are the most inexpensive way to obtain a nature photograph, but must be handled with extreme care. They require mounting or framing at an additional expense before they can be hung on your wall.

There are some caveats involved with choosing this medium, including a very real possibility that the print may become damaged if you handle it yourself, so it is highly recommended that you hire a professional to frame it for you.

Keep in mind that custom framing can be expensive, sometimes costing more than the print itself. Glass is often used to protect the print, but will often introduce some amount of glare on the photograph in bright rooms. Anti-glare glass is a good option if it is available.

Another option is to have the paper print professionally laminated on the surface to protect it. The print can then be framed without glass to eliminate glare.

Loose paper prints are generally the most cost effective way to obtain some nice wall art, if you are willing to spend some extra money to have it mounted.

Canvas Prints

Closeup view of canvas photographic prints from the front and back.
Photographs can be printed on a special canvas material, then wrapped and stapled to an inexpensive wooden frame.

Canvas prints are another medium that still remains popular. A photograph can be printed on this specially coated cotton or plastic-based fabric, which is then wrapped and stapled over a light wooden frame. They are usually ready to hang directly out of the box, but can also be externally framed with a special canvas floater frame for a more finished look.

Some artists offer their work printed on canvas as they are generally less expensive to produce, but unfortunately do not possess a lot of vibrancy or clarity. The texture of the canvas tends to wash out the fine details in an image, and they are generally not considered fine art for photographic purposes.

Dye-Sublimated Metal Prints

A newer medium that has become very popular are metal prints, most commonly produced using a method called dye-sublimation.

With this process, the image is first printed on a unique transfer paper, then taped down over a specially coated sheet of aluminum in a large heat press. The press is then closed, applying heat and pressure to the paper which transfers the ink and infuses it into the coating on the aluminum.

The most commonly used aluminum sheets used for photographic purposes are manufactured under the brand name Chromaluxe®.

Closeup edge profile of a Chromaluxe metal photo print.
A typical Chromaluxe (dye-sublimated) metal print. A recessed floating frame is attached to the back of the print, making it appear to 'float' on your wall.

A recessed 'floating frame' is usually attached to the back of the print, so no external framing is required and the print will appear to 'float' on your wall, arriving ready to hang.

It is also possible to delete the rear floating frame and externally frame them yourself, although this print style is usually chosen because the buyer prefers a frameless, contemporary look.

Dye-sublimated metal prints are very durable, waterproof, and possess nice color saturation and good detail.

Standard Acrylic Face-Mounted Prints

Finally, the most advanced photographic printing method available today is called acrylic face mounting. For the most breathtaking, museum-quality fine art medium available, look no further.

In its most simplistic form, acrylic 'face mounting' a photograph is a process that involves printing a photograph on paper, applying a clear adhesive to the face of the image then adhering the print to a clear sheet of acrylic.

Stiff backing material is then applied to the back of the print to protect it and provide rigidity. Finally, a recessed floating frame and hanging hardware are attached to the backer.

Premium Lumachrome® TruLife® Acrylic Face-Mount Prints

Many of the industry's top professionals agree that Lumachrome® technology combined with TruLife® acrylic produces the finest face mount prints in the world today.

Lumachrome® is a proprietary, state-of-the-art archival transparency paper infused with iridium particles that features vivid, brilliant colours lasting over 120 years with incredible 3D depth and dimensionality. When lit with quality lighting, its reactive properties make it come alive with a glowing response that is absolutely stunning.

TruLife® is a revolutionary optically-clear acrylic with an anti-reflective coating that drastically reduces reflections and glare while allowing viewers to see the finest details in the image for the best viewing experience possible. The thickness of the acrylic gives the photograph an amazing three-dimensional depth with vibrant color and clarity that is unsurpassed.

When accent lighting is used on these prints, it refracts or 'bounces' within the acrylic, causing a unique effect that appears to illuminate the image from within, or make it appear 'backlit' like a computer or television screen.

This captivating effect is unique to the acrylic face mount style and is the reason they look so bright and vibrant, full of rich detail with amazing depth.

The many layers of a Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic print make them works of art unto themselves.

Additionally, this acrylic gives your art piece 99% UV protection, is abrasion resistant, has anti-static properties that repel dust and it cleans like glass with no special acrylic cleaner required.

A robust recessed floating frame is attached to the back of the print so they are ready to hang with no external framing required. These premium-quality prints are also available with full custom framing options.

And The Winner Is...

It is my opinion that Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic face-mount prints are the best that money can buy, and for good reason. These art pieces are the absolute gold standard of print mediums available today. They are museum-quality, archival to last over 120 years with incredible colour, clarity, detail, and three-dimensionality.

As an artist, I am proud to offer Lumachrome® TruLife® acrylic prints, ChromaLuxe® HD metal prints, and Fujicolor® Crystal Archive Pearl paper prints as my preferred products, all in Limited Editions to provide my customers with art pieces that they will be proud to show in their homes. These prints are engineered to last a lifetime and beyond.

Framed photographic print of trees in fog hanging on wall over sofa from Dean McLeod Photography.
'Frozen', Limited Edition of 50. Framed with a beautiful hand-made Omega® Light Aluminum wooden frame coupled with a white linen liner.

An Important Note

At the end of the day, viewing a photograph on a computer screen doesn't even begin to do it justice. I regularly receive comments from excited customers about how stunning these large-format prints really are in person when they see one for the first time.

Standing in the same room viewing these artworks up close allows one to truly appreciate the experience and vision of the artist, through to the museum-quality materials of the final product.

When expertly crafted as an acrylic face-mount or chromogenic metal print, these images take on a life of their own and are absolutely breathtaking to see on your wall, often transforming the room with a gallery-quality atmosphere.

Expensive Gallery Or Direct From The Artist?

Large, expensive galleries are often the only place you may have seen an acrylic face mounted artwork, but the reality is that most galleries have very large overhead expenses. With rent, utilities, taxes, managers, and sales staff to pay, the cost for that beautiful print can quickly get out of control.

The good news is that you don't have to deal with pushy salespeople or over-inflated gallery prices to have the exact same museum-quality luxury fine art print delivered directly to your home.

My ecommerce model enables me to avoid the unnecessary costs of a gallery and pass the savings on to you. Close relationships with experts in the industry allow me to collaborate directly with award-winning, master printers to produce my art pieces to the highest standards and in most cases, the prints that I offer are an even higher caliber than what you might find in a gallery, at a fraction of the cost.

Remember that an expensive print in a fancy gallery is often of no higher quality than a print from a conscientious, professional photographer who strives for perfection of their craft.

Invest in what you love. Invest with your eyes.

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Dean McLeod Photography fine art logo.