Fine Art Print vs Photo Print: What’s the Difference Between Them?

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Fine Art Print vs Photo Print: What’s the Difference Between Them?

To understand the difference between a fine art print and a photo print, let’s first look at both of them separately.

What Is a Fine Art Print?

A fine art print is a print that’s also an original work of art. In other words, fine art prints are handmade by the artist and often have original marks from the printer used.

Examples of fine art prints are those found on Etsy, including etchings, lithographs, and serigraphs.

Fine art prints are printed using different techniques and using different materials but they all have one thing in common; all fine art prints are considered handmade by the artist and they’re considered original works of art.

Basically, to make a fine art print, the artist must first draw, paint, or carve a printing surface. The printing surface can be a multitude of different materials, like stone (lithographs), screens (serigraphs, also knows as screenprints), and metal plates (etchings). When the ink or paint is transferred from that surface to a sheet of paper (or whatever material the artist chooses), the final product is called a fine art print.

Check out the links below for more details on how different types of fine art prints are made:

Art Print vs Fine Art Print

The term art print should not be confused with the term fine art print.

While a fine art print is considered original artwork, an art print is a commonly used term used to describe a type of reproduction (a copy of an original work of art).

If you were looking to compare art prints vs photo prints and accidentally ended up here, you can check out my article: Art Print vs Photo Print

Art prints can be easily mass-produced without the aid of the artist who created the original artwork and they’re typically printed on white, premium, cotton paper with high-quality inks. Usually, the paper used for an art print is matte and can be smooth or lightly textured.

If you go to popular art sites such as iCanvas, Society6, Redbubble, and Minted, you’ll quickly notice that what they call art print is artwork printed on medium-weight, cotton paper with a white border. It’s common for art prints to come with a white border around the artwork for framing, but it’s not a requirement.

An example of what most people call art print is in Society6’s product video (below).

Product Video: Society6 Art Prints

What Is a Photo Print?

Commonly, digital photographs are printed on plain paper with a printer, but this is not considered a photo print.

A photo prints, also commonly called a photographic print, is a reproduction (copy) of a photograph or artwork, and it must use photo paper (paper coated with light-sensitive chemicals). This type of paper is smooth and has a gentle polished look or a glossy finish.

Today, most of the high-quality photo prints sold online are what you call silver halide photographic prints (see images on Redbubble). Silver halide photographic prints are printed by exposing photo paper to light and having the image infused in the paper through a silver-based chemical process.

High-quality photo prints are known to have colors that look very natural yet vibrant with amazing highlights and shadows.

Another great thing about a photog print is that the dye is inside the paper, as opposed to laying on top of the paper, so it’ll be resilient to being damaged by things like scratching and liquids.

What Is the Difference Between Photo Paper and Fine Art Paper?

Although both high-quality photo prints and art prints are more similar than they are different, the main difference is the type of paper used.

Art prints and fine art prints are typically made with a type of fine art paper. This type of paper is very durable and is usually made with archival, acid-free cotton (or a cotton blend). Photographic prints are made of photo paper. This type of paper is resin-coated and light-sensitive.

Fine art paper is usually matte and thick and can be smooth or lightly textured. Photo paper is glossier and typically thinner and smoother than fine art paper.

Photo paper also helps in giving the print a high contrast look (amazing highlights and shadows) compared to the more muted look of fine art paper.

Compared to other papers used (like photo paper), galleries usually prefer fine art paper because it tends to last longer with less fading, cracking, and yellowing.

Fine art paper can have a lifespan of 100+ years.

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Cheapest Place To Buy Top-Quality Fine Art Prints & Photo Prints

Here are my favorite places to get the cheapest, high-quality fine art prints.

If I’m looking for more super inexpensive fine art prints, I’ll usually browse through Etsy and Amazon and read the reviews until I find something I like with a 4 or 5-star rating.

Saatchi Art is where I go if I’m looking to buy fine art prints or photo prints as an investment, Saatchi Art is where I go! These fine art prints are usually limited editions, they’re curated by a team of professionals, and are usually more valuable (but a little more expensive) than the fine art prints from the sites mentioned above.

If you’re not completely sure you want to buy fine art prints or photo prints, you might want to check out my article: Best Places to Buy Art Online. In that article, you’ll find the top-10 art sites that I keep going to (over and over again) because they have top-quality art and amazing customer service!

So, go ahead and buy fine art prints or photo prints, support independent artists, and HAVE FUN shopping!