Acrylic, Metal, Canvas or Paper: What is the Best Print Medium?

People often ask “What is the best fine art print medium on the market?” While we certainly have our personal favorite (hint: read to the end!), the right print medium can be different for each person based on display location, budget, print size and intended use. If you find yourself browsing a site such as Fine Art America or you will likely be overwhelmed by sheer the number of print mediums available with everything from wood prints, to canvas prints and even wall tapestries - not to mention all the tchotchkes in between (mugs, keychains, t-shirts, etc.)! This article narrows the infinite list of print mediums down to several distinctly different, fine art print mediums that will last a lifetime and are worthy of investing your money in.

Shock Wave
"Shock Wave", Ke'e Beach, Kauai, Hawaii. Photo © copyright by Max Foster.

Fujiflex Photographic Paper Prints | Ready to Frame

One of the best professional photo papers on the market today is Fuji’s Fujiflex Crystal Archive photographic paper. Fuji Crystal Archive High Gloss prints are a favorite among landscape photographers and fine art collectors due to its stunning high gloss surface and visual depth provided by the polyester-based material. The surface of this print is so incredibly glossy that it almost appears as if it was splashed wet with color. Because it is a true photographic paper, the photograph is exposed into the silver-halide material and then developed like film (rather than being printed) which allows for superior color, contrast and sharpness.

Handling and framing of these delicate Fujiflex Crystal Archive photographic prints should only be done by a professional framer. A mat is also highly recommended for this type of paper print as the high gloss surface can have a tendency to stick to the glass without a mat separating the two surfaces. Due to their delicate nature, our FujiFlex Crystal Archive prints come mounted to 2mm styrene to ensure a perfectly flat surface for framing.

While this is the least expensive of the three offerings, it does require matting and framing in order to be displayed which can bring the total price to equal or above our #1 choice: an Acrylic Print. Because of this, we often recommended upgrading from a photographic paper print to an Acrylic Print which allows you to calculate the full cost of the finished piece up front and there is no waiting time from the day you receive it to when you are able to hang it on your wall!

Catching Fire Panoramic
"Catching Fire Panoramic", Lutsen, Minnesota. Photo © copyright by Max Foster

Giclee Canvas Prints | Ready to Hang

The most traditional (and frankly mass produced) of all ready to hang fine art print mediums on the market today is the gallery wrapped canvas print. The old-fashioned, oil painting look this type of print creates lends itself well to more traditionally styled homes. These giclee canvas prints are created by printing the image directly onto the canvas surface and then stretching the canvas around a wooden frame. Typically, a canvas print comes with finished paper backing, wall bumpers and a sawtooth hanger.

The biggest advantage canvas has over the other ready to hang print mediums is its price point as it is by far the most affordable option. However, the downside is that a traditional canvas print will not provide anywhere close to the vibrancy, sharpness, or brilliance that metal, acrylic or even photographic paper prints can offer. Additionally, given that canvas is a natural material, its durability is much lower than metal or acrylic as it is subject to moisture, warping and tearing. Because of these reasons, we do not offer canvas as a print medium at Max Foster Fine Art Photography. Our goal is to provide the absolute highest quality prints on the market and canvas just doesn't compete when it comes to quality.

Sea Portal
"Sea Portal", Scripps Pier, La Jolla, California. Photo © Max Foster.

Chromaluxe Metal Prints | Ready to Hang

Metal prints have become hugely popular over the last few years with customers and photographers alike due to their mid-range price point, high durability and ease of hanging right out of the box. The most common metal prints on the market today are Chromaluxe dye-sublimation metal prints. These prints are created by infusing an image under high heat and pressure onto an aluminum substrate.

While these dye-sublimation metal prints are extremely durable, the resulting image is not as sharp or vivid as what can be achieved with an Acrylic Print. Additionally, the dye sublimation process is very finicky and if not done exactly right with the best equipment, materials, and procedures, it is susceptible to the following issues:

  • Inaccurate Color Reproduction - While most colors can be replicated according to the original image file, the color green tends to be more difficult to replicate.
  • Softness - Even when transferred correctly, dye sublimation prints lack the sharpness that mediums such as Acrylic are able to achieve. This is compounded if there is even the slightest movement of the paper during the image transfer.

  • Metal Substrate Imperfections - On rare occasions imperfections such as chipping or flaking may be found in the Chromaluxe aluminum substrate.

We offer Metal Prints for specific client needs such as indoor/outdoor spaces where there may be exposure to the elements, fluctuation in temperature, or in high traffic areas such as restaurants, bars, commercial spaces, etc.

Peace Like A River
"Peace Like A River", Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. Photo © Max Foster

TruLife Acrylic Prints | Ready to Hang

When it comes to our absolute favorite print medium, the one that stands above the rest for ready to hang finished works of art is the Lumachrome or Fujiflex TruLife® Acrylic Print. What makes this medium so stunning? These pieces offer an incredibly brilliant, luxurious display that no other art presentation can match. Light that comes in contact with the print refracts within the acrylic material and illuminates the artwork as if back-lit. Each piece is handcrafted to absolute perfection using the highest level of craftsmanship and gallery quality materials.

The creation process begins by professionally face mounting the Lumachrome or Fujiflex photographic print onto 1/8″ TruLife® acrylic glass which is anti-reflective, scratch-resistant, crystal clear and 99% UV blocking. The TruLife® acrylic is then mounted to a rigid acrylic backer, ensuring the print is properly protected on both sides. Lastly, the piece is finished by adding a rear mounted inset frame, which gives the print the appearance of floating off the wall, eliminating the need for exterior framing.

We highly recommend purchasing TruLife Acrylic prints as opposed to standard acrylic prints as TruLife reduces glare from windows, lights or reflections by up to 50%. In addition, the TruLife Acrylic gives added protection from UV rays as well as offers a scratch resistance surface.

TruLife® Acrylic Prints are the crème de la crème in gallery quality photographic art and is by far our best-selling print medium. Ideal for galleries or private homes, with proper lighting these prints take on a luminance that brings the photo to life. If you have any questions about these print mediums or are interested in learning more about which one would work best in your space, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to assist you.

A 48x72
A 48x72" Gallery Ultra TruLife® Acrylic Print of "Sparkling Positano" in a client's home.
TruLife Acrylic Framed Print
A 36x54" Gallery Ultra+ TruLife® Acrylic Framed Print of "Patience".