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Conservation level is one of 5 levels of framing. The 5 levels of framing indicates the aesthetic and durability of the frame. Different levels require different materials and perhaps, different techniques. The high standard craftsmanship remains the same, regardless of the framing levels.

Conservation framing level - Helping preserve your artwork for future generations.


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Commended level is one of 5 levels of framing. The 5 levels of framing indicates the aesthetic and durability of the frame. Different levels require different materials and perhaps, different techniques. The high standard craftsmanship remains the same, regardless of the framing levels.

Commended framing guarantees a degree of protection, with design playing an important part.


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The Five Levels Of Framing

The Five Levels of Framing provide a framework of standards for the professional picture framer as determined by the Fine Art Trade Guild. Not all framers subscribe to these standards, but doing so indicates a framer is aware of, and can apply, the materials and craftsmanship required to meet those standards and has the knowledge to ensure that your art is framed correctly.


Museum – The ultimate protection for your artwork.

Objective -To visually enhance artwork and offer the ultimate level of protection from physical and mechanical damage, airborne pollution and acids generated by framing materials for up to 35 years in normal conditions*.

Conservation – Helping preserve your artwork for future generations.

Conservation framing level now can be done at VG-Lab. Above picture shows the materials used in the frame, “quality checked by” and sealed date of the frame.


Objective – To visually enhance artwork and offer a high level of protection from physical and mechanical damage, airborne pollution and acids generated by framing materials, for approximately 20 years under normal conditions*.

Commended – Guarantees a degree of protection, with design playing an important part.

Commended framing level now can be done at VG-Lab. Please learn more in this link: LEARN MORE

Objective – To visually enhance artwork and offer a moderate level of protection from airborne pollution and acid damage for around five years in normal conditions*.

Budget – Visually pleasing, but offering no long-term protection.

Objective – To provide a visually acceptable frame at a budget price. No pretence is made to protect the artwork or its long-term visual appearance.

Minimum Level Putting Economy First

Objective – To provide a basic frame at minimum cost; price overrides visual appearance and quality



  • The term ‘normal conditions’ as used in the Guild’s standards means out of direct sunlight, within the temperature range 10°C – 25°C and relative humidity between 40% and 60%. As we are aware of not many frames can be displayed in such conditions, therefore we recommend our clients to get your frame check-up for every three years (Or in case of any damage to the frame).



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6 Questions to Ask a Professional Framer

It is essential you get your paintings framed to maintain their beauty, life and loveliness. Colors tend to fade if not framed properly. Mold and mildew may set in, totally ruining your art.

Framing alone does not guarantee you the best for your precious artwork. If not properly executed, wrong techniques and materials can do plenty of damage to your painting. Acids wear away the fabric and affect the pigments.

Acid burnt on an artwork . (Source:

The importance of framing right cannot be overstated, especially if you have a very valuable artwork or if it’s something that has considerable sentimental value. Since the materials used, the technique employed and the craftsmanship of the framer play an important role, make sure you get your artwork framed at a reputed place.

Decide Whether You Want Your Art Framed

Digital prints can be stored in archival boxes. (Source:

All art does not warranty framing. Varnished art can be displayed frameless. Watercolors, gallery wrapped art work, pastels and drawings do not require framing. Consult your framer and check what is best for your artwork.

Oil paintings on canvas also do not require framing.

There is actually no limit to what you can choose to frame. Posters, personal memorabilia like wedding signatures and children’s art, vintage scarves and even certificates and diplomas can be framed.

When taking your painting for framing there are a few questions you should definitely ask your framer to ensure you get the right results for the right price.

What to Keep in Mind When Taking Your Art for Framing

Framing is an art in itself. It plays a very important role in the overall aesthetics and longevity of your artwork.

When you take your precious possession to the framer, it helps if you know what processes and procedures are going to be involved in getting it framed.

Upping your knowledge about framing techniques will help you have an educated and rewarding discussion with your framer. Here are six questions you absolutely must ask your framer.

1. How Safe Is My Artwork at Your Store and Where Will It Get Framed?

This is an important question because the safety of your artwork cannot be compromised. If the framer has in-house framing facilities take a look around and get a first-hand idea about how they function. The person you meet in the shop would also be involved in all the activities so have a detailed discussion with him as well.

If your art is going to be shipped somewhere for custom made framing, get to know of the steps involved. Ask about the quality of workmanship, expertise and the technology and equipment used.

All prints are stored in our speciality rack at VG-Lab.All reputed framers provide insurance protection to your art, so that in the case of any inadvertent mishap you will not suffer, and will be duly compensated for your losses. Note: As Vietnam art framing is still in a very backward situation, therefore it’s not easy to find a framer who have insurance protection, but you can always arrange an insurance agreement with your framers.

2. Do You Make Use of Archival Quality Materials?

The quality of the materials used and the kind of framing techniques employed will affect the longevity and the appearance of your artwork.

The modern and scientific framing process makes use of acid-free materials especially for backing and matting purposes. Acid is the primary culprit that damages and breaks down paper and causes color pigments to fade.

Quality mats used in today’s framing techniques are 100% acid-free and made from cotton or linen rags, or from alpha-cellulose. They are completely lignin free and are considered to be of the highest quality.

LINECO conservation board is officially distributed by VG-Lab in Vietnam.

Acid-free and archival museum boards or foam boards are used for mounting. These backing boards also do not damage your artwork in any manner. You can use these mounting boards for oil paintings as well to protect the canvas.


3. What Is the Mounting Process Employed?

ALUBOND cold mounting at VG-Lab.

You should definitely consult with your professional framer as to what is the best mounting technique for your art. If you possess a poster or a print then dry/cold mounting will ensure it looks aesthetically pleasing, is wrinkle-free and stays flat without buckling. Dry mounting can be permanent or partially reversible. If your art work is rare and valuable, then dry mounting is an absolute no-no. It will reduce the value of your art to almost zero.

Matboard mounting at VG-Lab

Hinging (matboard mounting) is archival and of conservation quality. In this process the painting or art piece is attached to the mounting board using linen tapes or other hinging materials. Archival hinges include acid-free adhesives or Japanese paper using organic starch as adhesive.

4. What Mat Should I Choose for My Artwork?

Choosing the right mat can be painstaking and time-consuming.

A lot goes into getting your mat right. The color palette of your artwork, its size, the place where you want to hang it and the overall coordinated look you want to achieve.

Consult with your framer and get to know of the options and choices he offers before making your decision.

As stated earlier, ensure the mat used is acid-free and is ideally either an alpha-cellulose or a rag mat.

5. Which Glass Should I Go For?

Lựa chọn kính theo cấp độ chống UV mà bạn muốn.

Museum glass comparision from Tru-Vue. (Nguồn:

The type of glass you choose depends on the level of UV and glaze protection you want.

Regular glass will suffice for most purposes. The drawback of regular glass is that it is very heavy and does not offer good UV protection. Non-glare variants offer glare protection but has a frosted appearance.

Acrylic glass, also known as Plexiglass, is a cheap and cost-efficient option. It is very light and will not shatter into dangerous splinters in case of an accident. It is available in regular and non-glare variants. Acrylic glass offers up to 60% UV protection.

Museum glass is the best option and unsurprisingly it is also very expensive. However, you may not require it unless you have a very valuable masterpiece. It offers close to 99% UV protection and is almost invisible to the naked eye.

6. How Much Will It Cost to Get the Best Frame for My Work?

Sometimes you may find that the frame costs more than the artwork itself. A $20-poster measuring 24×36 will cost a considerable amount to frame. You have to take into account the labor cost as well as the cost of materials used. Good quality backing boards and alpha-cellulose mats are expensive. A mahogany frame will cost more than a cheap plastic one. Museum glass and archival framing are also premium services.

Custom framing will give you the benefit of getting a unique and one of a kind artwork in your home. Ensure you get a complete and all-inclusive estimate before handing over your artwork.



A reputed, bankable and quality framer will be happy to answer all your questions and guide you through the various steps of the framing process. If you feel he is giving you vague answers or is not exactly sure of his workmanship, go somewhere else.

NOTE FROM VG-LAB: Because of the limitation of material suppliers, all frames were made by VG-Lab before 2019 were in commercial archival grade. From 2019, VG-Lab officially distribute LINECO products, we will be providing conservation and museum grade framing services.


(Original post from:

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VG-Lab has become ILFORD certified printing partner


Hi guys,

Good news, VG-Lab has become the first ILFORD certified printing partner in Vietnam.

VG-Lab aims to provide visual artist’s in Vietnam world-class fine art printing solutions. Above of all, VG-Lab and ILFORD always want to be the names artists can rely on, when it comes to producing their artworks.

Thanks for your support.

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VG-Lab receives prestigious ArtSure certification of quality

VG-Lab proudly to announce that we have received the prestigious ArtSure certification of quality. ArtSure is the Fine Art Trade Guild’s print registration program that meets their high standard of printing, including the use of approved materials that have been independently tested for their archival properties of lightfastness and permanence.

This makes VG-Lab to become the first ArtSure approved print lab in Asia, and one of the 20 ArtSure printers in the world.
Continue reading VG-Lab receives prestigious ArtSure certification of quality

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How to prepare file for printing

Hi folks

Today, I’m going to demonstrate my workflow when it comes to prepare file for printing.

For this particular example, I will prepare a test strip 24×8 inches (or 60x20cm) ready-to-print file.

Test strips are used for the artists to compare and contrast the different papers, post-processing methods before deciding to make large prints (40x60cm and above).

Below are three steps of preparing a file

1. Choose the artworks and your desired print size

In this example, I choose to print the image below at a size of 60×90 cm.

In the image above, I have outlined the area that I thought it might lose details. So I will test out that part on an actual print.

Enlarge your image(s) in Image>Image Size – the info show up should be similar to the one below.

I choose to have a white border around the image so it’ll be framed easily. It makes the actual size of the image is slightly less than 60x90cm

Selected the area I wanted to test and copy it. Paste it on to the new file I will be creating right now.

2. Create the test strip file

File>New in Photoshop and set the size, resolution and color space as below. Or DOWNLOAD HERE

You can print up to 600 ppi in resolution. However, 300 seems like the standard for now. Plus, working in Adobe RGB or ProPhoto is recommended.


Paste the chosen area onto the new file.

It would look like this

Note that do not resize the layer of the chosen area, it might get pixelated or you will need to convert it to Smart Object before resizing.

Now I will fill up the blank area with the whole image itself and some other images I would like to print.

3. Export file

When I wrote “export”, what I really meant was “Save as”. Now you will need to give the print to your printer. The popular file formats are JPEG and TIFF.

In Photoshop, go to File>Save as

If JPEG, please save it as in highest setting as below

If TIFF, please save is with None compression and no layer (to reduce file size) as below

Finally you can send the file(s) to your printer now. If you print at VG-Lab, please follow this LINK to send your file(s).


  • Always shoot and process in Adobe RGB 1998 color space or ProPhoto RGB (16bit). Working in sRGB is a much smaller color space compared to the other two color spaces and the number of colors a camera can capture.
  • Always processing your digital images using a calibrated screen. Trust me, it’ll make your job easier when it comes to printing.

Alright, now I have presented to you guys three steps to prepare a file to print: Choose what to print and how big the print is, Create a test strip and test out your images then Export the file(s) in JPEG or TIFF.

Happy shooting and printing 🙂

Preserve your legacy

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VG-Lab proudly announces that we are officially meet international standard in term of fine art printing. We are officially a member of Fine Art Trade Guild (

About Fine Art Trade Guild (from their website):

The Fine Art Trade Guild was formed in 1910 as the successor to the 1847  Printsellers’ Association, set up to oversee the fine art print trade. The Guild continues to set standards for prints. In addition, it sets standards and guidelines for picture framing.

As of July 2017, VG-Lab is the first and the only fine art print lab in South East Asia.

In VG-Lab, we always try to make the best out of our technology. It’s a name that you can trust to print out your artworks.

Learn more about our paper collection IN HERE

Our price list (Updated July 2017) can be downloaded HERE


Best regards 🙂

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C-prints vs Inkjet prints

I have written a Vietnamese article on G-prints vs Inkjet prints. However, when it comes it come to English writing, I think it’s the best way for you to read from the top professionals.
This particular article was written by Renée Besta, who is a fine art photographer and printer, digital imaging and graphics instructor, graphic designer, and exhibit producer who has been avidly engaged in the art form for over 35 years.
I hope you will enjoy it.
A complete, in-depth guide to digital printing with a focus on comparing inkjet pigment prints with digital c-prints – an essential topic for any printmaker to understand.

The negative is the equivalent of the composer’s score, and the print the performance. –ANSEL ADAMS

In order to secure a place in history, top photographers understand their vision must live on in print.

To produce a beautiful lasting work of art, the print must exhibit certain qualities, remaining faithful to the subject matter and emotion present at the time of capture. Color fidelity and gamut, as well as archival media and fade resistant inks, are each critical components of an enduring print.

The modern era of digital printing has ushered in an explosion of commercial photo labs and print studios, each battling for your printing dollars, promising the highest quality, most archival prints, along with top notch service and support.

Researching whether these claims are true is one of the most frustrating and time-consuming experiences a photographer must endure in order to be confident in their output decisions.



First off, this guide is going to be thorough and in-depth. If you’d prefer to save it to your machine to read over several days, I’m offering a free download of this article as a PDF which you’re welcome to take advantage of by clicking here.

From inexpensive chemical dye prints, metal and wood prints, to inkjet pigment prints, the industry has rapidly mushroomed. There are the “we print it all on everything” giant commercial labs, smaller boutique fine art print studios focused solely on pigment printing, to everything in between. It seems each week another print business opens, offering a cornucopia of products.

With the gargantuan array of print companies on the market today, even experienced photographers have difficulty deciding on the right one for the job. The choices can simply be overwhelming. Quality and technical support ranges from superb to downright substandard.

Sorting the wheat from the chaff is difficult.

In part because of this frustration, most images today never make it into print form, remaining forever ensconced in monitors only to be viewed on the web. This is a tragedy, for viewing your images in print makes you a better photographer.

Yet understanding the differences between various print technologies, media and terminology is a critical part of your creative process. In order to make the right choices, you need at least some basic understanding of printers and methodologies, and the pros and cons of the two major print types.


As prices for photographic prints in the fine art market continue to skyrocket, demand for greater levels of print permanence and color gamut has never been higher. But sadly, some of today’s most famous photographers selling prints for millions on the high-end fine art market don’t subscribe to this vision, offering chemical dye prints instead of inkjet pigment prints, a much better choice.

The prevalence of such sales at stunning prices for a chromogenic print that may only last 40 years on display has the effect of misinforming both art buyers and the public at large. It also confuses many photographers new to printing as to how to price their work and what type of print is best for sales.


In this two-part article, we will examine the differences between today’s two major printing technologies – digital C-prints and inkjet pigment prints.

  • We will clearly define confusing terminology and set the record straight on marketing hype and longevity claims.
  • We will scientifically compare the color gamuts of various printer/paper profiles.
  • We will discuss the latest print permanence studies.
  • We will take a look at the high end art market with all its contradictions.

By the end of this series, you will be in a better position to make an informed decision on what type of print works best for your images and needs.

Let’s begin by reviewing how chromogenic prints are made and the various types of printers used.


printmaking education

In simple terms, a chromogenic print or C-print is a photo lab print produced on light-sensitive color paper then processed in wet chemistry.

Although traditionally created from color negatives, most of today’s chromogenic prints are produced from digital image files. The latter are known as digital C- prints. Note that sometimes C-prints are mistaken for Cibachrome (Ilfochrome), a positive-to-positive process used to reproduce film transparencies (aka slide film) on photographic paper.

Digital C-prints are photo lab prints produced by minilabs like the Fuji Frontier, or wide format photo printers like the LightJet or Lambda, on papers such as Fuji Crystal Archive or Kodak Endura.

They are much less costly than inkjet pigment prints output on a fine art paper. Instead of light from a traditional darkroom enlarger lamp, these machines use lasers or LEDs to expose photosensitive papers. In essence, a digital C-print is the same as a conventional photographic print, in that sensitized paper is exposed to light and then chemically processed.

Thus the term photo “lab” print, as wet chemistry is used.

digital c-prints

An old-school Bogen Enlarger Lamp

Pro Tip: Many other terms are used for these types of prints: photo lab; digital C; laser chromogenic; digital RA-4; chemical dye; lab print; or just plain C-print.

Whatever the name, the process is basically the same – a digital front end exposing to light-sensitive color paper, which is then fed into a wet chemistry backend just like the olden analog film days.

Wet Chemical Process

Chromogenic papers have layers of silver halide emulsion containing dyes and couplers that form a visible color image upon reaction with a special color developer.

Many people are unaware that today’s digital C-prints are still created using this wet chemical process. Young photographers who have never shot film have no clue how traditional darkroom prints are made.

In fact, I have students who think ordering the typical photographic print from Bay Photo constitutes an inkjet print, despite the large price difference. They are shocked to learn these are still chemically processed.

digital printmaking

Jean-Pol Grandmont, Darkroom Self-Portrait, Belgium

Obviously chromogenic printing is a totally different process than inkjet printing. Digital C-prints have a completely different look and feel because they are true continuous tone (con tone) prints, unlike inkjet prints which are halftone prints.

Proponents of C-prints often tout what they view as the superiority of a con tone print, even going so far as to state they are the only ‘true’ photograph. Continuous tone simply means there is no break in the tone; this is due to the fact that the resulting color dyes meld into one another.

On the other hand, inkjet prints are produced by spraying thousands of very fine, minute (picoliter) droplets of ink varying in size and spacing on paper, giving the illusion of continuous tone.

From afar, they trick the eye and look continuous.

Yet only at a microscopic level would you be able to see spacing between these droplets. However, today’s professional inkjet pigment printers have extremely high resolution, more so than dpi figures often quoted by photo lab printer manufacturers, therefore eliminating a former advantage of con tone printers.

half tone vs. continuous

Photomicrograph of Inkjet Droplets on Paper, via The Print Guide

That said, there are those that simply prefer the look and feel of chromogenic prints – the aesthetics so to speak.

They like the way light reflects off a C-print and the glossiness and saturation of dye inks. But because inkjet pigment inks are placed on top of, rather than within the paper (like dyes in C-prints), pigment prints can appear more vibrant under certain lighting conditions in the eyes of some.

Acceptable File Specs

inkjet color space

Due to different methodologies, acceptable image file specs and color spaces differ widely between photo labs and inkjet print studios. This is a sore point of contention for many photographers working in Camera Raw and editing tiff or psd files in 16-bit mode, using the ProPhoto RGB color space. Photo labs, especially minilabs, most often request sRGB jpegs (naturally 8-bit) from customers.

In particular, the print-on-demand (POD) services offered through e-commerce photography sites such as SmugMug, Zenfolio, Fine Art America and others are based on the assumption that customers will predominantly purchase small format photo lab prints.

In addition to upload bandwidth, this is one of the reasons the PODs request sRGB jpegs, considering them “good enough” for general purposes on a variety of substrates. In fact, this very issue was addressed in an AskBC podcast episode I guest hosted lastyear.

If you like the look of C-prints, keep in mind that print quality varies widely among labs, as does technical support acumen. The skill of the technician, how often the chemistry is changed and the printer is calibrated, and the quality of the ICC profiles all make a huge difference.

These factors impact not only color fidelity and gamut but print permanence. We will discuss these issues later.


Let’s take a look at various types and makes of chromogenic printers. There are two basic flavors: small format minilabs and wide format machines.

Small Format Minilabs

Minilabs can be found at businesses from your local Costco and Mom and Pop photo lab, to large commercial labs, and are known for their ability to rapidly produce high volumes of prints at low cost.

The bulk of minilab print sales are geared to the consumer market as well as wedding, portrait and event photographers who need large quantities of inexpensive prints with fast turnaround times. Unlike the fine art photography market, longevity and color gamut are not deciding factors here.

Typical brands are the Fujifilm Frontier and Noritsu QSS. Only sRGB jpegs are usually accepted and, as a general rule, ICC profiles for minilabs have somewhat smaller gamuts than those of wide format machines.

This is most likely due to the fact that older, non-custom, generic paper manufacturer profiles are used. I will provide color gamut plots to demonstrate this later on.

inkjet prints vs. c-prints

Noritsu QSS Minilab Printer

Since these are continuous tone printers, dpi resolution figures claimed by manufacturers are often confusing and misleading. Then there are the terms used such as ‘apparent’ versus ‘effective’ resolution, further complicating the issue, often by a factor of ten. However, note that not all minilabs have lower resolution than their wide format counterparts.

For example, Noritsu claims their QSS-3801 HD minilab has a “true photo printing” resolution of 640 dpi. In all the calls I’ve made to photo lab technical support over the years, not one manager has been able to explain how resolution is calculated on a con ton printer, since they do not lay down dots or droplets of ink like inkjet printers.

Wide Format C-Prints

In contrast to minilabs, wide format photo lab printers such as the Océ LightJet, Durst Lambda, ZBE Chromira and Polielettronica LaserLab (Polie for short) are most often found in higher end, custom photo labs or print studios.

Note that the LightJet and Lambda machines are no longer made, but still widely in use. Naturally most custom photo labs also offer inkjet pigment printing services.

inkjet or c-prints

Océ LightJet C-Printer

Wide format C-prints are usually more costly than minilab prints, but still less expensive than a well- made inkjet print on a fine art paper. Inkjet prints take longer to produce, and the inks and papers are much more costly.

However, labs who produce wide format C-prints are often more flexible as to acceptable file formats and color spaces. For example, many will accept a tiff or psd file in Adobe RGB.

So what are the main differences among wide format printers? The light source and how the paper is exposed. The disadvantage of the Chromira printer is that it uses LEDs to expose the paper, resulting in somewhat softer prints compared to the LightJet, Lambda and Polie, which use lasers. Lasers produce sharper prints than LEDs. Then there is the matter of how the paper is exposed by the lasers.

With the Lambda, the drum-mounted paper is rolled past lasers (projected by a stationary spinning mirror) as it is exposed. So the paper is moving while the lasers remain still.

In contrast, the LightJet and Polie keep the paper stationary while the lasers (projected by a moving spinning mirror) move across the paper. Although this is debated, edge-to-edge sharpness appears better in the eyes of some when the paper remains stationary. Therefore, some people feel the Lambda is at a disadvantage due to the movement of the paper.

Top of the Line Machines

The cream of the crop, the 50×100 inch Polielettronica LaserLab HD C-Printer, excels with a 610 dpi resolution (6100 dpi “apparent” resolution) and 48-bit color. Due to its high resolution, the Polie is favored by cartographers and fashion photographers.

Duggal Visual Solutions in New York City is the only company that has this size Polie HD C-Printer, although a few others have the smaller models such as Dickerman Prints in San Francisco, a well-respected custom printer.

To see the Polie in action, watch the YouTube video A Look Inside the Polielettronica LaserLab Photographic Printer by Dickerman Prints.

For an overview of HD C-prints, watch the YouTube video Duggal Services: HD C-Prints by Duggal.

what is a chromogenic print

The Italian-Made Polielettronica LaserLab (Polie)

There will always be heated discussions about which chromogenic printer is best, as comments demonstrated in my 2015 podcast episode on this topic.

Added to the mix are the so-called dry labs using either dye or pigment inkjet technology, still in use today. Although the longevity of these dry lab prints exceeds that of wet prints, they take longer to produce, are more costly, and only offered in limited sizes. A discussion of dry labs is beyond the scope of this article.


how to start inkjet printing

Vintage C-Print (left); Inkjet Print (right). Via Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Let’s take a close look at the pros and cons of lab and pigment prints based on important factors. Hopefully this information will help guide you in making the right decision.

While there will always be fierce debate between supporters of traditional photo lab prints and proponents of inkjet technology, the facts speak for themselves. The ultimate decision depends on how much you value color gamut and longevity versus cost, personal aesthetics, and the target market if selling your work.

1. Print permanence

inkjet print permanence

I am listing this factor first as it should be of paramount concern to any photographer who cares about longevity and is selling their work in the fine art market.

Let there be no doubt that inkjet pigment prints will outlast C-prints by a wide margin, despite the claims of OEM printer/paper manufacturers and most photo labs, which still use the outdated ‘century’ mark for Fuji Crystal Archive paper longevity. Since C-prints are dye-based, they are more susceptible to deterioration than inkjet pigment prints when exposed to light, heat and humidity, even when framed behind glass. In addition, dye coupler staining is an issue with C-prints over time.

In fact, inkjet dye prints have greater longevity than chemical dye prints. Revised studies by Henry Wilhelm (Founder of Wilhelm Imaging Research) using improved test criteria dropped longevity estimates for Fuji Crystal Archive paper (under typical display conditions) to 30-40 years, down from the 60-year figure quoted in older studies. In stark contrast, inkjet pigment ink prints can last for over 200 years on a true archival paper, under proper environmental and display conditions. We will discuss print permanence in detail later on.

2. Color gamut

c-prints color gamut

The advantage goes to inkjet pigment prints.

There is no doubt that today’s professional inkjet pigment printers can reproduce colors beyond that of the Adobe RGB color space, into ProPhoto RGB territory. ProPhoto RGB is the only color space large enough to contain all the colors a camera’s sensor can capture. Of course color gamut depends on the quality of the ICC profile, ink set, printer and paper used.

I will demonstrate this fact using color gamut comparison plots later on. In contrast, photo lab print gamuts range from sRGB coverage (or less), to partial Adobe RGB coverage. One exception lies in the area of very saturated blues and magentas; C-print gamuts may slightly exceed those of inkjet pigment prints, depending on the image colors, profile quality, and printer used. Profile analysis confirms this. Most likely this is due to the use of dyes versus pigments.

Inkjet printers use a greater range of color inks, both dye and pigment, than any other printing process. In addition, inkjet pigment prints exhibit greater contrast, smoother color gradations, deeper blacks (Dmax), and finer shadow details than chemical dye prints.

3. Paper selection

papers for c-prints

Again, the advantage goes to inkjet pigment prints. Today there is an astonishing number of excellent papers, both photo and matte, available for inkjet printing. From canvas, cotton and kozo (mulberry), to baryta and bamboo, this diverse selection of papers allows for the personalized expression of your image in print. On the other hand, photo lab print paper selection is very limited in comparison. Note that overall, C-prints are more sturdy and less fragile than inkjet prints, and are less susceptible to scratching and scuffing. Of course this depends on the paper.

4. Price

The advantage goes to the smaller minilab prints, followed by wide format C-prints then inkjet pigment prints, which are usually the most expensive of the three.

Keep in mind, though, that I have seen LightJet and other wide-format chromogenic prints priced as much or more than a comparably sized pigment print on a fine art cotton paper at certain custom labs. This is atypical, however.

5. Print volume and production speed

The advantage goes to C-prints in terms of speed and the sheer volume these machines are capable of producing. Inkjet printing is a slower process.

6. Print size selection

In discussing available print sizes, I do not mean the largest size a given printer can make. Instead, the consideration here is whether or not the native aspect ratio of your image is respected.

Meaning you are not forced to crop your image to fit the restricted paper sizes offered by many photo labs and POD services. Therefore, the advantage here goes to inkjet prints, although some custom photo labs may not impose these restrictions. But try ordering a 12×18 C- print at a business like Costco or from MPix. Or a 16×24 canvas print.

c-prints 3:2 ratio

Most photographers understand the frustration of uploading images for print, only to discover they need to be cropped to fit odd sizes such as 8×10, 11×14, 16×20, etc., meant to fit into standard consumer frames. Such cropping can ruin your composition.

We discussed this issue in prior podcast episodes. Most of today’s full-frame DSLR cameras use an aspect ratio of 2:3 (1:1.5). This in turn translates to print sizes of 8×12, 10×15, 16×24, 20×30, etc.

7. Acceptable file formats and color spaces

Here is another area where the rubber meets the road. The advantage goes to inkjet prints. As we discussed previously, photo labs usually request 8-bit sRGB jpegs, although some custom labs will accept Adobe RGB tiff or psd files. It all depends on the lab and their overall quality.

When it comes to POD services offered by e-commerce photography sites, you usually have no choice other than sRGB jpegs that most likely need to be cropped. Again, the thinking is that most customers will opt for the cheaper C-prints.

And you are not allowed to upload two separate files for each image, one optimized for inkjet pigment prints and the other for photo lab prints. Therefore, the inkjet print is sacrificed for the C-print.

However, note that if you are outsourcing your inkjet printing, you may still find it difficult to get a fine art print studio to accept a file in ProPhoto RGB or a tiff/psd. Let alone in 16-bit mode. Most claim there is no difference in output quality, which is untrue for certain images. It all depends on the subject matter and what colors are in the image. As well as the paper used and quality of the print studio’s ICC profiles.

8. Environmental considerations

Because C-prints are wet-processed using hazardous chemicals requiring special disposal, the advantage clearly goes to inkjet prints. How often the chemistry is changed out in these machines, as well as adherence to manufacturer recommended protocols, has a high impact on print quality and longevity. To have any chance of archivability, manufacturer standards need to be strictly followed.

Keep in mind that silver halide crystals are converted to metallic silver as part of the paper development process, which is removed during the bleach/fix steps. Sometimes labs send the recovered silver to a refiner for processing. But because silver compounds are considered toxic and can’t be allowed to leach into drinking water systems, the silver either needs to be properly disposed or recovered.

With many C-printers, the quality of the local water supply has a significant impact on performance. Then there is water usage similar to the darkroom days, depending on the equipment, chemistry and paper used. The use of washless chemicals in some systems has certainly eliminated the prior need for large quantities of rinse water; however, despite not needing to be hooked up to the local water supply, some water is still used.

Inkjet prints are better for the environment, but be sure to recycle your spent ink cartridges.

9. Continuous tone versus halftone

continuous vs. half tone

As mentioned previously, C-prints are continuous tone, while inkjet prints are halftone. Many people swear by the look of a continuous tone print, relishing its traditional photographic appeal.

But advances in inkjet printer technology have far surpassed any prior limitations with early printer models in terms of resolution and detail – keep in mind that you would need a microscope to see the spacing between ink droplets. Again, some people just prefer how light reflects off a continuous tone C-print. This is a personal choice and a matter of aesthetics.

10. Control

Simply put, if you are concerned about maintaining full control of the printing process from input to output, then producing your own inkjet prints is your best bet.

11. Museum and gallery acceptance

inkjet prints in museums

In the early years of inkjet printing technology, this advantage went to digital C-prints, as the process was very familiar and C-prints had the traditional darkroom look.

Inkjet prints had a negative connotation early on; therefore, digital C-prints were accepted as the standard for fine art color prints. But that advantage has diminished as technology and education have improved. Inkjet prints are now widely accepted alongside C-prints in galleries and museums worldwide.

We will review this later in discussing why some of today’s famous photographers continue to sell chemical dye prints on the multi-million dollar fine art market.

Summary – Advantages

inkjet or chromogenic

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What is Giclée or Fine-art printing?

What is Giclée (pronounce zhee-KLAY) or fine art printing?

Fine art prints are often printed from digital files using archival quality inks and onto acid free fine art paper.

When looking for a print that will last for decades or even more than a century, then alway choose a paper that is acid free. It is the acid content in many papers that makes them turn yellow, brittle & crack over time. Papers are acid free, will ensure that your print will look as good in many years time as it did the day it was printed.

The printers used for fine art printing are high end machines usually with 8 or 12 ink colourants and therefore have a very large colour gamut. These colours when mixed together are able to produce millions of different colours. They have a colour range than is much larger than your typical large format printer.

Digital files suitable for fine art printing can be in a variety of formats such as those produced by digital cameras, scanners or computer programs such as Adobe Photoshop.

When creating such digital files it is important to ensure that the image is suitable for printing at the required size. For optimum results the images would need to be 300 dpi at the required print size, although if it is a very good quality image then you can often get away with 150 dpi and sometimes less.