I been purchasing nice watercolor art online. How to print?
January 9, 2019 8:01 PM   Subscribe

Simple question - I've bought some pretty watercolor digital images (from Etsy, etc.) and am ready to print them. Somehow, I assumed I could just buy a nice textured paper from the craft store and print them on my cheap-ass inkjet printer. But they're not looking so good - faded, in particular. The paper is absorbing the vibrancy of the ink, for one thing (I can see this via a comparison with regular paper and the textured paper I bought). I plan to frame and mount these things, so how do I make them look nice? Better paper, or different printer (in other words, take it to Staples or the local print shop?). Or both?
posted by kitcat to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I print my stuff on Epson Presentation Matte paper (there's a "right" - bright white side) and you'll want to set your printer to matte paper and use the "best" quality settings on your printer. You may want some test prints first. (Generally you;re right that matte works best for watercolor type things.) There are of course better papers out there for more money but I think that would only be worthwhile with a better printer. Though for the price of a pack of nicer printer paper and ink you can probably get some quality matte photo prints.
posted by Crystalinne at 8:08 PM on January 9 [1 favorite]

GicleeToday is a nice place to order giclee prints from using the digital files. You can pick out your paper/canvas and it prices accordingly. Price looks pretty affordable. Haven't used yet but have read favorable reviews.
posted by mermaidcafe at 8:11 PM on January 9

I've done this! Etsy --> My printer sucks --> Need new options. Staples is your friend here. I printed (and framed!) five lovely prints from Etsy and gave them as gifts. Staples is reasonably priced, works fast (they printed them while I was standing there), and has a large selection of paper weights/colors.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 8:20 PM on January 9 [2 favorites]

Since you're already unhappy with the previously printed results, there is no harm in trying this: spray them with hair spray and see if that makes the colours more intense. Don't soak it because then the ink may run, keep a light touch.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:14 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Fed-Ex Office could print them on nice paper too if that is more convenient than a Staples.
posted by COD at 4:57 AM on January 10 [1 favorite]

Reading your question, I'm seeing a couple pieces to it. To start (and I've learned this the hard way, with quite good inkjet printers), watercolor paper from an artist supply store isn't the same thing as watercolor-textured photo paper. The latter is coated to interact well with the inks in printers, the former isn't. I wasted a bunch of money this way back in 2010.

There is watercolor textured photo matte paper out there - I used to buy Epson (which it looks like they still sell) - but looking at their website, the only size is 13"x19". Looks like Strathmore makes a 8.5"x11" watercolor paper. I've never used it, but I'd look for something like that.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 6:19 AM on January 10

One consideration to keep in mind is that most printers use CMYK and not RGB, which might be causing the colour shift.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:32 AM on January 10

Yes, first you'll need to change the file to CMYK, even if you have it printed at a shop. Honestly, cheap ink jets are not the best solution to truly nice looking art prints. I recommend finding a print shop that can do this for you on good paper that is printer compatible (ie not regular watercolor paper as has been mentioned).
posted by ananci at 9:55 AM on January 10

If you want density of ink color, try a resume paper like textured linen or some other sized paper so the ink does not drop into the paper. Resume papers are heavier in weight than regular printer papers but not prohibitively expensive. The heavier weight will resist buckling. Linen fibers have a bit of oil left in them so not quite as absorbent as bond papers. Photo papers will work well. Choose a bright white paper so the colors are true to your original source image; a buff or grey ground paper will shift all the colors darker. You should be able to buy single sheets for testing from Staples. Good luck.
posted by effluvia at 1:41 PM on January 10

Go deep, deep into your printer settings and you should have choices for print quality and paper quality. You’ll have to experiment, but generally you want to choose something like “heavyweight matte photo”. (Each component of that may be in a different section, or it may all be presented as one choice.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:42 AM on January 11

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