If you're working on a specific budget but are willing to make the investment for the long run, you can make your art prints from home! There is, however, a bit of nuance when it comes to making the best prints at home. First, you're going to need a quality printer that is designed for images and colors. The quality of prints from standard office printer usually doesn't measure up to the quality from a printer designed to print photographs. I currently work with a Canon PIXMA TR4520, but I've also read good things about the Epson Expression Premium ET-7700 EcoTank. Both companies have many options are a range of prices depending on your needs, so it's important to consider the specifications and usage you'll need. Since Canon specializes in photography, I highly recommend their printers and their inks. You can save some money by purchasing universal ink cartridges, but since Canon Printers work best with their coinciding inks, it may be better to stick with the same brand of ink and printer for longevity and quality.
The type of ink you'll want to use is also important. There are two types of inks for inkjet printers: dye-based ink and pigment-based ink. Images printed in dye-based inks tend to have more vibrant colors that are truer to the original image, but can fade over time. Pigment-based inks may initially look less vibrant, but the integrity of the image holds up much longer than images printed in dye-inks. I personally use Canon's pigment-based inks that work best with my printer, however, but whether you use dye-based ink or pigment-based ink will depend on what your printing material. For example, if you're using a larger printer and are printing on a t-shirt, you might want to use a dye-based ink over of a pigment-based ink, whereas pigment-based inks are more common for art prints on paper.
This leads us to the last point to consider when it comes to printing at home, which is the type of paper you should use. There are many different types of paper, and variables like the coating, thickness, and texture can change how your artwork is viewed. When choosing what paper will be best for the piece you want to print, consider these options:
- Coating: Glossy will make your colors look extra vibrant, but if there's text in your image then the light reflection may make the text too hard to read. Matte doesn't reflect any light, so it's a great option for images that will be framed behind glass or for black and white images. Semi-gloss falls somewhere in between, giving your image some sheen without too much glare.
- GSM: GSM refers to grams per square meter, and this is how paper is measured. The higher the GSM, the more weight the paper will have. To put into context, most copy paper or office paper is around 100 GSM whereas over 250 GSM can range from thicker poster paper to cardstock. Most artists will print on 300 GSM or higher depending on the product.
- Textured or non-textured: How smooth versus rugged do you want your image to look? This is more personal and will depend on the piece you are printing. For example, if you want something to look more vintage, you might want to air on the side of textured paper.
Finally, while many artists will opt for cardstock, if you want the best possible prints, make sure your paper is acid-free or archival. Archival paper tends to be pricier, but the quality of the fibers and ingredients that make up the paper makes archival paper last longer than your standard printer paper or cardstock. Artwork that is printed in 300 DPI in pigment-based dye on archival paper is considered a "giclee" print, which is of the highest quality and worth more money.
Also, always make a test print before each batch! It's better to scrap one page of paper and ink than to be fifty pages in and realize the colors look all wrong.