How to print your fine art sustainably

If you’ve been to any art museum lately or looked at fine art prints online, you may have noticed that sustainability is a growing trend. Why? It seems many are realizing that we can’t afford to keep doing things the way we are now if we want our planet and our future generations to thrive. If you’re looking for eco-friendly fine art prints that reflect your values, this guide will help you find the right sustainable fine art for your home or business.

Fine-Art Glossy Photography Prints on MOAB Juniper Baryta Rag 305

What is sustainable fine art printing?

Sustainable fine art printing refers to the use of non-toxic inks, environmentally friendly paper and responsible packaging. In addition, most printers will offer you the option to have your print shipped via an eco-friendly shipping method that does not use plastic or vinyl bags.

Sustainable fine arts printers are dedicated to producing high quality prints for artists, designers and photographers. There are many benefits of using a sustainable printer for both your business and the planet:

  • Lower environmental costs per print than purchasing from an online photo lab
  • Less toxic runoff during the printing process
  • Same (if not better) quality as wood-pulp based fine art photo papers
  • Wide range of options and finishes to align with your specific needs
  • Many sustainable printers are small independent businesses which pay special attention to each print you order to ensure it arrives in perfect condition
  • Printing from large online print shops can be unreliable and take months to solve any issues that should be an expected part of the fine art fulfilment process (we can’t control how the mail handles our packages for example)

 

Why are we talking about Sustainability and fine art prints?

Fine art printing is the process of making a high-quality print of an original work, done through a variety of mediums and technologies. In recent years, the popularity of fine art prints has grown immensely, with more people choosing to purchase prints both in person and online. But as with anything else in life, when it comes to making these purchases there are many factors that you should consider first before making your final decision.

One major factor that may affect your decision is whether or not the printers behind your favorite artist’s works take into account sustainability when creating their images for sale on their websites or at galleries across the country. What do we mean by sustainability? How can you tell if someone has been practicing sustainable practices while they create something like this?

Many fine art printers use traditional inks and wood-pulp based papers. These inks and toners can have devastating downstream effects for the ecosystem, not to mention they continue deforestation across the planet. Sustainable fine art printing can prevent this toxic runoff from entering our ecosystems. Also, the less trees that we chop down, the more carbon we store in the soil. 

 

Fine art printing is not as simple as you may think!

Printing is not as simple of a process as many believe. It can involve many chemicals and large amounts of energy, water and paper. In fact, it’s estimated that inkjet printers use more than 2 million gallons of water per year in the United States alone. If you think about all the steps involved in printing — from extracting minerals from the earth to refining them into usable materials through distillation processes to making inkjet cartridges or toner cartridges — it’s easy to see why printing can have such an impact on our environment. 

 

Why should you use 100% plant fiber paper to print your fine art images?

Printing is not a simple process. It involves many chemicals and large amounts of energy, water and paper. In fact, it’s estimated that inkjet printers use more than 2 million gallons of water per year in the United States alone. If you think about all the steps involved in printing — from extracting minerals from the earth to refining them into usable materials through distillation processes to making inkjet cartridges or toner cartridges — it’s easy to see why printing can have such an impact on our environment.

The use of 100% plant fiber paper is not only good for the environment, but it’s also a great option for your artwork.

That’s because when you choose sustainable fine art papers, you’re taking advantage of renewable resources that don’t need to be replaced or replanted every year like trees do. As mentioned earlier, when you print on plastic coated photo papers, they create toxic runoff in the waste stream which can pollute local waterways.

Plant fiber paper has far less negative impact on our environment because it doesn’t contain any chemicals or toxins that could harm its surroundings. It uses no trees in production—trees are one of the most effective storages of carbon—nor does it require fresh water during production like other types of paper.

 

How do I choose sustainable, eco-friendly fine art prints for my home or business?

  • Look for printers that offer 100% cotton fine art papers. These and other plant fiber fine art papers reduce the amount of trees used in the printing process.
  • Look for printers that use renewable energy. No matter the paper and ink combination all printers need power, those using renewable energy or off-grid sources of energy help reduce our global fossil fuel use every day. 
  • Look for prints made with recycled or up-cycled materials.
  • Look for prints made with waterless printing, which uses less water than traditional inks and dyes (up to 80% less)
  • Carbon offsets aren’t always the most effective solution to directly benefiting the planet, but looking for a printer that includes these in their business process usually means they are also taking some of the many other steps they can to print Sustainably. 

 

The health of our planet and the well-being of people matters today and into the future.

As humans we have a responsibility to protect and care for the planet that we call home. We are not separate from it—we are part of its ecosystem, sharing resources with all living things that live here.

It is time to join together in exploring new ideas about the future of sustainable printing practices and how we can create conscious consumerism. The health of our planet and the well-being of people matters today and into the future.

It’s important to consider all the impacts of our actions on our planet as well as ourselves, and choosing sustainable printing methods is one way artists can continually do this. If you’re looking for a recommendation for a sustainable fine art printer, I personally use Photo Innovation Lab for all of Big Picture’s fine art printing needs and can not recommend them enough. 

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