This is an open-ended post. I'm continuing to research the topic and I'd value input, either by email directly or by comment to this post. I am giving some thought to starting to do my own printing, but I'm not there yet (if anyone has a 13x19 printer that uses pigment inks like the Epson 3800 that they want to get rid of, let's talk!).
I don't presently do my own printing. I never have, in 50 years, except for black and white way back when. Not that I wasn't interested, it was just that I didn't have the expertise or flair for it back then, and it was important to "do it right" or not at all. I used to go out to photo labs in Montreal (the names escape me), but in the digital era I've done a few prints at MPix and Bay Photo, but not much else.
Yes, I've used Costco for some run-of-the-mill lower end stuff and will continue to do so when quality isn't a high priority (and cost is!). Lately a friend has offered to print for me (not sure if he wants his name out there so I won't publish it). He has a large scale Epson printer, TONS of expertise and great attention to detail. He told me he needs to keep his printer busy or the ink dries out.
That said, I am now at a stage where I want to have some high quality prints, both for my own display and for art images for sale. So I've been looking into some options. I've discovered that there are quite a number of national and international sources of quality printing but they're not cheap. There's also mounting considerations.
I want to comment of a few of the options.
There seems to be two schools: printing on "metallic looking paper" and printing on metal itself.
I saw some real metal prints at a gallery in the distillery district a couple of weeks ago. Also at the Artist's Project show. Rosa loved them, I didn't particularly. There are no whites: white is replaced by the colour of the substrate. Just not my cuppa tea. There are shops around who will print on metal, including PosterJack in Toronto.
This is the kind of image that I think might work well on metal.
I had one print made on metallic paper at Bay Photo (this is the outfit in San Francisco, I ordered it through Smugmug). I ordered their "Thin Wrap". The print I got was quite good, The only thing I didn't like was the way the edges didn't wrap really tightly around the backing so it doesn't appear perfectly flat.
The acrylics are astounding. When I first saw one, I think at the One-of-a-Kind show last fall, at first I thought I was looking at a backlit transparency. Blew my mind. Investigating further, I discovered there are a few places that do that, but it's not cheap. There are a couple of different processes out there. Colourgenics does an "acrylic face mount" where the actual print is sandwiched between two sheets of acrylic. It's very expensive: just the mounting for a 360 square inch image was quoted at $300.
Posterjack quotes somewhat less, but they say that they print directly on the back of an acrylic sheet. I'm planning to run a test with them, with this image:
The original file is 4100 pixels wide, I've upsized it to 5400 pixels and plan to print a 12x36 pano.
The best images for acrylic mounting are highly saturated or brilliantly coloured ones, the kind of thing you would print on ultraglossy paper.
A lot of places — including Costco — do canvas wraps. I don't know enough yet to know the difference. I am planning to do the following image, but I think my friend is going to produce it for me:
It's one image, cut into 3 pieces, a "Triptych". Each piece will be 9" x 18", with the edges mirrored. This original picture was taken quite some time ago, the first week after I got my D300. I used Photoshop CS6 to do the "oil painting" effect.
there are inkjet papers out there called "watercolour papers". Again, I first saw this at the Artist's Project show. The matte finish, subtle toning and wide dynamic range makes it ideal for pastel images. It is museum quality and availabe quite heavyweight.
Some candidates for watercolour paper printing:
The primary manufacturer seems to be Hahnemuhle. I saw samples at Colourgenics. It's spectacular for pastels, and has a phenomenal matte finish. I'm not sure where to buy it (I can't find the right one directly at Hahnemuhle, but Vistek lists a 50-sheet package (13x19) for $285) but if I were printing myself (and the thought is percolating in my mind), this would likely be my go-to paper.
As mentioned above, any prints that I have mounted now were bought that way or sent out. I do have a handheld mat cutter that has not been out of the box yet, and some sheets of mat paper and some 18x24" frames. I'd like to be able to mount prints on foam core if I can find an easy way to do so. I have the space to work in, but no equipment. Again, I'm open for suggestion.
By the way, if you are interested in purchasing any of the above images, please contact me! Until I'm fully established in the printing game, expect introductory pricing. Now is the time!