Fine art digital inkjet printing is printing from a computer image file directly to an inkjet printer as a final output. It evolved from digital proofing technology from Kodak
, and other major manufacturers, with artists and other printers trying to adapt these dedicated prepress proofing
machines to fine-art printing. There was experimentation with many of these types of printers, the most notable being the IRIS printer
, initially adapted to fine-art printing by programmer David Coons
, and adopted for fine-art work by Graham Nash
at his Nash Editions
printing company in 1991.
Initially, these printers were limited to glossy papers, but the IRIS Graphics printer allowed the use of a variety of papers that included traditional and non-traditional media. The IRIS printer
was the standard for fine art digital printmaking for many years, and is still in use today, but has been superseded by large-format printers from other manufacturers such as Epson
that use fade-resistant, archival inks (pigment
-based, as well as newer solvent
-based inks), and archival substrates specifically designed for fine-art printing.
Substrates in fine art inkjet printmaking include traditional fine-art papers such as Rives BFK, Arches watercolor paper, treated and untreated canvas, experimental substrates (such as metal and plastic), and fabric.
For artists making reproductions of their original work, inkjet printing is more expensive on a per-print basis than the traditional four-color offset lithography, but with inkjet printing the artist does not have to pay for the expensive printing-plate setup or the marketing and storage needed for large four-color offset print runs. Inkjet reproductions can be printed and sold individually in accordance with demand. Inkjet printing has the added advantage of allowing artists to take total control of the production of their images, including the final color correction and the substrates being used, with some artists owning and operating their own printers.
Digital inkjet printing also allows for the output of digital art of all types as finished pieces or as an element in a further art piece. Experimental artists often add texture or other media to the surface of a final print, or use it as part of a mixed-media work. Many terms for the process have been used over the years, including “digigraph” and “giclée”. Thousands of print shops and digital printmakers now offer services to painters, photographers, and digital artists around the world.