Printing Glossary


Archival (in the context of prints) is a term with no definite scientific meaning but is generally used to describe an item that will retain its original properties over a long period of time


Baryta papers have a multi-layer coating that includes barium sulfate, a white clay-like substance, over a paper base such as alpha cellulose or cotton rag. The baryta gives the paper much of its smoothness, whitepoint, and, interestingly, a smell just a bit reminiscent of the darkroom. Baryta (pronounced bah-RYE-tah) papers have their origin in the traditional darkroom as fiber-based silver gelatin prints typically used a white layer of barium-sulphate gelatin applied to the paper ground and beneath the light-sensitive layer to help provide pure whites and rich blacks. As such, the use of baryta in papers for photographic printing has a long history of archival permanence. Inkjet-compatible baryta papers use a multi-layer coating that includes baryta over a base such as cotton rag or alpha cellulose. Baryta papers for the digital darkroom have all the archival characteristics you would like and importantly, have a very similar look and feel to great air-dried fiber-based silver-gelatin papers.


A C-print, also known as a chromogenic print or Type-C print, is a chemical photograph created traditionally created from a film negative using a “wet process” such as RA-4. A C-print is a negative-type color photographic paper which has at least three emulsion layers of light-sensitive silver salts used to produce the photographic image when the appropriate chemicals are applied. The exposure phase of a type C print is accomplished using a traditional photographic enlarger, using color filters to adjust the color balance of the print. A digital C-Print uses specialized equipment and a digital file rather than a color negative to produce the C-print.


Cibachromes, also known as Ilfochromes, are a common name for chemical prints made from a slide original (a positive-to-positive photographic process). The cibachrome process utilized a stable polyester base and a dye destruction technique to produce visually striking, relatively long lasting, and accurate color reproductions of positive originals.


Cyanotypes are prints created by exposing treated paper (or other medium) to sunlight in order to imprint an image onto the paper with typically a cyan-blue tint. The paper or other surface is treated with chemicals such as aqueous potassium ferricyanide and aqueous ferric ammonium citrate. A positive image may be produced by exposing the treated paper to a source of ultraviolet light such as the sun and then developing and washing the print, washing away water-soluble salts and leaving non-water-soluble Prussian blue in the paper. Objects that are relatively flat and opaque may be successfully printed using cyanotype photography.

Dedicated B&W Inks

Dedicated black & white inks such as the Piezography printing system from Cone Editions Press are monochromatic pigment ink sets used in converted color inkjet printers for the utmost in digital black & white printing quality. By using typically 4-7 monochromatic inks and by excluding color inks, improvements in metamerism, tonal transitions, longevity, and detail are possible.

Digital C-Print

Digital C-prints (also known as Lambda prints or Lightjet prints based on common systems used to create them) are created when a digital file is used with a specialized digital exposure system such as the Durst Lambda, Océ LightJet or ZBE Chromira to produce a C-PRINT. The Digital C-print digital exposure systems expose the paper using red, green, and blue lasers or light emitting diodes, and then use the chemical process of traditional C-prints to produce the final print. Common wet process chromogenic papers used for Digital C-Prints include Kodak’s Endura and Fuji’s Crystal Archive papers.

Digital Print

Digital prints are simply any prints created utilizing digital technologies to transfer the contents of a digital file directly to a printing substrate. While many technologies are available, most fine art printers use a pigment-based ink printed on paper for both print quality and archival characteristics. These pigment inks are printed on the paper by an inkjet printer to produce a pigment print. Other types of digital prints include dye prints and digital C-prints. Often Giclée is used interchangeably (and typically improperly) with digital print.


Photograph measurements are stated as height first, then width and represent only the size of the image itself, not the sheet on which it is printed.

Dye Print

Dye prints are digital prints created with inkjet printers using dye-based inks rather than pigment-based inks. Many home inkjet printers, including some lower-end photographic inkjet printers, use dye-based inks. Dye prints typically have strong colors and wide gamuts and thus product attractive prints, but they typically have far lower permanence than pigment prints and are thus not typically used for fine art printing.


An edition of prints indicates that a maximum number of prints will be made from the negative used. Each print is marked and sold serially, such as: 1/25. The “1″ represents the position of the print in the sequence of the edition, and the “25″ represents the total number of prints in the edition. It is commonly accepted that a “limited edition” also allows the artist to make up to 10% of the edition in “artist’s proofs” or “printer’s proofs” for their own use or that of their printer, respectively, though many in the fine art community accept different limits. Artist’s proofs are typically signed and marked as “A/P” and printer’s proofs are similarly signed and marked as “P/P”. An “open edition” is an edition for which there is no limit on how many prints can be made and is thus not a limited edition.


Encaustic pieces in photography are mixed media pieces typically involving photographic prints (such as pigment prints) on watercolor paper mounted on a rigid board and painted with encaustic paint. Encaustic paint is heated beeswax enhanced with colored pigments or oil paints. The nature of encaustic pieces and the hand-applied encaustic paint means that each piece is a unique object. Encaustic painting has been used to create art for over 2,000 years.

Escalating Edition Pricing

Escalating edition pricing is the practice of increasing the price of photographs in an edition as the edition sells, resulting in a lower initial price for the first in the edition and a potentially significantly more expensive price for the last photograph in the edition. There are many models from doing this, ranging from increasing the cost after each individual or when a block of the edition is completely sold (e.g., one price for 1-5 in the edition, a higher price for 6-10 in the edition, and so on).


Giclée as it used presently is equivalent to a digital print, though its proper definition should be limited to a digital reproduction printed on a matte paper or canvas. Giclée is essentially a marketing term, particularly in the art reproduction market, to avoid using the term inkjet print and the legacy historical connotations associated with inkjet printers. The term Giclée is derived from the French “gicler”, meaning to squirt, spurt, or spray (which is essentially how an inkjet printer works).

Inkjet Print

Inkjet prints are, at the highest level, simply prints made from a digital file by applying very fine droplets of ink on paper. Many inkjet inks are dye-based, but I strongly recommend using pigment-based inks for any fine art purposes because of their improved longevity (see entries for dye prints and pigments prints, respectively). The professional photographic printers from Epson, HP, & Canon all use pigment technology and the results are often called (archival) pigment prints.

Large Format Photography

Traditional large format photography utilizes a large format camera to imprint an image on a large format negative or positive (slide), either color or black & white. Typical large format sizes were negative/positive sizes of 4″x5″, 5″x7″, or 8″x10″, commonly referred to as 4×5, 5×7, and 8×10 cameras, respectively. Because of the very large image areas for the negatives/positives, image quality for large format processes is virtually unsurpassed. Most traditional large format cameras also provide tilt and shift controls to allow for additional flexibility in photographing.

Mixed Media

Mixed media is any art work created by more than one visual art medium, such as by a combination of one or more of paint, photographs, ink, pencil, collage, encaustic, found objects, sculpture, or the like.

Palladium/Platinum Print

Although the metals “palladium” and “platinum” are not synonymous, the terms are often used together. Platinum is only found in Russia and was first successfully used to make photographs in the 1840′s. During WW I, it was virtually unavailable and its sister metal palladium was found to produce excellent and “warmer” results. Many practitioners today mix platinum and palladium. Platinum/Palladium prints have an extended tonal scale and are made by hand and directly from the negative, resulting in a print exhibiting extreme clarity.

Photo Collage & Montage

A photo collage (or photomontage) is a composite photograph created by combining a number of other photographs or images to create an entirely new image.

Pigment Print

Pigment prints (also known as archival pigment prints, digital prints, pigment on paper print, and digital pigment prints) are strictly speaking any type of printing process that uses pigments. While pigment prints have been utilized for over a century, in the digital printing realm and as commonly used today, pigment prints are those produced by an inkjet printer using inks containing encapsulated pigments (as contrasted with dye-based inkjet prints). Pigment prints have exceptional stability, particularly when using a paper substrate that also has good archival characteristics such as acid-free cotton rag, alpha cellulose, or baryta papers. One advantage of pigment prints is that many types of printing substrates are available, ranging from sheets of aluminum to watercolor-like art papers to luster and glossy papers. Many traditional art papers have been modified for digital printing by addition of a special surface to better received pigment inks, so that a high level of image quality is achieved while retaining much of the feel of the art paper.


While proofs technically include any test prints that are later destroyed, proofs are also commonly viewed as being a final print that represents a record of how to print an edition. An artist’s proof (commonly referred to as A/P) is traditionally a print pulled by an artist over and above the regular numbered edition, whether printed by the artist or printer, and reserved for the artist’s use. A printer’s proof (commonly referred to as P/P) is a proof pulled by the printer that may be retained in order to match any future prints of the edition.


A copy of a fine art piece, such as a digital print reproduction of a painting or of a photograph created in a different media such as an ambrotype or platinum print..

Silver Gelatin Print

Silver gelatin prints (also known as gelatin silver print and silver print) are the most common tradition method of printing black & white prints. They are typically created by projecting an image from a film negative onto a paper with an emulsion coating composed of light sensitive silver-halide crystals suspended in a gelatin. The exposed paper is then chemically processed to develop and fix the image.