Buying Art Online: What You Should Know

People purchase art for many reasons, but the most common reason is to decorate their work and living spaces. Before the Internet, you'd have to go to an art gallery to purchase original art, including photographs. Your choice could be limited and you'd rack up miles visiting galleries if you couldn't find something you liked in the size that you wanted. Thankfully, that has all changed.

As a photographer, I am well aware of the many benefits of the digital revolution. These benefits have popped up throughout the creation process, from being able to see an image immediately to ensure I captured what I wanted, to being able to process my images on a computer, rather than in a darkroom, and coming out smelling like darkroom chemistry (I do miss those days at times). But from a buyer's point of view the digital age has brought different benefits that at times can be confusing. We now have the ability to print on more than just paper, so which is best for you? How big? How will it look on my wall? Thankfully, these questions all have answers.

Choosing Art

Without art, the world would be an incredibly boring place. Imagine no paintings or photographs on walls, or in frames on your desk. Imagine line after line of plain text, with no color, no layout designed to make it more pleasing to look at. Art adds fun and whimsy to your world. It allows you to create a space that reflects who you are.

There are many reasons people choose what they choose. Sometimes, a painting or photograph just speaks to them. Other times, it may be a reminder of a place or time that has special meaning. In any case, you should choose art that makes you happy when you look at it. Always purchase art from the heart.

Fitting Art  To Your Space.

One of the biggest mistakes people make with purchasing art is not properly fitting the space they intend to fill. A general rule of thumb is that you want the print or painting to fill 65% to 75% of the space available on a wall. Of course there are many ways to do that, either using multiple smaller prints, or using one large print. You want to have a good idea of the size, as a print or painting that is too small will look silly in a big empty space, and a print that is too large will look crowded. Art needs a little room around it to breathe.

So how can you know for sure? On my website I have a couple of tools available for you. The first is the Wall Preview tool. This tool is located underneath the different print options, to the right of the photo. Before clicking there, go through the print options, and select the type of print you want, select the matting and framing options you're considering, if any, and then click on the Wall Preview button. When the wall preview opens, you can see how the print will look in a variety of settings. This helps you get an idea of the size you chose, as well as the framing. You can change the wall color to more closely match your own, and if the size you chose doesn't look right, you can select other sizes from the drop down to see which one looks best. 

Want to see what it will really look like on your wall? Use the Live Preview AR tool, along with your smartphone or tablet. For the Live Preview AR tool ("AR" stands for Augmented Reality), you browse to the image you're considering on my website using your smartphone or tablet, and click the Live Preview AR button. You want to be standing 10 feet from the wall to get the proper rendition of sizing of the print versus what's actually in the room. You can adjust the size of the print using a selector at the bottom. It's a great way to really get an idea of what the print will look like on your walls. Again, if you're considering a frame, you can see what that will look like as well. Just select the frame style you're considering.

This screen shot of the Live Preview AR tool shows what my "Afternoon at Lake McDonald" print would look like hanging over my very cluttered desk as a 20x30 metal print. If you look, you can see a frame peeking out from behind the preview. That's an 18x24 I have on the wall there now. I think the 20x30 would fill the space better.

Presentation Options

As I stated earlier, since everything has gone digital, from capture to print, we are in an era where we have more presentation options than ever before. It used to be we had a choice between papers- glossy, luster, or matte. Now? It's that and so much more! I'll go through the options below.

Paper

The lab I use to print my orders offers 11 different types of paper to print on. In order to simplify the ordering process for you, I've narrowed it down to one choice- Fine Art Baryta Paper. The actual paper is Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique paper. Baryta paper is paper coated with a barium sulphate coating, and gives it the look and feel of a tradition darkroom baryta print. It is acid free and archival, and considered museum grade. It has a semi-gloss sheen to it, which is perfect for framing. From a personal standpoint, I find this type of paper renders the shadow and highlight detail better than other papers out there, and if you've followed my work, you know the range of tones one of my images can have. I've found matte and watercolor papers don't hold those details quite as well, and glossy just delivers too much shine when under glass. I print on this paper on my home printer as well and my work looks gorgeous on it.

You have several other options to choose from here as well: matting and framing. I offer a variety of mat sizes, including 2-inch, 3-inch, and 4-inch mats. Availability of each size will depend on the size of the print you're ordering. A mat provides a nice clean finish to a print and allows it to stand out from the frame. For frames, I've tried to keep it simple. I can't possibly match every style of decor, so I've chosen to offer some basic frames in several color options: black, espresso, silver, white, and maple. I'm partial to a simple black frame as it goes almost anywhere and allows the image to really stand out.

Gallery Wrapped Canvas

Many people love the look and feel of a canvas gallery wrap. I offer a glossy canvas option. The gloss finish offers a nice shine without being overbearing. The canvas itself is stretched over stretcher bars just as an old master painter would stretch his or her canvasses. To simplify things, I've taken the liberty of selecting two options- a black border option, or a mirror image for the wrap. The black border means the sides of the wrap will be black. If you select the "mirror image" option, the edges of the image will be reflected onto the edges, making it appear that the image is completely wrapped around the bars, when in reality, you're not losing any of the image to the wrapped portion. Gallery wraps are a great way to present photos or reproductions of paintings. In terms of size, canvas offers the largest sizes of any medium I offer, up to 50" x 75"! A great way to fill up a large empty wall.

Metal Prints

Metal prints offer a contemporary presentation which has become popular recently. The image is printed directly onto the aluminum surface, and holds an incredible amount of detail and vibrance that complements the color and detail found in my images. Metal prints can be framed if you like, but look outstanding without a frame as well. I offer them with a float mount hanging system, which makes the print appear to be floating off the wall by an inch or so. Due to their vibrance, metal prints are idea for walls that don't receive much light directly.

Acrylic

Acrylic prints are photographic prints, face mounted to a 1/4" sheet of polished acrylic. Due to the weight of the piece, they are offered with chrome mounting posts that require you to screw them into the wall, using included chrome mounting posts (You can find instructions on how to do this here). Acrylic is another contemporary method of presentation that happens to complement my images well, but it is a bit pricier than other options.

Wood

Wood prints are fairly new, with the image printed directly on 3/4" sheet of maple. While some love the presentation of wood prints, personally, I don't find it serves my images well. My work is characterized by sharp detail, a broad range of tones, and vibrant colors. The image printed on wood takes on the tone of the wood (no pure whites) as well as the wood grain. My images tend to look flat and lack punch, so I don't offer it for my work. However, you may see others offering it so I did want to mention it here.

My Recommendations

Personal preference is definitely the rule here, but if you're unsure what to choose, here are my recommendations. If you prefer a more classic look, a matted and framed print is hard to beat. I typically like a 2-inch mat with a black or dark wood frame, unless the room decor calls for something lighter. This is my choice for all but my largest prints, where mats are not big enough to set the print apart from the frame.

For contemporary looks, I'm split on canvas and metal. My work looks beautiful on both. Canvas offers the largest sizes, while metal offers a great look. Flip a coin if size isn't the issue.

I hope this has helped clarify some of the options. As always, you can reach out to me if you have any questions.