Entries Tagged as 'paper'

Portfolio: paper or plastic?

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The next major concern after the b/w issue is on what type of paper will these images be printed? I titled this post with the question of paper or plastic which is a bit of a joke because I never really considered printing the portfolio on the RC papers. But with the new air dried glossy emulators like Silver Rag, Harmon Gloss and Ilford Gold Fibre Silk their look is close enough that the wording is apt. The whole paper issue when it comes to inkjet printing is really a drag in my opinion. There are so many choices, the differences between some papers is so slight, the cost can be painfully expensive (over $5.00 for a piece of paper!), and the lingering doubt about how well these things will hold up over the long haul make the paper chase no fun at all. Several times a year a major paper manufacturer comes out with a new product that is supposed to address all issues. It gets the inkjet printer community all in a tizzy and those of us who are so inclined go through another round of trying to figure out if we’ve found the silver bullet.

Well it when it comes to paper choice the masochist in me comes out again. If I could, I would only print on matte papers. When an image works on matte papers I’m extremely happy. The lack of the blinding reflection when viewed from the wrong angle makes matte more preferable to me than what we get with the glossies. The feel of the matte papers in my hand is also much more to my liking. So far none of the new glossies on cotton or alpha cellulose comes close to the wondrous feel in hand that you get from a thick cotton rag paper like Epson Velvet Fine Art (VFA) or Hahnemuhle Photo Rag (HPR). If someone could come up with a stable ink and cotton rag combo that could deliver a dmax of 1.9 or greater I’d probably never look for another type of paper. But we aren’t there yet, and might not ever be. The fact is the best I’ve ever been able to achieve on matte paper is a dmax of 1.7 from VFA. Where as you get to a dmax of 2.2 on almost any glossy paper. And therein lies the rub. In my opinion, some images simply cannot be made to work within the confines of the matte paper’s dynamic range.

There have been a few times in the past year (since the introduction of the air dried glossy emulators) that I’ve thought maybe I should just throw in the towel with matte papers and stick with the new glossies. At these times I’ve ordered sample packs of these new papers and done tests with them, and all of them have had some major problem that caused me to rule them out (until recently, which I’ll get to later).

  1. Not a single one of these papers has been tested by Wilhelm so we have no metric for comparison with all the papers that have been around for a few years.
  2. None of these papers actually produced an image that was demonstrably superior to what I would get on humble Epson Premium Luster (which is also very inexpensive by comparison).
  3. Most of them had an annoying surface texture that I just couldn’t get used to. Silver Rag was probably the worst in this dept. Harmon gloss didn’t really have an awful texture to it, though some think it too smooth and therefore too plasticky looking.
  4. All of them were priced insanely high. Epson Exhibition Fibre (EEF) was the very worst in this dept. I’ve been a pretty big fan of Epson papers and their value for years (VFA is one of the very best papers out there). Epson has also been very consistent about delivering good quality paper with no defects or curl. However my first box of Exhibition Fibre was clearly defective with micro cracks. The paper may have delivered the highest image quality of all the glossies (but the surface texture is an acquired taste), but in the end I couldn’t get over the cost.

With that diatribe out of the way, I can now get to the latest entry into the air dried glossy emulator field, Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk (GFS). This paper is different in a number of areas than all the rest. First and foremost it is priced affordably! A box of 50 8.5×11″ sheets can be had for about $40.00 or $0.79/sheet, where as EEF costs about $1.56/sheet in 8.5×11″. GFS is also different in that it is a natural paper, somewhat creamy looking compared to everything else that is overflowing with optical brightening agents (OBA). But when measured that paper white and dark blacks (with Epson K3 inks) is actually closer to neutral gray than any other glossy I’ve seen. Finally the GFS paper delivers a good high quality image with nice acutance, and a non-intrusive surface texture that doesn’t suffer from pizza wheel marks on my 3800 (unlike the retarded EEF).

So I’ve finally found one of the non-RC glossy papers that is to my liking. On the matte paper side I have always been a major fine of Epson’s VFA. It is a paper in the cold press style (which means with surface texture) and has OBAs (but they’re not obnoxious). VFA is a beautiful paper, but I don’t use it for everything. The surface texture doesn’t work for closeups of people in my opinion (but is great for landscapes), and sometimes a set of photos might look better on a paper with fewer or no OBAs. The images that will make up this portfolio will lend themselves to being printed on a textured surface so I’m not considering my favorite hot press (smooth) styled papers like Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art (USFA) or the ubiquitous HPR 308. My paper choices (yes it was long in coming I know) for this portfolio boiled down to VFA, Hahnemuhle German Etching (GE) and GFS.

German Etching is a textured paper like VFA except it is more cream colored due to fewer OBAs. I’ve just got my first box of GE a week or so ago, but I had seen it before and kinda knew I would like it. I printed a few test images on the paper an it does indeed produce a very nice image. I think for this portfolio I might actually prefer it to VFA. But I wound up eliminating GE for strictly economical reasons this time. I already have about 17 sheets of VFA in 17×22″ ready to print on. I’d have to buy a box of GE which would be about $254 or $5.16/sheet (ouch). But I like the paper and when I buy my next big box of matte paper it will either be GE or Hahnemuhle William Turner which is slightly cheaper textured with no OBAs at all.

So finally it was narrowed down to either VFA or GFS, matte or glossy, bright or natural. I guess by now it is apparent that there is an anal/masochist/analytic side to my personality. I spend a lot of time analyzing my choices/weighing my options. Another thing I like about printing on the matte papers is that it is more challenging to make a satisfying image on a paper with a smaller dynamic range and color gamut. If I can get my images to work on a matte paper there is a greater sense of satisfaction that I feel. Not only was I able to produce this beautiful image, but I didn’t take the easy route, I made it on a surface that is harder to work with but more pleasing to hold and less abrasive on the eyes (glare on glossies).

After making a few prints on 8.5×11″ paper I was satisfied that these images will work on both VFA and GFS papers. Since I can produces a satisfactory rendition of these images on the matte papers that is what I’ve decided to go with. However, during this process I also came to another conclusion. I think that (yes not 100% sure about this) I’ve convinced myself to stick with matte papers when printing images that aren’t going to be framed behind glass. And to go ahead and pick the GFS paper for everything else that will be framed. I’m leaning in this direction because once an image printed on matte paper goes behind the glazing, no one gets to feel be beauty of the sheet, and the abrasive reflections are once again added via the glass (I haven’t tried the super expensive non-reflecting museum glazing yet). So I may be limiting my purchases of matte paper to nothing larger than 13×19″ sheets since you can’t really hold a 17×22″ piece of paper.