Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Printing Insights #011

Michael Reichmann on Fine Art Papers

Tiger Gamblers Toronto, 2001 (Reichmann)

by Michael Reichmann


Editor comment: This article was first published at the Luminous Landscape as part of a of a "Piezography BW" review. I find this material so important that I asked Michael to republish it here.

Over the years my taste in photographic printing papers migrated from hi-gloss to matt. Similarly, when I started doing inkjet printing in the mid-90's I was enamoured of very glossy papers like Pictorico Hi-Gloss Film. But, as the technology matured, so too did my taste in papers.

Today for my colour work I use Epson's Archival Matt paper almost exclusively. This paper has a good weight, never wrinkles from over-inking, and has a nice smooth white finish. It's also inexpensive and readily available. For all of these reasons it has become my baseline reference for comparison with other papers.

Cone Editions thoughtfully provides a package of nine different sample papers when one buys a Piezo kit. Seven of these papers interested me and so here are my impressions, in each case using Epson's Archival Matt (EAM) as my reference point. If you're familiar with the look and feel of that paper then my comments will make some sense for you. The papers are listed in descending order of preference most favourite first.

Epson Archival Matt

This is the whitest of the papers and the one which gives the most neutral colour rendition. The Piezo inks are still somewhat warm on this paper but the most neutral of any paper yet tested. This paper has a 192 g/m2 weight giving it good heft. The surface is very smooth. Regrettably in packages of all sizes that I've bought since the summer of 2001 Epson has decided to watermark the back of the paper with their logo and direction arrows. I find this to be unsightly in a fine art photo paper.

As mentioned above, the paper is readily available and relatively inexpensive, making it a good choice for day-to-day Piezo printing. But, though it has a very nice surface and heft, note that though it is rated as having a 100200 year life with Epson's pigment colour inks on a 2000P or 5500, its ultimate life span with Piezo inks can not be guaranteed because the paper is acidic in nature.

This is a 310 g/m2 paper, making it the heaviest of the lot. It reminds me of a traditional heavyweight matt photographic paper like Chlorobromide because of its heft as well as its slight warm tone. The paper has a soft textured surface which tends to add a bit of texture to images.
Somerset Velvet
This is the second whitest paper after EAM. At 250 g/m2 it is slightly heavier as well. It has a soft textured surface that's a bit smoother than Orwell. Blacks are not as intense (easily compensated for though) and mid-tone areas seem to show dithering a bit more than the previous two papers.
Somerset Enhanced
Not quite as white as Somerset Velvet, this paper produces a slightly more olive coloured image. It weighs the same as Somerset Velvet. The surface has a slightly softer texture and blacks seem a bit richer. 250 g/m2 .
Wells River
Quite similar in tonality to Somerset Enhanced, this paper is 190 g/m2 . It's also a bit warmer and coarser textured.
Concord Rag
This is an ivory coloured paper that can be quite suitable for portraits. It has a smooth surface and is quite hefty with a weight of 183 g/m2 .
An even warmer ivory coloured paper than Concord Rag, at 160 g/m2 it is somewhat lighter in weight. I find the texture a bit much for high detail images.
A 210 g/m2 paper that is the most like a traditional "watercolour" of this group. A warm tonality with good deep blacks.
Epson Premium Semigloss & Premium Luster
Neither of these papers is particularly well suited to use with Piezography because the pigment inks tend to produce a "bronzing" effect. This means that when viewed from an oblique angle the ink appears to be sitting on the surface of the paper, rather than being part of it.

It needs to be said that one of the joys of working with inkjet (Giclee) printers is that there is a wide choice of papers available. The world of silver printing papers has shrunk dramatically over the past 30 years, but there has been a veritable explosion in the inkjet world. One of the above will surely meet most peoples needs, for Piezography as well as for specialized colour printing applications.


Multiple Paper Sources
One thing to keep in mind is that while there are hundreds of fine-art papers from dozens of sources, there are in fact relatively few actual paper manufacturers. One of these is the German firm of Hahnemühle. The table below shows the Hahnemühle product name on the left and and along the top row some of the leading paper suppliers. The brand names are shown where these rows and columns intersect.
Hahnemühle Papers and Alternate Names
Cone Tech
Media Street
2000P Prof
German Etching 310
Royal Plush
Classic Velour
Fine Art Standard
William Turner 310
Cotton Rag
Photo Rag
Torchon 285
Royal Riviera 285
Museum Parchment
Soft fine Art
Hahnemühle 230
Albrecht Durer 210
Royal Weave 210
Flaxen Weave
Rough Fine Art
William Turner 190
Wells River
Royal Jazz
Woven Fiber
Photo Rag 188
Photo Gloss 170
Photo Matte 170
170 gsm Matte
Allegretto 160
Royal Sunrise
Linen 150
Structure 150
Aspen Moguls 15
Burga Giclee German Antique 140
Burga Giclee Natural White 140
Japan 90
Photo Gloss 180
180 gsm Fast Dry Gloss
Editor: I added the last column which indicates whether there is a profile for the Epson 2000P available at Jon Cone's Inkjetmall.
This list was compiled by Antonis Ricos and others of the Digital B&W group on Yahoo, and can be found in the Files section.
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