Five Great Inkjet Photo Papers



July 1, 2010
By Dan Havlik

Moab

Digital images come and go but a well-made photo print will stand the test of time. Don't believe us? How many computer monitors displaying digital images do you see hanging in galleries and museums these days? No, not many. So while photo portfolios may be getting more digitized thanks to the popularity of iPads, tablet computers, et. al., there's still a place on the wall for a print. Here's a rundown of some of our favorite inkjet paper out there right now for making frame-worthy photo prints at home or in the studio.

Red River Polar Pearl Metallic


We picked Red River's new Polar Pearl Metallic paper as a PDN "Object of Desire" a couple months ago and the more we've tested it, the more we've discovered how surprisingly versatile it is. A relatively lightweight, 255 GSM (66 lb.) high-gloss paper, Polar Pearl Metallic reminded us a lot of Kodak's Endura Metallic lab paper and that's no coincidence. Red River Paper says it spent several years studying Kodak's Endura Metallic process and it shows in the professional-looking prints we made on Polar Pearl Metallic with an Epson Stylus 3880 inkjet printer. The pearl-like stock base of the paper gives it the feel of a darkroom substrate but the side effect is an orange peel texture in our photo prints that's noticeable on close inspection. Don't let that bother you: At regular viewing distance, the delicious silvery sheen of this paper will make the blues in your images look crystalline; whites appear sparkling and stately; and bright colors, positively lustrous. Though it fares well for portraits, Polar Pearl Metallic, with its iridescent, almost 3-D look, is ideally suited for landscapes or commercial work, particularly any images with cooler tones. And even though it's a "metallic" paper, we had no problems using it with our inkjet printer.

Red River Polar Pearl Metallic


8.5 x 11 inches (50 sheets) $42.0013 x 19 inches (50 sheets) $132.4017 x 22 inches (20 sheets) $103.4524 inches x 105-feet (roll) $236.05

Further information: www.redriverpaper.com



Moab Somerset Museum Rag

These days, 100 percent cotton papers are all the rage because they can give your photos an artful look and feel. In fact, the texture of cotton papers is so pleasing, it's almost a shame to put these prints behind glass. Moab has added a 100 percent cotton Museum Rag to its venerable Somerset line of art papers and we guarantee you'll want to fondle your photos as soon as they come out of the printer. (Just don't touch the ink until it dries.) We got excellent dynamic range with superior D-MAX using Somerset Museum Rag; our blacks in both color and black-and-white prints had the most detail of all the papers we tried. At 300 GSM, this is a heavy paper that soaks up the ink but without blotching the results. Though matte papers sometimes produce flatter images, color in our prints of classic Le Mans racecars really popped. Though cotton papers can produce unpredictable photographic results because of their inconsistent surfaces, Somerset Museum Rag is produced by St. Cuthberts Mill in England using a traditional cylinder mould machine which has created an exceedingly smooth texture on the paper. Consequently we'd recommend using this paper for a range of photo prints: anything from portraits to landscapes to macro work.

Moab Somerset Museum Rag

8.5 x 11 inches (25 sheets) $38.00 13 x 19 inches (25 sheets) $96.2817 x 22 inches (25 sheets) $144.8824 inches x 50 feet (roll) $180.00

Further information: www.moabpaper.com




Harman (by Hahnemühle) Gloss Art Fibre Warmtone

If you like a stiffer, fiber feel to your photo prints and want a more traditional fine gloss finish, Harman's new Gloss Art Fibre papers are a good option. (Plus, they're cheaper than 100 percent cotton papers.) We like the Warmtone version of this paper which is part of a new line of fine-art media jointly produced by Harman Photo and Hahnemühle. Though we were a little surprised by the announcement last February that Harman Photo was working with Hahnemühle to co-produce six papers and a canvas, the results are splendid. The Gloss Art Fibre paper's 100 percent alpha-cellulose composition makes it feel like a darkroom print, while the warm tone really complemented late afternoon images we captured in natural light. Gloss Art Fibre Warmtone is a 300 GSM paper and as with all the thick third-party paper we tested, our Epson 3880 produced occasional head strikes, causing ink to smear on the edges of the media. This was annoying and we suggest adjusting the Platen Gap to its widest setting in the printer driver before outputting. Despite this issue, Harman/Hahnemühle's Gloss Art Fibre Warmtone is a great option for your natural light photography.

Harman (by Hahnemühle) Gloss Art Fibre Warmtone

8.5 x 11 inches (30 sheets) $36.00 13 x 19 inches (30 sheets) $93.0017 x 22 inches (30 sheets) $138.0024 inches x 49 feet (roll) $169.00

Further information: http://harman.hahnemuehle.com



Canson Baryta Photographique

For an even more traditional photographic look to your inkjet prints, try Canson's excellent Baryta Photographique paper. So-called "baryta" papers, which are coated with barium sulfate, look, feel and even smell like traditional darkroom prints. (If you miss the scent of silver halide photos, this is the medium for you.) Baryta papers were in vogue a few years ago with seemingly every fine-art paper company producing its own version. We even heard grumblings by photographers that companies were just spraying barium sulfate onto regular paper to give it that telltale smell. Baryta Photographique is definitely not of that lesser variety, however. It's a thick, 310 GSM fiber paper that came the closest of everything we tested to producing photos that resembled traditional photo prints. The paper's Baryta coating has a soft, stippled finish that's the mark of quality. D-MAX was exceptional in both color and black-and-white prints and we got a kick out of finding detail in dark areas of the photos that we couldn't even see on the computer screen. This extremely versatile paper is great for printing photos of a variety of subjects, however it really shines for black-and-white, photojournalistic work.

Canson Baryta Photographique

8.5 x 11 inches (25 sheets) $25.5013 x 19inches (25 sheets) $66.00 17 x 22 inches (25 sheets) $82.5024 inches x 50 feet (roll) $141.00

Further information: www.cansoninfinity.com


Innova Smooth Cotton High White

If you've a savvy inkjet printer, you've likely heard the controversy over using OBAs (optical brighteners) in photo papers. Though results vary in different testing, some photographers contend that OBAs reduce the longevity of photo prints. Innova lets you make the choice for or against OBAs with two versions of the same paper: Smooth Cotton High White which uses optical brighteners in the base paper; and Smooth Cotton Natural White which does not. In terms of image quality alone, we preferred the Smooth Cotton High White, which was the best of all the papers we tested for printing in black and white. The crisp, bright white 100 percent cotton paper provided excellent contrast for dramatic black-and-white images we captured of the ruins of a town destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. The paper's matte finish is consistently smooth and we got fairly predictable printing results throughout. Smooth Cotton High White was one of the thicker papers we tested at 315 GSM and, like other third-party papers, suffered from a few printer head strikes with the Epson 3880. But when it ran through cleanly, results were beautiful.

Innova Smooth Cotton High White

8.5 x 11 inches (25 sheets) $22.0013 x 19 inches (25 sheets) $60.0017 x22 inches (25 sheets) $77.0024 inches x 50 feet (roll) $109.00

Further information: www.innovaart.com



Honorable Mention

Epson Signature Worthy Hot Press and Cold Press

We previously reviewed Epson's Signature Worthy Hot Press and Cold Press fine-art papers in the February issue of PDN and loved the results we got from these 100 percent cotton papers, particularly when printing color landscapes and black-and-white images. These are extremely thick papers—330 GSM for the Hot Press version and 340 GSM for the Cold Press hot press version—that produced very distinctive looking, artistic photo prints. The Cold Press Bright White, which has a rough textured surface, was our favorite of the line.

To read the full review, visit http://bit.ly/bdyxYa.






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