Premium Papers for Photo Prints
JULY 24, 2013
By Theano Nikitas
Most photographers have their tried-and-true paper that they always use, and therefore don’t see any reason to explore what else is on the market. We get it: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Typically, we follow this adage, but paper manufacturers are constantly improving substrates. You could be missing out on an interesting paper that’s perfect for a special photo project. Below, we’ve rounded up some recent releases from popular photo manufacturers to encourage you to try something new.
Epson’s Exhibition Canvas Natural is the latest addition to its Signature Worthy line of media. Free of optical brightening agents, this substrate comes in gloss, satin and matte finishes and, from the samples we’ve seen, the 19-milliliter-thick media produces lovely prints with nicely saturated colors and rich, deep blacks. Its flexible blended cotton and polyester base makes this canvas ideal for gallery wraps. In addition to 17 x 22-inch cut sheets, the canvas is available in 13-, 17-, 24- and 44-inch rolls.
A favorite among photographers, Epson’s Exhibition Fiber is ideal for color and black-and-white photography. This acid- and lignin-free paper has a gloss finish, with a thickness of 13 mils (sheets) or 12 mils (rolls). Cut-sheet sizes range from 8.5 x 11 inches to 24 x 30 inches, and 50-foot rolls are available for 17-, 24-, 44- and 64-inch printers.
Prices: Starting at $37 for Exhibition Canvas Natural; starting at $39 for Exhibition Fiber
The latest addition to Moab’s Lasal line of papers is the Dual Semigloss 330. This instant-dry, heavyweight, 330-gsm (grams per square meter) paper can stand up to even the most thorough handling in albums, limited-edition books and portfolios. There is no bleed-through when printing on both sides, regardless of the amount of ink used (e.g., for broad expanses of single, dark colors). A very dark, grainy print of musician Herbie Hancock turned out beautifully, with smooth, rich colors. Deep blacks were offset by the bright white of the keys of his handheld electric piano and skin tones were perfectly rendered. Lasal Dual Semigloss 330 is a wonderful paper for color and black-and-white images and while pigment inks are recommended, dye-based inks can be used in a pinch.
Perhaps one of our favorite Moab papers is Slickrock Metallic Pearl 260. This 260-gsm paper’s high-gloss, metallic surface makes images pop. We love it for black-and-white and for infrared but color images are gorgeous as well. New to the Slickrock line is Metallic Silver 300, a heavier weight paper that takes the metallic look to a whole new level.
Both Slickrock papers are instant dry, compatible with dye and pigment inks—although pigment is recommended—and come in cut sheets and rolls. Fantastic for black-and-white fashion, product shots, landscapes, portraits and black-and-white infrared, these papers are must-haves if you want your images to really stand out.
Prices: Starting at $25 for Lasal Dual Semigloss 330; starting at $26 for Slickrock Metallic Pearl 260; starting at $29 for Slickrock Metallic Silver 300
Ilford has updated some of its inkjet papers, including the Galerie Prestige Smooth High Gloss and Smooth Pearl. The new version of the Smooth High Gloss is 215-gsm and has been modified and presented as an “alternative to metallic media,” a look that’s very popular these days. And, it’s also an inkjet alternative to the recently discontinued Ilford Ilfochrome. Image definition and colors really pop on this film-based media and while personal preference dictates the types of photos that match the paper’s high gloss, we think it’s perfect for fashion and beauty shots that deserve a sharp, crisp look. Although the paper is compatible with both pigment and dye inks, Ilford suggests that optimum results are achieved with the latter. It is available in cut sheets from 8.5 x 11 inches to 13 x 19 inches as well as 24-inch roll formats.
The updated 310-gsm Smooth Pearl inkjet paper, with its heavier weight, feels more substantial and more expensive than its price suggests. The pearl finish delivers crisp prints but with a less reflective surface than glossy papers. Compatible with both pigment and dye inks, this paper won an award from TIPA [the Technical Image Press Association] in 2012 and is available in cut sheet sizes from 4 x 6 inches to 17 x 22 inches. It also comes in 89-foot rolls with the option of 17-, 24-, 44- and 60- inch widths. The paper is relatively inexpensive but still maintains a rich feel. When you visit the Ilford site for more information or to download ICC profiles, also check out the company’s other 2012 TIPA award-winning paper, the 310-gsm Smooth Gloss, another great, heavier weight option for photographers.
The newest member of the Galerie Prestige line, Gold Mono Silk, is a 270-gsm paper that recently won a 2013 TIPA award. It is available in cut sheets and rolls and compatible with both dye- and pigment-based printers. What makes this fiber-based, acid- and lignin-free paper interesting is that it’s designed for black-and-white printing with the promise of wide dynamic range for rich blacks. It’s just now becoming available in the U.S. but we think it will be a hit among photographers with its lovely silk finish.
Prices: Starting at $35 for Smooth High Gloss; starting at $20 for Smooth Pearl and Smooth Gloss; starting at $11 for Gold Mono Silk
Especially well known for its fine-art papers, Hahnemühle now offers the Photo Rag Book & Album, a double-sided, 100 percent cotton paper designed, as its name implies, specifically for creating photo books and albums. At 220 gsm, this smooth, white paper has a rich, heavy feel. More importantly, it’s thick enough that there’s no bleed-through.
Of course, output quality is what really counts. Although the paper is compatible with both dye and pigment ink printers, tests worked best with pigment inks. Colors were accurate in tone and blacks were solid, although sometimes the saturation needs to be tweaked in Photoshop to reproduce the full richness of an image. But skin tones were natural and transitions were smooth.
The paper is available in cut sheets from 8.5 x 11 inches to 26 x 36 inches.
Price: Starting at $50
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