In all my years of printing and teaching printing workshops, the single most important thing…
My current printers are a Epson R2400 and Canon ipf5000, and I purchase a lot of paper (and ink, but that’s another issue). The selection of papers is staggering these days, with more choices becoming available faster than I can keep up. I’ve done a significant amount of printing recently, needing many prints for the art shows I was exhibiting in this year, as well as two galleries that are carrying my photography. This is in addition to my normal printing for customers, so I’ve had a chance to try a bunch of different papers and here are some of my impressions and preferences.
There are generally two types of ink jet papers – coated papers, which have a smooth glossy surface, and fine art papers, which have a matte surface ie. cotton rag. In addition, there are new fiber based or pearl papers, which are cotton papers with a pearl finish similar to traditional photographic paper. I prefer matte papers for most of my color fine art prints due to the rich texture, lack of glare, and overall weight and feel of the print. Prints have a painterly look to them which customers and I really like. For my black and white prints, I usually prefer the fiber based papers which have a better D-max (richness of blacks) and better separation of tones. This varies with the print, and sometimes a matte paper will work better. I have tried papers from most of the leading manufacturers including Hahnemuhle, Crane, Innova, Epson, and RedRiver Paper, and here are my favorites.
- For most color landscapes, Innova Smooth Cotton White papers give me a saturated, smooth, rich print that looks great whether framed or frameless mounted (ColorBox). I prefer a white finish to some of the other warmer papers, and the texture is just enough to provide some depth to the print surface. Hahnemuhle PhotoRag is a very close second, but much more expensive, and is not as white as the Innova paper.
- I’ve been using pearl papers for most of my black and white images, and Crane Silver Rag is hard to beat. Great blacks, smooth finish, warm highlights, and a very nice texture. Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl is another favorite, and I will alternate based on what I have in stock, and the type and nature of the image.
- For everyday prints and initial proofing, I really like Red River premium matte C2S paper. It’s double sided, has a very nice sooth finish, and prints both color and black and white well. Plus it’s fairly inexpensive.
- Additional papers I’ve used include Innova Soft Art (warm tone and deep beautiful texture), and Epson Premium Photo Luster which prints wonderfully on Epson printers.
Aside from the RedRiver, these papers are not inexpensive, so I always recommend getting samples to evaluate how each performs on your particular printer. The type of image is also important as I’ve mentioned in my preference for color or black and white printing. Also keep in mind that you will need a proper color profile for your printer/paper combination to achieve proper color rendition. Most of the manufacturers supply “canned” or generic profiles on their websites for your particular printer, and you can also have a custom profile made once you decide which paper you prefer. I purchase all of my papers from Shades of Paper, an excellent retailer with great prices, service and support, including samples of many papers. This is a constantly evolving field which promises to remain very exciting in the future, and allows me to explore greater possibilities for creating beautiful, expressive prints.
Here are some online resources for printing and papers: