The digital trend these days seems to be film and silver halide print emulation.
Not long ago we reviewed Alien Skin's Exposure software, which had push-button
manipulation of digital images to make them look just as if they had been exposed
on certain types of film. DxO's FilmPack, subject of a future review,
offers similar image "looks." And at a recent photo trade show we
met with more than one paper vendor who told us that their newest paper "looked
and felt just like silver halide paper." If everybody thinks film and
silver paper was so great, why have we gone down this digital road?
truth is, it wasn't the look of film and silver paper that caused everyone
to rush toward digital...it was what you could do with digital that you
couldn't with film. The ease of use, the lack of chemical exposure, and
the ability to nuance images on screen beyond what even the most experienced
printer could provide in the darkroom (at least technically) all made desktop
printing much more attractive than darkroom work. The look and feel of film
and silver paper was pretty darn good, in fact, and that's why when paper
companies look at the photographic market they seem to want to do everything
they can to emulate the surface and weight of classic black and white papers.
In fact, the look they seek is often on papers that are no longer available
to silver printers--ironic, don't you think?
That's the aim, I believe, of the latest Photo Rag Pearl paper from
Hahnemühle, part of the FineArt Inkjet Paper line. This 320 gsm paper (quite
thick) has been described as having a "pearl" coat, although for
me it's very much like a double-weight glossy "dried matte."
This was a technique we used to take advantage of the double-weight (thus durable)
glossy sharpness without a ferrotyped sheen. It was achieved by running the
print through a drum dryer with the glossy face toward the cloth and not the
ferrotyping plate. It was the preferred method and surface for fine art printers
and the one I was taught, and later taught in a Masters Printing class at Parsons/New
School in New York.
This new paper is composed of 100 percent cotton rag and is completely OBA free.
OBA is Optical Brightening Agent, a type of material that was used extensively
by silver paper makers to gyp you out of silver (and yes, I suppose keep the
price of the paper reasonable) and give you the feeling of a silver-rich print.
The only thing they didn't tell us was that the OBA stuff eventually faded,
resulting in a really lousy-looking print, and that it even fluoresced when
exposed to certain types of light, something that scanners can sometimes reveal.
This OBA stuff was used quite extensively in RC silver papers, which also fade
and crack pretty quickly on their own. In short, if you are nostalgic for silver
papers in general I trust you are placing your sympathies with the right ones.
scale reproduction is very pleasing in this surface; it presents
no hindrance to full highlight to shadow reproduction. Its weight
makes for a durable paper, although many desktop printers will only
feed this paper one sheet at a time.
All Photos © 2007, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved
As to longevity on this surface, it depends on the printer/ink combo in which
you use it. I tested it with Epson's Stylus Pro 3800 (review available
at www.shutterbug.com) and in dark storage it is probably a 200-year print.
(If it isn't, let me know in 2207 and I'll refund the price of the
magazine to you.) I downloaded the ICC profile from the Hahnemühle website
and worked with a standard printer driver protocol in my MacBook Pro and Photoshop
CS3. However, I did make some prints using the Epson Advanced Black and White
setup, and was as pleased as I was with the straight paper profile. I also printed
on the Epson Luster profile and found that it worked great as well.
The paper surface has that "glossy dried matte" sheen. There is
no sense of "texture" in general and the weight is very pleasing
to the touch, with a more "cottony" backing on the uncoated side.
This coating certainly makes it easy to pick the side on which you should print.
As far as overall look, the Epson 3800/Photo Rag Pearl combo yielded very rich
prints that seemed expanded in the middle values. Highlights were warm due to
the underlying warmth of the paper, which when placed to bright white bond paper
had an almost yellowish cast. This cast is not as warm as the old warm-tone
papers in a warm-tone developer, but is certainly not bright white.
every bit like "glossy dried matte"
double-weight/heavyweight photo paper, the Photo Rag Pearl combines
the crisp detail glossy provides with less reflective sheen.
The weight of the paper is such that I had to do single-sheet printing in
the Epson 3800; the same would hold true for most desktop printers in the 13x19"
size, the size I tested. In addition, you might be tempted to use matte black
ink on this paper, as it has a sort of matte surface texture--don't.
This is for photo black inks, which I found out after using matte black and
getting unacceptable bronzing on the prints. This photo black choice means that
you could use this paper on both pigment and dye inkjet printers. I did print
some color images using the paper and they were fine.
If you want to print knockout, high-saturated color this is not the paper for
it. But if you like your color on the subtle side with images to match, then
the Photo Rag Pearl is definitely worthy of consideration. I printed mostly
in black and white, in large part using images with deep, dark values and textural
highlights. To say that it was a pleasure would be putting it mildly. It gave
me the kick that the old Kodak Medalist double-weight glossy dried matte paper
used to deliver in the darkroom--and for an inkjet paper to do that is
quite a feat.
critical aspect of art papers is how rich blacks and shadow areas
reproduce. This also depends on ink laydown, of course, but prints
made on the Photo Rag Pearl can produce deep, luxurious blacks.
Hanhnemühle's Photo Rag Pearl 320 gsm (heavyweight) is available
in various cut sheet and roll sizes. For pricing, dealers, profiles, etc., please
You can also write to Hahnemühle at 722 E. Calhoun St., Woodstock, IL 60098.