Way back in 2006, Innova Art brought out their FibaPrint White Gloss 300 gsm, and while not what I’d call a big brand name here in the US, digital printmaking aficionados who had come from the fiber-paper darkroom tradition took note. Here was an inkjet paper that emulated, and some say matched, the look and feel of traditional bromide silver printing paper. Other surfaces have since been introduced in this line, including the new FibaPrint Warm Cotton Gloss 335gsm that’s the subject of this report. Of course, this is not the only paper that claims the “fine art” pedigree, but due to its weight, its ability to reproduce a wide range of tones with clarity, and its acid- and lignin-free constitution it has all the required specs.
While weight is just one measure of a paper’s resilience and usefulness for fine art printing, it can also have an effect on how that paper is handled, depending on the printer. In the case of Red River’s Polar Matte Magna, which is a 96 lb (320 gsm) stock, it means working with individual sheet feeding rather than with a stack loader in almost every printer you might have. This feed-through also limits the printers that can make use of this nice surface—those without a single feed option need not apply, as well as, according to Red River’s notes, HP printers with front feed paper trays (which have also proven problematic with other heavyweight surfaces).
You can use Harman Direct Positive Paper (hereafter HDPP) in a whole spectrum of ways. At one end of the spectrum is the “Wow! Lookit!” of a school science project. At the other is a creative tool that will probably prove useful and profitable for some fine art photographers, and even some advertising photographers. We keep thinking of new ways to use it, but then again, you have to. It is a classic example of “creative limitation,”
The Ilford name certainly echoes for those with a photographic memory, and now the Galerie brand name sits on a host of inkjet media, some fiber-based and quite a few RC-based products, the subjects of this review.
It must be said at the outset that any mention of RC-based papers usually makes printmakers head for the door. The bum rap RC gets is based on first impressions from 40 odd years ago, when it was quite clear that RC (Resin-Coated, plastic) base materials were poor relations used for convenience rather than quality. RC papers in the silver realm came a long way since their first introduction, and now Ilford claims that RC inkjet papers will do as well. While they have a fair amount of proper disclaimers about ink type and storage conditions, they state that when using pigment inks their RC surface papers will not undergo significant fading or discoloration in a range of from 30 to 100 years.
Ilford has relaunched their Galerie brand of inkjet papers, with one segment dubbed their “Prestige” brand. This is a first hands-on test of their Galerie Prestige Smooth High Gloss 215 gsm, based on pre-launch samples I was supplied.
In olden times printing papers were classed by weight, support (RC or fiber) grade (or VC, for variable contrast) and surface, and we’re beginning to see those classifications emerge again in the inkjet paper world, albeit in a different way than silver papers but nonetheless by weight and surface and support. If I were to classify this new Ilford Smooth High Gloss I’d call it a single weight, RC, and high gloss (Super F) "material", leaving grade aside of course as the contrast in digital is more determined by processing than paper grade.
Having worked with numerous types and brands of “metallic” surface papers I have some expectations as to what they can deliver. Metallic is a bit of a misnomer as these papers have a glossy surface on a paper (here acid-free) base with an opalescent sheen diffused throughout the emulsion coating. This gives a spark and edge to a print that glossy shares, but there is an extra kick in the paper surface that works quite well with some images, and not so well with others. It is a particular choice, one that should be part of your printing arsenal but hardly dominated by it.
I generally feel it is best to ignore marketing copy, but sometimes it’s fun to see how folks spin their yarn. Moab’s has always been somewhat transcendent, here telling us that the surface is “reminiscent of the ultra-smooth and slick sandstone surface of the famous bike trail that loops through the desert plains of Moab…” Well, never having done the loop that may well be so, but if so the bike’s tires better have crampons, since this surface is quite slick. What is more to the point is that the copy makes a more straightforward claim that “black-and-white images shine on this new paper producing deep blacks and ultra-bright highlights.” That, and other matters, was the subject of my printing tests.
What qualifies a digital inkjet printing paper as “fine art?” To begin, it should be able to reproduce a wide range of tonal values and colors that satisfy the photographer. It should be “archival”, meaning that there should be no contaminants or even optical brighteners that could affect the print stability long term. And perhaps most important is that it should have that “look,” sometimes described as emulating a well-made darkroom print.
There’s no question that glossy and satin or pearl-type surfaces give an image more “pop,” but on the other hand you might want to use a matte surface to enhance the look and feel of certain images that rely less on pop than a quieter mood. It could be boiled down to a simple rule of thumb: for rich, high-saturation images you might use a glossy or semigloss; for more subtle colors it might be better to use a matte or satin. In the black-and-white realm it’s more of a toss-up but I think the same general rule applies. For example, for architectural images of adobe or stucco wall buildings I use matte; for glass and steel skyscrapers I choose glossy. Notice that I always modify the recommendations with “might”: if you really get into papers for printing you’ll make your own judgments. But there’s no denying that surface decisions play a role in overall effectiveness of the image.
Ilford’s new Multigrade Art 300 (MGA 300) paper is a completely new, different, silver halide, wet-process printing paper: the company’s first new paper in 13 years. The tonality is rich and subtle, and the feel of the prints is incomparable. As a bonus, it is perfect for handcoloring.
Let’s face it—some images just look better on a glossy surface. Yet, some folks spurn gloss for its “commercial” cachet and snapshot aesthetic. For those who prefer a “crisp” look to their prints but eschew gloss for practical and aesthetic reasons, a paper like the new Lasal Exhibition Luster could do the trick. Replacing Moab’s former Lasal Photo Luster (a 270 gsm paper vs. this one’s 300 gsm), this Resin-Coated (RC) paper has a bright white base, is flexible yet strong, and touts a new coating technology that the company claims yields improved scratch resistance and enhanced “opacity.” The paper is affordable for its class, with letter-size paper well below $1 per sheet (in 50-sheet packs), 13x19” at slightly under $2 a sheet, and a 17”x100’ roll at $143, all quoted from the company’s website.
Being an RC paper, the company says you can print using either dye or pigment-ink printers, although it says pigment is preferred. Lacking a dye printer our print runs were done using an Epson 3800 (pigment) printer using Epson (Premium Luster) and Moab ICC profiles, and both Photoshop and Epson printer controls. Color and black-and-white images of landscapes, people, and graphics were chosen for the tests. Prints were left overnight to cure, although we note that prints were instant dry and the paper showed no signs of ink “wetness” sometimes seen with fiber-based papers right off the press, and there was no dry down effect perceived. Prints were made with Photo Black ink settings.
Inkjet printmakers have nothing to complain about when it comes to paper choices. There are glossy, semigloss, and matte surface papers galore, each with their own charm and cachet. Regarding the latter aspect, Somerset is no slouch, having
established a reputation in both inkjet and other art papers many years back.
Their latest entry into the inkjet market is Somerset Museum Rag, distributed by Moab. This 100 percent cotton, 300 gsm paper displays a smooth matte surface, a considerable, but not yellowish warm tone, and while strong and fairly thick, is actually quite supple. The paper is single-sided, which means the tooth is on one side only, and telling the printable from the backing side is not something that will be immediately apparent. For that reason the packaging comes with a stick-on label that says “printable THIS SIDE.” You would do well to keep the original cellophane packaging until you get a good feel for the surfaces. I found that if you rub your thumb along the surface the differences become clear, with the printable surface evoking somewhat of a higher pitch.
The substrate and the image often go hand in hand, with a natural tendency to choose a matte surface for one type of scene, bucolic landscapes, perhaps, a hard gloss for commercial work, and a luster for deep blacks and a fine art feel.
OK, so I have on the meditation tape and have done my breathing exercises and now I’m ready to print on Hahnemühle’s Bamboo paper, which they dub prime for “spiritual black and white and color photography.” Made from 90 percent bamboo fibers and 10 percent cotton, and washed in “pure spring water,” the paper comes with a bit of New Age hype but at the end...
In our recent photokina reports (January, 2011, issue) we covered products and trends at the show. Here’s a brief follow-up on some film and paper processing items and information on friends old and new, present and gone.
In our photokina reports we mentioned Kodak’s new film, of course, and Harman’s Direct Positive paper, and...
PocketWizard MiniTT1 And FlexTT5 For Nikon Made for use with Nikon D-SLR cameras, the MiniTT1 transmitter slides into the camera’s hot shoe and measures just 2.8x1.9x1.3”. The FlexTT5 transceiver measures 3.6x2.9x1.4”. This system can be used to control single or multiple off-camera Nikon i-TTL flash units. The firmware is upgradeable and other accessories...