by Mike McNamee Published 01/04/2009
Your biggest danger is that your printer will be superseded and the inkjet changed. Although it will most likely be an improvement it will not necessarily be the same!
So far we have avoided answering the question about which is the best paper! Any of the baryta-type papers will create an excellent mimic of an air-dried silver halide fibre-based paper. Our favourites amongst these are Epson Traditional Photo Paper, Permajet Royal, Fotospeed Platinum, Innova Ultra Smooth and almost any of the Hahnemuhle baryta papers. Epson TPP and Permajet Royal are particularly flat and well behaved in the printer, Innova Ultra Smooth holds the record for colour fidelity. Some of the Hahnemuhle products also carry the well-respected Photo Rag tag. Their Fine Art Pearl 285 is one paper that stands out in our minds. Ilford Galerie has a strong following and performed well in our tests as well as being the most competitive on price.
Outside of the baryta papers our favourite is Epson Premium Luster for it achieves high brightness without the use of OBAs, is quite resistant to marking and has a delightful silk sheen.
The matt papers present even greater problems and even wider choices. Hahnemuhle Photo Rag is a recognised standard, against which others are judged and is available as a re-boxed variant from a number of suppliers. It has few vices in use, although there are some brighteners in the mix and we have noted some yellowing with age. It is also available in Ultra Smooth and bright white guises.
The Ultra Smooth we are fond of, along with the weighty 350gsm Museum Etching. Museum has a little texture but held detail well and is impressive to hold as an un-mounted print. Their Bamboo also performed very well for the ecologically conscious. The Museo papers have a following in the USA although we found them slightly more challenging to use.
If you are looking for something to mark you out from the crowd Hahnemuhle make Photo Rag in a 460gsm weight. St Cuthbert's Mill also used to produce a similar weight in Somerset Velvet (it is textured and we are not sure it is still around). Both, though, are mighty papers, which are impressive when you hold an un-mounted print. Innova also produces the Smooth Cotton High White in a 450gsm (IFA18).
For a plain and simple approach Epson's Archival Matt and Enhanced Matt are well regarded in the specialist monochrome forums. They have a very smooth surface which holds detail well in a mono image.
Looking back over the last few paragraphs we are conscious that we have mentioned quite a number of papers. Despite this they represent but a small fraction of what is available and many of those we have not mentioned have considerable merits. This is the problem you are confronted with, the choice is wide and good; we are blessed with abundance! On the following pages we discuss the pros and cons of matt versus glossy or lustre papers.
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