Usually I'm pretty quick at Internet research, but I'm finding it difficult to come up with a list of recommendable premium inkjet printing papers. Reviewers seem to be reticent about making outright recommendations, I guess because technical reviews are difficult to do and you'd hate to recommend something that was later revealed to have problems. Plus, paper is like coffee in that it's not entirely a stable, repeatable industrial product—it can differ from year to year and batch to batch.
Consensus, as far as I can detect it, seems to be coalescing around the Canson brand. I have a Canson sample pack and I know exactly where it is: it's in a box in my barn! Beyond that I don't know where it is. I think I'll have to order another one if I actually want to see their papers again. Ilford used to be a big name but I can't quite tell if it still is. Then there are several higher-value brands like Moab and Red River. In November I plan to order a bunch of sample packs from any manufacturer that makes one and evaluate them by hand and eye. Which isn't everything, although it's something.
Coming at it from the LE perspective isn't a lot easier—it's easy to find data at places like Aardenburg Imaging and Wilhelm Research, but I haven't yet found anything like a list of the best or most recommended papers. Likely because careful researchers do not like to extrapolate results past the specific conditions under which they tested.
Any of you veteran inkjet printers out there have any thoughts on the subject? I'm eager to hear. Epson's RC-based Ultra Premium Luster seems great for proofs but I'd like to find a few more luxurious "standard" papers for interpretive prints. Thanks in advance!
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Featured Comments from:
Dave Van de Mark: "There was a time (during the life of my first big printers—an Epson 7600 and later a Canon ipF8000—that just endlessly, it seemed, I played with different papers. The first type I quickly eliminated were the RC. Just didn't like them and they seemed less 'environmental' to me.
"Since I was making large prints and mounting them on gator board and not covering them up with anything—no sprays, no glass or acrylic—I needed to find a smooth, durable and non-reflective paper and did so with Innova FibaPrint ultra smooth white matte 280gm. I love it and stopped hunting.
"For smaller 'bin' prints—sold matted and inside a protective sleeve—I just love the Canson Baryta Photographique paper in roll and 13x19" and 17x22" sizes. Again, I have quit hunting!
"Using these papers in a well-profiled setup with my new Canon ipF6400 printer, I'm living in heaven, with what seems to be a very, very good match from what I see on monitor to a finished print. The Innova matte paper has a surprisingly high contrast and tonal range and can be 'snappy' just like glossier papers.
"I will be the first to admit that, by not looking further, I may be missing a 'gem.' But I doubt any new stuff out there is worlds better than what makes me perfectly happy right now."
Mike Leinhausr: "I've tried a few of papers and have come to really like the Canson Baryta Photographique and Platine Fibre Rag. I printed with Agfa Portriga Rapid in the darkroom for years and have looked for something digital that would cross over—not much luck—but now use the Platine for 90% of what I do. Using an Epson R3000 and seems to do a decent job with this combination."
Ken Bennett: "I mostly print on luster paper, but I've had good results with the Epson Exhibition Fiber when I want to spend the big bucks. :-) "
Kenneth Tanaka: "Of course there is no such thing as a 'best' printer paper. The printing world has evolved quickly to offer many excellent, and generally equivalent, inkjet/pigment papers today.
"Personally, after having spent crazy time and money experimenting with papers in years past I have settled on Ilford's Gold Fibre Silk (310 GSM) as my standard paper. Why?
- Reasonable cost for a good weight.
- Excellent availability.
- A lovely semi-gloss baryta surface that enables excellent contrast and tonal range.
- It's become somewhat of a standard in the art world for pigment prints. Indeed, my local large-print printer (who prints for many artists) has also chosen it as his standard.
"I do not often venture into matte printing, except for certain small prints. When I do I usually use a Hahnemuhle paper such as a Photo Rag (there are several). I also like Museo stock for small matte prints and cards.
"By all means have fun exploring the possibilities with your new printer. But good printer papers are much more expensive than ink, with even a modest size sheet costing upwards of $2+. And it takes time and much waste to learn to adapt to many papers' characteristics.
"And the fact is that despite all the noise over papers in photo enthusiast circles it really doesn't make much difference, especially if you plan to glaze the print. I have seen lovely, and very valuable, inkjet prints in museums and galleries obviously printed on Epson Premium Luster stock.
"My advice: The sooner you make a standard choice for yourself the sooner you'll learn to master it!"
Geoff Wittig: "I have two different sets of paper I like depending on what I'm printing.
"For everyday use, prints I give away, or make just to see what a photo looks like as a print, I use a lot of Canon's heavyweight satin photo paper. I'm using a Canon iPF6300; if I were using an Epson, I'd probably use Epson's equivalent Premium Luster. That's what Pete Turner used for his exhibit at George Eastman House (er, Museum) a few years back. The Canon satin paper looks great, and it's affordable. I also use it for very large prints I have laminated onto boards.
"For prints I really care about, though, I'm very fond of Hahnemühle's beautiful range of cotton rag photo papers. My current favorites are Photo Rag Pearl and Photo Rag Baryta, both of which are heavy 100% cotton rag papers with fabulous 'hand feel' and subtly differing surface gloss. The pearl surface seems more sympathetic to color photos and baryta to B&W, but it might just be me. They're very close. I also perversely like Photo Rag Satin, which has quite low contrast and poor D-max, but nonetheless provides a unique subtle surface sheen that really complements some images. I've tried some of Canson's papers along with Ilford's popular Gold Fiber Silk and Harman's gloss baryta paper, but keep finding myself going back to Hahnemühle."
Mark Bridgers: "I've always liked Red River Papers, they have all types. I like the San Gabriel baryta and their Aurora Natural for black-and-whites. But I'm just goofing around and having fun, not a serious artist."
Brian Stewart: "In your justly famous 'Letter to George,' circa 2010, in steps 7, 17, 19 and the end-point, you mentioned a closet fully of discarded and unused camera gear. As I type in my studio that closet is on my left. On my right is a matching closet of inkjet paper, accumulated in much the same way. You have been warned."