Making fine prints in your digital darkroom
Papers and inks
by Norman Koren

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updated March 1, 2005
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Table of contents

for the Making Fine
Prints series

Getting started | Light & color
Pixels, images, & files | Scanners
Digital cameras | Printers
Papers and inks
Introduction | Inks | Papers
Monitor calibration and gamma
Printer calibration | Scanning | Basic image editing
Black & White | Matting and framing
Tonal quality and dynamic range in digital cameras

Color Management: Introduction | Implementation
Profiles with MonacoEZcolor | Evaluating profiles




for Image editing with
Picture Window Pro
Introduction | Making masks
Contrast masking
Tinting and hand coloring B&W images
Example: Sunset, Providence, Rhode Island
In this page we discuss inkjet papers and inks. Although I use Epson inks and mostly Epson papers in my 2200, I'm interested in other processes and papers-- particularly fine art papers. This page lists suppliers of alternative inks-- of greatest interest for older Epson printers-- and papers. I discuss Black & White printing on another page.

Introduction

Inks used in inkjet printers fall into two categories: dye and pigment-based. It is important to understand the distinction because it affects your selection of papers. Older Epson printers used dye-based inks, but several newer models (2000P, 2200, 7600, 9600, 4000) use longer-lasting pigment inks. Replacement inks are available for most Epson printers; they are of particular interest for the older dye-based Epsons.

Inks

Epson and the other printer manufacturers use the same business model as Gillette: give away the razor and make a profit on the blades. If you do a lot of printing, ink cartridges can get expensive. I tend to be cautious about using anything but Epson cartridges, but Inkjetart.com is pretty reliable. Their Inkjetart solutions replacement cartridges and continuous inking systems may be worth looking into. DISCLAIMER: I haven't tried them yet.

Cheap third party inks should be avoided, period. According to Henry Wilhelm (the guy who literally wrote the book on print longevity-- now available as a free PDF download), none of them have decent longevity. Even worse, some clog print heads.

Not all third party inks fall into the "cheap" class. Several have been formulated for high quality, longevity, and/or excellent B&W performance. They are particularly attractive for older, wide body Epson printers, like the 3000. It's not easy or cheap to experiment with them; most require that your printer be flushed out with special cleaning solutions. I don't intend to try them with my 2200-- Ultrachrome inks are superb. B&W inksets are typically quadtones-- K remains black but C, Y, and M are replaced with tinted shades of gray. Printers with 6 or more colors use the same gray in more than one ink cartridge. Here is a brief list of the major manufacturers. Inkjetart.com carries Luminous, Lyson, Media Street, and MIS. DISCLAIMER: I haven't tried these.

 

View image galleries
How to purchase prints

.An excellent opportunity to collect high quality photographic prints and support this website

Papers

Epson sells a wide variety of excellent, reasonably priced, and reliable papers, but independent manufacturers are constantly expanding their offerings. Some of their products are outstanding. I'm starting a data base of high quality inkjet papers. It don't plan to make it comprehensive; it will only include papers that interest me or have earned a reputation for high quality. I invite readers to write me with recommended products, links, reviews, and comments.

Some considerations in choosing papers.

The list is not comprehensive. It only contains highlights of each manufacturer's product line-- typically the heavier, higher quality products. Click on the links for more products and information. Disclaimer: I've only tried a few of these papers (mostly Epson). I plan to try several more, but not all of them. (I have a few other things to keep me occupied.) I'll report on the papers I try.  
Standard print sizes
more on Inkjetart.com
Metric
A4: 210x297 mm ( 8.3x11.7 in)
A3: 297x420 mm (11.7x16.5 in)
A2: 420x594 mm (16.5x23.4 in)
A1: 594x841 mm (23.4x33.1 in)
(All have a 1:1.414 aspect ratio.)
 
US
A (letter):    8.5x11 in.
B (ledger):   11x17 in.
Super A3/B: 13x19 in.
C:  17x22 in.
D:   22x34 in.
  
Table of inkjet papers
Manufacturer
(distributor)
Type Surface
& base
Weight &
thickness
8.5x11" prices (USD) Sizes
(inches)
Comments
Bergger PN32
Hot press
Coated
100% cotton
300 gsm 50 shts: $84 8.5x11-35x46 PN32 and PN33 are made by Arches and finished by Bergger. Excellent reputation in Europe but poorly distributed in the USA. Adorama carries PN11 watercolor surface. 25 shts: $47. B&H is the best USA source.
PN33
Cold press
50 shts: $84
Breathing Color
Brilliance
Canvas
Coated 100% cotton 15 mils

Rolls, 17-54"
Brilliance 2 canvas is smoother than Brilliance;  preferable for smaller sizes. Deep blacks are claimed for the coatings. Profiles available for Epson large format printers: 7600, 9600, 4000, etc. but for not the 2200.
Brilliance 2
Canvas
Coated 100% seedless cotton 22 mils

Sheets and rolls, 17-60"
Elegance paper
Coated
100% cotton
310 gsm


Costco
Kirkland Prof. Glossy Inkjet Photo
Glossy RC
260 gsm
10 mils
125 shts: $18.99
8.5x11 only
A bargain. Made in Switzerland, possibly by Ilford (???) If so, their profiles could be used.
Crane
Museo
Coated
100% cotton
220, 250, 365 gsm 25 shts:
$30.60

#6, #9, 8.5x11, 11x17, 13x19, 13x40, larger
New double-sided version shown at PMA 2005. Profiles available.
Epson Enhanced Matte Smooth matte
Paper
192 gsm,
10.3 mils
50 shts: $14 8.5x11-13x19,
24-44" rolls
My standard of comparison. Excellent image quality and Dmax. Inexpensive. Long-lasting with pigment inks, but not truly archival (name was changed from Archival Matte).
Premium Luster Luster RC 250 gsm,
10.4 mils
50 shts: $30 8.5x11-13x19,
8.5, 13" rolls
Similar to Premium semigloss. I've gotten excellent results on the Epson 2200. Not recommended for dye-based printers. 
Velvet Velvet
100% cotton
acid-free
260 gsm,
19 mils
20 shts: $28 8.5x11, 13x19 High Dmax. Moderate texture. Epson's premium matte surface. Read Michael Reichmann's comments before using. Difficult to distinguish printable side.
Watercolor Watercolor
paper
190 gsm,
11.3 mils
20 shts: $25
(13x19)
13x19 only Recommended for 2000P and related printers.
ColorLife Semigloss SP RC 245 gsm,
10 mils
20 shts: $13 8.5x11, 13x19 Swellable polymer (SP) for dye inks only.
Smooth Fine Art Paper by Crane Smooth matte
100% cotton
acid-free
225 gsm, 15 mils (rolls),
425 gsm, 27 mils (sheets)
4 shts: $10 (sample) 24x30, 36x44, 24-44" rolls;
Where is 8.5x11 and 13x19?
Smooth hot press finish. Billed as an archival replacement for Enhanced Matte, but more expensive. Announced at PMA, March, 2003, but still not available in  8.5x11 and 13x19 sheets. I'm waiting! Selected by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (with the Epson 9600 printer), for its fine art prints.
Hahnemühle Photo Rag Smooth matte
Coated
100% cotton acid-free
188 or 308 gsm SS,
196 or 316 gsm DS
188 gsm SS: 50 shts: $65
308 gsm SS: 50 shts: $74
8.5x11-17x22 
(SS, DS),
35x46, 24-44" rolls (SS only)
According to Inkjetart.com, surfaces are fragile and require protection. High Dmax. Several textured surfaces are available. Works well with Epson Enhanced Matte profiles. Lexjet has profiles for several Hahnemühle papers.
Ilford
Galerie
Classic Gloss Glossy SP RC 250 gsm 25 shts: $13 8.5x11-13x19 RC papers are also available in pearl surfaces.  Epson ICC Profiles are available.The "Classic" series is swellable polymer (SP) for dye inks only. Ilford also has a Guide to Printing, Printer settings, and special Printer drivers.
Smooth Gloss Glossy RC 280 gsm 25 shts: $13 8.5x11-13x19,
24-44" rolls
Smooth Fine Art Textured matte
100% rag acid-free
190 gsm
10 mils
25 shts: $40 8.5x11-13x19
Hawk Mountain Osprey Giclée
(Velvet)
Coated
100% cotton
acid-free
250 gsm,
15 mils
25 shts: $25 8.5x11, 11x17, 17x22,
36, 50?" rolls
These are the two papers carried by Inkjetart.com. Nomenclature is a little confusing. Inkjetart.com's Osprey Giclée appears to be the same as Osprey Velvet in the Hawk Mountain catalog.
Red Tail Archival Uncoated
100% cotton
acid-free
250 gsm,
15 mils
25 shts: $13 8.5x11-17x22,
24-44" rolls
LexJet 10 mil Photo Satin Satin RC 250 gsm,
10 mils
50 shts: $30 8.5x11-13x19,
10,16,24-44" rolls
LexJet offers a several photo papers at attractive prices. I chose Photo Satin because Epson 2100/2200 ICC Profiles are available. They also distribute Hahnemühle papers and have profiles for them.
Moab Entrada Fine Art Coated DS
100% cotton
acid-free
190 and 300 gsm 190 gsm:
25 shts: $21
300 gsm:
25 shts: $24
5x7-24x30,
13-44 inch rolls
Attractively priced. ICC profiles available. Distributed by Inkjetgoodies.com. Favorably reviewed by Luminous Landscape. Moab also has papers similar to Epson Enhanced Matte, Premium Luster, and others.
Red River 66 lb. Polar Gloss Glossy
RC
254 gsm
10.4 mils
50 shts: $32 4x6-24x36, 13x38 ICC profiles available. Several papers are available in 13x38" size, which is ideal for panoramic images. Red River has a full range of papers. These surfaces are in the Epson 2200 Sample Kit.
66 lb. Polar Satin Satin
RC
254 gsm
10.4 mils
50 shts: $31 4x6-24x36, 13x38
76 lb. Premium Matte Matte
paper
285 gsm
13 mils
50 shts: $22 4x6-24x36, 13x38
76 lb. Lux Art Smooth matte
100% cotton
285 gsm
14 mils
25 shts: $35 5x7-24x36, 13x38
Somerset
  from
Legion
Photo Enhanced Coated,
Velvet or Textured,
100% cotton
225 gsm (17 mils) 2
$28.20 Velvet
8.5x11-17x22, 13-60" rolls Velvet is lightly textured. Textured is moderately textured, comparable to Epson Velvet. Excellent image quality but poor stability with dye-based inks; not a problem with pigment inks. ICC profiles available for Epson, Canon, and HP Large Format.
Legion
(additional
papers)
Photo Matte Smooth 230 gsm 50 shts: $20 8.5x11-13x19,
24-44" rolls
ICC profiles available for Epson, Canon, and HP Large Format. Sampler pack, $12: 2 sheets ea. of 7 papers: Somerset Photo Enhanced smooth & textured, Photo Matte, Gloss, and Silk, and two of less interest to me: Canvas Cover (rough) and Concorde Rag (very cream-colored)
Photo Gloss Glossy RC 270 gsm 50 shts: $29 8.5x11-13x19,
24-44" rolls
Photo Silk Luster RC 270 gsm 50 shts: $31 8.5x11-13x19,
2-44" rolls
Arches Infinity Coated, White or natural, smooth or textured, 100% cotton 230, 355 gsm 25 shts: $35 (230 gsm)
25 shts: $49 (355 gsm)
8.5x11-13x19,
2-44" rolls
Not yet in sampler. ICC profiles available.
Notes:
Abbreviations: SS = single-sided; DS = double sided; SP = Swellable polymer (for dye inks only)
Archival papers (100% cotton or rag; acid-free) are indicated by a magenta background in the Type column.

One of my purposes in compling this table was to locate more archival (100% rag, acid-free) alternatives to Epson Enhanced Matte. Epson Smooth Fine Art paper was supposed to fill this niche, but it has been slow in coming (it's only available in large rolls). There are several possiblities, ranging widely in price. I'll be testing some papers when I have the time...

Links

Dry Creek Photo has a nice list of Paper Recommendations for Epson's UltraChrome Ink Printers.



Images and text copyright © 2000-2014 by Norman Koren.
Norman Koren lives in Boulder, Colorado, founded Imatest LLC in 2004, previously worked on magnetic recording technology. He has been involved with photography since 1964.