We photographers are blessed with a wide range of excellent inkjet photographic papers from which to choose. Most of our work is in deciding which of those papers fit both our tastes as print makers and the subject of our photographs. Like many other photographers, I’ve printed on a number of good papers and have […]
What a long name for an inkjet paper! I’m a little late to the party, but the advent of the Baryta (a type of clay coating) photo papers for inkjet printing has been heralded by many because of their connection to the wet darkroom photo papers of old. But also for their potential to provide […]
But it will cost a few dollars to get going right. The key thing to know is that each device in your digital photographic workflow, usually your monitor and printer, need a “profile” that translates color information. Its obvious that your monitor uses one language to display color (its an RGB device with red, green and blue dots) and your printer uses another language (its a device with many colors).
So the first step is to create a profile for your monitor. And for that you need a hardware device such as the i1 Display 2 from X-Rite (and what I use). The i1 comes with software that will create a monitor profile for your exact monitor. Another thing to know about setting up your monitor, besides getting the right profile, is to set the luminance properly. Monitor manufacturers advertise how bright their displays are — the problem is that they are often too bright and images that look “right” on the screen print out too dark.
After creating and activating your new profile, your monitor should be a reliable indication of what your image really looks like. And that can come as quite a shock if you have never profiled your display! Next up is the printer. While the i1 Display 2 is about $200, the hardware to create a printer profile is much more expensive. Expensive enough that, unless you have a very demanding application, you don’t want to create your own printer profiles.
The good news is that the paper companies almost always offer free printer profiles for all their paper using popular printers. And the printers all come with profiles for the manufacturer’s paper — Epson printers come with profiles for Epson paper, for example. I use a lot of Red River Paper paper and they have free profiles for lots of printers, including my Epson R1900.
While these printer profiles are “generic” in the sense that they are created for a particular brand and model of printer and not your individual printer, they are more than good enough. So unless you are a color management fanatic, like Bill Atkinson, you’ll do fine with them.
That’s it! Go create a profile for your monitor and get the profiles for your papers and printer. After that, your printed images will closely match what your monitor displays.
I really like my Epson Stylus Photo R1900 photo printer. Yes, a 17” carriage would be nicer, sometimes, but I don’t print that large very often. If I need something that big, I’ll have it printed at White House Custom Color.
The R1900 is excellent at creating archival color images on matte, art or glossy papers with its pigment inks and the right paper stock. But without any photo gray inks, its black and white reproductions are just good — not great. I do like the fact that it can switch from matte black to photo black ink without any delay and without using any ink, unlike the higher end Epson printers like the 3800 and 4880.
There are a few things that I have learned to get the best prints from the R1900:
- Use a good ICC printer profile — I print with Red River Paper stock almost exclusively and I’ve found their provided ICC profiles to be very good indeed.
- Don’t use the borderless setting in your print driver unless you are really printing borderless — Epson’s print driver will enlarge the image slightly to be sure that it overlaps the edge of the paper if you use the borderless option. If you aren’t actually printing borderless, it will still expand the image and it won’t print at the size you intend.
- Use good quality photo paper — the Epson papers are very good, but don’t always come in the sizes I want. Red River Paper papers are excellent and come in a huge range of sizes. I am especially fond of their 60# Polar Matte and UltraPro Satin.
- Profile your monitor — to get the best match of color and brightness from your screen editing to your printed output, be sure to use a hardware tool to create custom ICC profiles for your monitor. I use the eye-one display 2 by X-Rite because it lets me set the luminance of my Apple Cinema Display as well as to create the profile. Many people have trouble with prints coming out too dark and its often because their monitors are too bright.
- Don’t use third-party inks — unless you have the time and skills to make other ink work, stick with the Epson inks.
I may be late to the party, but I’ve been doing some research lately on the newer Baryta (barium-sulphate) coated papers. I was looking for an archival fine art rag paper that had more of a gloss than Red River Paper’s Aurora and Epson’s Enhanced Matte. The Baryta papers offer that because the Baryta used in the paper offers a “whiter” and glossier sheet without the use of OBAs (optical brightening agents). None of these papers are cheap, but they are in the same cost ballpark as other top quality fine art papers.
Although I like the Red River and Epson matte papers, I didn’t think they offered deep enough blacks or vibrant enough colors for my preference. At least not for many of the color images printed on my Epson R1900 (it uses pigment based inks).
The main contenders here are Ilford (Gold Fibre Silk), Harmon (Glossy FB AI) and Hahnemulhe (Fine Art Baryta). There’s a very good comparison and review of these papers at The Luminous Landscape in their Battle of the Barytas article.
Ironically, after doing this research, I’m coming back to matte papers at least for display. I have several prints around the house printed on Red River’s 60# Polar Matte, matted and framed without glass. Its hard to control the light outside a gallery setting and even anti-glare glass and acrylic allow some glare. Plus both will reduce the contrast in a print due to the anti-glare surface.
The 60# Polar Matte is a nice fiber based paper that is not as expensive as the photo rag papers, but has a much better “feel” than the resin coated photographic papers. It is not quite an archival paper, at least in some people’s minds, as it has optical brighteners to give it it’s bright white. The base fiber is acid free 100% alpha cellulose.
For small prints meant to be passed around and handled, I still like Red River’s UltraPro Satin. The surface is more durable than the matte, as is the base material (its a “standard” resin coated paper). I use it in 5×7 size a lot.
My Epson 960 died (I wasn’t too disappointed) and I’ve replaced it with an Epson Stylus Photo R1900. I like this one because it will print up to 13” wide, uses pigment inks (more paper choices and longer life), and works well with gloss and semi-gloss papers (it has a gloss optimizer “ink” tank).
I got mine from Amazon.