I believe pro and amateur photographers should print their images. It’s the digital equivalent of “working in the darkroom” and gives you total creative control over how your final images should look.
One aspect of this creative control includes choosing which type and brand of paper to use. When you start looking around, you will find so many different inkjet paper companies and paper types it will make your head spin.
Even though I have done a fair amount of experimenting, I keep coming back to the same few papers for three different types of printing I do on the Designjet 130 and Z3200 inkjet printers I have in my studio.
An inkjet proof provides a printed simulation of how my image will look when it’s printed on a press or other output device that has a smaller color gamut than my inkjet printer.
It pays to produce your own in-house proofs. I save $25 every time I print my own proof, which means it doesn’t take very long for me to recoup the costs of the ink and paper. It also enables me to quickly make adjustments before I submit the image file (and proof!) to the publication
If you send your work to an agency where your images will be used in advertisements or editorial copy, then you will want to proof to SWOP (Specification for Web Offset Publications). That’s because most magazines are typically printed on a web offset press. Lately I have been proofing to the SWOP 2006 Grade 3 profile used most often High-end Publication stock at 150 lpi. You can download these profiles through this Adobe® link. (This post isn’t about proofing but if you want more information about proofing, check out cmykproof.)
Since 2008 I have been a G7 Master Proofer.This means my HP Designjet 90 has successfully passed the certification requirements given by a G7 Master at Piccus 4 Color. Thus, the proofs I produce are part of the qualification program set forth by the IDEAlliance. The designation lets clients know that I use modern technology based on colorimetry as opposed to mere density to determine proof-to-press matches. (Read more about G7 Master status through the IDEAlliance.)
I looked far and wide for a good proofing paper for my printer and inks and finally settled on the HP Semi-Gloss Contract Proofing Paper. It’s a 9-mil, microporous-coated, instant-dry paper that I highly recommend. I buy it in 13 x19 in. sheets. It produces such accurate proofs that it was pretty easy for me to meet the qualification requirements for becoming a G7 Master Proofer via Piccus 4 Color.
I have tried just about every digital photographic inkjet paper on the market and continue to try new papers all the time. Yet I keep coming back to HP’s 11.3 mil Professional Satin Photo Paper when I print to my Designjet 90 and Z3200. This paper always impresses me with its vivid colors, rich blacks and sharp details. It’s durable and weighty with a satin finish that is in between glossy and matte.
I am not one to fall prey to marketing jargon or brand-name hype. I do my own comparisons and build my own profiles. For awhile I was really into another supplier’s paper, but I found that the profiles on the web were producing inconsistent results from box to box and roll to roll.
When choosing an inkjet paper, consistency in reproduction from one box or roll to the next is extremely important, especially if you are reproducing the same image. Believe it or not I only re-calibrate then re-profile if I see a visual drift between one print to the next. I find I have do this less with HP paper. This is key if you don’t have profiling software and hardware and are must rely on the “canned” profile that you download from the supplier’s website or is installed with your printer driver. If there are inconsistencies between the box of paper you used six months ago and a newer box of paper, you may use the same profile and get different results. Not good.
Fine Art Paper
My favorite fine-art paper is made by a 400-year old German company called Hahnemühle. Their Fine Art papers are bright white and 100% cotton. HP and Hahnemüle have been working together for years and HP has co-branded some of their papers to work best with their inks.
My favorite and most used art paper is the 16 mil Hahnemüle Smooth Fine Art. The blacks on this paper are amazingly rich. There is visible differentiation in areas printed with different ink densities, which means that a lot of the shadow detail can be seen in the print.
On my Z3200 running Vivera Pigment Ink, I produce fine-art prints that have light-fade resistance for 200 years according to Wilhelm Research and HP internal testing.
I am not one to buy into marketing hype, but I am one get into the science of ink and media chemistry. From my printing experience, it’s apparent that there is something to be said for using HP- branded media with HP printers. My results are just better.
I do like other brands, but honestly I go with HP every time because I actually see better results and the results are consistent from one box or roll to the next.
What about you? What types of papers do you like and why? How do you go about choosing which type of paper you like best?