How to Choose Paper
I know that I've personally been really shocked by different papers. The more texture they have, the more gritty they are. The more a small print on that paper is going to look a little bit muddier on that paper. So, just be really aware of that. What we need to know about prints. Oh gosh, there are so many things that we have to know about prints. What paper you're using, what texture the paper is, what color the paper is, if it's in stock or not, which sounds really obvious, but just asking the manufacturer, will you be discontinuing this paper anytime soon? The weight of the paper is really important, which will determine thickness of the paper and how sturdy it is. If you can do any treatment to this paper afterwards. So, for example, maybe you like to do encaustic wax prints, where you put wax on the paper afterwards, ask them, can this paper be treated afterwards with different post-processing effects? We've got some papers here, and it's a lot of papers, and there are a lot of p...
apers out there that you can use for fine art, and I would make a very clear distinction here in saying that the paper that you're looking for has to have certain specifications, and if you're looking for a quick, cheap, easy solution online, where you can just send your images off and get them back right away, and it's more of like a mass production type of company, that's probably not going to offer the type of paper that you need. So just keep in mind that these are some really good papers. The top one here is Breathing Color. That's my paper company that I love and I'm not paid to say that, I just love my paper. Hahnemuehle is a really good one, we've got Ilford, Epson, Moab, Innova, Somerset, Red River, Chromaco, and Canson, and I'm sure that there are more. So, if you have one that you use that you know is really good, add it to the list, you know, let us know, but these papers I have found all meet certain requirements. Some of those requirements being that the paper is archival certified for 100 plus years. There are certain fine art terminologies that you'll start to see on all of these sites that match, that link up, and that's what you're gonna look for, is making sure that it's a true fine art paper, rather than a commercial paper that won't hold the ink as well when you apply the ink to it, since it won't come with ink on it to start. There are lots of textures of paper that we can think about as well, and I've constantly been really shocked at how different my prints look depending on the texture of the paper that it's printed on. I've had my work printed more commercially on glossy paper, versus a matte paper, versus a rag paper, versus canvas, versus acrylic, versus wood, all of these different things, and my prints look drastically different, and you have to decide personally which one you like best. So always consider texture and what I have written here is simply, is it going to be textured? Will it be smooth? Will it be velvet or water color paper? Satin, semigloss, gloss, matte, oh my gosh, there are so many, and this is not a comprehensive list, so, again, if you have something to add, add it to the list and we can just keep that going, because there are so many things to consider, and then we have colors. So there are a few different colors of paper you can choose, and it's kind of a funny conversation because I remember once, I was sitting at a dinner, and there were two people from two different paper companies there, and they were just having this like really intense debate about the different color papers, and I'm like, guys, I cannot see the difference in these papers at all, but a lot of paper color is not something that you can see with your regular eye, it's something that will change over time. So for example, a bright white color paper, will often end up losing its bright whiteness over time and it'll turn a little bit more yellow, whereas a pearl color, warmtone paper, natural white, will not change color over time as easily as a bright white. There are so many things to think about here, so I recommend just doing a little bit of research on each one, and your selection, might be determined by the paper that you end up really liking your image on, and that's okay, I'm not saying there's one better than another here necessarily, but something to keep in mind, and then we've got weight of the paper, which is expressed in grams per square meter, which is not something that you would ever have to use in the day-to-day probably, but average paper weights are from 200 grams to 400 grams, and I can't remember, I think my paper is maybe 310 grams or something like that, and it's a pretty thick paper. I have a really thick paper, and that's what I personally prefer. I find that the galleries that I've worked with, the museums that I've worked with, have all really expressed an interest in the thicker the paper the better, and that might just be my experience, but that's been my experience. So I would say, go with the paper that has some weight to it, and you're going to save yourself a big headache as well, because if you're trying to print on really flimsy paper, you're probably going to have a lot more dents in your paper, it'll be more easily mishandled. So the thicker the paper the better in my opnion. These are the things that you're considering when you're choosing your paper. One, is that it's archival certified for 100+ years, as I mentioned. There's printer compatibility. So if you are already have a printer at home, if you already have somebody picked out that you want to print your images, make sure that that paper can be fed through that printer, literally. Something to think about, and then post-processing finishes, so what will you be doing to that image afterwards? I know i had an idea to sew through my print, and immediately, I was like, hmm, I don't think that's gonna work, 'cause my paper's really thick, and I don't know how to sew. Yeah?
This might be a silly question. You keep mentioning paper separate from your printer. Is your printer not supplying your paper? Are you buying that separate?
That is a fantastic question actually, and it depends on the printer. So, when I went to my printer, he said, I have two different papers that I stock, well many different papers, but two different companies, that I stock paper from, and he said, so you can choose from my papers, or if you have your own paper, you can either supply that paper to me, and then that could be the relationship we have, or, he said, if you end up being a regular customer, and you have a different paper, than I'll just start stocking it. So, it's good to just have that conversation. There are companies where you will have to send them the paper yourself. Mostly you won't though. But in my experience, I've worked with two different print labs, no three actually, and they've all been willing to get whatever paper I'm gonna stick to. So, I would say generally, it's good to know for yourself what you want, and than just bring that to them and say work with me on this, but, or you can just settle for whatever they have. Generally, printers know what their doing and they'll have really good paper options, but it's still good to know I think. Okay, so my paper, just in case you're curious, is called Elegance Velvet Fine Art Paper. They all have fancy pretty names I find. Yeah, and it's from Breathing Color. So that is my personal paper. I have seen beautiful papers from so many companies, especially you know, while at different photo conventions, you get to touch all the papers and get the samples, and almost every company will have a sample pack. I'm sure every company does in fact. If they don't, that would just be a bad business choice. So, I'm sure that they'll send you packs of paper that you can touch and print on, and do whatever you want to, and then you can make your decision based on that. I have a lightly textured finish on my paper, which is kind of interesting 'cause if you have a chance to hold the paper that I use, you might think, wow, this feels really thick and textured, and it gets a lot more texture than that. So this is a Lightly Textured Finish, I got it right 310 grams of weight. It's a bright white paper, which is something that I did not know about when I started with my printing, so I just used, you know, like my printer said, hey, here you go, here's this paper, I think this will be really good, and I liked it, and I had no idea what bright white meant or regular white, or warm white, or all the different whites that you can have for paper, and so that's what I used, and it is a 100% cotton fiber paper. And some things that you might need to think about are maybe, how environmentally friendly it is, if that's of concern to you. Different companies will list on their website what is eco-friendly and what is not, and things of that nature. So that's just another consideration that you might have. This is just a really quick example of different papers. I pulled this from the Breathing Color website, which I find to be a super incredible resource for learning about paper and printing types, and things like that. So you don't need to read this, it's just listing the different papers in order, but it's very interesting to be able to see how they photograph and see the texture in the different papers. So, something to consider, is that a lot of websites will list their papers, just like this, where they'll have photographs of the paper, and it's never the same as being there in person. So even though this is a really good learning tool, and you can sort of see the differences between the papers, it is really, really difficult to judge a paper by a picture of paper, as it should be, 'cause it's a physical thing. There are two different types of printing methods, and I'm not gonna go into this super in depth yet, because we will be talking about this later, but I want you to know that there are two different printing types, Giclee versus C-Type prints, and I'm gonna tell you a little bit about them, what they are, what the differences are. So, a C-Type stands for a Chromogenic Print, am I saying that right do you think? Chromogenic, chromogenic, what?
Chromogenic, (laughing), I'm really bad at this apparently. So, Chromogenic, I'm just gonna say it really fast, Chromogenic, (audience laughing) it's a chromogenic print, and this is a C-Type Print, so you might see C Print or C-Type Print either way, it's referred to as back and forth as that, and this is as closely related to a laser print as you can get. So it's when the laser exposes the photo sensitive paper, and this is actually a wet chemical process, and I found that very interesting, because I wouldn't have thought that modern day fine art reproductions would use a wet process. I was really surprised by that. Something to note about the C-Type Prints, is that they are not environmentally friendly because of the chemical process that they use, and I'm not saying it's terrible necessarily, just saying if that is a consideration, you might stay away from the C-Type Prints. If it's not, than maybe you will enjoy that versus the Giclee Print, which is an inkjet print where the ink gets sprayed on to the paper, just like any normal inkjet printer, except that this is a more archival process. It's a microscopic spray, so that they're actually little tiny dots of ink hitting your paper, and I was reading about this, that if you zoom in, so like some crazy amount under a microscope, than you can see the separation of the dots on the print, but you would not be able to detect that with your eye normally. Okay, so the difference between Giclee vs. C-Prints, because I can use all these fancy words, you know, and do chromogenic and stuff like that, and that's fine, but what I want you to know mostly is that Giclee Prints are more costly, and I'm just gonna say that right up front, in case that is a big consideration for you, something to keep in mind, okay. So Giclee's are more costly, but they have much greater longevity. I read a couple of articles about this saying that the longevity of a Giclee Print versus a C-Type is actually quite great. So, if you want your images to last a lot longer than you might want to go with the Giclee method of printing. There's a greater color range on Giclee prints, another thing to keep in mind. Paper choice. So you will probably have more paper choices if you go with a Giclee print. It is a slower process. I was also really surprised by that knowing that the C-Type Prints go through a wet process, I thought maybe that would take longer, but oh man, if you have ever watched a Giclee print come out of a printer, it's like, (imitates printer), it's so slow, oh my goodness, and so that can be a little bit annoying I guess, but you know, you put your order in with enough time and you'll get it back. It's not gonna take more than a day, generally, to make prints and that's pretty good for me. So it's a slightly slower process but it accepts more file formats, so something to think about, and the environment as I mentioned is a consideration here. Oh yeah, non-continuous tone, that's what the ink spraying on with those little dots, so it's not a continuous line of color, it's going to be in dots, which as I mentioned, is a microscopic detail.