Make Fine Art Prints: Ink Jet Papers
Inkjet Papers, let's talk about paper. We're building it slowly, so that we talked about why we do it, which printer to buy or think about buying, papers as the next thing. So the first thing I would say, if you buy a Canon or Epson printer, I mean you don't need to buy paper this giant, but buy Canon or Epson paper that matches your printer. So if you've never printed before, whatever brand printer you buy, buy their paper for the first month or two, and I would probably say by glossy or semi-gloss or luster. Don't start with the matte papers 'cause when you get into matter papers, printing gets a little more complicated. And that way, you'll start off, this is for people who've never really done printing at home. You'll start off getting really good results, and you'll like printing, because if you start off using third-party papers and matte papers and super heavy-duty fine art papers, you'll gonna be pulling your hair out and throwing your printer out the window. So, take it easy, ...
get into the water slowly. Canon and Epson both make some phenomenal papers. I've used Canon and Epson papers quite a bit over the years. I actually use a lot of Epson semi-matte paper fairly often these days. It's a proofing paper that's meant to show how something's gonna reproduce in the book or a magazine. It's not something you would normally print on for fine art prints. But, these days, my favorite papers are from Ilford, and I am actually sponsored by Ilford, so I'll put that out there as a disclaimer. But years before, I was ever an Ilford master. I was using Ilford papers all the time. And today, we're probably gonna print mostly on this gold fibre silk, which is one of the best papers anybody makes, and pretty much every photographer that prints their work has probably used this paper at some point. It's probably one of the most popular papers on the market, and it's not a matte paper, it's not a glossy paper, it's called a Baryta style paper. Baryta harkens back to the days in the darkroom. It's a heavy element that's on the type of silver on the paper when you print it in the darkroom, they've just replicated that style here into an Inkjet paper, and it's a smooth surface, so it's not matte, it's not fine art, as you would say, like a high mill paper that's got lots of tooth to it. But makes my images look amazing, we'll look at 'em here. And it replicates the color really well. So, there's such a huge variety of papers out there that you can choose from. You know, my recommendation would be try out a bunch of papers, but it's kind of a total pain to try out new papers 'cause you gotta download ICC profiles, you gotta figure out what paper settings, you gotta figure all the settings you've gotta use to get an actually good result out of that paper. So, I would say try a few different styles of paper, figure out what kind of paper you like, then pick two or three papers, and stick with those, and maybe experiment down the road, again, a little bit. But don't try to print on every paper under the sun because you're gonna drive yourself crazy, and you're gonna find out real fast that it's not that much fun trying to figure out how to make some weird paper you've never printed on before look good on your printer. So, for me, I used to print a lot on Moab Entrada, but these days, the Prestige papers from Ilford, gold fibre silk is definitely in my mainstay. I'd say they've got a, there's the smooth pearl I print on quite a bit. They've also got a gold mono silk, which is a little bit of a glossier paper that's designed for black and white specifically, and black-and-white images look amazing on that. I do print on some matte papers, some fine-art-looking papers, but certain images look good on them, certain images don't look good on them. You know, as you can see here, there's a whole truckload of different types of paper. There's even metallic paper, the paper's not metallic, but it has a metallic sheen on it. So there's all these different things. There's even Japanese Washi paper, which is like a handmade paper. It's very expensive, very difficult to print on, and 99.9% of the images aren't gonna look that great on it, but it's a very artistic paper, it depends on what you're going for. Some people get really into the matte papers and the super heavy-duty fine art papers. Reality is, when you put that paper in a frame behind a piece of glass, it doesn't matter what texture it is, you know. It might have a certain feel or look for the image. It just depends on what you're going for. In my print portfolio, I used to have a really heavy-duty fine art paper so that when they turned the pages, that feeling of quality in the paper, even though it had nothing to do with quality, it's just a feeling they don't feel very often, and papers like that sent a message to the art director or the photo editor about what I'm going for with the images. So, again, figure out what you like. You know, if you're starting out on glossy or semi-gloss, it's gonna make your life a lot easier. The Baryta style papers are very similar to semi-gloss in that they have a really wide what we call Dmax, which is similar to dynamic range, it shows a very wide range of tones and colors. And it depends on what kind of work you're producing. You know, if you're shooting fine art or nudes, you probably want a heavy-duty watercolor paper maybe, I'm just guessing. You know, for my work, I'm used to seeing my images in magazine and books, so I've gotten used to this kind of, it's not glossy, it's not matte, it's kind of somewhere in-between, which is what these Baryta papers I generally prefer look like. And it's just the messenger trying to get across to the customer or to whoever you're making the print for. The funny thing is, like this Ilford paper, when you actually feel it, it's a cotton fibre paper. It actually feels quite fancy when you touch it. But it also depends, the papers can also be very delicate. Some of them, some of them are less delicate than others. The gold fibre silk, you know, it can scratch easily, so you gotta be a little bit careful. When I'm handling the papers, normally, in my office, I'm wearing white cotton gloves 'cause I don't wanna put fingerprints onto the paper itself. So, other things to think about when you're choosing a paper, the type of work you produce, like how contrasted are your images, 'cause if you produce images with deep, dark blacks on some matte fine art papers, black is rendered quite a bit differently than it would be on a luster or a Baryta style paper. And so, you'll just have to play with that when you start printing. How long do you want the prints to last, and that's a huge thing. There's a website, forgetting the name right now, but that has done all the testing for longevity, and basically, there are torture testing prints to see how long they will last. And you know, like this Ilford gold fibre silk, if you make prints, it depends on which printer you're using and which inks and how you store the print, can last up to 200 to 250 years. Some papers can last up to 300 years, which if you think in photography world like darkroom prints, if they make it 50-60 years, that's pretty amazing. So with the technology, it's come such a long way in terms of prints. And we're gonna talk about this more when we get into archiving your images later today. Ink on paper is still the archival form of storage of any imaging there is, long, long past hard drive world. So, if you're thinking about archiving your work, printing it is really the way to go, and there's gonna be a giant hole of images from this period since the start of digital photography because so many people have not printed their images, and those hard drives were erased or corrupted or who knows what happens to some of these images, they're just gonna be lost to time, 100-200 years from now. Those people who actually printed their work, those will be the images that will be remembered. So, just keep that in mind. If you're thinking about legacy or longevity, which is probably an older professional photographer or somebody who's thinking about their images they've shot their whole life. That was kind of a side note there, but... So, wider gamut papers, higher Dmax as I've said, glossy, semi-gloss, Baryta, luster papers, papers with a smaller color gamut or Dmax, anything that's got tooth to it or thickness like a watercolor type paper. And so, those take a little more fine tuning, and you would also have to go in and probably dodge and burn a little bit more in different areas to make it all work on the paper 'cause it's essentially like converting a color space, you're taking the image, and you're squeezing it down into a much smaller color gamut than what you worked it up in. So, I've gotta deal with that transition. Did you have a question, Tony?
It's just about the advantages of the different kinds of paper. Is it purely aesthetic?
It is aesthetic, yeah, totally. It's up to you as to what you want it to look like. I mean, there are, when you start printing, you find out pretty fast. Like, there are some of my landscape pictures that just look utterly magical on a fine art watercolor style paper, and they don't have that same magic on a glossy type paper, and it looks like it's lit from behind. Somehow, the light is getting back there behind the ink, that's how it appears to my eyes, not actually happening. And there's some images that you print on Ilford gold fibre silk, and they just look like this wave shot, unbelievable, and then you print that same image on a matte paper, and you're like, ee, you know, not so great, it doesn't have the same impact. So, it could be image to image, too, it's not just the, you know, they all look good on one paper.