What paper do you print your photographs with?

by     /    March 11, 2009   

Paper is a big deal for me. I have always had a love for good paper: how it looks, how it feels, and even how it smells! The right paper can take a good photograph and transform it into something special. One of the joys of modern inkjet printing is the huge variety of media we now have available to us. You used to only be able to print a photograph on a handful of substrates. But now we have everything from glossy to matte, from smooth to velvet, from traditional style papers to raw cotton-rags. Even sheets of metal, thanks to Booksmart Studios, and really any thin flat surface can be made printable, thanks to InkAid.

I use Crane Museo

In spite all of the variety that is available, I have found that I prefer just a small set of papers. In fact, I do 95% of my printing on one: Crane Museo. This is a 100% cotton rag paper with a soft velvet finish. I chose this paper because I feel it really supports the organic nature of my abstract photography. I like how it makes them feel like “art objects” as opposed to just prints. It has just enough tooth to give the paper character and add a subtle texture to my photographs, while still being smooth enough to handle easily and show off details.

The paper has no optical brighteners in it, so it has a natural off-white color. This might put some people off, but I love it. It celebrates the true organic nature of the paper, and lends my photographs a warm and natural feel. And it really supports the sweeping gradations of color which are so important to the character of my images. Museo comes in a couple weights: 250GSM and 365GSM. The heavier weight is beautiful stuff, and feels great in the hand, but I find I use the lighter weight more. It’s still a nice substantial stock, yet it easier to handle, and much easier to roll into tubes for shipping.

What paper do you use?

All of this variety can be rather intimidating. Trying to decide which paper to use can be a complex and very subjective problem. So I was curious: what paper do all of you use for your printing? Do you use just one, or do you play with a variety? Why did you choose those papers? Do you use a paper that adds character to your photographs, or one that gets out of the way of your images? Be sure to share the name, weight and other details that effect your decision. Thanks!

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Comments on 'What paper do you print your photographs with?'

Liz Grandmaison  (March 11th, 2009):

I share your love for paper. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve roaming around the local stationer’s with my grandmother. (Staples just isn’t the same.)

Right now I make my prints on Moab Entrada. I’ve used the 190gsm and 300gsm in bright and natural and my overall preference is the 300 natural. The look and hand are very similar to hot press watercolor paper. Just enough texture without being overpowering.

Why I like it: Apart from the lovely weight and finish, it’s 100% cotton rag, produced in the U.S. I have spec’d Legion Paper’s products in the past for offset jobs (Cougar Text & Cover) and have always been very happy with them. Finally, They are the parent of the venerable Somerset and Arches lines, which speaks to their commitment to fine paper making. As a side note, I have made for a friend some limited edition prints of her pastel paintings on Arches 230gsm smooth and that paper is simply luscious! But too rich for my blood right now, sadly.

I recently purchased some Crane Museo art cards but I haven’t had a chance to print them up yet. I’m sure I won’t be disappointed.

Henry Domke  (March 11th, 2009):

“What Paper ?” is a Great Topic!
I can relate to the tactile qualities that you mention. For several years I always printed with sheets of Somerset Velvet for Epson (a very heavy cotton rag paper).

But then I realized that once a picture is framed you can’t relate to the physicality of it. So I decided to take a different approach – I would do preference studies with visually experienced users (Designers, Artists, etc.).

I bought about 8 kinds of “Fine Art” paper including papers by Crane, Moab, Hannemuele, Epson, etc. None of the papers were glossy. I printed the same print on each paper (using proper profiles) and then I have my panel of 6 experts rate the prints without knowing which paper they were looking at. They could look but not touch.

Surprise, surprise! Epson Enhanced Matte won easily. I tried it again and got the same results. I decided there were three factors that made the “experts” pick that paper:
1. It is brighter, which gives the image more contrast, more “pop” In essence, it extends the dynamic range.
2. It has a smoother surface than the other matte papers, which allowed more detail to be shown. The other “Art” papers had more “tooth” or texture which obscures some picture detail.
3. It was pure white. The other papers all had a yellowish tint to them.

Since then I have used that as my standard paper for sale prints. For reasons that I don’t understand, the name has changed to Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte.

Dianne Poinski  (March 12th, 2009):

I have been dealing with this issue for a couple of years now and I must agree with you about Crane Museo. I printed in the darkroom for years on Agfa 118 fiber paper and loved it. It toned well and it was the perfect paper for hand-coloring – which is what I do to every black and white print I make.

When it became obvious that digital was the way to go, the challenge was coming up with a paper that I could still hand-color on. You can’t use oil paints on any coated paper (as far as I know) but pastels work great.

I have been printing on the Museo Portfolio Rag and I love it. It is the least fragile of all the matte papers I have tried which is very important when hand-coloring. My Epson 3800 prints out a beautiful warm tone on this paper.

Very happy to have found this paper!

Mark  (March 13th, 2009):

Ohhh… that nagging question! I love to play with new papers that come out to see what they offer. I have a love for matte, cotton rag papers – just like the way they feel and the ‘natural’ finish to them as you say. However, I have been lured over to the Baryta realm. I hesitated for so long because going from matte to photo black inks in my printer is an expensive endeavor – making it cost prohibitive to go back and forth if you wanted. I couldn’t take it any longer with all the raves about how much more depth and dimension Baryta papers offer, with the feel of a fiber based matte paper. I have to say the raves have a lot of merit behind them. Although I am going to miss being able to print on papers like watercolor and the like, I think my images look much better on the newer papers, and they pop more when behind glass.