Buyer's Guide 2006: Inkjet Papers
Choosing wisely will enhance the look and longevity of your prints
The final look of your print has everything to do with the paper you place in your printer. Beyond size, the weight, whiteness and surface of a paper all make a dramatic difference in the appearance of color and tone, especially whites and blacks. By carefully selecting paper, you can move beyond merely copying an image and elevate printmaking to a more creative part of your photography.
Inks designed and produced by the leading printer manufacturers, including Canon, Epson and Hewlett-Packard, are unique and exhibit distinct qualities that impact color, tone and print life. Available in a variety of surfaces, these papers can include glossy, matte, satin or luster finishes that deliver distinct looks.
A glossy finish results in prints with bright, saturated colors, for example, while a matte surface delivers more muted colors with less contrast. The exact same image file will look very different as a result. Even different papers that are labeled as "glossy" will deliver different appearances because of varying degrees of whiteness and the quality of the finish.
There's no "best" paper, but if you want consistent results with no fuss, it's best to stick with paper from the printer manufacturer. The software drivers that come with the printer include profiles that you'll select when setting up your print. This will optimize the ink output for the selected paper.
Papers from third-party manufacturers can deliver great prints as well, with results that may not be available from the printer manufacturer. Specialty papers that include canvas, watercolor or silk often appeal to photographers who want to bring a fine-art quality to their photographs. Although some of these papers use preexisting profiles, others feature paper profiles that can be downloaded from the manufacturer's website. These profiles are printer-specific and deliver greater color and tonal accuracy than those using generic profiles. Be sure to check for these profiles online when you use third-party papers.