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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Toolbox: Printers For Pro B&W

Printers and ink sets for superior black-and-white prints that last a lifetime

This Article Features Photo Zoom


When printing black-and-white, choosing the right paper for your final print will depend a lot on your own personal tastes. There are a variety of papers available with significant advantages for working with black-and-white, and it's important to remember that the choice of paper will affect a print as much as your choice of printer, so go with quality over economy when looking to make a print that will last.

The big three of photo printing—Canon, Epson and HP—all offer standardized papers optimized for use with their printers, and one of the advantages of choosing to print your own work over a lab is that you have a tremendous variety of paper surfaces to choose from. With standards like glossy, matte, canvas, watercolor, satin or luster, surface types can subtly or drastically influence the look of your image.

When using third-party papers, it's important that you use ICC profiles to optimize your printer or you may be mismatching colors, hues and tones, as well as wasting ink and paper. Most are available for download from their respective sites.

Available in sheets or more economical rolls, inkjet papers work by absorbing ink sprays into the layers of the paper. Often, layers are built over a sturdy resin base, with thick, stronger papers having heavier weights that are measured in grams per square meter (gsm). The gsm is a good indicator of how durable the paper will be for handling and for printing.

The overall whiteness of a paper is important, as well, especially with black-and-white. Be aware that brightening agents (or OBAs) will make a paper more white, but also can reduce the ultimate life of a print because of gradual color shifting. For more exact specifications, Wilhelm Imaging Research (www.wilhelm-research.com) is a great resource for comparing different paper types with printers and inks.

With 100% cotton paper and 325gsm weight for durability, Vibrance Rag fine-art photo paper from Breathing Color features a high-gloss baryta (barium-sulphate) finish for a smooth, reflective coating, and ICC profiles are available for Epson and Canon printers. Breathing Color has posted videos online for making recommended manual settings at www.youtube.com/user/BreathingColorInc. Breathing Color also offers a greatly discounted trial roll of their papers so you can see the results for yourself.

Epson's Exhibition Fiber Paper features deep blacks, a wide color gamut and a minimal gloss differential. With a high Dmax and smooth tonality, Exhibition Fiber paper was designed for the look and feel of a classic F surface darkroom paper. For smoother surfaces, Epson also recommends Hot Press Bright or Hot Press Natural (free of optical brightening agents) and Cold Press Bright or Cold Press Natural for more textured, softer surfaces.

The 400-year-old paper maker Hahnemühle offers a variety of fine-art media for traditional and digital printmaking, including their Digital FineArt Collection of Glossy FineArt, Matt FineArt and Canvas FineArt papers. The company also teamed with esteemed paper company Harman to produce the Harman By Hahnemühle collection, which includes the Gloss Art Fiber inkjet paper with a durable 300gsm. Made of 100% alpha-cellulose pulp for long-term print neutrality, the prints are similar to traditional glossy photo paper and are compatible with dye- and pigment-based inks.


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