Fine Art Printing

Fine Art photographic printing took a major leap forward in the last few years with the introduction of high quality pigment ink printing. We upgraded to the HPB9180 printer last year and, hey, is it brilliant?! Low metamerism, low bronzing on gloss/lustre papers and bright saturated colour on matte and textured fine art papers make this a very desirable piece of kit. After several months of making prints with this beast, I have come up with a series of papers that work well with it. There’s a growing list of icc profiles available at HP here and it’s a simple process to load them – just follow the instructions in the HP Digital Imaging Monitor.

All of the following papers produced very good results:

HP Advanced Photo Paper Glossy
As you would expect with a paper made for HP pigment inks, this paper gives an excellent result with good detail, low metamerism and only a little gloss differential. It’s a good all round gloss paper and, at 250g/m² it’s a good weight and feels like a wet process photo. Be careful only to choose “advanced” papers from HP and not the more readily available “premium” papers, which are made for dye inks and do not produce as good a result. Unfortunately, in the UK, it’s quite difficult to obtain HP’s own paper in anything above A4 size.

Epson Premium Semigloss Photo Paper
This paper gives an excellent result with the HP inks. There is just a little gloss differential (which you can see if you tilt the print so that the light hits it at an angle). It’s best used with the icc profile downloadable from HP, who seem to have realised that people will make prints with other manufacturer’s papers and cater for it. Thanks HP!

Epson Archival Matte
A good everyday paper with a smooth white finish which takes the ink well. A minor crit is that the paper is rather thin and so the resulting print doesn’t feel too much like a high quality piece of art. It’s great for sending away to competitions though, where it’s light weight (192gm/sq m) is an advantage and it’s the cheapest of the bunch to buy too.

Epson Watercolor – Radiant White
As it’s name suggests, this is another bright white paper, which is also very economical-to-use. The paper has a delicately textured surface that seems to suit most subjects well, though I tend to go for a smoother finish for portraiture. Again, it’s a rather lightweight paper at 190gm/sq m, but the texture helps it to look a little more upmarket than the archival matte. Good tones and deep blacks make this a winner.

Permajet Image Life Omega
Omega is a 310 gm/m sq paper with a slightly creamy white base and smooth finish. I’ve tried a few Permajet papers and there isn’t a bad one among them, though this is not my favourite. Don’t get me wrong, the image quality is gorgeous, but the smooth finish of my paper was dotted here and there with annoying tiny black specks. I was printing some very delicate “white on white” pictures at the time and wasted a couple of sheets before I realised that all the sheets in the box were like that. So, it’s on my list of “don’t buy that one again”. At the time of writing, HP are not providing icc profiles for Permajet papers. Permajet offer to make custom profiles for you, but I haven’t taken up this service. I’ve used the HP Hahnemuhle Smooth Fine Art icc profile for this paper and found that it worked well.

Now for some really class papers IMO:-

Bockingford Somerset Enhanced Textured
This is a mould made traditional artist paper with a lightly textured matte paper and a slightly creamy base. The texture is light enough to suit most subjects. It produces good colour and deep blacks with very good detail in spite of the texture. Paper icc profiles for a number of printers are available from the manufacturer here and spec sheet for the paper here. This is one of my favourite papers for flower pictures and delicate landscapes.

Permajet Delta Matt Fibre
At 271 g/m², this is a good weight and has a look and feel of traditional fibre based paper. The surface is very smooth with a bright white surface and the print quality is amongst the best I’ve found for matte finished papers. The blacks are deep with good detail. It’s the paper of choice for me when printing monochrome images and, so far, has been free from the annoying black specks of its stable-mate Omega. One thing I’ve noticed about Permajet papers in general is that they have quite a curl on them, which can make them difficult to load into the B9180. There’s a knack to it, which I seem to have found, a way of offering up the paper to the printer with a slightly sideways sweep. At first I though my printer was broken till I sussed this out.

Permajet Artist Classic
This is one of my favourite papers from Permajet. At 210 g/m², it feels good and has a slightly creamy textured surface which Permajet describes as “canvas-like”. In common with all the Permajet range, the blacks are very dense, but the paper is capable of delicate tones and the canvas-like appearance makes the paper suitable for any arty images.

Permajet Parchment Classic
Of all the textured papers, this one I’d describe as absolutely gorgeous. It’s an undulating mould made art paper with a weight of 285 g/m². The rough textured finished takes the ink well and even very fine detail is discernible, despite the rough texture. I’ve used the HP Watercolour paper setting with this paper and achieved excellent results. It’s a paper that will damage easily and would be better mounted behind a window to help to protect the surface, rather than flush-mounting. The paper is very like Hahnemühle Torchon and I’ve been told by the Permajet distributer that the papers are made in the same factory, though I haven’t been able to confirm that.

Hahnemühle Papers
I’ve just bought a box of Hahnemühle Bright White Photo Rag but not yet used it in anger. Hahnemühle provide icc profiles for their papers and profiles for the B9180 ban be found here.

More thoughts on papers for the HP
Brett Wilson has some further observations on a wide range of papers here which are well worth a read, though many of the papers that he mentions are not available in the UK.