Testing, 1, 2, 3, Testing, …
I spent my Saturday of this weekend doing test prints for a new folio I am making of the Occupy Seattle set. For this folio I am looking at all possible ways to print it: do it myself (again) or outsource it. As you can see from the photograph, I made a lot of test prints on a bunch of different papers (I picked up a couple fine-art paper sample packs in Seattle). Here are the ones I tested with:
- Fine Art Pearl, 285 gsm
- Photo Rag, 308 gsm
- Photo Rag Satin, 310 gsm
- Photo Rag Baryta, 315 gsm
- Photo Rag Pearl, 320 gsm
- Fine Art Baryta, 325 gsm
- Baryta FB, 350 gsm
- Bamboo, 290 gsm
- Ilford Galerie Fibre Gloss Silk (Baryta), 310 gsm
- Epson Enhanced Matte, 192 gsm
- Office Max Professional Matte, 220 gsm
I also made a couple of comparison prints with glossy and semigloss papers for comparison. Finally, just to see how it would look if I outsourced it on the cheap, I stopped by Office Max and had them print on three samples that looked vaguely like they might be ok. Those turned out to be junk compared to the good papers, and you can see how they compare (they are the three in the lower right)–no comparison on the dmax. The cheap Epson and Office Max matte papers that I tried printing on myself looked better, but were still no match for the Hahnemuhle or Ilford papers.
Cost-wise, it is looking like the following:
If I outsource it to my fine-art printer (a woman who runs a gallery/print shop and does excellent work), she is going to print it from a roll and then cut it into sheets. She prints almost exclusively the Hahnemuhle papers, but she has only about half of the ones I tested. This would end up being my most expensive option, but might look the best. To my eye her printer is very subtly better than mine by a tiny bit–perhaps just a little less bronzing on some papers if you look at them at an acute angle. But then again the examples I had her do looked a bit curled (cut from a roll) even though we had put them in a heat press for a bit to flatten them out. This would be the most expensive option.
I could print it myself on my printer. My printer does a very nice job, for the most part. But I usually use it to print one-off exhibition prints, if they are not too large. It has the advantage that I can feed standard cut sheets via the straight-thru path and this makes them come out nice and flat. However, I’ve noticed that if I crank a whole folio through it that sometimes I’ll get a small ink smudge here or there in the middle of the run that contaminates the margin on a few sheets. Not a big deal if framing, but a hassle for a folio. On the whole this option is moderately priced–fine-art 8.5×11 sheets are around $1 in bulk plus a few cents for ink. For a folio of 24 pages I might be looking at around a $25 cost.
Ideally what I’d really like is to find someone who could print it for a reasonable margin over what I am paying. For example, if I could find someone who could print it on one of the fine-art papers for around $50 plus shipping, I would go for it. From what I’ve seen online I don’t think there is such a place. If you know of one, let me know!
Of all the papers, I think my favorite so far is Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. It is stiff without being too thick or heavy, has excellent blacks, just a hint of texture and it is slightly warm (probably no OBAs). This is really a killer paper.
The Hahnemuhle Baryta FB is a close second. It’s as good on the blacks, but is just slightly too thick and stiff at 350 gsm. The surface texture is also more visible and the surface shows a bit more sheen when held at an angle. It’s also more bright white, if you are into that.
Photo Rag is a classic. The blacks are not as good as on the Baryta papers, but it is pure rag, baby–the feel in the hand is gorgeous. Also, there is no bronzing or sheen at ANY angle. It’s like a matte paper but with much better dmax and a less distressed surface. It is also a warm white, which I happen to like. If you like a bit of gloss, the Photo Rag Satin is a good alternative–same basic look as Photo Rag, but with a bit more stiffness and a fine surface sheen.
I think for this folio it is going to come down to either the Ilford GFGS or the Photo Rag, depending on whether I want a slightly more classic darkroom look or an art-print look, respectively.
What a choice of papers we having for printing these days. It’s wonderful!