Best inkjet papers
September 22, 2011
Why not make an effort to print your best shots on good-quality inkjet paper rather than leave them on your computer? We’ve taken a look at some of the best lustre-finish inkjet papers on the market to suggest what are the best inkjet papers on the market, and what are the best inkjet papers for those on a budget.
For this comparison test I used one of the industry’s leading A3 professional printers, the Epson Stylus Photo R2880. I printed on each batch of paper using both the printer’s default print mode with the nearest paper type and the paper’s ICC profile, which I downloaded from the each paper manufacturer’s website.
Having established that all the inkjet papers in this test are free from the major flaws found in poor-quality papers, it is time to take a look at each in more detail.
Unless otherwise stated, each paper is acid free and suitable for both dye and pigment inkjet printers.
Find out more on how to choose the best inkjet paper for your needs in our article: Inkjet paper buyer’s guide
Image: We tested each paper for fading and discoloration by exposing them to heat and direct sunlight continuously for more than a week.
Best inkjet papers
Canson Baryta Photographique
£30.62 for 25 sheets of A4
£65.35 for 25 sheets of A3
Canson is based in France, and has a long history of producing fine photo papers. The company is trying to become a force in the UK market, and if its Baryta Photographique paper is anything to go by then it deserves to do well. This is one of two papers featured here that has a baryta (barium sulphate) layer to enhance the tonal range. A baryta layer is meant to give a more ‘film-print’
feel and is used for traditional silver halide printing. It is not surprising, therefore, that the two papers boasting a baryta-coated layer underneath the ink-receiving layer (the Canson Baryta Photographique and Fotospeed Fine Art Platinum Lustre) top the group for the deepest blacks and the brightest highlights.
The off-white surface is the warmest in the group, and at 310gsm it is also one of the densest papers. Warmer paper is particularly well suited to black & white prints, giving more of a sepia-type feel. The test chart shows that the paper gives an exceptional gradation between colours, which translates to a fine tonal range without being overly punchy. The main downside is the price, as this is the second most expensive paper here.
The colour gradation chart shows an even colour distribution
Epson Premium Semigloss
£17.06 for 20 sheets of A4
£36.34 for 20 sheets of A3
Epson’s Premium Semigloss is one of the least dense papers in this group, and at 251gsm it is equal to the company’s Premium Gloss paper. Both have a slightly off-white finish, and the Semigloss is smooth, which allows a finger to slide right over the print with only minor finger marks left on the surface. It is a thin paper and a little flexible, which some people may find less satisfying to hold. Practically, this paper is good for bulk printing as several sheets can be packed into the printer’s feeder. The Epson brand name is printed all over the rear side of the paper.
Despite being slightly off-white, colours are quite cool and less vivid when compared to other papers in this group. When examined through a loupe, the prints showed fine detail that is smooth and less grainy than some of the lustre papers that verge more towards a matt finish. The Semigloss struggles a little on the blue colour spectrum, with a large solid band of colour demonstrating that blues may have a slightly narrower tonal range.
Gradation between the blues is less defined than on other papers
Fotospeed Fine Art Platinum Lustre
£20.38 for 20 sheets of A4
£40.80 for 20 sheets of A3
Fotospeed describes the warm off-white surface of this paper as an ‘unglazed lustre’. Best used with pigment ink, it has a baryta fibre layer for a high D-Max (dynamic range). Despite having a baryta layer, this paper has a relatively low density of 270gsm, making it the least dense paper of its type in this group. It is thick, though, and is best kept to single sheets to avoid feeding problems.
Most papers with baryta have a warm off-white surface, and this, alongside the Canson paper, is the warmest in the group. The blue section is larger than most, with only a tiny level of banding, so blue details such as a sky will be both punchy and strong without being overly vivid. As with all the baryta fibre-based papers, the main downside is the cost. The Fotospeed paper is not cheap, although it is the most reasonable of this type.
An impressive range is evident in the blues with little sign of banding
Hahnemühle Fine Art Pearl
£36.36 for 25 sheets of A4
£70.68 for 25 sheets of A3
Hahnemühle is a well-established name in the photo paper industry. Its Fine Art Pearl is a thick paper with a density of 285gsm, which has a card-like feel to it. Owing to its thickness, I had a few problems feeding five sheets of paper through the printer so I fed each sheet individually. It
has a slight off-white surface with a sticky coated finish, which can pick up fingerprints so handle with care.
Apart from the handling warning, this is a lovely paper. Colour gradation is particularly strong across the colour spectrum, with no banding on our colour charts. Blues and greens are strong without being overly vivid. Image detail is sharp, too. This is the most expensive paper in the group and it feels more like a traditional print, which is very satisfying in the hand.
Strong blues and greens help create strong landscape images
Harman Crystaljet Elite Lustre
£9.99* for 25 sheets of A4
£21.99* for 25 sheets of A3
Harman Technology is a relatively new name in the printing industry, but born from vast experience. The company acquired Ilford’s original Cheshire premises in 2005 and was formed by former Ilford managers. In 2007, it launched the Harman Photo brand, which produces the Crystaljet Elite Lustre paper used in this guide and Gloss Baryta, which will be reviewed in Testbench in the coming weeks.
Harman’s Crystaljet Elite Lustre paper has a density of 260gsm and a very similar feel to Epson’s Premium Semigloss. Like the Epson paper, it repels damage well and only minor marks are left by greasy fingerprints. The Harman paper, however, has a brighter white finish. It demonstrates rich, bright colours, and when compared to the slightly off-white papers these colours are a little more vivid and punchy. Our colour charts show the colour gradation to be gradual, with only minor banding on the cyan area, which means images have a good tone. At £9.99 for 25 sheets, the Crystaljet Elite Lustre is also great value.
* Harman prices
Apart from minor banding in the cyan, there is a great colour range
Best inkjet papers on a budget
Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl
£9.47 for 25 sheets of A4
£22.98 for 25 sheets of A3
Ilford Galerie Smooth Lustre Duo
£17.23 for 25 sheets of A4
£36.77 for 25 sheets of A3+
Ilford’s Galerie papers are designed for professional use. The range is split into four types, with the renowned Gold Fibre Silk the most expensive, and the Pearl and Lustre Duo part of the Smooth range.
As its name suggests, the Smooth Pearl and Smooth Lustre Duo papers have a smooth finish. The Lustre Duo is the only paper here to boast double-sided printing capabilities, although most companies do feature double-sided papers in their ranges. The Lustre Duo paper is designed for leaflets and books. Its density is 280gsm, which gives a reassuring feel, while the Pearl paper, at 290gsm, is denser still. In the hand, the two feel quite similar, and the Lustre Duo is able to resist spoiling very well. It has a slight off-white finish, while the Pearl is a little whiter, which makes colour rendition a fraction cooler and more vivid.
Our colour charts show the Lustre Duo suffers from banding in the blue colour area, and so does the Pearl, although in this paper it is much less evident. Detail in the shadow areas is good in both papers, showing a strong tonal range.
The dual-sided Lustre Duo paper shows slight banding in the blues
The Pearl paper shows an almost identical range of colours
Permajet Ultra Oyster
£12.95 for 25 sheets of A4
£22.96 for 25 sheets of A3
Permajet Ultra Pearl
£12.95 for 20 sheets of A4
£22.96 for 20 sheets of A3
Permajet boasts a wide range of inkjet papers, including traditional baryta paper, and the two papers featured here are from the Ultra range. The Ultra Pearl is a weighty paper at 295gsm and feels like card. As such, it needs to be fed into the printer one sheet at a time to avoid feeding issues. Its slightly off-white surface repels damage from scratches and water. The company claims it has an anti-scan texture, making images difficult to scan, which protects from any copyright breach. This manifests itself in the form of small white speckles over the scanned image.
Ultra Oyster is less dense at 271gsm and its bright white surface feels a little more like gloss, which is affected slightly by fingermarks. It is available in a double-sided version, too, although this is not included here.
Both papers show similar characteristics on the colour charts, with a small cyan band. The smoother and brighter finish of the Ultra Oyster gives smooth and fine detail, but the grainy detail of the Ultra Pearl bucks the trend of warmer papers by giving slightly cooler and stronger blues and greens. Both papers are slightly more expensive than some of the others in this group in A4 size, but the quality of print produced is of a high standard.
The Ultra Oyster gives a smooth range with a small cyan band
The Ultra Pearl gives a similar range, also with a thin cyan band
Sihl Professional Photo paper PE300 Silky
£6.89 for 20 sheets of A4
£14.81 for 20 sheets of A3
The Sihl is a river that flows through Zurich in Switzerland, which is where this company was originally founded. Currently, Sihl paper is manufactured in Germany, and despite being in business for more than 100 years, it is fairly new to the UK market. Sihl Professional PE300 Silky paper is part of the company’s Studio range and is the lowest priced option in this group. At 300gsm it is quite a dense paper and feels good in the hand, with a smooth and slightly off-white finish. This surface resists damage well, including fingerprints.
Our test charts show that colours are deeply saturated, which makes for bold prints. On the blue colour spectrum, however, there is a large solid band of colour, which means that blue detail in a real-life print, such as a bright sky, is punchy but lacks some of the smooth gradation of tone found in other papers here. Image detail is slightly less fine than the rest of the papers, but still good, and this is understandable given the difference in price of the papers. This paper is a great option for those on a budget.
The large block of blue translates to less detail in this area