Paper Quality: Cheap vs. Expensive for Photo Printing

photog-art-printer

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Paper Quality: Cheap vs. Expensive for Photo Printing

The choice between cheap and expensive printer paper.

Currently armed with a Canon Pro 1000 loaded with pigment ink, (with special thanks to "Mr. Hat" for the troubleshooting), I'm still in the testing phase.

Because I prefer paying 35 euro for a roll of paper, rather than 200, I wonder about the differences.

Is it possible to achieve satisfactory results with a €35 roll of paper, or must I invest significantly more for premium quality?

For example, three brands of paper appear to be bargain priced. What are the disadvantages?

LabelHeaven (230 grams), EtikettenWorld (230 grams) and Mediarange (apparently "cast coated" for a glossy finish).

My considerations:

Longevity: Will cheaper paper options stand the test of time compared to premium brands like Hahnemühle?

Fading: Can I expect differing rates of fading between budget and luxury papers?

Colour Reproduction: Discussions have arisen regarding the density of blacks and colour accuracy. Can adjusting profiles mitigate these differences, or are they noticeable?
 
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Ink stained Fingers

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I haven't tested the longevity of pigment inks to a great extend, I was focussing on dye inks over the last years. But one thing should be clear - you cannot assume a particular quality level just because it's Hahnemühle or the XXX-brand. Pigment inks will give you a good longevity overall - better than with most dye inks but again - it is always a specific ink/paper combination, and another paper (from the same company) may yield pretty different results - both the ink and the paper drive the result.

What can I report from own experience

- cast coated papers typically delivered stronger effects of bronzing and gloss differentials than PE papers
- cast coated papers deliver typically a smaller gamut than PE papers with the same ink set
- the black level of cast coated papers is weaker than the black level of PE papers, you cannot profile down a weak black level, profiling cannot fix such problem
- and cast coated papers typically show a stronger curling effect of the paper once the print is dry.

With all this in mind it's up to you to decide which overall weaker performance you accept for a lower price
 
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photog-art-printer

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Interesting. Thank you.

Regarding "you cannot assume a particular quality level" ...

Yes, I understand. Once upon a time I hired a migrant to fix my roof. His other job was selling copies of designer bags.

His main customer was the official store.
 
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Flummi

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The typical answers to this question found in most forums are "try and test on your own" and "it depends".
This is somewhat disappointing whilst understandable.

At the time I am testing dozens of papers looking for lower/mid priced but good quality papers. I have the hardware to profile and compare color gamut. But a good profile cannot compensate for weak paper.

What I can tell so far using a 6 ink dye printer (personal experiences):

- Cast coated paper is inferior to resin coated paper in respect to longevity, gamut, black point and curling. The very cheap Etikettenworld papers look astonishing good fresh out of the printer, but fade and curl rather fast. I only use them for prints that haven't got to last long, for example posters for presentations.

- Glossy/lustre/satin RC papers show minor differences in between different brands. Europrint, Photo Paper Direct, Calumet Brilliant, Sihl, Fotospeed, Photolux, PermaJet... all look great to my eyes. Most differences stem from weight, surface and paper sizes available. The Europrint papers show an especially good value for the buck.

- Matte papers show huge differences concerning weight, texture, gamut, white point and achievable black point. Here I have to come back to "you have to test and try on your own". And you have to choose a suitable paper with regard to the image and print sizes. A strong textured paper may look great on A2 size, but completely disturbs a portrait in A4 size. The texture shows to me a much greater difference than a measured color gamut.

That are my experiences so far. I will at some point try baryta papers and other higher priced papers as well, but refrain so far due to my dye inks.

And I would appreciate hints like "I got happy with portraits printed on paper XY on printer AB". Not as a general recommendation, but just as a hint to try on my own.
 

photog-art-printer

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Hi Flummi, Thanks for the info.

" ... Cast coated paper is inferior to resin coated ... tikettenworld papers look astonishing good fresh out of the printer, but fade and curl rather fast."

Important. Therefore, I shall probably look at the resin type.

" ... Europrint, Photo Paper Direct, Calumet Brilliant, Sihl, Fotospeed, Photolux, PermaJet... all look great ... "

Great. I will see what is available in 61cm rolls (or A2) size. From memory, the price appears to be about 90 euro per 30 meters (including shipping).

" ... Matte papers show huge differences ..."

I have 4 rolls (120 meters total) of Canon 140g Matt. This was purchased at discount, and the price has since doubled. It is too flimsy (thin) for my requirements and will be used for tests and proofing. The colours also look a bit flat. Presumably, using glossy will improve things. It is not bad, but I am looking for a better and heavier solution.

" ... choose a suitable paper with regard to the image and print sizes. ... "

My plan is to print each image within an A2 sheet of paper. Some of the images are terrible quality, and these are often the "best" pictures. Some of these old pictures are world exclusives, and at the time generated substantial reproduction fees. The quality thing is funny, because the difficulty in taking some of them was beyond the capabilities of most photographers at the time (2000mm or even 4000mm lenses, 1600 ASA (iso) grainy film, scanned on a Kodak negative scanner with a maximum resolution of 18mb, but often only a tiny fraction of the image was useable). Therefore, the image is "interesting" and technically doubtful.

Some of the other shots are quite nice, but not so interesting ... medium format film scans, with a resolution around 9000 pixels at the longest edge.

The size for all will be A2 (roughly 61cm by 42cm). Once I get things working smoothly, I do not wish to make changes.
 
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photog-art-printer

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This shows the result of a "bad quality" image printed on A2 Matt paper (with the Canon Pro 1000).

The original was shot on 400 ASA (iso) film in Aspen, Colorado with a 500mm lens (hand held). Scanned on a $10,000 Kodak negative scanner, resulting in a digital file size of about 5mp.

At this time, I am not sure what to think about subjects such as "quality" or whatever. These shots were not taken for fun, they simply provided a means to travel the world (and have fun when not taking pictures).

They are currently being considered for printing in case they are of "value" to art collectors, a subject I know nothing about. If anyone has experience is this, please add to this theme.

Image shows close up of 61cm print from a 5 megapixel .JPG film scan ...

Comments?
 

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Flummi

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Ink stained Fingers

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You may give such image a pass through a denoising filter, there are plenty on the market which try different methods including AI (whatever that means in this context). Such filter may get away the film grain if that's too prominent in the print - or - I don't know - whether you want to acheive the opposite - emphazising it to give it a touch of the past film days - but some low level denoising helps to give images a cleaner look.
 
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photog-art-printer

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Hi Flummi, Thanks again.

The Fotospeed Gloss, 270g sells for 144 Euro (24 inch/61cm per 30 meters).

I wonder how it compares to "RC Roll Inkjet Paper High-Gloss Photo Paper 260 g/m² – 61 cm x 30 m GLOSSY Waterproof Suitable for Dye and Pigment Inks" .... for 90 euro https://amzn.to/4cjiu80

Possibly the same thing?

Regarding the section of a grainy enlargement "photo is not shot on a filmset of a Zombie film production, you may want to work on more neutral colors."

Yes, that is just a test print from last week, when my printer was blocked, and some of the inks were not doing their thing. Image shows a man standing in the shade of a tree, on a sunny day. (A tricky subject when shooting film).

The small .JPG is all I have. There is no re-scanning. How would you improve this picture .. closer to your desired neutral colours?




 
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You may give such image a pass through a denoising filter, there are plenty on the market which try different methods including AI
Hi, Thanks!
Yes, good idea. Have already tried that.

Because the grain is huge, neither of the techniques I played with worked.
My guess is, with extra large grain, the Ai and regular processes consider the grain part of the image, rather than something to be hidden.

Adding grain is a possibility, but in my opinion, it will just add more mess.

I am open to ideas and suggestions about how to best deal with these (possibly interesting) old images, but at this point, I tend to think "they are what they are".

This "emphazising it to give it a touch of the past film days"?

The colours can obviously be fixed, they cannot really be sharpened (in my opinion), and because the whole thing is made up of large grain, messing with the grain itself may be worse than doing nothing.

If there are possible solutions, I may try, but as I have said, I have already played around with a few similar shots, and so far, I have not found a solution better than "live with it".

Fixing the colours is another area, and any ideas about that would be interesting.

If we use this picture of a man in the shade, under a tree, on a sunny day as an example, I can see that it is probably too saturated, the whites have no detail (and cannot be fixed), the skin tones are wrong. The problem is, this guy has a suntan. If I use something to "correct the skin tone", it will probably mess with the surrounding image.

Any clever solutions welcome.

Is a neutral image and less saturated image better (considering the subject matter)?
 
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