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Epson Fine Art paper range

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Epson Fine Art paper range

Cotton art papers, smooth and textured


Epson Europe have launched a collection of four cotton based art papers.

The Fine Art range are heavy 300gsm papers and come in smooth and textured finishes. The papers are available in a bright white finish and a natural finish, which is OBA free.

Keith has been looking at these papers on the Epson P5000 17″ width printer.

rolls-of-paper epson fine art

Epson’s Fine art cotton papers

The cotton based papers were launched and featured at photokina 2018.  They are heavy papers with a polished smooth finish or a lightly textured one.

Intended as archival papers they are aimed at the fine art photo and print market.

The four papers are:

  • Fine Art Cotton Textured Bright
  • Fine Art Cotton Textured Natural
  • Fine Art Cotton Smooth Bright
  • Fine Art Cotton Smooth Natural

Paper specifications

Fine Art Cotton Textured Bright

Basic weight 300 g/m2 ISO 0536
Thickness 515 µm ISO 0534
Tint (L*a*b) L* = 97.5 a* = 1.8 b* = -3.5 M1 (D50)
Backprint (branded) No
Double Sided No
Base Material 100% Cotton rag
Surface / Paper Type Matte

Fine Art Cotton Textured Natural

Basic weight 300 g/m2 ISO 0536
Thickness 515 µm ISO 0534
Tint (L*a*b) L* = 97 a* = 0.3 b* = 3.3 M1 (D50)
Backprint (branded) No
Double Sided No
Base Material 100% Cotton rag
Surface / Paper Type Matte

Fine Art Cotton Smooth Bright

Basic weight 300 g/m2 ISO 0536
Thickness 490 µm ISO 0534
Tint (L*a*b) L* = 97.5 a* = 1.8 b* = -3.5 M1 (D50)
Backprint (branded) No
Double Sided No
Base Material 100% Cotton rag
Surface / Paper Type Matte

Fine Art Cotton Smooth Natural

Basic weight 300 g/m2 ISO 0536
Thickness 490 µm ISO 0534
Tint (L*a*b) L* = 97 a* = 0.3 b* = 3.3 M1 (D50)
Backprint (branded) No
Double Sided No
Base Material 100% Cotton rag
Surface / Paper Type Matte

The textured version of the paper is slightly thicker. This photo taken when making profiles for the papers shows the difference between texture and smooth, and natural and white.

The lighting is slightly oblique to emphasise texture, whilst some daylight coming through curtains to the right is giving a slight blueish tinge to the shadow under the textured natural strip.

Papers are available from Epson in the following sizes:

  • A4
  • A3+
  • A2
  • 17″ roll (15 metre)
  • 24″ roll (15 metre)
  • 44″ roll (15 metre)
  • 64″ roll (15 metre)

For testing I tried both roll and sheet versions of the paper (they are the same).

roll of cotton rag paper

The roll paper is secured with a strip of thin paper.

When loading the paper, you may need to trim the initial edge. The end cut was not even with this roll, but the printer has an in-built cutter.

uneven end of paper

Sheets are loaded via the top loading slot. At around half a millimetre, the paper is too thick and stiff for the paper cassette unit, or stacking multiple sheets.

Sheet feed A2

I’m printing A3+ sized profiling targets for the papers, with ~3k patches.

profiling target

Colour management and profiling

Epson supply profiles for these papers – they appeared on my Mac after updating the P5000 driver to the latest version.

Media types for the four papers in roll and sheet format also appear in the driver, such as here where I’m printing a profiling target.

media types

The default setting for such papers, if the new media settings were not available, would be UltraSmooth Fine Art Paper (USFA).

The printer’s media types do not show the new papers, so that was set to USFA

The Epson paper profiles should appear in your profile list. Be sure to restart your printing application after driver and profile updates, just to make sure they are seen.

I’ve created my own profiles for the papers and have to say that it’s difficult to see major differences between mine and the Epson ones (although most testing used my own profiles). My perceptual rendering intent setting are a bit different, but I’d have no difficulty using the Epson profiles if needed.

My four P5000 profiles (which include measurement data) are freely available on request for non-commercial use.

profile targets

I measured the ~2900 patch targets with an X-Rite i1Sis spectrophotometer with and without UV light included.

Note the B&W test prints – I use these to evaluate B&W print quality

This chart (from a bright and a natural paper) shows the reading for just one very light patch. The thing to look for is the difference between red and green lines. The bright paper shows the distinct blue bump typical of optical brighteners [click to enlarge].

paper spectral reflectance

It’s a relatively small bump compared to many papers I’ve looked at.

Personally, I think many of the the concerns over OBAs, with good quality papers, are overstated. I make my own decision about using natural or bright rag paper like this depending on the image.  There are markets where archival qualities do make a difference though, so if it makes a difference in getting a print sale, I’ll do what the client wants ;-)

I find that some colour images simply look better on a brighter paper – that’s images which wouldn’t look even better on a lustre or baryta style paper.

When it comes to B&W I have more images that I prefer on the slightly warmer natural paper, but it’s not a hard and fast rule.

My profiles show a slightly wider gamut for the bright papers, whilst the Epson profiles show the opposite.

Black and white

I have a special test image developed for evaluating B&W print quality. This includes a 21 patch linearity target I can use with my X-Rite i1iO spectrophotometer.

bw print test

The print is measured using the spectrophotometer on the arm assembly. I’ve a lot more about the process (which doesn’t need an i1iO) in an article about linearisation.

I’ve printed these images using the Epson ABW mode of the driver at its default setting.

What I’m looking for is to see how linear the print output is, and to do that I use the excellent QTR software to process the measurement data from the spectrophotometer. There’s more in the article mentioned above, but here are two graphs from a bright and a natural paper.

FACSBFACTN

The a,b readings show the colour difference between the papers, but what I’m looking for is the evenness of the the  line of ‘L’s.

Both are excellent and well within the range where I’d decide no specific linearisation is needed in my B&W printing.

I suspect the new Fine Art media settings in the driver are partly responsible, but whatever it is, this makes the ABW print mode my default for B&W prints on these papers.

For those curious about the numbers, here are the measurements for black on a bright paper.

bright bw reflectance

Printing with the papers

All my printing is directly from Photoshop (CS6), since I prefer to have complete control over sharpening and image processing for larger prints.

This 17″ square print on smooth bright paper comes from a recent trip to Cornwall. It’s an up/down stitched shot (Canon TS-E24mm F3,5L mk2) giving around 80MP, so more than enough for a print this size.

print on smooth bright paper

Next land in this direction is Greenland.

Since I was on holiday, the tripod was only for use at night – this shot of a early evening view out to sea from Porthleven is created from from 7 stitched hand-held 24mm 50MP images.

porthleven evening

I’t’s printed at 1 metre wide on the textured natural paper.

A shot I might usually be inclined to do in black and white, I’ve used Nik Silver Efex pro to create a B&W image which I’ve applied to the colour image as a luminosity mask.  Not a technique I use often, but it can create some interesting styles (oh and Karen likes the print…) [Article about the technique]

Paper choices

In general I prefer smooth papers for my photos, not that they are better, just a personal choice.

However, quite a lot of my photos are currently being used for a local architecture festival and they’ve been processed to give a distinct look for posters.

colour prints

The textured paper works a treat for these more graphic style images, several of which were being produced as souvenirs for people helping out with events.

The texturing isn’t too intrusive – this shot, lit to show any texture, shows the two styles of paper. The texture of the ‘smooth’ paper is simply not visible under normal viewing.

textured versus smooth paper surface

The roll papers tested also had very little curl. Laid flat, prints quickly lost what curl there was – the six smaller prints shown above were from a roll of paper.

Conclusions

An excellent set of cotton rag papers. Whilst my personal preference is for the smooth finish, I was pleased to see the textured finish working well on a number of images.

Their B&W and colour print performance makes them a sound choice for where you want the solid feel associated with cotton rag papers.

Available directly from Epson in and other paper suppliers from A4 to 64″ width rolls.

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