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Fotospeed Fotospeed Smooth Cotton 300 paper review

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Review: Fotospeed Smooth Cotton 300

Smooth cotton rag matte white paper


Fotospeed’s Smooth Cotton 300 paper is a cotton rag based paper with a very smooth surface. It’s 100% cotton based and with only small amounts of brightening agent is a fairly neutral white paper

Keith has been looking at the paper, seeing how it performs, and what sorts of photos you might choose to print on it.

The paper’s available in a range of sizes (A2 or 16.5″ x 23″ tested).

The paper is available from Fotospeed in the UK.

cotton-300-test-prints

Smooth Cotton 300

Fotospeed’s 300gsm cotton rag paper has a distinctly cooler purer white look than the OBA free ‘Natural papers’. However, It’s not one of those white papers that just lights up under light with any UV content, so I’m not unduly worried about archival properties.

If I saw a print with this paper, I’d have to put it next to a ‘natural’ finish rag to spot the difference.

To me, the ‘neutral white’ means is that the paper tone has less potential impact on the look of your print.

Fotospeed describe it as:

  • 300gsm 100% cotton, pH neutral
  • White base with an ultra-smooth surface
  • Ideal for high saturation images
  • Compatible with dye and pigment inks
  • Available in cut sheets and rolls
Availability

smooth cotton 300Roll 17″/24″/36″/44″/60″ and sheet A4/A3/A3+/A2

Specifications
Thickness 480um
Weight 300 gsm
Brightening agents some
Whiteness (CIE) 94
Whiteness (TAPPI) 84
pH 8.5

Testing the paper

The smooth finish and good whiteness suggest that this paper will work for quite a range of images, where the the more contrasty look of a baryta style paper would be too harsh (as ever a matter of personal taste).

The paper was tested making A2 sized prints (16.5″ x 23″) on an Epson P5000 pigment ink printer (P5000 detailed review).

For all the images, I’m printing directly from Photoshop, which is still my number one choice for the functionality you need for bigger prints (no, I still don’t like Lightroom for printing – not enough control).

Profiling

Fotospeed will make (free) custom profiles if you buy paper from them, but I’ve created my own profile. – Nearly 3000 patches, available for the P5000 on request, for non commercial use.

The software I’m using [i1Profiler – review] gives a range of profile options, but nothing in my profiling suggests any difficulties in using this paper for any modern photo printer.

After profiling I can print my test images directly from Photoshop – here’s the colour test image I’m using.
[We have a big collection of downloadable test images available]

Datacolor test image

Learning the benefits of using test images like this, and their successful printing, is very useful – I’ve written a guide to better photography by printing your work that explains all the details.

Black and white

I know from similar papers that b&W performance is likely to be quite good, but I still need to see how my standard B&W test images look…

bw-test-image

The B&W test image is one created for the purpose [see: B&W Test image] and includes a section for measuring print linearity. I’m using the 51 step version that lets me measure the print using the X-Rite i1iO [article about the process]

bw-test-print settings

This graph shows the fairly linear output using the Epson Fine Art Cotton Smooth Natural Sheet paper setting and the ABW B&W print mode.

smooth-cotton-bw-linearity

There are unlikely to be any problems from non-linearity, and I can safely print without making any adjustment curves.

With this print setup (Epson’s ABW print mode) we’re seeing a DMax figure of ~1.6

black measurements

A look at the M0/M1/M2 measurements for the paper show the slight brightening under UV.

paper measurements

This is a very modest bump – nothing like the huge peak you see in very bright white papers.

Assorted prints

Some of my test prints are shown here (lit from a north facing window).

cotton-300-test-prints

The B&W prints to the left are part of an article about printing B&W images I’m working on.

black-and-white-print

The image has quite a range of tonality in the original file, so matching it to what the paper is capable of, without massively reducing perceived contrast, takes a bit of work.

Surface finish

The lack of surface texture of the print shows up in this very close oblique view. The paper feels smooth to the touch. Any dots you can see, such as on the dark green are from the printer dot pattern.

surface

At most lighting angles you can’t see any texture – very low angle sunlight shows faint structure, but simply isn’t lighting you’d look at a print under…

Print settings

I’m printing sample files at 360ppi and tested output at 1440DPI and 2880DPI settings for the printer. 2880 does give marginally more definition, but not enough that I could reliably spot any improvement.

Conclusions

The paper feels a bit thinner than it’s weight might suggest.  It’s quite robust but thin enough to require some care in manually feeding large A2 sheets.

It’s opacity is just low enough that I’d prefer to mount it with a white backing to ensure no colour shifts.

For a matte paper it handles coloured images well. Even this quite intense out of the camera Adobe98 JPEG (EOS RP) didn’t over-ink any areas of the print.

colour test image

I’d note though that dark colours such as the shadowed hedge will challenge the gamut of any matt paper, easily leading to a more ‘sludgy’ look. Now, this happens to some extent with any matt paper I’ve ever looked at and I’ve seen much much worse.

Where colour images work much better on a paper like this is with more subtle tones, such as this view out across the North Sea from the Suffolk coast at Felixstowe.

Paper handling

I’d note that in the A2 box I tested it had, perhaps because of the tight fit, developed a slight upwards curl at the shorter ends (top/bottom of sheet). Easily fixed by taking the pack out of the box, in it’s plastic bag, and storing it with weight on it on a flat surface.  The curl was precisely the opposite that you’d get from roll paper, and without a bit of care in flattening, could make your prints prone to an initial head strike.

Looking at a pile of prints after a few days, it seems that this curl is the natural state of the paper – no problem when mounted, but something to take note of if you’re printing larger sheets.

Overall

A good smooth matte paper that holds ink well.

The paper is available from Fotospeed in the UK

Not in the UK? email me for info about similar papers I’ve tested

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