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Paper review Innova FibaPrint paper

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Paper review:
Innova FibaPrint papers

A range of specialist photo papers from Innova



Following on from my review of the Epson 3800 using Epson papers, I’ve looked at a range of Innova papers “modelled on the traditional fibre-based material used in conventional photography”.

paper testing

2015 – This review was written several years ago, and I’m still regularly using Innova papers for my work. The initial development issues in this review, relating to curl and profiling, are long gone.
Our samples were from Fine Art Foto in the UK

As someone who used to do quite a bit of black and white photo printing in the darkroom, I was keen to see just how these papers looked on what I know to be an excellent printer.

The FibaPrint papers

About the paper

The papers all have a smooth printing surface, with varying degrees of glossiness, and except for the warm tone are a bright white. The warm tone paper is OBA (optical brightening agent) free.

The paper is listed as “Smooth ECF Bleached Chemically treated Woodpulp”

The base is listed as ‘Acid Free’ which should aid longevity, although there is no colourfastness or print lifetime information available.

The following ‘Applications’ are also listed:

  • Digital Fibre-Prints
  • Fine art & photographic reproduction
  • Photo restoration – memory albums & photo albums
  • Greeting Cards, Post Cards
  • Presentational art graphics for print display requirements

Available in a range of sizes, I was testing A3 cut sheets in the Epson 3800.

Available printer paper sizes

This from Innova, about the Ultra Smooth Gloss:

“The special Micro porous gloss coating has been designed specifically for photographic reproduction and high quality fine art print applications. The acid inhibiting crystal layer technology makes it the perfect digital FibaPrint alternative. FibaPrint Ultra Smooth Gloss has an extremely large colour gamut and D-max rating of 2.7”

Don’t get too bothered about D-max figures, but 2.7 implies that the blacks are going to be a good deep rich black (and they were… )

The warm (OBA free) paper is to the left.

warm and bright photo papers

Here are just a few of the many test prints from looking at how the paper performed…

assorted test prints

The paper has a feel that definitely reminds me of darkroom prints, however it has a less welcome similarity, in that one version has a distinct tendency to curl.

The coloured sheets above all happen to be the Ultra Smooth Gloss (285) and it’s this paper that shows the curl, right out of the box. The Glossy (F type) showed virtually no curl and the warm and semi-gloss only a very small amount.

Is this a problem if you are going to mount the prints behind a mat in a frame? No, not really… the difficulties can come at the start and end of prints by my 3800.

The curl makes it quite likely that the print head will hit the paper and leave marks like on the corner of the sheet shown below.

problems of paper curl

It’s possible to straighten the paper before feeding, but this shouldn’t need to be done…

Innova tell me that new versions of the paper will be produced in a slightly different way, so as to eliminate the curl problem that I found on the Ultra Smooth Gloss. Update 2009 – I regularly use this paper for colour and B/W printing on our Epson 7880  – No curl issues at all.

Once I was happy with the feeding of the papers I decided to first check out Black and White printing, since the majority of my printed work is Black and White.

Black and white printing on FibaPrint papers

I have a standard test image (updated version) that you can see in the prints above. I printed it on all four papers in ABW mode on the Epson 3800, and then made a QTR linearising profile for all four papers – article with more info.

The prints were made using the Premium Lustre paper setting in the driver.

As printers, inks, printer drivers and papers have got better over the last few years it has been increasingly difficult to spot improvements and differences between different printing techniques. With third party inks and paper on an Epson 2400 it was quite easy to see the improvements in linearity and overall print quality, when using a QTR profile with the Epson ABW printing mode.

All four papers produced acceptable prints with just the ABW mode, and only with the warm tone paper could I notice much of an improvement by using a QTR profile. Even then it was slight but I felt the ABW neutral setting opened up the deep shadows a tiny bit too much.

There are undoubtedly many detailed measurements I could take, but if I can’t find a noticeable difference within a 10-15 seconds of looking at my test image (which I know well) then the differences probably fall below my criteria for being concerned :-) I produce prints as final works in their own right and it’s the whole feel of the printed image that is important to me.

Just because I’ve not produced lots of gamut charts and detailed analysis of the papers doesn’t mean that my standards aren’t pretty exacting – it’s just I have a cut off point where I say ‘this will do’.

Having said that, lets move on to colour printing where I made a more detailed study of how to get the best out a paper (Ultra Smooth Gloss in this case)

Using icc profiles

With Epson papers on the 3800, I found that the supplied Epson ICC profiles were very good and indeed, without quite a bit of work, my own test profiles built using Profilemaker 5 and measured with an Eye One iSis were not really much better.

However when you want to use third party papers, whether for reasons reasons of paper choice, or just plain cost, you will need specific icc profiles for getting the best results

Innova offer profiles for many of their papers and have a download page, which also has some guidelines on how actually to use profiles with your print set-up

I downloaded the profile for the 3800, and the document which tells you what print settings to use with the papers. You need to know the driver paper settings, since this is the main control over ink limits and linearization that you have with normal drivers.

Setting your ink limit too high will block up dark colours and may even show signs of the ink running or bleeding into lighter areas.

Print Quality

I often use the media settings check that’s found in the PrintFIX PRO profiling package – Its a grid of coloured squares that you print out and look at to see which is the best paper setting to use.

I’ll not go into all the details here, but you can see more about it in my review of the PrintFIX PRO.

It’s very difficult to show subtle differences on the web, but the image below shows scans of parts of the media test pattern for the Lustre (left) and SemiMatte Proofing paper (right) settings.

media settings check examples

The one on the left is the suggested (Lustre) media setting for the ICC profiles supplied by Innova. The one on the right is set to ‘Proofing Paper semimatte’.

The ink bleed is the real giveaway that too much ink is being applied to the paper, although the ‘blotchiness’ and blocked up dark areas confirm this.

I made a profile of my own, using Profilemaker 5.0.8 and an Eye One iSis with a 1728 patch target.

I then made two test prints of the PDI test image, one using my profile, and one using the Innova supplied profile.

The prints both superficially looked good, but it’s the fine detail that really make the difference between a good and a very good print.

This is a reduced version of the Freeware PDI test image (the original comes from http://www.photodisc.com — we have a copy available for downloadcolour printer test image

The information below is about the PDI test image. It gives an idea of the detailed information present and why the various elements are there.

  • A Smooth even gray ramp on the right of the image, without visible colour casts or breaks in the gradient.
  • Good skintone colour throughout the range of different skin types and their shadow areas, especially the difficult pink skintones in the second face, and the areas where the skin transitions into the hair on the third face.
  • Dark areas in the hair of the first model that show detail without clogging.
  • Bright, saturated, colours without loss of detail in the robot, the beta fish, and the coloured beads.
  • Good deep tone detail in the purple sand in the fish bowl and the background of the tapestry.
  • Bright sunflower yellows in the sunflower, distinct from the lemon yellows of the lemon.
  • Good saturated blues in the vase and its stem.
  • No problem tones in the dark areas of the lemon, the peach, the orange, and the apple.
  • A rich range of greens in the cactus and the sunflower leaves.
  • Rich brown tones in the binocular case, transitioning well into the dark areas.
  • A good range of varying warm highlights in most areas.
  • The tint of each shadowbox section is effected subtly by the contents of each box.
  • Cool blue highlights on the optically brightened golf balls.
  • Good detail in the coloured areas on the elephant, without bleeding from the blacks.

It’s even more difficult to show the differences on the web, but hopefully the image below will help.

It’s a scanned portion of the print. If you move your mouse over it, then you can see the difference made by using my own profile with its different media settings.

Same image, different printer profiles and settings – the differences are subtle and not easy to shop here.

Unfortunately, I’ve come across this problem before with paper manufacturers profiles (not just Innova BTW). Just making profiles without proper media settings checks is rarely good enough.

Custom profiling services that offer to make you profiles without telling you how to check media settings are also guilty of this. It’s my opinion that if someone offers to make you a profile, without checking the best media settings (or at least saying that they know what it should be from their own studies) you might wish to enquire elsewhere.

After that, it’ll probably come as no surprise to know I’ve written a short article on the importance of media settings.

With older printers I might have just assumed that my printer was a bit different from the original that was used to make Innova’s profile. Well that’s not really a good excuse any more since printers like the 3800 are now very much alike, and can even be set to ‘factory condition’ if need be.

I only tried creating one specific profile, but given the similarity of the papers I’d suggest that they were all made with the wrong media setting. If you use the paper with a 3800, then I’d suggest trying the supplied profile at the Proofing Paper setting – whilst not optimal, this -might- give better results until Innova sort out this issue.

I should say that Innova themselves have been very interested in my findings and the profiling issues were sorted not long after this article was published.

Once I’d got the profiles sorted out, I printed off a collection of various colour images and the results were very pleasing. The gamut of the Epson inks and these papers gives rich deep colours and the heavy feel of the prints just encourages people to pick them up (never underestimate the physical ‘feel’ of a paper when you are selling prints to people)

A personal comment… 

For those who want numbers to ‘compare’ papers, I’d just point out that the gamut volume of the profile I produced, was slightly less than that of the supplied one. If you are going to be impressed by spurious data and figures from some ‘reviews’ then you should at least make the effort to understand what all the numbers -really- mean. Although I suspect that by then you will appreciate just how meaningless many of them really are…  I know of people on print discussion boards/forums who are put off by all the talk of D-MAX and gamut volume that they hear, and feel that they in some way are lacking in knowledge.
In any field like this there is always ample opportunity for ‘detailed discussion’ of the minutiae – Do I really care if my car engine is 2935cc or 2939cc? Would I rather be out taking photos to make great prints – you bet.

Get a sample pack of the paper and see for yourself – try a test print of a known test image, and see whether you like the look and feel. It’s the only way to see which papers show -your- images the way you want.

Summary

Buying Innova paper in the US

Innova papers are available via Amazon, Adorama and B&H – anything you buy via these links helps run our site, and is really appreciated.

…all Innova papers at B&H
…all Innova papers at Adorama]

During my look at these papers I’ve produced some superb looking prints – mostly black and white, but some colour too.

Papers like these remove the last vestiges of hankering for my darkroom prints. There is now not one area of my Black and White photography that isn’t better in digital form.

Excellent finish to the papers, although I’d be careful with the curl of the Ultra Smooth Gloss when putting it through a 3800 (problem fixed in shipping versions of the paper).

Of the four papers, I think my favourite for large B/W prints was probably the Glossy ‘F Type’, although all four were ones I’d happily use for prints to sell.

If you use the supplied profiles, then do check to see when they were last updated, and don’t discard a potential paper choice just because the supplied profile is not up to scratch!

Our sample paper was kindly supplied by Fine Art Foto in the UK

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