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Review of Paper Spectrum Pinnacle fine art papers

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Review: Pinnacle fine art papers

Prints and Christmas cards on fine art cotton rag based media

We’ve recently had a couple of A3+ printers on loan from Canon and Epson and took the opportunity to test a range of cotton rag based fine art papers from Paper Spectrum.

2016 update note: Pinnacle papers are still one of our regular choices for our commercial print making

printed greetings cards

Paper Testing

During our printer reviews, we only cover using the printer with papers supplied by the printer manufacturers. However, most people looking at producing their own fine art prints will also look elsewhere for paper supplies, both for economic reasons, and for the range of papers that are available. Knowing that we’d got these printers, the people at Paper Spectrum in the UK asked if we’d like to have a look at their range of art papers.

They’re based not very far from the Northlight offices (within cycling distance), so are our usual port of call when we run out of ink for our larger printers.

Some of these papers are also available in cut sizes, with envelopes, for making cards.

For visitors outside of the UK, I’d point out that there are only so many specialist paper mills in the world and you can probably find very similar papers available in your country. There are also common equivalents listed in the article.

Paper Spectrum offer a wide variety of ICC profiles for papers,

The papers were tested with an Epson 2880 and Canon Pixma Pro9500 MkII, during our recent reviews.

About the papers we looked at…

Information is from Paper Spectrum (who can also provide profiles for many printers)

Sizes A4, A3, A3+, A2, 17″ roll, 24″ roll and 44″ roll

Also available in folded A5, A6 & 148mm square sizes with envelopes.

Pinnacle Cotton Smooth Fine Art 310gsm

OBA free and meets the Fine Art Trade Guild lightfastness requirements of “6 or more on the Blue Wool Scale”.

Pinnacle Cotton Smooth fine Art is similar to:

  • Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308
  • PermaJet Alpha
  • Epson Smooth Fine Art
  • Innova Smooth Cotton Natural White

Pinnacle Cotton Rag 310gsm

Acid free, contains 100% cotton rag fibres, which are longer, stronger and more durable than wood fibres (alpha cellulose) and meets the Fine Art Trade Guild lightfastness requirements of “6 or more on the Blue Wool Scale”.

Pinnacle Cotton Rag is similar to:

  • Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308
  • PermaJet Omega
  • Epson Smooth Fine Art
  • Innova Smooth Cotton Hi White

Both of these cotton papers are very similar to Innova papers we regularly use for our large fine art prints.

Shown here with a print on a Canon 9500 Mk2 printer. Unfortunately the 35mm margin setting for this paper on this printer makes printing on cards rather difficult – see the 9500 review for more info (an annoying ‘feature’ of many of Canon’s otherwise excellent desktop printers)

black and white print on rag art paper

I like this paper for when I’m looking for good crisp whites. It’s not a brilliant white like the Fibre matt, so I’m more likely to use it for black and white than for colour.

Pinnacle Cotton Textured Fine Art 310gsm

A 75% cotton textured fine art paper with a natural white shade and watercolour, or etching paper finish.

Acid free, contains 75% cotton fibres, OBA free and meets the Fine Art Trade Guild lightfastness requirements.

Pinnacle Cotton Textured Fine Art is similar to:

  • Somerset Velvet
  • Innova Soft Textured
  • PermaJet Museum
  • Epson Textured Fine Art
  • Hahnemuhle German Etching

Pinnacle Cotton Fibre based Matt 300gsm

Is a 50% cotton rag paper which has been modelled on the traditional fibre based material used in conventional photography.

Pinnacle Cotton Fibre based Matt is similar to:

  • Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Smooth
  • Innova Fibaprint Matte
  • Harmen FB Matt 310

Pinnacle Cotton Fibre Base Gloss 320gsm

Similar to traditional fibre based, or baryta photographic paper material used in darkroom photography. This high white paper has a pearl finish and the Micro porous coating offers high Dmax ratings.

Acid free, contains 50% cotton fibres and meets the Fine Art Trade Guild lightfastness requirements of “6 or more on the Blue Wool Scale”.

Pinnacle Cotton Fibre based Gloss is similar to:

  • Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl
  • Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta
  • PermaJet Fibre Base Royal
  • Museo Silver Rag
  • Photospeed Platinum Gloss

Shown here, after printing some Christmas cards, on an Epson SP2880 (Pk ink)

printed cards on art paper

Using the papers

The list of papers above cover much of the normal range of fine art papers we use for our prints.

The choice of matt paper for any particular print is mainly governed by the image itself. I’ve been asked several times what makes me pick a particular paper and I’m afraid I just don’t have any consistent rules that I can pass on. I generally dislike toned/tinted monochrome prints and the paper finish and colour is about as far as I’ll usually go in changing the ‘look’ of a black and white print.

I see a lot of toned prints where the toning feels like an attempt to make a picture more ‘interesting’ and is overdone. A good rule of thumb I was told, was to adjust toning on the screen and then print with ~20% of that amount as a starting point.

For the matte papers and colour images, you have to accept that the range of colours you can print (gamut) will be less than gloss finish papers, so I tend to print images with more muted colours, such as the one below, of a stormy day at Bandon (on the Oregon coast).

Stormy day at Bandon

test print for greeting card printingMaking greeting cards

One of the features of this range of papers I was interested to try out was the availability of ready cut (and pre creased) papers for making greetings cards.

The papers are available in sizes that make A5 (A4 folded in half) A6 (A5 folded in half) and 148mm (5.8″) square cards.

These are are supplied with matching envelopes.

You need to design the layout of your whole card.

Given the vagaries of custom paper sizes and margins I’d seriously suggest you start out with printing on sheets of plain paper.

The example to the right shows a print of my 1975 photo of the Winter Solstice sunset at Stonehenge.

I’ve resized it in Photoshop to the size I want, and the extended the canvas size to fit a full sheet. You can just see a line of text added in the right place for the back of the card.

It’s just printed on plain copier paper – which shows the difference in colour to the sheet of Fibre Base Gloss next to it.

sample card

After setting the sizes correctly, I was able to load several sheets into the 2880 sheet feeder.

test prints on the 2880

A very convenient way of sending cards to clients that are printed on the same papers as we would use to supply our large prints.

Using ICC profiles

The Paper Spectrum web site offers guidance about profile use and they can even provide a custom profiling service.

When trying unknown papers, it’s important to get the correct media settings for profiling. Most times it should be obvious, but changing media settings can have quite an effect on the quality of profiles you build.

If you’re curious, I have an article on choosing media settings and some media test images.

For black and white printing, the most likely issues with 3rd party papers and the Epson ABW or Canon black and white print modes are that you can get slight non-linearity in the greyscale response. This can be corrected with a QTR ICC profile. I’ll not go over the mechanisms for creating one here, since I’ve several articles describing the process with different measuring instruments.

Print Quality

The papers were all flat and exhibited no problems with paper curl.

Both worked well in the Epson 2880 and Canon 9500 Mk2 we had on test, along with our Epson 7880 and 9600 printers.

As I said earlier, there are only a few specialist paper mills around the world and I know that these papers produce results up there with the big brand names.

The papers have the consistency and quality to make them a viable addition to the range of papers I can supply prints on.

I’ll not go into meaningless gamut volumes and Dmax lists here – if you like one of the sorts of paper, get some samples and have a go. See what -you- think of the prints and don’t just listen to those churning out the numbers.

For looking at colour and black and white performance I’ve initially used the Datacolor test image for colour, and my own black and white printer test image.

If you’ve only a few sheets to try, then note that the colour image also has a B/W test area.

The images (and many others) are available for free download on this site.

printer test image for black and white printingdatacolor test image fro printer profilie evaluation

Both images have lots of components to specifically test different aspects of printer and paper performance. I also use both for testing the performance of printer profiles. If you use them, do be sure to read the explanatory notes that go with them.


A range of ‘Art papers’ that will meet the requirements of many print makers, which offer savings over some of the better known brands, without sacrificing quality.

Available from Paper Spectrum in the UK (who will supply samples).

If you are outside of the UK, look at the comparison information in the list of papers above. You will almost certainly be able to find your own local versions.

A spot of research with Google should be able to find various equivalents, just remember that there are only so many paper mills and so many specialist coating companies in the world.

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