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texture of epson traditional photo paperEpson
Traditional Photo Paper

The UK brand name for what is called Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper in the US

We've recently reviewed the excellent Epson 4880 A2+ printer, supplied by Epson UK (thanks)

They also sent a pack of what is called Epson Traditional Photo Paper here in the UK.

It's more commonly known as Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper in US reviews, where it has drawn a lot of comment.

This short review covers the paper and offers a few suggestions about geting the best out of it.

About the paper

There isn't a great deal on the Epson UK site about this paper, and several paper suppliers I visited had not actually ever seen any.

Note, this review was written not long after the paper was introduced in the UK.

Here's an A3+ (13"x19") box of the paper with the 4880 I recently reviewed.

Epson traditional photo paper

The 'fact sheet' for the paper has this to say:

  • Combining the artistry of traditional photography with the ease and control of digital output, this unique media offers the same deep blacks, subtle tonal gradations and long-lasting results as the darkroom papers of old. Its fiber base has a rich surface, a continuous tone and soft gloss that are ideal for creating stunning color or neutral black-and-white prints that retain the look and feel of traditional fiber paper.

It's one of the new generation of heavy 'fibre' papers that has a finish not dissimilar to an air dried “F” surface darkroom paper (no, I don't remember it, I'm going on what some older people told me ;-)

It's a wood pulp based paper and does contain optical brightening agents (OBAs). This may or may not be a problem for you (for archival purposes)

The specs from Epson (US)

Suffice to say, it is a very white paper, made all the more noticeable when you open the box and find that it is shipped in a black plastic bag (just like darkroom papers) The cynic in me might see this as a cunning marketing ploy to make people comfortable with darkroom printing, just that little less wary of digital ;-)

It's a heavy paper, on a par with the Ultrasmooth Fine Art Paper I like using for some of my black and white prints with my Epson 9600 (Matte [Mk] ink), although it's thickness is only slightly more than Premium Luster.

US Prices (from Epson) range from $59/25 for A4 to $379/25 for 20"x30. The paper is only available in cut sheets.

Using icc profiles

To get the best results, you normally need custom printer profiles made, however a group in the US has made some excellent profiles available for this paper.

Printers supported include:

Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink

Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink with Vivid Magenta

Finding the correct printer settings was a bit of a search on the Epson site, however this description is from the profiles site

  • The Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper is intended to be used with the "Photo Black" ink of the Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink or UltraChrome K3 Ink with Vivid Magenta ink sets. Under the Media Type, you should choose "Premium Luster Photo Paper" or "Premium Luster Photo Paper (260)" depending on your printer. For 3800/4800/4880 printers, you can load paper in the top feed (regular feed path) but with single sheets only. Loading more than one sheet at a time will result in mis-feeds. For Epson Stylus Photo R2400 Printers you must load single sheets of Exhibition Fiber Paper through the rear Single Sheet Guide. For additional information on using the rear Single Sheet Guide path see your user guide or visit the R2400 product page.

Print Quality

I printed a variety of images on an Epson 4880, both colour and black and white.

comparison of blacks

It's very difficult to give a feel for a paper in a web review, but the picture above gives an impression of the richer black in the TPP print (A3+) to the right, compared with the same image printed (A3) using the Epson ABW mode on Premium Luster paper to the left. This may or may not make some images look better - deciding this is very much a matter of taste.

It actually took me several prints to get good results.

First of all, the flakes...

Inside the pack of paper were lots of small white flakes of surface coating. The picture below has had the brightness of the black bag bumped up to show the flakes

flakes of paper coating

Out came my trusty feather duster - this is excellent for cleaning the surface of papers that shed fibres or flakes.

duster for cleaning paper

The sheet below shows what happens if you are not thorough enough. When the print is dry, flakes come off leaving white specks.

Since I've no desire to go back to the darkroom practice of 'spotting' prints, this was a dud...

effect of coating flakes

Next there is the issue of raising the platten height for the printer

head strike line

This was before I set it to 'W' and shows a head strike ... another dud :-(

OK, it's fine for me to mess around with settings, but this isn't a cheap paper, so a bit more info and guidance would have been nice.

The prints do look excellent with not too much difference in gloss between the paper and inked areas (any slight colours in the reflection are due to the halogen ceiling lights used to get the reflection)

texture of epson traditional photo paper

...and not much gloss 'gaps' showing up in highlights (the print below is the one of the drummer above)

glossiness of Epson traditional photo paper

The paper surface is relatively fragile so be careful in taking sheets out of the box, and be careful stacking sheets (I use thin tissue paper, after prints have dried).

The image below printed with tremendous depth in the bits of mountain poking through the cloud.

Tetons and cloud

Summary

Remember that paper choices are a very personal thing, so always go for a sample and see how you 'feel' about the print quality. This is something very important for my big prints and varies with subject matter, print size and where the prints are destined to hang.

The quality is excellent, with deep rich colours and blacks that can look like holes in the paper (it's got an excellent D-max)

It's not a cheap paper ('reassuringly expensive' was probably on the minds of the marketing group that decided this).

Given it took 5 prints for me to initially get a perfect one, you would want to be very careful in using it. The surface flakes were a serious problem if you didn't clean the surface thoroughly, and you should handle the paper with great care (it scratches easily).

If you can justify the cost, and take care in using it, then it is a splendid paper with a distinctive look.

A personal health warning about paper reviews ;-)

I'm always a bit lost when I see comparative reviews of papers in some magazines that include a stack of spurious tables and diagrams covering various measurements about printer/paper/ink performance. Most are utterly meaningless (without -detailed- explanations of the theory and practice behind them).

I've written a bit more on this in the Blog: Paper reviews - a warning

Print choices are a personal thing - if you're just going to choose papers by numbers then I think you're slightly missing the point..

See also: Do your prints have 'Depth'?

Other related info

The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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