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Olmec Photo papers - review
Olmec Glossy, Olmec Satin, Olmec Photo Matt
The 260gsm glossy was supplied as a 13" width roll, which fits the 2880 A3+ printer.
The 2880 uses the same pigment ink set as in our larger 7880.
The Olmec brand of papers has been quite well known in the UK for some time.
It is now supplied by Innova [see Press info PDF], aimed at higher volume users than perhaps might be the case with Innova's fine art papers which we use here for some of our large fine art prints.
I actually looked at the full range of papers, but the 2880 had to go back to Epson before I'd finished looking at the Soft White Cotton Fine Art.
I'll come back to this paper when we next have a printer review, however I would say that it produced a very nice looking version of our B/W test image.
The current range includes (data from Innova)
ICC profiles are available for download, for a growing range of printers.
To get the best results I produced my own profiles for the Epson 2880, using our own profiling kit. Manufacturer supplied profiles are often very good, but when evaluating papers it's good to know that you've matched the paper to the printer/ink that you are using.
Olmec papers for testing with the Epson SP R2880
The range of sizes available is growing, but at the moment is restricted in cut sheet to DIN (A) paper sizes and rolls
For current availability, check the Olmec info at Innova.
We were supplied with a 13" roll of the 260 Photo Gloss, which is not (Dec. 09) currently listed as an available size. Do check with your suppliers though, since Innova are intent on expanding the Olmec range.
Roll Paper - in the R2880
The Olmec paper allowed us to test roll media in our 2880 review.
Supplied on a 2" core, the paper easily loads into the 2880 (but do see our review for more roll paper usage advice)
The paper can be left permanently attached to the printer, although I'd personally unload it and keep in a bag if I wasn't using it for more than a few days.
The shot below, shows a couple of profiling targets being printed.
The targets dry quickly, but I always tend to leave them overnight before measurement.
After profiling, I decided to see what a panoramic print looks like.
I've defined a large custom print size and selected the profile just created for the paper.
The print is of a lake in Colorado (just south of Ouray) and some 32" wide.
Note the deep blues which this printer managed to reproduce very well on this paper.
I've printed this image at a much larger size on several fibre type papers, and have to say that in terms of sharpness and clarity the version from the 2880 looked really good.
As I've mentioned, profiles are available for some printers, however you may still find it worthwhile getting a custom profile made.
This isn't a service we provide I'm afraid, but if you do get a profile made, be sure to make sure you are printing with the best media settings before printing your profiling target. Some time ago I wrote an article specifically about this important (and oft neglected) aspect of profiling - Media settings selection.
For black and white print output with the 2880 I used the Epson ABW mode in the printer driver.
This produced good results with all three papers, using Premium Glossy, Premium Luster and Epson Archival Matte paper settings. Note that the first two needed Photo Black ink (Pk) whilst the Photo Matt paper needed Matte black (Mk) ink.
All three papers benefited slightly from making a QTR linearising profile, but I produced prints without one that many people would find perfectly fine.
The print to the left shows our standard black and white test image.
This is something we always print out to test black and white image quality, since it has aspects which show up any problem areas in printing.
All three papers produced acceptable results with good ICC profiles.
Of the three, the glossy roll paper felt the thinnest, but produced a sharp clear image, with little obvious gloss differential and no bronzing from the 2880's UltraChrome ink set.The satin finish paper had a very solid feel, and when I took some sample prints along to a business networking event, several people commented on how nice they felt when they picked them up to look at.
The top print on Satin 260 and the lower on Photo Matt 230
The Photo Matt despite its lower weight also had a good feel to it, noticeably stiffer than the glossy paper I took along as the panoramic print.
There is not much difference between the two in the shot above - using tungsten halogen lighting.
The Matt does contain more obvious optical brightening agent and if there had been some daylight in the shot above, you would have noticed how much whiter/bluer the paper looked.
Depending on your use, this may be an issue, however I'd suggest that it's a genuine problem for far fewer people than popularly believed.
The satin paper took the Epson ink very well, giving little uneven reflection, and no obvious bronzing.
The print was fairly resistant to handling and the ink didn't scuff at all.
You might wonder why the emphasis on how prints feel?
I've realised that unless you only show prints already mounted and behind glass, the touch and feel of a print has a noticeable effect on people's perceived quality.
When I had a set of prints using these papers laying on a table, people consistently preferred the Satin paper, and one person really liked the panoramic print - up until the point they picked it up, whereupon they commented on it being a 'light' paper.
Larger prints do benefit from heavier papers, I find that it also helps prevent creasing when people are not used to handling large prints.
If you were to use these papers on a large format printer, then you need to take appropriate care when handling the prints after printing
When evaluating papers I'll make a basic profile and print out test images such as the Datacolor one to the right (download).
If I like the look and feel, I'll make a more detailed profile and test with a few images, so as to get a feel for what sorts of work I might like to use the paper for.
Sometimes, as part of our product photography work, we supply test prints for quality control purposes. Colour matching is quite critical here, so we'd create printer profiles for specific viewing lighting. The combination of pigment inks and surface finish for the satin paper makes this just the sort of paper we'd be happy to supply prints on(only a small percentage of our commercial work is supplied as prints).
Note - if you were looking for gamut volumes and detailed numbers, then you need to look elsewhere - see some of my thoughts as to why, below the summary.
There are a limited number of paper mills that make photo papers - certainly far less than there are brands of paper.
I've found that going for an 'unknown' brand can be a bit of a lottery - not only in initial quality, but if you go back after a year, the formulation of the paper may well have changed slightly. Not much, but enough to need re-profiling.
In general, for my fine art printing I prefer to stick with a known brand of paper where I can be reasonably sure of getting another roll of paper in six months that will be the same as before. Where I do use smaller suppliers, it's ones I know personally, and who will tell me if there have been any changes.
The range of Olmec papers provide an economical and consistent means of moving beyond the normal manufacturers' paper options.
Hopefully the range of printer profiles will grow for the Olmec papers, since I know that some people only look at suppliers who provide profiles.
You can add comments/questions about this article via our Blog.
A range of RC type photo papers aimed at users wanting to produce good quality photo images.
The range initially covers seven paper types and is available in a range of weights and sizes.
Thanks to Wayne of Fine Art Photo in the UK for sorting out these paper samples for me.
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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