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paper surface finishPermaJet Ultra Pearl - review

A bright photo paper, with some interesting features

At the recent UK Focus trade show, PermaJet were showing some of their latest papers. One that caught Keith's attention was the Ultra Pearl.

Bright white and resistant to scratching and scanning... PermaJet kindly sent us an A3+ box to test.

Keith Cooper has been testing this paper on our 44" width Canon iPF8300 printer for both colour and monochrome printing.

About the paper

The paper has a 295gsm weight and a microporous Pearl 'lustre' finish.

There are some more detailed photos showing the surface finish later in the review.

It has a noticeable surface coating that almost has a slight 'rubbery' feel to a light touch. During our testing for B/W printing and profiling it's clear that the paper had a moderately high level of Optical Brightening Agents (OBAs). In normal display and home lighting this just makes it look a good bright white, rather than the distinct blue that some papers can show with only a touch of daylight.

Paper details can be downloaded from PermaJet, who also offer media settings advice and a custom profiling service for their papers.

Permajet logo

Specifications (from PermaJet)

There is a good range of sizes available, including the less common 13" for printers like the Epson 2880

Roll Formats

30 metres [10m for 13"]

 60" 44” 36” 24” 17” 13"
 √ n/a
             
Cut Sheets A2 A3+ A3 A4  6"x4" 7"x5"
 √

Using ICC profiles

For all our paper tests I create our own profiles, printing out a sheet of coloured patches (nearly 3000 on an A3+ sheet) and then measure them with our iSis scanning spectrophotometer, before creating profiles.

printer test image for black and white printingFor our Canon iPF8300 I also created a custom media type - based on the Premium Semi-Glossy Paper 280 setting - this worked well, giving a good ink coverage and wide range of colours.

For black and white printing I used the Canon driver's monochrome print mode - the paper benefited slightly from making a QTR linearising profile, but I produced prints without one that many people would find perfectly fine.

The picture 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.

The picture was taken when I scanned a test strip to obtain the data for the QTR profile. The blue pattern is from when I created a custom media type for the iPF8300 printer (the printer produces this and scans it itself)

scanning paper with an i1 Pro for creating a QTR profile

The graph below shows the output from the QTR profiling application and shows the OBA in the paper quite well from the way the 'a' curve shoots off to the left (blue) at the top (measurements made with non UV filtered i1 Pro spectro).

measurements of paper linearity for black and white printing

datacolor test image for printer profilie evaluationPrint Quality

The prints made on our 8300 (a pigment ink based printer) all seemed just fine from a quick look.

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.

There were no immediate issues with ink adhesion to the paper, or obvious bronzing.

The first sheets of paper from the box we looked at, had a few millimetres of curl along one long edge. This was enough that I did have to flatten the sheet over a table edge before feeding into the printer.

Raised edges can show up as ink marks where the print head has touched the paper - after a few sheets from the box, the curl was not a problem.

It's very difficult to convey aspects of how prints 'feel' in a review like this, so I've taken some photos that try and give a feel for how the surface handles reflections - this is a key part of the 'feel' of this particular paper.

Two prints on my piano...

sample prints on permajet ultra pearl

This deep blue sky shows up any problems with the bronzing that some pigment inks are prone to, on papers where the ink sits on the surface.

No problems with this microporous paper.

  • The lighthouse is the North Head lighthouse at Cape Disappointment, Washington State - the sky really was this deep blue that day.

paper surface finish

No obvious signs of gloss differential either, in this interior shot of Ely Cathedral and its 11th century architecture.

lack of gloss differential

The paper is also uncommonly robust and resistant to creasing.

One of my pet hates is when people just pick up prints by the edge with one hand and leave an angled crease in the paper (very difficult to remove).

This paper is much less prone to handling damage.

Move your mouse over the image to see the effect - many fine papers would leave a mark

resistance to paper creases

A quick unscientific fingernail scratch test, as a print came out of the printer, showed quick drying and a tough surface finish.

That said, with the microporous structure I'd definitely want to leave prints overnight before profiling and some time in the open before putting behind glass. If you mount pictures too quickly, you can get problems later as solvents come out of the print, sometimes leaving a ghost image on the underside of the glass.

Copy protection

I'm not a wedding or portrait photographer and don't deal with the public, but I'm told that people buying just one copy of a print and then copying it is a problem.

As such, any paper that makes this more difficult is bound to raise interest.

How well does it work?

Well, here's a set of scans (300dpi/600dpi/1200dpi) of one of my profiling targets.

I've used an old Epson 1220U scanner on my Mac, using the basic scan software that comes with any Mac.

As you can see, the surface pattern is creating white spots on the print.

Next up, I've tried a scan of an actual wedding photo - mine - taken on my 50th birthday last year by my friend and good photographer Craig Camp.

That's me in the suit, talking to a friend of mine, with a happy looking Karen in front of me.

The right hand image of the pair above is a small part of a scan of an A3+ sized print (right), whilst the left hand image is a scan of a print of this scan made on a basic photo paper.

I've assumed that most people who are so tight-fisted as to try to copy prints this way are not going to be Photoshop experts, so I've limited my processing of the image to an 'Auto Color' correction.

I appreciate that even that is probably a bit much, but you can see the effect.

Here is what it looks at 100%

  • No, I don't wear a tie very often any more!

You can see the white dots in the scan of the original print and how the scanning and printing process has lessened their impact

Well it certainly would make it more difficult for me to produce good copies of prints, but I have to wonder just how much it's going to put off the casual copier?

If people are willing to accept scanned copies of prints, with poor colour and definition rather than pay the photographer for them, then are they going to worry about this? Just because I consider a copy is no good, does not mean everyone else will...

So, whilst it's definitely an extra step in protecting your work, I'd not rely on it too much.

Conclusions

This paper has a good finish and is noticeably tougher than many other papers you might choose for this market.

Print quality is excellent, although this isn't a paper I'd want for archival exhibition prints (to be fair it's not aimed at this market).

  • Note: We couldn't mention this at the time the review was originally published, but we used X-Rite's new i1 Profiler for creating our printer profiles - there is more info about this in our i1 Profiler printer profiling review

For black and white photos, the printer is capable of nice deep blacks and shows very little gloss differential with the Canon Lucia II inks in our iPF8300.

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It's the sort of paper I'm happy to use to show samples of my work, where people will pick up and handle prints

I'm not entirely convinced as to how much the surface finish will deter real life copying, but I did only test it with one fairly old scanner.

Summary

A 295gsm bright white paper with a tough lustrous 'Pearl' finish. Both roll and sheet version available, including 13" rolls. The microporous coating gives noticeably low gloss differential.

The finish and physical properties of this paper raise it above the 'yet another photo paper' category. The Lustre/Pearl surface looks good, takes pigment inks very well and has a tougher finish. It's also a paper that resists creasing, making it ideal when I know that prints are going to be handled. I often hand round examples of our commercial photo work - people like the feel of 'real prints'. The surface finish is also somewhat resistant to casual scanning and copying - something that I know causes concern for some wedding and portrait photographers.

Supplied through PermaJet in the UK and available with profiles and a custom profiling service.

Article History - first published April 2011

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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