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Fotospeed Matt art papers review

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Fotospeed Matt art papers review

Fotospeed Platinum Cotton 305 and Cotton Etching 305

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Keith has been looking at two papers from Fotospeed.

Fotospeed Platinum Cotton 305 and Cotton Etching 305 are both 100% cotton acid free fine art matt papers.

Natural white smooth and Etching finish bright white.

The papers were tested on an Epson P5000 17″ pigment ink printer.

outdoor print platinum cotton

Two cotton art papers

The two papers are both 100% cotton and are both acid free. The smooth white platinum 305 is also OBA free, so if put next to a sheet of the Cotton Etching 305, it will look distinctly yellower.  However – you don’t normally put different papers directly next to each other unless you really want to show the paper more than the image printed on it.

First up, the specs for the papers…

etch305Key Features of Cotton Etching 305

  • 305gsm 100% cotton
  • White base with a textured surface
  • 100% Acid
  • Wide colour gamut
  • Compatible with dye and pigment inks
  • Available in cut sheets and rolls
  • Fotospeed info

Sizes:  A4/A3/A3+/A2 sheet | 24″/44″ roll

plat305Key Features of Platinum Cotton 305

  • 305gsm 100% cotton
  • Natural white base with a smooth surface
  • Acid and OBA free
  • Ideal for archival images
  • Wide colour gamut
  • Compatible with dye and pigment inks
  • Available in cut sheets and rolls
  • Fotospeed info

Sizes:  A4/A3/A3+/A2 sheet | 17″/24″/36″/44″/60″ roll

Colour management

Fotospeed supply generic profiles and will create custom profiles for their papers. However I decided to use my normal X-Rite i1Profiler software and i1iSis spectrophotometer to create profiles using the larger almost three thousand patch target I can fit onto an A3+ (13″ x 19″) sheet.

I’m printing on the Epson P5000 printer (review) and have chosen the UltraSmooth Fine Art media setting with matt black (MK) ink.

I print targets on my Mac using (Apple) ColorSync Utility – just remember to select the ‘Print as color target’ option.

colour target

You could also use the free ‘Adobe color printer utility’ (Mac and PC)

I also tested black and white printing, both using my own colour profiles and the Epson ABW print mode.

The test image I use for B&W is one I created a few years ago specifically for monochrome print evaluation.

There’s an article with info about using the freely downloadable test image

I use the 21 step version for evaluating B&W print linearity.

small bw test_21

The 21 step target is readable using my X-Rite i1iO automated patch reader, in order to measure the 21 patches (5% steps) from paper white to darkest black.

patch reading

Test prints

I have a range of test images I’ll start with printing. these are known good images and enable me to see how the paper/profile/ink/printer combination is performing. See my collection of printer test images for more.

It’s important to me that I can do this almost without any need to reference the image on my monitor – I’ll go so far as to say you should never begin your own paper evaluation with photos of your own.  I’m not testing how good my camera technique/editing software/screen quality is. The test images are also free of any emotional baggage associated with photos of mine I like…

Some ‘real photos’

I often get asked what paper goes best with certain images? I’m afraid I’ve no better answer than to look at photos printed on different papers and see what takes your fancy.  The matt/glossy answer can come from the fact that matt prints have lighter blacks and often not such intense whites, reducing the tonal range of the image. They also tend to have a smaller colour gamut, although that’s only an issue for some images.

A simple example from architecture would be that I find B&W prints of old stonework tend to look better on a matt surface, except when I want to emphasise intense shadow, where a more reflective paper such as Fotospeed’s Platinum Gloss Art Fibre 300 suits what I want. I’d note though that although it’s listed as ‘Gloss’ it’s actually a semi gloss IMHO and much the better for it ;-)

An image taken when testing a flash, of some tiny flowers (~1cm) on my Jade plant, has some subtle tonal gradations in the out of focus areas, where printer/profiling issues will show.

I’m printing from Photoshop (CS6) [click to enlarge]

platinum cotton 305 print

I’m using the soft proofing to get a feel for if Perceptual or RelCol rendering intent is better for this image – there is sometimes a difference, but I do need to look and see. This change does depend to some extent on how your profiles were made, so is worth considering.

Note that I’m also printing with BPC. Black Point Correction can help avoid crunching of shadows with matt papers.

Take these two images, from visits to the USA. [click to enlarge]

The first, quite muted colours, easily looks good on the smooth paper. The second is bright, but still with colours within in the gamut of the paper, looks better on the Etching paper (the whiter paper lifts the image).

Storm front - Colorado

Storm front – Colorado

Oregon wind pump

Oregon wind pump

Once again I’m simply printing from Photoshop, using the profiles I’ve made.

plains print

Here’s that print in (overcast) daylight, taken in my conservatory.

outdoor print platinum cotton

In this photo it looks quite light – take it indoors and in the lower light levels it looks more like the screen version.

The colours though are spot on for that first flush of green in the sage brush and cottonwood trees. Compare them with our back garden – just getting going for spring.

A bigger concern with colour comes with this image from Ohio Pass, high up in the Rockies of Colorado.

Ohio pass, Colorado

Ohio pass, Colorado

This image has a lot of colours that are well beyond the gamut of any matt paper I’ve ever seen.

Indeed, if you use the gamut warning on the Photoshop print panel, you’ll see vast areas showing grey as an out of gamut warning.

gamut warning

It’s important to remember that even only a little out of gamut shows up, so checks like this are not a definitive guide to how a print will look.

You need to look at what’s being lost when printing the image. In this case it’s all the darker intensely coloured foliage. It’s where detail that is clear and distinct in a large print on a lustre or semi gloss surface is lost on the matt.

The print doesn’t look bad on either of these papers, just a lot better on some others.

Here are a few test prints drying on my bed…

test prints

Personal view: You’ll note that I don’t give gamut volumes or spurious ‘colour accuracy’ tables – mainly because I regard their use in choosing a paper as largely missing the point of printmaking. I’m minded to suggest that if you think they are important, it’s time to think about why you’re printing?
All the technology I have here would let me compile vast great lists of data – but (most of the time) I choose not to. Without detailed explanation and theoretical background I might suggest that they are frequently included in reviews just to look impressive ;-)
The graphs below for B&W are my concession to this … mainly they quickly tell me (from their shape, not the numbers) if I can just use the printer driver ‘as-is’ for B&W. In this case a definite yes, for the ABW print mode.

Black and white printing

Depending on the paper, the printer’s own B&W print mode may well be capable of generating slightly darker blacks and a more linear output than using my ICC printer profile for B&W printing.

Quick answer – it is (you may now skip the charts if you wish)

The thing I specifically look to avoid is crunching of shadows, where black areas of my image at say 85% black, look just the same as areas at 100% black. There are parts of my B&W test image specifically to show this issue, but graphing the measurements of the 21 step wedge make it clear.

I’ll show four graphs – two for each paper. One shows the ABW mode and one with my profile (printed using RelCol + BPC)

The numbers at the side show density – for fans of Dmax numbers (I’m not – it matters not one jot for my testing YMMV)

etch305 abw

etch305 abw

etch305 profile

etch305 profile

plat305 abw

plat305 abw

plat305 profile

plat305 profile

If you’re curious I have a longer explanation of how and why I make these graphs using QTR software.

Ok, lots of graphs – what are my quick impressions from them

  • Look at the ‘b’ lines – the negative numbers of the Etching paper show the presence of some OBA, whilst the positive numbers for the Platinum cotton show a warmer non OBA paper.
  • Both papers show much more open shadows using the ABW mode
  • Both papers show slightly deeper blacks using the ABW mode
  • Both papers show less variation in black tone with ABW mode

That’s enough for me to recommend using the ABW mode when printing B&W images on the Epson P5000. I can’t speak for other Epson printers, but I’d expect similar results from the P800 too, and definitely the P7000/9000.

For Canon printers, I’d need to check, but the B&W print mode was almost always my preferred choice in the many larger ones  I’ve tested.

This is one of those images that works with the softer tones of the matt paper and better fits my recollections of a stormy day up at ~9,000 feet on Mesa Verde in Colorado.

printing with ABW

That said, at A3+ size, the fine detail might look better on a lustre paper with deeper blacks. The print of this one I’ve got on the wall at home, on a matt paper, is 30″ x 20″.

I did say there were no hard and fast rules for this – print size makes a difference too.

Residual colour casts?

If you know what lighting your B&W prints are going to be viewed under, especially if it’s cheaper LED or CFL lighting, it’s worth checking that your prints don’t have a slight colour cast.

There are ways of adjusting for this, either in the driver settings or editor, but remember it’s only for specific lighting – you could make it worse if someone opens the curtains.  I have looked at this issue in an article [removing colour tints] if you are concerned.

It’s not the problem it was a few years ago (inks and papers have improved) but I mention it just in case.


Two very nice cotton papers.

Both give good density and gamut for matt papers and get the best out of the Ultrachrome inks of the P5000 I was testing them with.

The presence of OBA in the Cotton Etching is not a major issue for myself, in that it’s not intrusively bright.

My personal preference is for the smooth warmer white of the Platinum Cotton 305 which reflects the more muted images I’m likely to look at a matt paper for.

This shot of the surface textures is taken with a very low angle light from above – it’s a tungsten lamp, so the OBA in the Etching doesn’t show up (the grey at the right is a grey card for white balance) [click to enlarge]

surface textures

Both have a good heft to them, with the Etching paper slightly thicker.

Both papers had minimal curl coming out of the box – an important thing to look out for when loading more expensive paper.

Two good papers that are worth considering for your better matt prints.


Fotospeed matt art papers

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