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Impressora pro photo media review

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Six papers – the Impressora Pro Photo media collection

Testing papers on the Canon PRO-2000 printer

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Normally Keith tests specific fine art and photographic papers for our printer reviews, but this review is slightly different in that he’s looking at a range of papers now available in the UK under the Impressora brand.

These papers are aimed at higher volume printers than we do here at Northlight and are meant to give a solid range of media for people making prints for sale.

Apart from this, the test gave Keith the chance to address that age old question of what paper to use with a particular image, and generally compare how different papers change the look and feel of images.

Whilst UK supplied papers, the general paper types are available around the world, so hopefully the article can be of more general interest to those doing their own printing.

impressora paper

The papers tested

The six media types tested were:

  • Pro Gloss Photo Paper 260 gsm (‘high white resin coated paper’)
  • Pro Lustre Photo Paper 260gsm (‘high white resin coated photo paper & slightly stippled lustre surface’)
  • Pro Metallic Lustre Photo paper 260 gsm
  • Pro Photo Matte HD 260 gsm
  • Pro Photo Fine Art Smooth 315 gsm (‘smooth, 100% cotton, acid and lignin free’)
  • Pro Photo Canvas Polycotton 380 gsm

The papers are all available via FineartFoto, who supplied our samples.

impressora pro photo media

Papers are available in roll and sheet sizes (roll only for the canvas)

All papers have varying degrees of optical brightener except the metallic one which has an interesting surface sheen.

At its most basic, these papers would enable me to produce all my commercial print work (photos for offices etc.) with a consistent quality and feel.

For my larger archival and exhibition fine-art prints I tend to use more specialist papers (see my many reviews) but thats a much more specialised market and I print other photographers’ work quite rarely (it’s not a service I widely advertise, since you have to be able to visit me and it’s not cheap…)

Custom setup on the PRO-2000

I’m testing 24″ rolls of the media on the Canon PRO-2000 printer (see my lengthy review for more about this printer)

With a printer like this you can make custom media types, that will appear on the printer front panel and in you printer driver settings.

One reason for doing this is that it makes mistakes much less likely, although it also allows you to include custom print adjustments in the media setting. The print feed alignment is the most basic and should give a smoother finish.

Setting up a media type for the glossy paper I base it on the Canon GlossyPhotoHG255 media type

media for glossy

I give it a meaningful name (one written on the box helps)

pgpp260 media type

After running through the setup process I’ve added six new media types to the printer.

Here’s the first one in the list.

custom media setting

Here are the six of them in my print driver settings.

custom media in driver

During the setup, the only specific adjustment I make is the auto setting of paper feed adjustments. You need to make a small test print for this (you can see the ‘execute’ button in the screen shot above for running it). For some papers I’ll also make a custom colour calibration (where allowed). This is not the same as profiling, but can sometimes help improve profile quality and consistency between batches of paper.

The adjustment gives me my first chance to compare the papers – here are the three glossy ones with lighting to show off surface textures.

glossy surface finish papers

The lighting is from ceiling halogen spots – note the blue sheen and warmer base of the metallic finish paper.

Custom profiling – colour

As I produce each media setting, I also print out my preferred ~3k patch profiling target for making custom ICC profiles with i1Profiler.

All but the metallic finish paper have noticeable amounts of optical brightener in them.  This makes the papers appear a brighter white if there is any UV in the illumination of your prints.

I know there is a lot of discussion about OBAs on printer forums, but for my commercial work, with prints professionally framed and mounted, I really don’t care that much. Where I do care is prints for exhibitions and museums or prints made for other photographers’ exhibitions. As I mentioned before, the choice of papers is reduced, and it’s a much more expensive product…

This shot from i1Profiler shows the spectral response of the paper at M0, M1 and M2 measurement settings.

Don’t worry if all the figures don’t mean much, the bit to note is the bump in the curve, where the paper is emitting more light than received at that wavelength. UV light is being re-released as blue light – much like shirts viewed in a room with some ‘black light’ tubes.

oba matte230 paper white

It’s this blue light that makes the paper appear ‘whiter than white’ (as in the soap powder ads).

Anyway, the upshot of this is that I have a set of ICC profiles for making test prints…

Custom settings Black and White

I’m also making some B&W test prints on the papers, where I’m going to be printing with the print driver’s B&W print mode (for Epson printers this is effectively the same as the ABW print mode).

I’m printing directly from Photoshop, such as this 120 cm (~4 feet) wide B&W print on the Smooth Fine Art paper.

bw test print 60x120

I’ve a specific printer test image for black and white that I developed a few years ago for checking the quality of B&W prints.

The test image contains measurement patches that allow me to measure how linear the print output is and adjust it via a correction profile.

I’m measuring the test image with the i1iO device to create the correction settings (article with more detail)

As I’d discovered with similar papers last year, the B&W print mode slightly crunches up deep shadows on matte art papers. It may not make much difference for some images, but for others it is noticeable.

The test image has parts of it special set up to show this.

The grey patch set shows a lack of detail in the darker patches (photo of two prints on Fine Art Smooth 315 gsm)

correction example 1

Note – to see this you need a well set up monitor.

A much quicker test is to see how clearly you can read my full name in this section of the print.

name uncorrected

name corrected

The test print has a lot of small features like this that let me quickly evaluate a print.

It’s a small adjustment, but knowing I’ve got this right lets me concentrate more on other areas of the image and how I want it to look, as a print.

Making the test prints

The quickest testing was for the canvas – I’m afraid I don’t use matte canvas very often, since I don’t have facilities for stretching and coating matte canvas prints, so it consisted of making a couple of prints, letting them dry and folding/creasing/scratching the surface to see if it broke up.

The surface didn’t crack, and it took the sharp edge of a fingernail to show against the matte finish of the canvas. If I wanted a bright matte finished canvas print it looks pretty effective – I’m afraid if you want to test coating and the like you’ll need to contact FineartFoto and get a sample.

This photo gives an excellent feel for the surface texture and colour depth. It’s part of my profiling target.

canvas colour and texture

The test images

I’ve quite deliberately picked two images from Nepal, by a friend of mine, as well as one of my own shots (snow at Gt Sand Dunes NP) to throw off some of my normal “I know what looks best for my photos” bias.

colour sample images

For a B&W image I’m using one of my own shots from Wells Cathedral (after ‘Sea of Steps’ FH Evans, 1903)

wells steps

Here are the glossy versions

glossy set of prints

The room is north facing and it’s a sunny day, so the glossy/lustre papers look bluer than the metallic finish ones.

I’d note that lighting like this is very difficult to balance, so be wary of pronounced colour tints in the B&W pics.

The metallic finish paper gave a very interesting look, depending on the lighting angle.

metallic sheen

Here are the matte (paper) versions

matte papers

The Matte HD 230 gsm (left) shows a much more noticeable OBA effect than the fine art paper, which I know from testing ‘related’ papers has relatively small amounts of brightener.

At one level, the differences between the papers are quite clear, in surface finish and weight, but at other levels the differences are much less obvious.

Looking at a soft proof of the prayer wheel image with the matte HD 230 gsm paper shows large areas as ‘out of gamut’ (grey)

matte out of gamut colours

With each image I also looked at the differences I was seeing between Perceptual and Relative Colorimetric rendering intents.

This affects how out of gamut colours are handled and may or may not be obvious in your print.

To keep things consistent and more organised I also made sure to create preset printer driver setting sets for the different papers and printing setups.

print driver settings

If you print with the printer driver’s B&W mode then it is the printer driver that that handles print settings.

Here are the five B&W prints.

five black and white prints

Personally I prefer the warmer look versions.  All five are printed dead neutral – with no tinting or toning.

The matter of residual colour casts in B&W prints is something I’ve looked at elsewhere.

After deciding I rather liked the metallic paper print, I looked at how the gloss coat was being applied to the print (a clear gloss/colour optimiser ‘ink’).

Where such coatings are available, you often have the option of just applying them to parts of the printed image, or to the whole print.

Here are two versions of the Wells steps with the different settings, and as is usual, the differences seem minimal.

metallic black and white

Look more carefully and the differences show a bit more.

The quickest way is to look at the edges, where the ‘full coat’ option’ only goes to within a few millimetres of the edge.

full coat

The auto setting just applies the coating to the inked areas.

auto coat

Looking in more detail shows how the coating works best applied to the whole image area, even though you then get it applied to the surrounding clear paper as well (this is not a new issue, I noticed it in one of my first big printer reviews, of the HP z3200, back in 2009).

auto coat detail

full coat detail

Some Conclusions

So what did I learn from this huge collection of prints? (many more than you see here).

impressora logoModern print media and printers have come on a lot over the last few years – everything was easy to set up and profile. If you can’t make great looking prints with a printer and papers like I’ve used here, the fault lies firmly elsewhere, either in your editing skills or photographic ones…

The 260 gsm papers were stiff enough to avoid the creasing (‘crinks’) which I find all too easy to get with large prints on lighter papers.

The ‘Metallic’ finish paper quite suits some images. It’s a ‘showy’ paper but can also be used relatively subtly under some lighting conditions.

The Gloss 260 gsm has a nice even gloss finish and with the inks from the PRO-2000 do not look as raised on the surface as some. However, this is always a bit of an issue for pigment inks on glossy papers. For larger prints I’d prefer the Lustre 260 gsm.

The 315 gsm matt art paper works well for many of my B&W images, particularly where I don’t want the harshness and contrast that a gloss finish might give – for matt papers it’s a bit like deciding to use a softer grade of paper in the darkroom.

The paper for the image?

This has long been one of the commonest questions I get asked when I do talks about printing – If I had a simple answer, I’d have written it up a while ago ;-)

I now have another set of sample prints to take along and show differences, but apart from noting that higher contrast and sharper images seem to look much less so on matte papers I’m left even less certain about what to use for a particular image.

This is one reason I tend to choose a good lustre paper that is fairly white (some OBA) for our commercial images. It’s pretty good at large sizes and will stand out on a wall without undue reflection problems.

Having now tested a lot of papers from expensive downwards on the PRO-2000 (and Epson P7000 last year) I’m even more convinced that paper choice is in the eye of you the photographer and adds finishing touches in the presentation of your work.

The ‘right’ paper can give the edge to a great photo but won’t save a bad one any more than masses of filters and HDR techniques.

There is a useful Impressora ‘Swatch book’ of these media available if you’d like to check them further.

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