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Review Innova Smooth Cotton Natural & High White

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Review: Innova Smooth Cotton Paper Natural White / High White

Two Cotton based papers from Innova (IFA-11, IFA-14)

Note: IFA 11 is now Innova PhotoCotton Rag 315

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We’ve recently had an HP Z3200 on loan from HP for a review. Keith took the opportunity to look at two versions of Innova’s Smooth Cotton paper from their Photo Art Range.

innova paper profiling

Keith has regularly used the Natural White with our old Epson SP9600, so was keen to see how the paper performed on a more modern pigment ink printer.

Note 2015 – the paper isstill a favourite in our iPF8300

About the paper

innova papersBoth papers are very similar, with one paper being free of Optical Brightening Agents (OBAs). They have a smooth matte surface that is very even. Looking across a 44″ roll, the surface shows no real variation. The papers are 100% cotton and acid free – important factors when I know that prints are going into some galleries.

Innova provide archivability data for specific papers and printers on request.

Buying Innova paper in the US: Innova papers are available via Amazon, Adorama and B&H – anything you buy via these links helps run our site, and is really appreciated.
…all Innova papers at B&H
…all Innova papers at Adorama

innova papersThe weight is given as 315gsm and the paper cuts very cleanly, giving prints a nice feel.

Innova describe the High White paper in this way:

“100% Cotton Fourdrinier Acid Free Paper
This silky smooth surface structure has been designed to ensure we maintain the natural characteristics of a smooth high-white art paper whilst maintaining the necessary natural aesthetics demanded by artists.
The surface has a special matte coating, designed for high quality fine art & photographic reproduction and print applications with inkjet (giclée) technology.
It is a high white ultra smooth surface archival quality paper with excellent colour gamut.”

Available Sizes

Roll Formats 60” 44” 36” 24” 17”
Length 15 m
Cut Sheets DIN (50’s & 25’s) A2 A3+ A3 A4
Cut Sheets US (50’s & 25’s) 17×22 13×19 11×17 8.5×11

The High White is also available as:

  • Smooth Cotton High White 100% Cotton 215gsm IFA-04
  • Smooth Cotton High White 100% cotton 450gsm IFA-18
  • Smooth Cotton High White 100% Cotton 225gsm (Double Side Coated) IFA-05

Using icc profiles

Innova supply paper profiles for many printer/paper combination.

When using the Natural white on my 9600, I drive the printer via the ImagePrint RIP, where there are excellent black and white profiles specifically for these papers.

With newer printers I’d not bother with ImagePrint since printers and drivers have improved considerably (the somewhat hefty update/support costs are an additional personal reason).

When using the Z3200 I made use of the built in profiling and linearization features for setting up third party papers.

The Z3200 combines an ICC profile and linearization data in what is known as a ‘Preset’ – These can be obtained from some third party paper suppliers and Innova provide them for these papers.

loading paper preset from Innova

This screenshot below from during my Z3200 testing shows two additional papers loaded into the printer.

The Natural White and another Innova paper (UltraSmooth Gloss IFA-49) loaded. I use IFA-49 quite often in our Epson 7880 (for B/W and colour).

innova profiles installed

Papers need to be measured for linearization purposes when first used on the Z3200.

The image below shows linearization under way on the printer. The test pattern you can see coming out of the printer is being measured by the built-in spectrophotometer.

linearizing a Z3200 for Innova smooth cotton paper

The profiling system in the Z3200 contains a spectrophotometer based on the one in the X-rite i1 iSis (also found in the ColorMunki too for that matter).

The example below shows a set of profiling patches (1728) for making an ICC profile. This was a specific test of high patch count targets, rather than the more economical ‘standard’ 464 patch target.

It does give an idea of some of the strong vibrant colours you can get on the paper from the Z3200 (High White in this instance).

z3200 profiling target for Innova Soft Cotton High White paper

printer test image for black and white printingThe 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.

Print Quality

Both papers (with good profiles) give very nice results, with rich blacks consistent with matte black ink on good matte papers.

As I mention below, it’s very difficult to give meaningful comparison information in a paper review, since so much of how a print looks is based on personal preferences for texture, colour balance and the subject of the image.

Winter sunset at Rutland water - UKThere was no flaking of the surface, although I always give paper a quick brush with a feather duster before running off large prints.

The blues in the Rutland Water Sunset picture print very well on the 9600 with High White.

However I’d noticed that colour prints are noticeably more vibrant in some areas with the HP Z3200 than the Epson SP9600.

Not entirely unexpected given the advances in pigment ink technology over the last few years.

The HP has 12 inks including the new ‘HP 73 Chromatic Red’ whilst the 9600 is using original UltraChrome inks.

Art print - autumn colours in the cascadesFor this particular image of Fall colours in the Cascades, I found that the High White paper gave slightly more intensity to the colours, although giving a touch cooler look to the image.

This is where soft proofing and a good viewing light really help.

Whilst there are some OBA’s in the High White version, it’s not overpowering and I didn’t find the quantity objectionable – certainly not enough to cause profiling problems.

See the iSis OBA Compensation review for more on this.
I’ve Photo black in our 7880, so didn’t see what newer Epson inks would look like, although if experience on glossy papers is anything to go by, I wouldn’t expect too much difference from the Z3200.

Hood Canal - bespoke fine art print produced at 36 inches by 24 inchesBlack and white performance from the two printers was very similar, with both looking very neutral.

I’m not a fan of toning/tinting, with the difference in papers being enough for any variation I generally like.

The Hood Canal image is one that I regularly print on Natural White paper, where I find that the slight warmth of the paper contributes a better feel than the brightness of a paper like Epson Enhanced Matte.

The High White would be my choice for more colour images were I to be printing on the 7880 (Mk ink) or Z3200.

When printing black and white on papers like the UltraSmooth Gloss IFA-49 on the 7880 I often use a QTR correction profile to ensure print greyscale linearity when using Epson’s ABW printing mode.

With the standard Innova supplied presets for the Z3200 I found that both papers exhibited slightly non-linear greyscales. This shows up most noticeably in the bull’s-eye target on the B/W test print when using HP’s black and white print mode.

Not much to fix, but I created that test print to be a truly harsh test of B/W printing. I’m sure that with more time to experiment I could have got the B/W printing of the Z3200 spot on, but unfortunately it had to got back to HP. The B/W ImagePrint profiles for the 9600 produced spot on results.

I did look at Innova Soft Textured Natural White Paper (IFA-12) a while ago for our Epson 3800 review, if you wanted a similar looking paper (not cotton though) with slight texture to the surface.


Two smooth cotton based 315gsm papers that are capable of extremely fine results.

The only difference is the presence of some optical brighteners in the High White version.

Where I have clients demanding the best in archival properties, I invariably print on the OBA free Natural White.

However, despite what you sometimes read, OBA’s are not automatically ‘a bad thing’.

I’d be happy providing prints on the High White, particularly where I wanted added vibrancy to the colours or a ‘whiter white’.

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’?

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