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Paper for Fine Art

Once you have a fine art image ready for printing you are faced with the decision of which paper to use. Assuming you already have a printer, the selection of ink is usually made for you, just get the printer manufacturer's inks. So the decision is which paper to use with your printer's inks. When it comes to fine art printing there are two major criteria for selecting a paper; the longevity of the paper/ink combination and whether the paper has optical brighteners.

Longevity

When a print is exposed to light a process of change begins. This can be a fading of the ink, a yellowing of the paper, or a variety of other effects. Atmospheric agents such as ozone, sulfur and other chemicals can also effect the print. The lifetime of a print is measured by comparing prints exposed to various factors such as visible light, UV light, heat, ozone and other agents, against reference prints kept in the dark. Measurements are made of the inks and paper, compared to visual tolerances and a lifetime prediction is made. This lifetime represents the amount of time the print can be exposed under normal conditions before it changes objectionably. Since all the artists I've known want their art to last, paper and ink combinations should be selected with long lifetimes.

There are two places to check paper/ink ratings. The first is with Wilhelm Research. His website has ratings for most of the printer inks and many of the available papers.

The second place for paper/ink ratings is Aardenburg Imaging & Archives. This is a newer site with some interesting methods of testing archival qualities in the laboratory and in situ.

Brighteners

Everyone likes white things bright. At least this is what the soap and bleach manufacturers have been telling us for decades in their advertisements. Paper naturally has a yellowish color, due to the materials used in its construction, such as wood pulp or cotton fibers. To counteract this natural yellowness, paper makers add optical brighteners, also called fluorescent whitening agents, to the paper. Their effect is to make the paper look whiter and brighter by converting invisible ultraviolet light to visible blue light. The extra blue reflected light when added to the natural yellow paper color makes the paper appear brighter and whiter.

Another benefit to using paper brighteners is to even out the variations between paper batches, making the paper consistent and predictable.

So if optical brighteners and fluorescent whitening agents make the paper whiter and brighter, what is so bad about using them in papers for fine art printing?

Artists want their works to last for a long time. They go to great lengths to select long lasting inks and papers for their reproductions. Some optical brighteners fade after a few weeks, changing the appearance of the print. If the brightener does not fade, then the whiteness of the print will appear differently depending on the amount of ultraviolet light present in the illumination. If a print is prepared by the photographer and printer for one type of lighting, but ultimately displayed by the customer in a different lighting, the paper's optical brighteners may make the print no longer match the original or the artist's intention.

In my opinion, when it comes to optical brighteners in fine art prints, "Just say No!".

Detecting Brighteners

The question then becomes how to check if your paper has these brighteners?

Method 1, Check with an Expert.

One way is to check the Wilhelm Research or the Aardenburg Imaging & Archives websites. Their longevity ratings of printer paper and ink combinations now include information about brightening agents.

Method 2, Measure with a Colorimeter.

Some people measure the paper with a colorimeter, or spectrometer that gives colorimetric data, looking for a negative b* in the L*a*b* colorimetric values. This method works for some papers, but not for all since the brightening effect depends on the measuring instrument and the amount of paper brightener. An instrument with low UV illumination, combined with a paper having a small amount of brightener, might produce too small an effect in the b* value. It is even possible to have a small positive b* value and still have a brightener in the paper (see the example below).

Method 3, Measure the spectrum.

A more accurate way is to measure paper samples with a spectrometer both with and without a UV light blocking filter. Comparing the difference in the two spectra will show how much brightener effect is present. When looking at a spectral graph of the two measurements, brighteners usually show a peak about 430 nm. This method can easily detect small amounts of brightening agents.

Method 4, Use a UV LED flashlight.

Of course, none of the first three methods work when you are in the store shopping for papers. To make a quick judgement in the store, a small UV LED flashlight can be used. When the paper is illuminated by the UV LED, the paper will appear violet if there are no brighteners present, blue if there are brighteners.

One source for an LED flashlight is Photon Light. Another source is a counterfeit money detector which uses UV LEDs to check paper money for their fluorescent anti-counterfeiting measures. For example, in the US $5 and greater denominations, there is a fluorescing strip embedded in the paper. Sometimes the counterfeit detectors are available as pens, which provides a convenient way to carry the flashlight.

I usually carry a Photon Micro-Light when I go shopping for fine art papers. The UV Micro-Light is available in a variety of models, but be careful, some Micro-Lights have push on, push off modes which sometimes accidentally turns it on in a pocket when it pushes against keys and things, resulting in a fully drained battery when you need it. Their UV Micro-Light I has a simple push on, release off mechanism that reduces this problem. Another nice feature of the Micro-Lights is that a range of accessories such as lanyards and magnetic clips are available for mounting the lights in interesting ways.

Example

Here is an example of a paper checked using Methods 2, 3 and 4.

Epson Proofing Paper measured with a Spectrolino equipped with the D65 filter, L*a*b* values calculated using the 1931 2 degree observer with a D65 illuminant gives L* = 95.52 a* = -1.25 b* = 1.11. With a positive b* value you might conclude that there is no brightener in the paper. Graphing the spectral measurements made with a Spectrolino with a D65 filter and with a UV Cut filter shows that there is brightener present.

Using the UV Micro-Light on this paper showed a definite blue color, corroborating the spectral measurements.

Recommended Papers and Media

The following table lists papers and media which have been tested to be free of optical brighteners. The CIECAM02 coordinates are listed as a guide to the color of the media. The J value is an indicator of lightness. The ac value represents the opponent axis magenta-green; +ac is magenta, -ac is green. The bc value represents the yellow-blue opponent axis; +bc is yellow, -bc is blue.

Company Line Paper D65
J ac bc
BF Inkjet Fine Art Paper FT-315 Fine Art Textured - Natural White 315 gsm 95.94 0.07 3.23
  ST-280 Soft Touch - Natural White 280 gsm 95.81 0.09 2.64
    PGW-300 Photo Art Warm Tone Glossy 300 gsm 95.93 0.24 2.85
Canon Fine Art Paper Fine Art Watercolor Paper 250 gsm 98.25 0.03 3.04
Fine Art Natural 230 gsm 97.03 0.44 3.45
Proofing Paper Commercial RC Proofing Paper 210 gsm 98.70 -0.41 2.30
Commercial RC Proofing Paper 270 gsm 98.22 -0.22 2.67
Sign/Banner Media Tyvek Banner 10 mil 99.43 -0.22 0.72
Canson Infinity Mi-Teintes 170 gsm 95.24 -0.58 3.32
Montval Aquarelle 310 gsm 96.26 -0.43 3.77
Arches Aquarelle 240 gsm 97.02 -0.15 1.55
Rag Photographique 210 gsm 97.01 0.01 0.59
Edition Etching Rag 310 gsm 97.22 0.06 1.07
Arches Velin Museum Rag 250 gsm 97.16 -0.15 1.83
B F K Rives 310 gsm 97.40 -0.08 2.12
Crane & Co. Museo Museo Silver Rag 300 gsm 96.29 -0.26 1.38
(now produced by
Intellicoat Technologies)
Museo Maestro Water Resistant Gloss Canvas 97.63 -0.70 -0.37
    Museo Portfolio Rag 300 gsm 97.01 -0.17 1.24
    Museo Max 365 gsm 97.00 -0.09 1.69
    Museo II 250 gsm 96.79 -0.24 1.83
Epson Fine Art Paper UltraSmooth Fine Art Paper 250 gsm 96.77 -0.14 2.25
  UltraSmooth Fine Art Paper 325 gsm 96.97 -0.03 2.74
    UltraSmooth Fine Art Paper 500 gsm 97.19 0.02 2.57
    Textured Fine Art Paper 225 gsm 96.21 0.03 2.66
    Textured Fine Art Paper 425 gsm 96.96 -0.08 2.88
    Canvas 91.55 -0.15 2.50
    PremierArt Water Resistant Canvas for Epson 94.78 -0.66 1.35
    Piezo Pro Matte Canvas for Epson 92.99 -0.38 1.43
 Hahnemühle Fineart William Turner 310 gsm 95.33 0.15 1.58
    Natural Art Duo 216 gsm 95.40 -0.07 2.06
    Museum Etching 350 gsm 96.05 0.21 2.17
Lumijet Photo Art 210 gsm 95.21 -0.09 2.32
Masters Canvas 350 gsm 94.75 -0.69 1.30
Hewlett-Packard Fine Art Paper Hahnemühle Textured Fine Art 265 gsm 95.25 0.24 2.04
Hahnemühle Watercolor 210 gsm 94.77 0.00 2.61
HP Aquarella Art 240 gsm 95.45 -0.37 2.53
HP Matte Litho-realistic 94.45 -0.12 2.61
IntelliCoat Technologies Magiclée Verona 250HD Fine Art Paper 96.78 -0.26 1.17
Verona 300 RAG Fine Art Paper 97.14 -0.23 1.41
Novara Backlit Film 90.79 -2.76 4.13
FAB-6 Polyester Fabric 92.13 -1.22 -0.58
Moab   Entrada rag natural 190 gsm 96.00 -0.18 1.52
  Entrada rag natural 300 gsm 97.29 -0.48 2.10
Strathmore Watercolor 95.82 0.17 4.07
Illustration Board 94.25 -0.22 1.49
Acrylic 96.94 -0.06 3.36
Superior Specialties Wide Format Media SS 180M 97.87 -1.01 -0.38
Yupo Plastic paper 96.89 0.12 2.82

Not Recommended Papers and Media

The following papers and media have been tested and found to contain optical brighteners. They are not recommended for fine art use.

Company Line Paper D65
J ac bc
BF Inkjet Fine Art Paper UC-315 Ultrasmooth Cotton - Radiant White 315 gsm 96.30 1.29 -2.30
    ST-315 Soft Touch - Natural White 315 gsm 95.71 0.91 0.01
    PG-300 Photo Art Glossy 300 gsm 95.49 1.09 -8.79
    PM-280 Photo Art Matte 280 gsm 95.37 1.79 -10.63
    PL-300 Photo Art Luster 300 gsm 94.99 0.92 -10.85
  Legacy C-10 Premium Art Giclee Canvas All Cotton 95.28 0.05 -0.60
    C-11 Premium Art Giclee Canvas Satin 96.01 0.71 -1.08
    MC-12.1 Premium Waterfast Art Giclee Canvas Matte 95.95 1.01 -6.41
    CG-15.2 Premium Art Giclee Canvas Glossy 92.23 1.01 -6.32
  Grand Photographer PC-11 Premium Digital Photo Canvas Satin 92.97 -0.56 -1.67
    PC-12.1 Premium Waterfast Digital Photo Canvas Matte 94.36 0.53 -4.98
    PC-15.2 Premium Digital Photo Canvas Glossy 93.08 0.17 -3.43
  Art Weave AW 1.0 Digital Watercolor Paper Eggshell 92.98 0.36 -5.64
    AW 2.0 Digital Watercolor Paper Matte 92.92 0.15 -6.63
Canon Fine Art Paper Graphic Matte Canvas (Hi Brite) 17 mil 95.09 1.81 -8.42
Fine Art Water-Resistant Canvas 24 mil 93.83 1.93 -4.25
Photo Rag by Hahnemühle 188 gsm 97.48 0.74 0.95
Photo Rag by Hahnemühle 308 gsm 96.06 1.13 0.42
Photo Rag by Hahnemühle 460 gsm 96.16 1.90 -3.44
German Etching by Hahnemühle 310 gsm 96.28 1.08 2.05
Fine Art Enhanced Velvet 225 gsm 98.54 0.88 -0.99
Fine Art Enhanced Velvet 255 gsm 98.20 0.74 -1.04
Fine Art Enhanced Velvet 505 gsm 97.20 0.65 -1.81
Fine Art Bright White 230 gsm 98.12 3.09 -11.17
Fine Art Bright White 330 gsm 98.06 3.17 -11.14
Bond/CAD Paper Economy Bond Paper 75 gsm 96.13 1.32 -14.32
Universal Bond Paper 90 gsm 92.46 2.60 -17.76
Matte Coated Paper 90 gsm 96.36 1.85 -12.99
Premium Coated Paper 120 gsm 95.28 2.48 -11.30
Heavyweight Coated Paper 140 gsm 94.48 3.62 -13.71
Matte Coated Paper 170 gsm 95.56 1.95 -11.65
Photographic Paper Semi-Gloss Paper 150 gsm 94.28 2.60 -6.88
Premium Super-Gloss 180 gsm 95.52 0.09 -5.38
Glossy Photographic Paper 190 gsm 95.66 -0.49 -4.07
Satin Photographic Paper 190 gsm 96.04 -0.51 -5.17
Premium Matte Paper 210 gsm 95.26 0.52 -1.70
Heavyweight Matte-Coated Paper 230 gsm 94.54 2.09 -12.17
Glossy Photographic Paper 240 gsm 96.26 -0.94 -5.73
Satin Photographic Paper 240 gsm 96.65 -0.84 -7.12
Premium Bright Photo Glossy Paper 260 gsm 95.38 1.41 -13.93
Premium Bright Photo Satin Paper 260 gsm 96.28 1.84 -12.90
Heavyweight Glossy Photographic Paper 300 gsm 94.85 -1.34 -6.36
Heavyweight Satin Photographic Paper 300 gsm 94.92 -0.88 -6.39
Universal Glossy Paper 7.8 mil 91.60 2.19 -13.46
Premium RC Photo Luster 10 mil 94.25 -0.68 -5.00
Premium RC Photogloss 10 mil 94.42 -1.01 -4.36
Premium RC Photomatte 10 mil 94.37 -0.83 -4.21
Commercial Proofing Grade 185 gsm 91.94 0.92 1.94
Commercial Proofing Grade 200 gsm 96.40 1.50 -4.97
Premium Proofing Paper 250 gsm 98.69 -0.43 2.30
Sign/Banner Media Removeable Banner Vinyl 7.5 mil 94.23 2.92 -10.14
Adhesive Matte Vinyl 11 mil 93.65 2.32 -14.10
Banner Vinyl 15 mil 93.40 1.94 -12.63
Canson Infinity PhotoSatin Premium RC 270 gsm 94.64 0.77 -12.34
PhotoGloss Premium RC 270 gsm 94.24 0.89 -11.99
Epson Photographic Paper Premium Luster Photo Paper 95.47 -0.97 -7.88
  Premium Semimatte Photo Paper 95.21 -0.89 -7.51
    Premium Glossy Photo Paper 93.06 -1.20 -6.03
  Coated Paper Photo Semigloss Paper 94.47 -0.82 -6.57
    Photo Glossy Paper 94.54 -0.92 -6.49
    Semigloss Paper Heavyweight 90.59 3.36 -13.65
    Glossy Paper Heavyweight 96.19 1.45 -6.97
    Posterboard Semigloss 90.87 3.53 -12.97
    Enhanced Matte Paper 95.62 1.18 -10.74
    Enhanced Matte Posterboard 95.58 1.19 -9.86
    Doubleweight Matte Paper 91.92 1.94 -9.55
    Singleweight Matte Paper 92.71 1.90 -11.25
    Presentation Matte Paper 92.81 2.59 -13.23
    Photo Quality Ink Jet Paper 92.20 2.10 -11.40
    Watercolor Paper - Radiant White 94.78 1.90 -5.11
  Proofing Paper Proofing Paper Commercial Semimatte 93.77 -1.70 1.21
   Fine Art Paper Somerset Velvet for Epson 255 gsm 96.97 0.46 -2.32
    Somerset Velvet for Epson 505 gsm 96.81 0.26 -1.24
    Velvet Fine Art Paper 97.09 0.83 -3.30
  Signage Media Enhanced Adhesive Synthetic Paper 93.08 1.52 -10.98
    Adhesive Vinyl 94.05 -1.07 -1.38
Hahnemuehle Lumijet Photo White 270 gsm 96.76 1.83 -7.82
  Photo White Satin 280 gsm 96.91 1.97 -7.97
    White Velvet 270 gsm 96.40 0.80 -1.20
    Museum Parchment 210 gsm 95.79 1.27 -4.13
    Glossy Two Sides 265 gsm 95.11 -0.82 -8.03
    Genuine Pearl II 255 gsm 93.10 -1.17 -6.10
    Ultra Gloss II 255 gsm 92.86 -1.35 -6.26
    Matte Two Sides 180 gsm 93.23 3.40 -12.18
   Fineart Torchon 285 gsm 96.02 1.48 -4.65
    Photo Rag Satin 310 gsm 95.37 0.99 -0.44
    Photo Rag Bright White 310 gsm 96.07 1.77 -5.98
    Photo Rag 308 gsm 95.90 0.75 -0.42
    German Etching 310 gsm 96.63 0.52 0.46
    Fine Art Pearl 285 gsm 97.52 1.96 -8.57
Hewlett-Packard Fine Art Paper Hahnemühle Smooth Fine Art 95.35 0.44 0.87
HP Canvas Paper 92.13 1.81 -14.10
Fine Art Canvas HP Collector Satin Canvas 93.40 0.92 -4.31
HP Professional Matte Canvas 96.26 1.38 -7.31
HP Artist Matte Canvas 94.49 1.37 -8.46
HP Universal Matte Canvas 94.10 1.13 -7.70
Photographic Paper HP Professional Satin Photo 93.86 1.16 -8.22
HP Premium Instant-dry Gloss Photo 92.45 -2.12 -3.62
HP Premium Instant-dry Satin Photo 91.59 -2.45 -4.10
Proofing Paper HP Professional Hi-gloss Contract Proofing 94.33 0.77 -7.32
HP Professional Semi-gloss Contract Proofing 94.87 0.87 -6.98
HP Proofing Matte 92.40 1.30 -11.90
InteliCoat Technologies Magiclée Torino 17M Canvas 94.38 1.13 -6.20
Torino 20M Canvas 94.85 1.30 -7.45
Torino 20S Canvas 92.24 1.38 -0.45
Torino 21G Canvas 95.40 0.41 -1.14
Palermo White Film 92.17 1.82 -12.57
Siena 200L PSA Photobase 93.75 -0.38 -7.66
Siena 250L Photobase 94.74 -0.90 -7.92
Firenze 170 Matte Paper 94.60 1.90 -10.84
Mural Pro Vinyl 95.17 0.44 -3.65
Moab   Colorado fiber gloss 245 95.00 1.11 -8.76
  Colorado fiber satine 245 94.80 0.92 -7.97
    Lasal photo gloss 270 93.92 -1.35 -6.16
    Lasal photo luster 270 93.67 -1.33 -8.17
    Lasal photo matte 235 94.44 1.36 -11.81
    Anasazi canvas premium matte 350 97.24 1.15 -8.03
    Somerset enhanced velvet 225 96.96 0.12 -1.13
    Somerset enhanced textured 225 96.90 0.44 -1.24
    Entrada rag bright 190 97.05 1.70 -10.23
    Entrada rag bright 300 97.96 2.14 -10.52
Strathmore Vellum Bristol 94.00 1.46 -0.96
Smooth Bristol 93.86 1.50 -0.01
Canvas 91.25 0.50 7.30
Textured 94.61 1.02 -4.83
Superior Specialties Wide Format Media SS 120 gsm Paper 95.80 2.26 -11.61
SS 450 Scrim Banner 18 mil 92.98 0.59 -4.20
SS 180S - Semi Gloss 96.58 1.18 -6.98
SS 180G - Gloss 95.42 1.77 -10.70
SS 5545 Scrim Banner 86.40 0.19 -17.14
SS 2330 Polyester Scrim Banner 92.61 1.11 -8.39
High Gloss Backlit Polyester 83.44 -0.64 -1.65
1212 9 oz. Mesh 91.47 0.21 -2.85
BLO0040 13 oz. Block Out 86.18 -1.54 -11.64
C0810M - Matte Cold Overlam Film 85.13 0.58 -7.93

Updated 26.1.2016

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