Iím getting totally fed up at this point with the shoddy quality control that inkjet paper manufacturers seem to have with their papers, and am somewhat surprised that more hasnít been written on the subject. For me it mostly concerns debris in the form of black or gray specks embedded in either the paper base or the coating, or less frequently, other types of debris like brown fibers. Currently Iím having problems with Inkpress Warm Tone Baryta (manufactured for Inkpress by Sihl), Cone Studio Type 5 (which seems to be the same as the Inkpress paper), and Canson Platine Fiber Rag. In the past, I had problems with Museo Silver Rag and Hahnemuehle Photo Rag Baryta. The defects arenít on only a few sheets in the box, but usually a third to half or more of the sheets will have at least one speck. This requires me to spend an enormous amount of time examining each sheet before I print on it. If I discover any specks, I then have to decide if I can ďsaveĒ the sheet. I can print on the sheet If thereís only one speck and itís near the edge because it will be trimmed off. If thereís one or two light specks, they can usually be hidden under the image, but first I have to choose the right image to print (usually one that has a lot of dark area), and then decide how to orient the paper relative to the image so that dark areas of the image hide the specks, not light areas like skies. If the speck is dark and located away from the edge, or if there are many specks, then I canít print on the sheet. Sometimes Iíll miss a speck on an unprinted sheet, only to discover it later after it is printed. Then the print has to be discarded and Iíve wasted ink, paper, and time. Having to examine every sheet makes it almost impossible to use roll paper because of the difficulty of unrolling a length, examining it, and then rolling it back up. And then if I find any defects, I have to try to manage to cut off the defective area. Examining every sheet and then trying to figure out a strategy to save sheets with defects is all very time consuming.
Returning the defective paper to the dealer or manufacturer doesnít necessarily solve the problem. In the case of the Hahnemuehle Photo Rag Baryta, I returned one box that had a lot of defective sheets to the dealer. He sent me a replacement, but the replacement was just as bad. So I returned it and got a refund. I used to use a fair amount of Museo Silver Rag, but stopped using it because of debris in the paper and other QC issues. I was using sheets in 17Ēx22Ē and 24Ē rolls. Museo sent a 24Ē replacement roll which still had a fair amount of debris. Then they sent me a replacement for the replacement which still had problems. I managed to make prints on the Silver Rag by working around the debris as best as I could using the techniques I mentioned earlier. I unrolled the 24Ē roll and cut it into sheets trying to avoid the specks. Museo has since changed paper manufacturers (I believe they initially used Crane paper), so maybe the quality is better. Thereís always a question though as to whether the debris is in the paper base (fault of the paper manufacturer) or in the coating (fault of whoever coats the paper).
After abandoning Silver Rag, I switched to Canson Platine Fiber Rag. When I first started using it I had no problems with it at all. Totally clean. So much so that I would never even look at the paper - Iíd just put it in the printer and print. Then, later batches started showing specks. Not on one or two sheets per box, but at least one speck on a third or half or more of the sheets. Canson sent me two replacement boxes. These seemed to be from the same batch and still had problems. I just recently received another replacement box from Canson from their newest batch. A significant improvement with only 1 speck on each of 5 sheets out of a 25 sheet box.
Cone Studio Type 5 was fine when I first started using it, but is now starting to show debris. I just bought a 13x19 box of Inkpress Warm Tone Baryta, which is manufactured for Inkpress by Sihl and seems to be the same paper as the Cone Type 5. 10 sheets in the 25 sheet box are OK, the other 15 have at least 1 speck on each sheet. A lot of sheets have multiple specks. Some of the specks are on the back of the sheet, which means itís in the paper base. But since itís on the back it doesnít affect printing. Some specks are on the front, but I canít determine whether they too are in the paper base, or in the coating.
Most of these papers are cotton. Iíve been told that some amount of debris is to be expected because it comes from cotton seed particles when the paper is made from cotton linters. But the amount of debris Iím seeing is excessive. Also, I not sure all of it is in the paper base. Some specks appear on the back, so theyíre in the paper base. Some specks are only visible if you hold the paper up to the light but arenít visible once you look at the front surface. These are in the paper base. Some specks are grayish and have a hazy appearance, so they might be in the paper close to the surface but just below the coating. Some specks are black and very sharp. These may be in the coating itself. Iíve had occasional success in digging out a speck with the point of a pin. Most specks are buried too deeply, so this doesnít work. But occasionally a speck is close enough to the surface (probably in the coating) that I can get it out with a pin. The cotton theory however, doesnít work with the Inkpress Warm Tone Baryta. As far as I can tell, this paper is made with alpha cellulose from wood pulp, not cotton. It seems to be the same paper as Cone Studio Type 5, but Cone says his paper is 100% cotton.
When I started digital printing in the early 2000s I used a lot of Hahnemuehle Photo Rag 308. Bought it in 27Ēx34Ē sheets and cut it down to sizes I needed to print on. I donít ever remember seeing any kind of debris in the paper. (Except twice, a mosquito apparently landed on the paper while it was being coated and got smashed flat on the paper). There were problems with flaking, but that is more easily dealt with. Now it seems the paper manufacturing and/or coating processes have deteriorated. The situation doesnít seem to have changed much since Ctein wrote this article 3 years ago: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/04/theyre-selling-us-crap-paper.html
Attached are some photos showing some of these specks. 1-4 are on Inkpress Warm Tone Baryta, #5 is on Canson Platine Fiber Rag. 1- Typical speck, light gray and slightly hazy. Can usually be hidden in the image. 2 and 3 - Larger pieces of debris. 4 - A blob and smaller piece of debris 3.5Ē apart on one sheet. 5 - Typical dark speck, sharp, probably near the surface in the coating. Hard to hide in the image.