Forum Login

Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper

The paper scene heats up again

Background

One of the pleasures of digital printing is the wide number of papers available. Compared to the days of the chemical darkroom we have an abundance of riches, and of course a few lumps of coal mixed in as well.

That's the good news. But as the old joke has it, there's also bad news, and that is that paper choice is highly subjective, and there isn't enough money or time in the day for most photographers to try all of the paper alternatives that have become available. Each type is available in a number of different surfaces, weights, brightness, whitenesses (if there is such a word) and from a multiplicity of vendors.

Till recently the world of inkjet printing papers really boiled down though to the two main types – matte and photo, and from there various sub-genres. Matte papers are considered fine-art papers. They are made from cotton rag or alpha-celulouse, have surfaces ranging from rough to sort-of-smooth, and generally use the printer's matte black ink. So-called Photo papers are either glossy or semi-gloss, and have a plastic base (similar to RC {resin coated} chemical papers).

Matte papers have a very appealing tactility. In other words they feel good to the hand, especially the heavier weight ones. This is important to fine art photographers, especially when prints are handled in a gallery setting or are part of a portfolio. They are more of an objet d'art as a consequence, with a similar esthetic to other paper-based art forms such as watercolours or pastels.

The downside of matte papers is that they have a lower d-Max (blackness of the blacks) and less saturated colours than do prints made on Photo papers. It's simply inherent in the nature of the paper. Photo papers with their plastic base are able to take a much glossier black ink and because of their smoother surface and higher reflectivity look more "photographic" in a traditional sense. Which type you prefer very much depends on your application. Prints shot for a model's "book" will want to be glossy, while prints for a fine art portfolio will likely want to be on matte paper. The mid-ground with semi-matte or semi-gloss papers is a compromise adopted by some. These papers use photo black ink and thus have a high d-Max but a less shiny and reflective surface than do glossy papers.

There are some fine-art photographers who prefer to print on these papers because of what they regard as their higher image quality, and they argue that once the print is framed and behind glass or acrylic the "feel" of the paper becomes irrelevant. They have a point.


Early October – Toronto. October, 2007
Canon 5D with 24-105mm L IS @ ISO 400

____________________________________________________________________________________

New Papers – Round One

In 2006 several new papers were introduced that tried to break this paradigm. These included Crane Museo Silver Rag, Innova F-Type FibaPrint and Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl. Their raison d'etre was to provide inkjet printers with a paper that emulated traditional air-dried F surface photographic paper. Each of these papers had its appeal, but none ultimately was a run-away success, and indeed were scorned by many. You can read more about these in an article done for this site by Richard Lohmann titled The Surface of Things.

Round Two, which has just begun in mid-2007 was launched with the introduction of Harmon Gloss FB AI. I was involved with Harman during the early stages of specifying this paper, and tested it at length earlier this year. Richard Lohmann contributed a review of this new paper here last month and I concur with Richard, this is one of the most appealing papers yet.

As this is being written in early October, 2007, Hahnemuhle has just started shipping FineArt Baryta 325. This is that company's round two entry. I expect to have a report on this paper in the weeks ahead, but given Hahnemuhle's preeminent position in the industry, and track record, it is likely to be a very appealing paper indeed.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper

All of this has been but preamble to the introduction today (Oct 8, 2007) of an important new paper from Epson – Exhibition Fiber Paper (EFP). According to Epson America's Marketing Manager Dan Steinhardt, EFP has been in development since early 2005. It is Epson's attempt at creating an inkjet paper that emulates as closely as possible a traditional air dried F surface gloss photographic paper.

EFP is a 325 gsm paper and as such has a real heft to it, comparable to a double weight paper in days of yore. The surface is smooth, but with an ultra-fine stipple that adds a sheen and which obviously helps produce a high degree of reflectivity. This produces, I am told (since I have not yet done any densitometry readings) a dMax that has been measured as greater than 2.5, which makes it among the "blackest" paper yet produced, easily exceeding the tonal range of traditional chemical papers.

Epson Exhibition Fiber will become available in November in sheet form only; 8.5X11", 13X19", 17X22", and 24X30" and will be priced similar to other premium fiber papers. The absence of roll paper sizes is curious, particularly give the paper's likely constituency. My guess is that this is because of the paper's stiffness, discussed below.

____________________________________________________________________________________

First Impressions

I tested the paper primarily using an Epson 3800 printer with an early release of an Epson-made profile, as well as one I created myself using a Gretag Macbeth Eye One spectrophotometer. Profiles for other Epson Ultrachrome K3 ink printers will be available on the Epson web site once the paper starts shipping.

Of course how colours are reproduced will very much be determined by the quality of the profile. I found the profile provided by Epson to be very good, and when I tried a profile created by Bill Atkinson on the new Epson 11880 printer, the results were outstanding. (Yes – I have an 11880 for testing. More about this in the days ahead).

The paper's whiteness is quite neutral, neither too blue nor too yellow. Compared to Harmon Gloss FB it is noticeably whiter and brighter though. Whether this is a "good thing" or not is a matter of taste. To my eye, I find the Harmon to be a bit more pleasing for fine art print reproduction, but on the other hand Harmon prints seem a bit less punchy as a consequence.

Consequently, prints on Exhibition Fiber produce very clean and neutral whites within images, especially monochrome ones. The paper uses Photo Black ink and Epson recommends setting ones printer for Premium Luster Photo Paper 260, 2280 dpi, and with a paper thickness adjustment of 5.

That Exhibition Fiber is only available in cut sheets and not roll sizes may be as a consequence of the paper's inherent stiffness. It's too early to tell, but in large sheets it feels less able to bend than do comparable papers such as Harmon FB. The net of this is that there will be no struggling with decurling large prints, and this will also be an advantage as large cut sheets will display very little curl, making matting that much easier.

My initial testing was somewhat limited because I only had a small sample, and only in a small size. But I expect to do a lot more printing on Epson Exhibition Fiber in the days ahead and will have much more to say about it as my testing continues. This is an important new paper, and along with the new offerings from Harmon and Hahnemuhle it is pointing in an exciting new direction for anyone doing fine art printing.

October, 2007

____________________________________________________________________________________

Epson Press Release

EPSON REDEFINES THE TRUE ESSENCE OF CREATING “SIGNATURE WORTHY” PRINTS
WITH LAUNCH OF ITS HIGHLY ANTICIPATED EXHIBITION FIBER PAPER

New Fiber-Based Technology Delivers Look and Feel of Revered Darkroom Paper
with the Creative Benefits Epson Ink Jet Printers Offer in Both Color and Black-and-White

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Oct. 8, 2007 – Epson America Inc. today announced what many professional photographers are saying is the perfect blend of revered darkroom papers with the limitless creative control of ink jet printing with the introduction of its Signature Worthy™ Exhibition Fiber Paper. The paper will be available in 25-sheet packages of 8.5”x 11,” 13”x 19,” 17”x 22,” and 24”x 30” cut sheets.

This breakthrough paper was developed over several years in collaboration with many of the industry’s leading professional photographers to meet their most discerning requirements. Many who have contributed to the development of Exhibition Fiber Paper have commented that what sets it apart are its extraordinary blacks, clean whites and a surface texture that is just like a true black-and-white silver gelatin print. Additionally, Exhibition Fiber Paper produces extraordinary color output enabling photographers to make stunning prints in both color and black-and-white.

Testimonials from Leading Professional Photographers

“All I’ve been hearing for the last five years is that there’s a true fiber-based ink jet paper coming just like F surface air dried,” said Vincent Versace, fine art photographer and educator. “I’ve seen them all, I've printed on all of them, and I was still waiting until I printed on Epson’s Exhibition Fiber. Not only does the paper look like F surface air dried, but some of my images actually look better than they do on silver gelatin. To say the D-Max is amazing is an understatement. The whites are significantly cleaner and brighter than anything I’ve printed on, which means I can tone digitally in the computer with extraordinary precision and I am not locked into a manufacturer’s one tone. With Exhibition Fiber I’m getting details in deep blacks that I have never had before and overall this paper produces black-and-white prints that you literally fall into.”

“My black-and-white prints are amazing on this paper and the color is better than anything I have ever seen,” said Greg Gorman, well-known personality photographer and workshop leader. “When I saw my first print on Exhibition Fiber there was a 3-dimensionality to my color work that I haven’t seen with any paper before. For the first time I can use one paper that looks amazing in both color and black-and-white.”

More About Exhibition Fiber Paper

As part of an ongoing collaboration with creative professionals to produce the highest quality prints, Epson has partnered with the Pixel Genius™ group, a unique collaboration of industry-leading digital workflow experts, to produce custom color profiles for use with the new Exhibition Fiber Paper. The custom profiles will be available for download October 15 at www.pixelgenius.com/epson, along with valuable information on their use and how to optimize a color managed workflow.

“The print is in many ways the ultimate expression of photography,” said Dan (Dano) Steinhardt, marketing manager, Professional Imaging, Epson America. “Printmaking has a long-standing tradition that when the highest quality is achieved, the print is then worthy of the artist’s signature. Many of the world’s leading professional photographers are telling us that Epson’s Exhibition Fiber Paper is truly, Signature Worthy.”
More information about Exhibition Fiber Paper can be found at www.proimaging.epson.com.

Availability

Exhibition Fiber Paper will be available in November through authorized Epson Professional Imaging resellers.

About Epson America Inc.

Epson offers an extensive array of award-winning image capture and image output products for the consumer, business, photography and graphic arts markets. The company is also a leading supplier of value-added point-of-sale (POS) printers and transactions terminals for the retail market. Founded in 1975, Epson America Inc. is the U.S. affiliate of Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation, a global manufacturer and supplier of high-quality technology products that meet customer demands for increased functionality, compactness, systems integration and energy efficiency. Epson America, Inc. is headquartered in Long Beach, Calif.

# # #

Filed Under:  

show page metadata

Concepts: Inkjet printer, Printing, Paper, Hewlett-Packard, Seiko Epson, Photography, Seiko, Seiko Group

Entities: LONG BEACH, Epson America Inc., Epson America, Inc., Seiko Epson Corporation, Crane, dMax, POS, Pixel Geniusu2122 group, energy efficiency, Michael Reichmann, Hahnemuhle, Harmon, Richard Lohmann, Harman, Dan (Dano) Steinhardt, Dan Steinhardt, well-known personality photographer, Richard, Bill Atkinson, Vincent Versace, Calif., Calif

Tags: paper, Exhibition Fiber, Epson, Exhibition Fiber Paper, Epson America, Epson Exhibition Fiber, prints, fine art, matte paper, Epson America Inc, new paper, black ink, photo paper, important new paper, photographic paper, Harmon Gloss FB, professional photographers, surface photographic paper, photo black ink, gloss photographic paper, profiles, appealing paper, chemical papers, double weight paper, Epson 3800 printer, paper alternatives, Epson 11880 printer, paper thickness adjustment, ink jet paper, Luster Photo Paper, The paper, paper choice, Japan-based Seiko Epson, Epson Professional Imaging, Epson web site, gsm paper, paper sizes, black-and-white prints, color, inkjet paper