Epson Velvet Paper

Along with the introduction in the spring of 2002 of theEpson 2200 (2100), 7600and9600printers and theirUltrachromepigment inks, Epson also introduced two new papers. The first,Enhanced Matte,is simplyArchival Mattewith a new name. The second,Velvet Fine Art Paperis brand new.

This is a heavy and stiff paper that is ideally suited to making — what else — fine art prints.

Thespecsare… a weight of 260g/m2, with 19 ml thickness. It has an ISO brightness of 94%, and opacity of 96%. It is made from 100% acid free cotton rag. It comes in two sizes; 8.5X11" and 13X19".

Three Women — Toronto, 2002

Leica M7 with Tri-Elmar @ 35mm. Fuji Sensia 200

Printing the Whiter Side

Epson advises that the proper side of the paper to print on is the "whiter side". Well, neither I nor anyone I’ve shown the paper to can see any real difference in whiteness between the print side and the back.

What I’ve found is that the best way to identify the print side is to rub the paper between the thumb and forefinger. The slightly rougher side is the print side.

Appearance

Samples of this paper were made available to dealers and reviewers several months before release. The paper that is now shipping is quite different. It is whiter and has a more prominent texture. Compared toArchival Matteit is a bit yellower, and of course has a slightly rougher texture.

The good news is that while the texture is visible, it doesn’t impinge on the image. In other words, it doesn’t impose itself on the subject of the image. This is one of the best fine art papers that I’ve yet seen for ink jet printing, and the fact that it’s optimized for Epson’s Ultrachrome inks is a bonus.

Feeding The Printer

You can not use this paper with the normal paper feed. You must use the manual rear feed on the rear of the 2200 printer. This is because of the thickness of the paper.

Here’s where Epson falls down (again) in supporting the Mac platform. Firstly, printing on thick paper fed through the manual feed slot is not supported under OS X. (Update:OS X 10.2 does support this now). Secondly, even under OS 9.2 there is no warning or advice when you discover that the paper setting for Velvet paper is grayed out and therefore unavailable. Epson apparently expects you to somehow intuit (or learn here) that Velvet paper is only available as a selection whenmanual feedis selected in the printer driver. On the PC if you select Velvet paper and the driver is not set to the manual feed slot a warning message pops up. What’s with Epson and the Mac? Their lack of full support is very narrow-sighted in my opinion given that a great many imaging pros are dedicated Mac-heads.

Note that there is a very specific procedure for loading paper through the rear manual feed slot, so be sure to read and follow the directions in the manual.

The Rub

While the heft and thickness of the paper is very appealing, and image quality when used withMatte Blackink is excellent, the real downside of this paper is its delicacy. Epson advises letting prints sit for 24 hours before handling or placing another print on top of them, but even after this length of time the surface is very delicate and susceptible to flecking and scuff marks.

This problem is accentuated whenMatte Black inkis used.

Few fine art papers are immune from this, but if you haven’t used such a paper before you need to be aware of this drawback.

Conclusion

If you like heavy textured fine art papers thatEpson Velvet Fine Artwill likely be your cup of tea. If you haven’t yet tried them then buy a package of 8.5X11"Velvetand give it a try — especially with Epson’sMatte Blackink on an Epson 2200.

I need to experiment a bit more, but I expect that I’ll be usingVelvetfrom now on for my exhibition prints. I’ll just have to be careful to guard against scuffing and abrasion between when the print emerges from the printer and delivery to my favourite framing shop.

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