For the contemporary fine art photographer paper selection is one of the most personal of choices to be made. Issues of gloss vs matte, texture, whiteness, archival characteristics – all are worthy of consideration, and will vary, depending on the type of image and its anticipated use.
In mid-January, 2006 I received a 17" roll test sample ofCrane Museo Silver Rag. This paper was previewed atPhoto Plus Expoin October, 2005, and will be formally introduced at thePMAshow in Orlando in late February, 2006.
I will have a full review here at that time, written by contributorPete Myers, who has been working with Silver Rag for some weeks. But, I couldn’t resist telling you a little about this paper, hopefully without stealing too much of Pete’s thunder.
Look and Feel
Silver Rag pretty much has the look and feel of a traditional "N" type fiber based photographic paper. By this I mean that it is smooth, without being shiny. Silver Rag has a weight of 300 gsm. It is 15 mils thick (0.015"). It will be avialable in rolls (17", 24", 44", and 50") and also sheets (8.5 x 11, 13 x 19, 17 x 22,
The surface texture is smooth, though with a very slight stipple, but it has no "tooth" to speak of.
Here’s the interesting thing, which you may have already gathered from the product’s name. This is a rag paper, not resin coated. But, it is designed for use with gloss inks, such as the gloss black in Epson’s K3 Ultrachrome printers. The paper is 100% cotton, acid free, and contains no fluorescent whiteners. This means that it has excellent archival characteristics, especially when used in combination with pigment based inks. A rag paper for use with glossy photo-black ink.Hummm!
Silver Rag has a slight ivory colour to it, not dissimilar to other rag papers without brighteners. But the paper doesn’t really come to life until you print a B&W image on it. Then one is gobsmacked by the look. It is simply lovely. I can only describe it as the closest thing that I’ve yet seen to a platinum print from an inkjet printer. The whites positively glow, and have a range of tonalities through the upper quarter-tones that I’ve not yet seen from any inkjet paper, rag or resin coated.
Colour prints are also lovely, if you like a somewhat warm paper. Of course the warmth is not an issue on the image itself since the use of a proper profile ameliorates the paper surface’s contribution to neutrality, but the paper surface itself in the surrounding white area will contribute to the overall appearance of the image.
I was also very impressed with the depth of the blacks. This is one of the paper’s outstanding features. Compared to typical matte surface rag papers there is a huge increase in Dmax. This makes it possible to achieve a depth of black tonalities and tonal separation in the lower quarter-tones that no other rag paper that I’ve yet seen can offer. There are glossy and semi gloss papers that produce similar Dmax, but the problem there is that they are eitherveryglossy (and thus one is fighting reflections), or they are semi-matte, in which case there is that nasty surface texture to contend with.
Incidentally – my testing was done on an Epson 4800 using Ultrachrome K3 inks, and thePhatte Blacksystem with theImageprint 6.1 RIP. This produced a slight amount of gloss differential, which I expect would not appear using the standard Epson K3 inks system, which includesLight Light Black.
Pete Myers report appearing here at the end of February will tell the tale of this paper in greater detail. But if you’re a fine art printer looking for a new paper that has the look of traditional fiber prints, and a tonality in B&W printing similar to Platinum,Crane Museo Silver Ragmay be the paper for you. My 17" test roll is almost used up, and I can’t wait till the paper becomes commercially available so that I can start printing with it in earnest.