Choosing the Right Paper to Print Your Digital Photos

Storm on Great Sand Dunes national park in Colorado in US. Black and White photo by Amar Guillen.
Storm in the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado in the U.S.

Tip #2: Use Different Types of Photo Paper

The choice of paper is crucial for quality printing.

Unfortunately, there is no universal paper. Everything will depend on the type of photo you are going to print and especially on your taste. You may like high-gloss, glossy, semi-glossy, or matte papers.

Maybe you like textured papers, or perhaps you prefer smooth papers.

The choice of paper types is large. I advise you to run some tests before making a final choice.

The same goes for the brands: Canon, Epson, Red River, Canson, and Hahnemühle are just a few of the many brands available. Assess some different ones to find out which one suits you best.

Personally, for my art photos I use the Canson brand. I use Baryta 310g paper. At first, I used this paper for my black and white prints. Since then, I have also adapted it for my color prints. On the black and white, there is a very slight yellow dominance that appears. I find it very tasteful. In a next paragraph, I will give you a tip to remove it if you so desire.

Each paper has its own characteristics and its own rendering. It is all a matter of taste and experimentation.

The appreciation of a paper is a matter of aesthetics and sensations.

It is possible to define the main criteria of appreciation as follows:

  • Hand or stiffness. The "hand" of a paper is called its rigidity: does it hold well in the hand? This depends not only on the weight of the paper (grammage) but also on its composition (fiber, cotton, cellulose, etc.). A strong handprint can sometimes be exposed without counter-gluing on its entire surface. A light flexible paper (e.g., 170 gr.) must be fully laminated or under glued. We do not want it to "curl" once the ink has been laid.
  • Touch. Touch is a physical sensation not without a certain sensuality. The touch of a paper depends on its composition, its surface state (textured, smooth, etc.) and its pressing. A paper can have a soft and silky touch, or on the contrary rough or abrasive.
  • The tone. There are of course "warm" and "cold" tone papers as well as glossy or matt papers.
    Without treatment, the tint of a paper is in principle a warm cased white which provides a feeling of softness and roundness.
    In black and white, warm papers produce grayish, sepia-like tones.
    Cold tone papers generally contain optical brighteners, they "glow" with whiteness and produce sharp, energetic, and bright images, which can seem cooler.

Among the Digigraphie approved fine art papers, for prints guaranteed one hundred years exposed and two hundred years archived, are the "Photo Rag", "Turner" and "Torchons" papers from Hahnemülhe, the "Canvas" from Epson and the Arches Velin, RAG Photographic and Fiber Rag from Canson.

These are papers that have a good hand, each with its own character of texture and tone and allow a wide range of aesthetic and technical possibilities.

For black and white, Canson Baryta 310g/m² or Hahnemühle Photo Rag Satin 310 g/m² provide a strong hand which is pleasant to feel and easy to work with for mounting and exposure.

I personally create fine art photos. For a final print, I always use fine art paper. The price of each sheet is high. But I expect nothing less from the results, for they are magnificent.

When I perform tests to make sure that the colorimetry or the rendering of each image is good, I use a more classic paper: the photo paper. I use Luster 240g paper. The price of a sheet is a third of the price of a fine art sheet.

Sometimes for a photo, I will print four to five sheets before finding the right balance in the shades.

That is why I advise you to use a photo paper for the test work and a fine art paper for the final print. Your photo paper budget will remain reasonable.

I do not advise you to buy cheap paper, such as one hundred sheets for ten dollars. The print rendering is not good. Moreover, the writing heads slip and may create smears or inconsistencies on the paper.

Once you have printed your photo(s) and are satisfied with your test runs, you can then request a print from a professional lab for a larger run.

Tip #3: Install the ICC Profile of Your Photo Paper on Your Computer

If you want to use fine art paper for your final prints, you are making a good choice. It guarantees that you will end up with high quality prints. These papers are more expensive than photo papers. But you will see the difference in quality for yourself.

When you use a fine art paper, the manufacturer provides you with the ICC profile of its paper on its website.

The acronym ICC comes from International Color Consortium. An ICC profile is a set of digital data that contains information about the range of colors that a device (monitor, printer...) can use.

For example, a monitor can display a wider range of colors than a printer can print. Thus, the ICC profile is the "translator".

If you do not use an ICC profile, the results you get from your printer will not be what you expect. The discrepancies will be most noticeable in the mid-tones and shadows.

A generic profile is a profile made for a combination of printer, ink, and paper. It is not designed for the printer to highlight the best features of your photo.

A custom profile is made specifically for your printer.

By using an ICC printer profile, you manage the color of your printer.

In order for the monitor to display the same colors as those that will be printed, it is necessary to create a profile for your monitor.

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My advice is to download and install it on your computer. This profile depends on your printer. For example, if you use a Canon Pro 200 printer and a Canson Baryta 310g paper, the manufacturer will provide a free ICC profile for your chosen paper and your model and make of printer.

This will allow you to make the most of the qualities of the paper. The result will be only the highest quality.

Finding the right ICC profile is quite easy. In the box that contains your paper, there is a notice that tells you the address to download the file and the installation instructions.

To install an ICC profile, just click on the file and the installation will take place automatically.

To use it with your development software, you must specify the name of the profile. In general, generic applications do not propose the application of an ICC profile for printing. That is why I recommend you use the applications or software delivered with your printer.

I guarantee that using a specific ICC profile for your paper and printer will ensure the best possible quality for your prints.

Tip #4: Save Your Print Settings

Once you have found the right settings for the test paper or the final paper, I advise you to save your settings.

These parameters concern colorimetry, luminosity, and contrast.

Most manufacturers provide an application or software to print. Currently, as I write this article, I prefer Canon printers. For one printer, which is a bit older, I use the Print Studio Pro software. For the other one, which is more recent, I use Print Canon Layout. The advantage of these free applications is that they allow you to adjust your settings perfectly. The generic applications are not as efficient. I strongly recommend that when you purchase a camera, seek out the software with which your printer is compatible, and vice versa. This ensures the highest quality.

Tip #5: Decrease the Brightness of Your Screen


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