Photography and Art

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Museo Papers

Over the past six months or so, I've been using Ilford Galerie Gold Silk paper for my prints. I bought a roll for my Epson 4880 printer and I've been very happy with the results once I'd purchased a D-roller (see to remove the curl from the paper.

Every now and then, I get a hankering to try some new paper to see if the champ can be dethroned. I'd heard of some paper that was cotton rag based (instead of wood fibre like the Ilford paper) and could be used with photo black ink due to a special coating. For the uninitiated, one of the endearing "features" of the Epson 4880 is its ability to print with photo black inks or matte black inks, but never at the same time. Switching from one ink to another is a HUGE deal and consumes over $50 worth of ink. You don't want to do that too often! Cotton rage paper is prized for its long life and wonderful feel to the touch. Of course, you don't often get to handle a print once it's framed, but it is nice to handle cotton rag when you're feeding paper into the printer and admiring the prints as they come out. A cotton rag paper that can be used with photo black ink sounds like a dream too good to be true.

The paper in question is Museo Silver Rag. Museo is a small company that developed a special coating for Crane cotton rag paper. Originally, the product was called Crane Museo Silver Rag, but for some reason, the Museo company now buys the cotton rag paper from Crane, covers one side with a special coating and sells it under its own Museo brand.

The Silver Rag paper is quite similar in appearance to Ilford Galerie Gold Silk. The Museo paper is a little bit creamier in colour and seems to have ever so slightly more sheen to the surface. The back of the paper is definitely cotton rag and has a soft texture to it. The front has a satin gloss to it due to its proprietary coating.

The Ilford paper is wood fibre based, although harmful lignens have been removed to increase longevity. The back is very smooth and card-like. The front has a satin look with a very subdued sheen. It has that distinctive Baryta smell. As I mentioned, the Ilford paper is slightly whiter than the Museo.

Here's the test print:

I chose it because it presents a real challenge to these papers due to the details in the shadows. Have a look at the top left of the anchor bay and see how there's a red rust streak that runs right through the dark shadow area. This seems to be a particularly difficult part of the image for these papers to reproduce.

And the winner and champion is...Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. By a large margin. The Ilford paper managed to dig the detail out of the shadows faithfully. The Museo paper couldn't. The rust was obliterated with black. Before you jump to conclusions, I faithfully followed manufacturer's instructions and used the correct ICC profiles supplied by Ilford and Museo. Neither print was abnormally dark or light. When viewed from a distance, there was virtually no difference between the two prints. It was only when you looked at the shadow detail up close that you could detect a substantial difference.

And here's the kicker: the Ilford paper is nearly half the price of the Museo paper. A roll of Museo paper costs over $200 in Toronto versus $100 for the Ilford paper. Of course, you get 50 feet of Museo paper versus 40 feet of Ilford paper, but that's still a large price differential.

My favorite paper still rules!

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