Top five qualities of good photo paper

There are few things as disappointing as realizing that our images, which appeared so beautiful on the screen, are so lackluster when printed. Often, our first instinct is to blame the printer that was used. That’s a mistake! Once again, to bring out the best in our colour, the choice of paper is crucial. Whether our purpose is to create something artistic or to remain as faithful as possible to reality, we have to make an informed choice. To help you, here are five qualities required of good photo paper.

1/ Light Fastness

This term could be loosely translated as the ability of paper to maintain its colour over time, despite the presence of light and other harmful elements in the environment, such as ozone. With this in mind, did you know that many photocopiers emit lots of ozone? Its mere presence in the air is sufficient to create a chemical reaction between the ink and the paper, which undermines the conservation of colours. So always keep your printed photos away from the copier.

2/ Gamut and contrast

Gamut is the set of colours that can be reproduced on paper. The larger the gamut is, the easier it will be to present contrasting deep colours, something that is essential in photography. The addition of optical brightener can increase the gamut and contrast. However, this is a trick that should be used in moderation if you want to compete with standard archiving criteria for museums.

3/ Quick drying

The speed at which a paper photo dries is crucial. The quicker the drying process, the simpler the conservation process is. We're talking about an in-depth drying process here and not just on the surface. For example, to laminate a photograph, heat is used to stick a thin plastic film on the image. If it’s not dry, the humidity rises to the surface, creating undesirable micro bubbles. A similar phenomenon can be observed when framing a picture. If the photo is drying after the picture is put inside the frame, a sticky residue will end up on the glass. It’s a bit like cigarette smoke adhering to a car window.

4/ Archiving

Quality paper will provide a long life to images. In order to do this, it must be able to quickly seal in the ink after drying. It’s at this moment that it creates a barrier against external elements (i.e., light and humidity). If possible, opt for a chemical-free base that is more durable. The mechanical properties of cotton-based paper will appeal to artists wishing to see their work survive throughout the years. As mentioned in other blog articles, the presence of OBA promotes early yellowing.

5/ Formats

Finally, quality paper will be available in several formats, ranging from a traditional 8½ x 11 page, which several people use at home, to rolls, which allow for printing large formats. In passing, one should note that several generic ICC profiles that allow you to connect the screen of the computer to the printer and the paper exist online. This alternative allows better and less expensive control of colour charges. Creating custom profiles, however, remains the most effective option to get accurate rendition. Keep an eye out for this type of service on Nustream’s website in the near future.