It’s pretty amazing the choices we have for making prints these days. Printer technology advances all the time. There’s a constant stream of new papers to print on. Paper recommendations are one of the most common questions we answer. But there’s another question that pops up from artists. “What do YOU print your own work on?”
I learned digital fine art printing with the Lightjet (aka digital c-printer). As Epson made improvements in inkjet printing, we began printing more with Epsons and less with Lightjets. Moving away from the Lightjet was easy. Lightjet paper choices are limited to gloss or semimatte. If you like to proof your work (I do), you’d need to wait a day or two between rounds of proofing. Lastly, c-prints are not as archival as the archival pigment prints made with modern inkjet printers.
For color printing I use the Canon ipf9400 printer. It’s now the third generation Canon printer I’ve owned, and a joy to use. The print quality is outstanding. We’ve had far less clogging, faster output, better ink longevity and scuff resistance than when we used Epson printers. You can run all kinds of media through it, including photo papers, watercolor, canvas, tyvek, and ordinary brown kraft paper.
Premium Semimatte is one of my go-to papers for color printing. It is an N surface paper, similar to Fuji Crystal Archive matte paper minilabs use to make digital c-prints. Premium Semimatte has a fine surface texture; less so than E surface papers like Premium Luster. It’s a great performer with color images; capable of deep blacks, bright whites, and saturated colors. And it’s an affordable paper, in comparison to the fine art papers we stock from Hahnemuhle and Canson.
For color printing on fine art papers, I’m partial to Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta and Photo Rag 308 (matte). These fine art papers share a similar paper base and have a natural paper base color. They aren’t artificially brightened with optical brightening agents.
Photo Rag Baryta has a pearl surface with slight sheen, less so than Premium Luster. Since it has a non-matte surface, it has deeper blacks than the Photo Rag 308 version. For color printing, there’s just a greater sense of depth to the prints than those made on RC papers. The 308 matte version is truly matte (no gloss whatsoever), and is very similar to hot press watercolor paper. (We use it a lot for artwork reproductions). I personally find that for color prints, I prefer the increased contrast of the Photo Rag Baryta.
You can also read our guide to fine art digital printing papers and find out more information on other papers we offer.