Photo Quality Ink Jet Printing PapersMost photographers have seen or heard about the amazing results available with an inexpensive ink jet printer. However, these printers must be fed the right ingredients to produce optimal output.
Better results can come from simply using more appropriate papers. Special photo-quality papers are smoother and often heavier, thicker, and brighter. Some are coated to produce even sharper results and protect the print from water and other elements.
The keywords when comparing any ink jet papers are color, detail, and durability - let's see how each did in these three areas. Papers are rated in brightness and weight, the higher the better.
PictoricoIt may surprise you that some of the best ink jet printer paper is produced by the Asahi Glass Company rather than a lumber mill or a printer company. Even more interesting is that the special ingredient to this magnificent paper is something you may have worked with in your high school pottery class - ceramic.
With a coating of uniform, fine ceramic particles - with all the particles pointing in the same direction - the Pictorico papers handle the inks intelligently. By drying virtually on contact, the inks retain their sharp definition; the dots remain perfectly crisp instead of bleeding into microscopic blobs. When viewed by the naked eye, your image shows clear details and accurate colors. Furthermore, the ceramics make the paper durable and water-resistant.
We were impressed with the color and detail in the Pictorico paper. Details were sharp. Under a loupe, we could see the usual dots - in some spots more than others. To the naked eye, though, these prints were the next best thing to silver based photographs.
The blacks were deeply black and the colors were rich. The paper, at 8.3mm, has a thick, heavy feel to it, comparable to prints from a photo lab. The paper feels like satin finish to the touch but is less glossy than the Epson or the Mitsubishi; if you are going for a super glossy look, use the Mitsubishi or try Pictorico's High Gloss White Film product.
Pictorico also adds a nice touch to all of their single-sided papers by notching the top right corner, making it much easier to remember which way to load it into the printer. We were also impressed with the Pictorico Web site; their recommendations on the most appropriate printer settings for each paper and printer combination showed good utilization of Web technology.
EpsonEpson makes a line of wonderful high quality ink jet papers. When used in their super high-resolution, micro piezo printers, the results are impressive.
This glossy paper is thinner than the others (at 6.7mm or 38lb.) but thicker than regular laser paper. Although it handled our 'wet coffee cup' test surprisingly well, it did show some damage. We applied several drops before seeing any difference, and that was mostly limited to a slight water stain.
With a brightness rating of 90, this paper may not give quite the same degree of whites as the others. Also, the paper will begin to fade much sooner than your photos from the lab. Epson has developed other, more archival paper/ink/printer combinations; if you value this, take a look at the Epson 870 printer or Luminos ink options.
While the details were good and the colors were very satisfying, close inspection showed a bit less detail than the Pictorico or Mitsubishi options.
The Epson samples did not dry as quickly as the Pictorico but the results were still beautiful. In fact, the slower drying may have given the Epson papers an advantage in some places such as areas of deep black. In these zones, the inks blended together better.
Mitsubishi Diamond JetWhile Mitsubishi does not make specialty papers such as canvas or watercolor, they make a killer glossy photo paper. They also offer water resistant and dual side papers for more durability or flexibility.
This heavyweight paper is a very glossy 9mm resin-coated paper with a brightness rating of 93.8. It has been reported to bleed occasionally. This may be due to the inks drying even slower than the Epson papers.
The glossy paper does indeed take a while to dry; it is best if you can leave it alone for up to 20 minutes after printing. Mitsubishi is coming out with a new version of the paper which will incorporate a new coating technology for faster dry times and better water resistance.
Price & CompatibilityThe three papers are very similar in price, falling between about $10.50 and $12 for 20 sheets. Even after taking into account the cost of inks and printer wear, all three of these options are much more affordable than ordering enlargements from a lab.
Each company claims that their paper works well in most ink jet printers. Mitsubishi states that their papers are compatible with most Hewlett Packard, Encad and Epson printers. While Epson claims their paper is always the best choice for their printers, the Pictorico and Mitsubishi papers print equally well.
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