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Fine Art Paper Report - Part 1: Overview and Basic Methodology

Updated: Dec 23, 2023



Overview

In mid-late 2023 we decided to thoroughly reevaluate our lineup of media options. Not just by ordering a couple sample sheets from different manufacturers and looking at test prints using manufacturers profiles - but by doing a thorough deep dive into how each paper performs in terms of color gamut, resolution, look and feel, popularity/reputation, and price.


Our initial results of these tests have been eye-opening and we are now ready to begin more formalized, published testing of a variety of media. We will start with our most popular category, OBA-free, smooth (or lightly textured) cotton fine art papers.


Methodology

While these will not be intended to be scientific laboratory tests - they are intended to help our artist and photography clients choose a paper for their projects and to help our consulting clients choose which papers they want to carry in their own print shops. To this end, I believe it makes sense to provide some methodology outline here. Community feedback on this is welcome.


Basic Process

  • Don't worry if you don't understand everything here, it will all be explained as it comes up in future articles in this series.

  • Media will be tested using a Canon Pro-4100 printer. The same printer and print head will be used for all of the tests.

  • For each media, a custom media type will be created and optimized using Canon Media Configuration Tool (more info in an upcoming article on this step)

  • Assuming the media type supports Unique Calibration, a Unique Calibration will be performed for the media no more than 12 hours before printing the profiling chart (typically within 1 hour)

  • For profiling, we will first use Argyll CMS to create a 400 patch chart which will be read back in and then that will be used as a preconditioning profile for a massive 400 patch chart. More info in this related article.

  • Gamut Comparison charts (2D and 3D) will be created using CHROMiX ColorThink showing how each paper relates to the others in our report.

  • Additional tests below will be performed within one week of profiling, or printer will be re-calibrated for the given media to help ensure accurate testing.

  • Media Opacity, ink density, reflective spectrum of the paper, and an OBA check will be performed for each media using BabelColor CT&A

  • Each media will be rated 1-5 on several TBD factors - including gamut, weight, look and feel, price, availability and manufacturer support, print resolution, and probably some other factors as well. Subjective things like look and feel will done via survey of a variety of artists.

  • Each media will also be real-world tested using approximately 10 different prints from 10 different artists and photographers, with different color requirements, moods, and themes to compare how each paper performs for a given type of project.

The current plan is make all of this freely available as a series of articles on our website. We may also make a compiled, more easily digestible, version (free or paid, not sure yet) at the end of this project.


Please leave a comment with your favorite OBA-free cotton art paper so we can try to get it into testing, and let us know if you think there is something missing or wrong in our proposed methodology. Again, we are trying to be more like a Project Farm guide than an exhaustive, 100% technically correct laboratory test - but still want to make sure we are producing something useful not only to ourselves internally, but to our clients and the wider print community.

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