There's a new printer in town...

 My gaggle of large format printers (P9000 on the left, 2 9900's on the right)

My gaggle of large format printers (P9000 on the left, 2 9900's on the right)

Well, after four years of heavy use, my primary Epson 9900 printer seems to have given up with a head failure. I'm still working on trying to fix it, but the problem was sufficiently bad that I've added a new printer to the stable, the new Epson P9000.

Besides the roll holder cover at the top being black, it is pretty similar physically to its predecessor, and I've started testing now to see if Epson's claims about improved performance and reliability are evident. So far, so good. As for the two partially broken 9900's, I have not yet decided their fate -- they may go back into service as Piezography printers or they may retire gracefully.

Sample Packs

I recently added to my list of print services sample packs for paper - the description is below, and please contact me if you'd like a list of papers or if you have any questions.

I now offer sample prints using your choice of in-stock papers using your own image. Simply send me your image (please contact me for my dropbox link if so desired) and I'll print your image on your choice of any three of my papers for $40.00 (plus shipping and tax as necessary). This is a perfect way to find out what type of paper might work best for your image.

Paper Review - Canson Platine Fiber Rag

Overview

 "Waterscape Blue/Red #5", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

"Waterscape Blue/Red #5", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

Paper choice is very subjective, but for me, Platine Fiber Rag (PFR) hits the sweet spot in so many ways, and it is my favorite of the luster/lustre-type papers. If you haven't yet tried it out, I certainly highly recommend doing so. There are other reviews of this paper out in the world - I'd recommend this one from the Luminous Landscape for more details and charts than this relatively short review and this one for details about printing B&W with this paper.

So, what is PFR? It is a fiber-based lustre paper with a 100% cotton rag paper base that uses no optical brightening agents (OBAs) to achieve its brightness. According to Canson (you can read the nitty gritty for yourself here), the paper base is from a cotton paper used for platinum printing with a suitable coating to receive inkjet inks applied on top of that base. It naturally has all the archival characteristics (e.g., acid-free, internally buffered, etc.) we have come to expect from modern, high-end inkjet papers. It is in the general class of lustre/luster papers that, on the Epson printers, use the Photo Black ink rather than the Matte Black ink and that also have a somewhat textured or stippled surface.

Okay, those are the basics, so what is like? PFR is one of my favorite papers when held in the hand. It is relatively thick (310 grams) and the cotton rag base gives it a 'fine art' feel. The stippled surface has a very nice look - it is just a little more stippled than competitors such as Ilford Gold Fiber Silk and Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique, and for much of my work I find the extra stippling to add a bit of pleasing sparkle to the final print.

One excellent characteristic of PFR is that, when printing off of rolls, it dries relatively flat and does not need additional flattening. There are some lovely papers with more curl than this one, and the last step of trying to flatten takes up valuable time and also introduces an opportunity for the print to be damaged so flat drying is a distinct advantage.

What about color and image quality? Wonderful. There are papers with more range in what they can show (such as its cousin Baryta Photographique), but it has enough range for almost any task. Perhaps the slightly less color range allows the paper to print with a bit more subtlety, but I've been happier with prints on this paper than anything else.

The paper is pretty neutral overall but I believe that the highlights are slightly warm. Certainly compared to papers such as Epson Exhibition Fiber with brighteners PFR will feel on the warm side, but its overall neutrality is one of its strengths. For many artists, the slight warmth in the highlights is a feature, not a bug -- for my own work that little bit of warmth adds to the overall experience of the paper.

Conclusion

One of the best papers for digital printing. My own subjective feeling is that this paper is the best overall current option for the lustre papers. It is 100% cotton, no OBAs, just a touch warm, great feel in the hand, easy to work with on rolls, has a very nice stippled surface, and great image quality. I definitely recommend trying it out to see if it is suitable for your own work and aesthetic.