by Mike McNamee Published
The last time we brought things together in the magazine was Paper Chase 12, back in February 2006. Almost three years on, it is timely to take a step back and examine the way that the paper scene has moved on, especially as we are writing our 40th issue of Professional Imagemaker. Paper Chase has been ever-present in the magazine.
Paper making is an ancient art and so we can expect few changes in the underlying, substrate materials. The major changes therefore are in the coating technology. The other changes that have impinged upon us are the increasing quality of the inkjet printers and the expansion of the product ranges of paper offered by each supplier.
Back in Paper Chase 12 we tested the first three sheets of a new material called 'Fibre Base Gloss' which was badged with the Permajet label. By the time we had got to Paper Chase 22 we were testing 30 such 'baryta' papers and there were still some we had not managed to locate samples of! Baryta then, was the big mover since the last summary and it has consistently exhibited best-in-class properties on all the measures applied to it. Baryta coating even found its way onto a canvas substrate with spectacular results.
This has only changed slightly, except that as quality and colour precision have risen we have needed better and better statistics before we have taken the hyperbole from the dictionary and placed them on the page! It is true to say that we have been able to report something recordbreaking in nearly ever Paper Chase since the last roundup. Thankfully there are very few poor papers around today, the cut-throat market sees off anything below par. The confusion for the consumer is the choice, it is truly bewildering.
One of the changes since 2006 is the availability of colour profiling and its penetration into the enthusiast's end of the market. Once the province of specialists only, many users now have at least one form of colour measuring device and the paper providers themselves have become expert in making profiles for the range of popular printers, on each of their surfaces. The profiles are of more variable quality than the papers themselves and, if the instructions provided are anything to go by, some people have a poor understanding of the profile-making process.
Some are made with too few patches leading to banding, some distort print saturation and many do not handle shadow separation correctly. However, the drift upwards of inkjet quality has ensured that printer-to-printer variations are now smaller than ever, particularly in the wide-format machines.
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