There are three things that go into all of the prints that I make: the photo, the ink, and the paper. (There's also love, which is harder to quantify, and time, which is my gift to you!) All of my prints are made in-house by me on a Canon imagePROGRAF Pro-4000 using Canon Lucia Pro inks, an archival-grade, pigment-based inkset. When taken care of properly, these inks are rated to last more than a century without fading.
The paper, then, is the primary variable in a print, and I work hard to match each image with the paper that truly brings it to life.
To do this, I've tried more than 40 fine art inkjet papers from several manufacturers to identify the ones that speak to me most. The ones that I've selected are from some of the oldest paper manufacturers in the world, and represent some of the best fine art papers available today.
Canson Infinity Rag Photographique
A great many of my photos end up on Rag Photographique—it's one of the best papers I've ever used. This paper is 100% cotton, has a velvety smooth surface texture, and is made without any optical brightening agents (OBAs), which means photos printed on it will last longer. I use the 310gsm weight of this paper, which is thick and sturdy. The luxuriously smooth surface of this paper feels great to hold, and the just-a-tiny-bit-cooler-than-average white point makes skies and sunsets come alive.
Prints described as being on "100% cotton, 310gsm fine art paper with a matte finish" are printed on this paper.
Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige
With the exceptional ability to hold deep blacks, a wide color gamut, and a gorgeous semigloss finish, Baryta Prestige is what's known as a "baryta" paper. These papers contain a barium-sulphate coating, long used in classic darkroom prints, that gives them a distinctive finish and tone. This paper is heavy, at a whopping 340gsm, and is used most commonly for photos that I really want to "pop!" It's made of a unique blend of α-cellulose (wood fiber) and cotton fibers, and has very low OBA content.
Prints described as being on "340gsm fine art paper with a barium-sulphate ("baryta") coating and a semigloss finish" are printed on this paper.
Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag
Like the Baryta Prestige, Canson's Platine Fibre Rag has a gloss finish and an exceptionally wide gamut. This paper, though, is 100% cotton, and has a slightly more satin-like finish than a Baryta paper. It has a beautiful, but subtle, texture on its surface, and no optical brighteners to threaten its longevity. I typically use this paper for photos that benefit from a small amount of texture in the highlights, but still need deep and expressive black tones and shades of gray.
Prints described as being on "100% cotton, 310gsm fine art paper with a satin finish" are printed on this paper.
Hahnemühle Photo Rag Bright White
Hahnemühle has been making paper for nearly 450 years, and their experience shows through every one of their fine art paper products. Their Photo Rag Bright White is a slightly smoother, slightly brighter version of their normal Photo Rag, which competes very closely with Canson's Rag Photographique. It's a 100% cotton paper that weights in at 310gsm, and has a very slight surface texture. This paper comes out to play only with images that need exceptionally bright whites, but when it does, it makes them sing!
Prints described as being on "extra-bright, 100% cotton, 310gsm fine art paper with a matte finish" are printed on this paper.
Hahnemühle Photo Rag Satin
What a weird and wonderful paper! Based on Hahnemühle's Photo Rag, this 100% cotton paper has a surface coating unlike any I've ever seen: areas of the paper without ink remain matte, but printed areas take on a satin sheen that's almost iridescent or metallic. Most photos don't take full advantage of everything this paper offers, but those that do are only worth printing on this beautiful, 310gsm fine art board.
Prints described as being on "100% cotton, 310gsm fine art paper with a unique, lustrous matte finish" are printed on this paper.
The texture on this paper! "Torchon" is French for "coarse structure," and that's a very good way of describing this paper. It's dappled with soft, velvety swoops that feel great under your fingers and create an uneven surface layer that adds dimension to photos. When the light hits this paper at an angle, it brings photos with soft highlight regions alive. It's thick, but not overwhelming, at 285gsm
Prints described as being on "285gsm fine art paper with a coarse structure and a matte finish" are printed on this paper.
Hahnemühle William Turner
Somehow, this paper manages to be both rough and delicate. Like a traditional watercolor paper, William Turner has a heavily-stippled surface with lots of nooks and crannies. It adds a significant amount of depth to painterly images, and at 310gsm, is very sturdy. The surface texture is rather gritty, but the coating bruises easily, so handle it with care.
Prints described as being on "310gsm fine art paper with a watercolor structure and a matte finish" are printed on this paper.