There are a number of off-the-cuff responses that would seem, on casual consideration, to afford a clear cut yes or no answer to the title question. But the factors that contribute to print graininess are manifold. Below we consider each of them individually to appreciate their interactions and consequences— and to highlight a lesser known but significant path whereby paper choice can indeed influence print graininess.
One factor is of course the negative’s graininess. Grainier negatives produce grainier prints. QED. We will remove this from the present discussion by restricting our attention to a single negative printed on various papers. The degree of enlargement is relevant as well. The more a negative is enlarged, the grainier the resulting print. So we will further restrict our attention to a fixed negative printed at a fixed degree of enlargement on different papers.
One might wonder if paper graininess, like film graininess, is a contributing factor. There are two reasons it is not. The emulsions used to sensitize paper are much finer grained than the far faster emulsions used to make films. Couple this with the fact that, unlike the negative, there is no enlargement or magnification of the paper’s emulsion in the workflow, and the paper’s emulsion grain drops off the list of contributing factors.
Our eyes, or more properly, our visual response, is yet another issue playing a key role. Graininess is, after all, a purely subjective phenomenon. Granularity on the other hand is totally objective. It can be measured with instruments and a numeric value assigned to it. Graininess is the visual appearance of granularity and depends in no small measure on how our visual system is wired. Graininess is the appearance of nonuniformity due to small density fluctuations (granularity) in what would otherwise be a smooth area of uniform density. We are much better at seeing small density fluctuations in lighter areas than darker areas. Consider that a small variation in density in a print’s highlights is distinctly visible while that same variation in a middle gray or darker area of the print would go unnoticed. This visibility factor, all by itself, would make graininess most evident in the lightest areas of a print.