The future is looking great for inkjet printing—and the present is quite strong too—as new fiber-based inkjet papers continue to appear regularly. It wasn’t always this way. Until about 2005, inkjet printers had two main categories of photographic fine-art papers to choose from: satin, luster, or semigloss resin-coated (RC) papers; and matte cotton or wood- fiber-based fine-art papers. Both had advantages and disadvantages.
RC papers (I’m excluding the ultra- glossy papers here because they are rarely used for fine-art prints) have a good densest black (Dmax) of 2.2 or higher on current pigment-based print- ers by Canon, Epson, and HP. These papers produce excellent image quality but have a couple problems:
• The look of the paper in open portfolios—The main concerns are the look of the surface and the plastic feel (not much of an issue if displayed behind glass).
• Longevity concerns, mainly due to some outgassing.
Matte fine-art papers
There is no doubt that matte fine-art papers can produce superb images. The main downside is a much lower Dmax than with RC papers (about 1.6 to 1.7). But even at this Dmax, prints on matte fine-art papers can look wonderful. Don’t compare these prints to prints on RC paper, however. Comparing prints is, of course, a powerful method for trying to rate papers, but it can also confuse things. If you compare a print on both matte and RC papers, the matte print looks washed out. On its own the matte print may look wonderfully painterly and soft. But if you place the prints side by side, the RC print will grab the attention because of its higher contrast. It is like listening to loud music and then switching to a delicate, low- volume sound.