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pearl, satin, glossy, luster, matt, semi-matt, velvet

bruce erickson , May 04, 2011; 10:35 p.m.

I think I know the difference between matt and glossy in printing papers, but can someone describe some of the qualities of the others listed? I don't think I have ever come across the others. Which is more or less scratch proof compared to glossy? These surface types are listed on the Freestyle site when one goes to order paper. I usually get glossy.


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Frank Schifano , May 04, 2011; 11:11 p.m.

Well, what's your preference? Do you prefer RC to FB, or the other way around. I like a glossy finish for most things on FB paper, but there are some subjects that do well with a matte finish - formal portraiture comes to mind. If I'm contemplating hand coloring a print, then there's no real choice. You'll need a FB, matte surface. The glossy paper doesn't have enough "tooth" to hold onto the oil pastels I use for that job.
As far as scratch resistance goes, matte or semi-matte will not show fine scratches as readily as a glossy finish, but I would not use that criteria to dictate my choice of paper surface

hand colored Amaryllis

bruce erickson , May 05, 2011; 12:34 a.m.

Wow, Frank, that is a fine example of a hand colored b&w photo. It sure beats a real color film photo of the same thing, but I can't articulate exactly why. I'll have to contemplate it longer. How long have you been at that technique? Are you usually able to do such a thing in "one take"?
Back to my original post. I generally use glossy RC variable contrast papers and currently almost all of my prints are made on 5 X 7 paper size. That small size cuts down on the size of spots for one thing. If any print is worth looking at longer than 5 seconds, then I will attempt a more carefully done bigger print. (However, the biggest I have made so far is 8 X 10.)

Leigh B. , May 05, 2011; 01:02 a.m.

Any camera store that sells paper should have books with samples of each surface type.

That's one advantage to doing business locally rather than online.

- Leigh

Chris Letts , May 05, 2011; 05:34 a.m.

You've just got to try them - even papers from different makes both labelled the same (e.g. 'matt') can give different results - there's no standard.
I use almost exclusively Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl, just because I like the result (and I cannot stand glossy prints !)

David Henderson , May 05, 2011; 06:47 a.m.

Descriptions for papers tend either to refer to degree of glossiness or degree of smoothness. But as has been mentioned there is little or no consistency in the use of the terms. It's a bit like the use of the term "big" - for one person that would be massive and for the next simply one up from small. You need to see papers and try several . Some manufacturers -and perhaps more usefully some larger labs- may sell small sample packs. This is certainly true for inkjet papers. Or manufacturers may sell a mixed pack to facilitate trying different types.

Craig Shearman , May 05, 2011; 12:19 p.m.

I've mostly stuck with either glossy or matte. I would avoid satin -- it generally means a very embossed surface that is intended to help keep people from scanning and copying your photo but also introduces a very noticeable pattern, as if you had pressed the print against a window screen as it dried.

Larry Galliford , May 05, 2011; 02:39 p.m.

Hi all,
This is my first post, so hear goes. From my own experience, I can say the choice of paper is really dependant on the subject of the image and whether it's going to be matted/framed with glass or passed-around. I only use Ilford Multigrade IV RC and Fotospeed RCVC papers because the quality of the images produced on them is just fantastic and my workflow isn't really practical for FB printing. I'm in the UK we pay a lot for water "on a meter". Besides, I actually get better definition with RC - Lifespan will still out live me. I actually use all 3 different surfaces, glossy for industrial machines, metal work, glass buildings or for specific commercial projects. Pearl/Semi-Matt is good option with less reflection and retains good black levels with normal development and exposure. Satin is my perferred option. Sorry Craig that you may have had a bad experience with this surface but mine is ultra smooth, no pattern at all and is ideal for re-touching or spotting. It gives the look of a photographs printed within the page, not on it and certainly not plastic looking like glossy. All the B&W photos shown on my website (see my profile) are genuine print scans using Ilford Multigrade IV RC Satin scanned with a Canon Lide 200. Harman (Ilford-Photo UK) could supply you a sample swatch book of all their papers. Not sure if it free anymore but I got mine about 2 years ago for nothing. Please don't exclude Satin from consideration. It's a much under-valued and great surface that deserves better acknowledgement! Fotospeed RCVC Oyster/Semi-Matt paper is also a very fine-toothed surface in between Ilford Pearl and Satin. One can not always tell by the words on the box as to the exact surface texture. You need to sample it yourself. Hope this helps - Larry

bruce erickson , May 05, 2011; 11:14 p.m.

That sort of helps, I guess I'll take a trip downtown to have a look at some of these papers. Ilford only offers satin, pearl, and glossy surfaces at least those that are sold through Freestyle in the two sizes I use. Is pearl closer to glossy than satin, or is satin more "matt" than pearl? I think I will order some of each.

Richard Sperry , May 07, 2011; 06:23 p.m.

Satin and pearl are much closer to each other than either is to glossy. If you were not told which was which, they could easily be confused for one another.

Of those two, pearl is the only one with the value pak(2 free rolls of hp5 135).

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