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The Importance of Printer Paper

About a year and a half ago I bought my first color printer. It was an Epson PM-770C which is I believe the Japanese model of the Epson 750. The Epson 750 is the "photo" model that uses 6 inks. 5 colors + black.

Like most people I saw the demos at the store and it looked great so I bought one.

After playing around with it a little the first thing I found out was that inkjet printers need special paper in order to look good. I promptly went back to the store I purchased the printer from and bought some paper. At the time Konica glossy photo paper caught my eye so I gave it a try. Probably in a 20 sheet pack. As I don’t actually do much printing so that lasted me for about 9 months. My printouts looked great. I was very happy and amazed at how good inkjet technology had become.

Then, last year around September as we were finishing up Crash Team Racing somebody on the team wanted a music CD of the music in the game. The person in charge of the music burnt about 20 CDs and I took it upon myself to make covers and back-liners for the cases. About 2/3rd of the way through printing them I ran out of paper. It was then that I found out how different the various photo papers actually are. I went to the local Staples which is just down the street from my apartment. First I looked for Konica. That’s what I was using so I figured why rock the boat. But, they didn’t sell Konica paper. Thinking that another photo company would probably have an interest in making great paper I bought some Kodak photo paper.

Boy was I disappointed. The ink seemed to glob up and the printouts didn’t look so good anymore. I was very disappointed. I bought some IBM paper.

Still bad. I bought some HP paper.

Better but still not as good as before.

I bought some Epson paper but the Epson paper, unlike all the others, was about 1/2 the weight. In other words the non Epson photo papers were thick like a real photograph but the Epson paper was thin like a regular piece of paper. Not quite that thin but still it felt like paper instead of thick like a photo. That’s not useful for most of my projects.

I stuck with the HP paper but I still wanted to try to Konica paper again.

Finally this summer I decided to ask a friend in Japan to get me some but just before I pressed "send" on that e-mail I decided I should search the net and see if Konica paper was available here in the states. It was and I promptly ordered some.

Well again I was disappointed. Maybe something has changed in the printer. Maybe the ink has changed. Maybe the paper has changed. Maybe some law in the US prevents Konica from selling the same paper as in Japan. I’m not sure what’s different but it’s results are not the same.

I thought I’d share my results here on the net. I’m really hoping that some magazine like PC Magazine will start testing papers. It only took me a few minutes to stick six sheets of different paper in the printer and print a small test. Is it that some papers are better then others or is it a combination of certain ink with a certain paper? I don’t know but the results were pretty dramatic.

I printed each test twice just to verify that the results were actually consistent and not a fluke of each print job. They are. Here are the results. Click on any image for the full print test.



Konica Photo Glossy
QP50LTGH
This is the one I thought was good originally. It’s not very good. I makes me wonder if something is different about the Japanese paper.


Konica Photo Silky
QP15LTEH
This one I brought just for fun. This one comes in second. If you look at the color bands on the larger image you can see where the Epson comes in first.


Kodak Inkjet Photo Paper
CAT 800 6298
Yuck! Look at that gloppy mess. What is Kodak thinking? Maybe this is intentional to get you to use film instead of printers


IBM Digital Photo Ink Jet Paper
90H3781
Yes the IBM paper does have duller colors. I think the effect is a little exaggerated here but it is visible on paper too


HP Premium Plus Photo Paper Glossy
C6831A
Ugh! Again what a globby mess. Does this also happen on HP printers with HP paper or just Epson printers with HP paper.


Epson Photo Quality Glossy Paper
S041124
Surprisingly this is the best one. I suppose it makes sense that Epson would make the best paper for their own printers. Unfortunately it’s lightweight which IMO is unusable.

The actual printouts are only 1 inch wide. What you see here are semi extreme closeups from my scanner. They are accurate representations of the printouts themselves but regardless they all look better at actual size then close up.

Here’s the original image

It would be a great service if some group like PC Magazine could test each printer with each type of paper available. I’d really like to know if there is a heavy weight photo paper that works well with this printer or any printer for that matter. It’s kind of costly to test them out as photo paper is fairly expensive.

You’d think this would be a priority for the paper manufactures too. At least that ones that turn out best.

  • schlaulau
    Printer paper

    Greggman – Allow me to introduce myself… This is Lewis aka schlaulau…

    Looking at your scans of the output it seems that your 750 is in need of a print head alignment…

    Go to START-SETTINGS-PRINTERS and open up your 750, right click to go to the DOCUMENT DEFAULT and UTILITIES. Select the print head alignment test…

    With the heads aligned correctly, ANY paper will produce excellent results, but of course the quality of paper will make a significant difference in how it appears.

    Well just my $.02

    Later.

  • agriffin

    I know this is a little late for responding to the paper issue, but I have too much experience with inkjet printing on a variety of papers. Your print heads may or may not be out of alignment, but poor alignment isn't going to give you what I like to call "gloppy ink". That's where your ink is just sitting on top of the paper in big, smeary, bleeding puddles. Looks like what you have. It's all in the combination of your printer settings (which vary from model to model) and the kind of coating your specialty paper might have.

    Each paper you try is going to require different printer settings, and those settings will vary from printer to printer. I use an Epson Stylus 3000 inkjet and a HP755 wide format printer. (fun! fun!) I'm going to use my Epson printer as an example since it's probably more similar to what you are using. For example, when I use Epson brand papers the settings are, of course, consistent with the paper type. For photo glossy paper I can use the photo glossy settings; for transparencies and films I use the transparency setting. Depending on your setup you specify the settings either in the software, on the printer itself, or in the case of my Epson, both. If I use any other brand paper, Avery, Kodak, Great White, HP, etc. you can be sure that I am going to have to experiment with the settings to get the best result. The problem comes out of the coating on the specialty papers. Specialty papers have different coatings to give them more brilliant color (like Epson's matte photo paper) or a glossy finish and feel like you would expect from a traditionally processed photo paper. These coatings are permeable to different degrees, and I find the HP, which are the most accessible here, to be the most troublesome. The coating is not permeable enough and the ink ends up sitting on top of the coating in a big, halfdried, bleeding mess, and your prints look like crap. When you run into this problem you want to experiment and use a different setting and see how it works. When "gloppy ink" happens specifying plain paper you will probably cure the problem, but your print will lack the brilliance that comes with those tiny ink droplets being plentiful and dense.

    Also, the most authentic, heavy weight paper for producing "photograps" from your printer will be listed as 9 mil. Anything lighter, 5 mil, 7 mil, is going to feel cheap and flimsy. One note though, if you are going to make a folded insert to go in a CD jewel case a lighter weight paper is actually going to be more desirable because you will have less "paper drift" screwing up the sharpness of your folds, and when you fold it you have a more compact folded product.

    Ideally you need to find the one brand of paper that works best with your printer, make notes of what that "magical printer setting" is (and it isn't always what the package insert says it is) and stick with it. Or you can do like I do and buy the stuff at random and keep a long list of paper manufacturers and tested print settings thumbtacked over the printer. Have fun!

    Hope I've helped, and btw, love your site!

  • markymarc
    Konica Inkjet Paper QP50LTGH

    I know the paper you talked about and also feel it is the best paper I have every printed photos on.  I especially like the 10.4mil weight of each sheet.  I am convinced that this paper is superior to all the others that I have also tested.  I purchased my 50 sheet package while on a visit to Canada in Toronto.  I wish I knew where to referbush my supply of this paper since of all the others I have tried including the ones mentioned here and many others, this paper is the best I ever encountered.  And I am using a Cannon printer too!  Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    Marc Martin, POB 20844, W. PAlm Beach, FL 33416 or markymar@bellsouth.net

  • anon_acidic
    Different markets=different papers

    Various manufacturers sell a different line of papers in different markets.  Some of the paper Epson sells in Japan is totally different than the paper they sell here in the states.

    I am somewhat surprised to hear that you had poor results with Kodak photo paper.  Be sure to check your printer settings as previously suggested.

  • anon_dgerard
    Paper: It’s a complicated issue

    Paper is a touchy issue. I wouldn’t be surprised if Epson, HP and others aren’t manufacturing very specific ink/paper combinations for their printers just to keep you from buying their competitors products. I think it’s a well known fact by now that the manufacturers aren’t making any money off the printers, it’s the ink and paper that are their bread and butter.

    In general, paper with a higher clay content (The stuff that makes it smooth and shiny) will yield better results than paper with a lower content. As you’ve probably noticed, bond paper doesn’t print so well in ink jets :P Unfortunately, the higher the clay content, the more expensive the paper.

    I work in a print shop where we have an Epson 9000. That’s a big (44″ wide) plotter. In the beginning, we used to use Epson inks and paper on the machine, until we discovered that a supplier would sell us “generic” compatible paper at 1/3 the cost. This worked out fine for a while, but then we started having similar problems to yours. Streaky prints. We had the service tech. in to look at it. His diagnosis: The print heads were getting clogged with particles of paper. Now, unlike the desktop printers, the print heads don’t get replaced with the print cartridges on the 9000. He told us that if we continued to print with the “Generic” paper, that would void our service agreement for the print heads. Bummer. Back to Epson paper.

    My advice…. if you’re not printing a lot of stuff, maybe you should look into using a commercial pre-press shop. Bring them your files, let them do the printing. It’s not cheap, but if you don’t like the quality, you can get them to do it again at their cost :) My feeling is that if you’re volume of color printing is really low, this is the way to go. In the end, it’s probably cheaper than keeping a stock of paper and ink at home. Some photo labs have started offering similar printing services for digital photos.

    I have given up on “cheap ink jets” as the quality and speed for text printing is to low and I rarely print color. I bought a second hand black & white lazer printer. Dealing with dried up cartridges and paper issues, etc are a thing of the past.

    Good luck!

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman
    paper

    yes, I thought of that “conspiracy” too :-)

    I don’t print photos either.  I pretty much only use my color printer for craft like projects and / or presentations.  You might be right that a commerical pre-press shop might be cheaper but when I’m actually into using it I want instant gratification :-p  I get the idea that I want (or need) to make something and I want it to print out now at 2am instead of tomorrow after I first make trip to the pre-press place and then back to pickup the work later :-)

    On the other hand I almost never print black and white so I guess it really depends on what you use the printer for.  Personally I think the color ink jets are really only good for crafts and presentations.  They are too slow and costly for printing a lot of documents and they are annoying to try to use to print lots of photos.  One or 2 to frame or send to someone is fine but printing each picture I take would be too much work and it’s no cheaper than if I just have it done for me at the local photo processing place if I actually wanted prints.

  • Derek

    Hiya, my comments are a little late also but may help, I totally agree with Marc Martin.  Your print heads are probably just fine.  Papers ain’t papers and different papers react to the ink from different printers.  I have a new Canon i850 and have had heaps of issues with different paper types and the orange peel effect.  One great tip that solved a lot of problems with Kodak premium glossy papers was to download the free Kodak easy share software from kodak.  The download is specific to your printer model/make and amazingly turns a crap print on kodak paper to a superb photo quality print on the exact same paper.  The software does pretty much as Marc explained, it adjusts settings that were just not possible via the std canon setting interface and optimises for the kodak paper te on the specific canon or whatever printer model. Give it a try.

    Derek

  • andy
    paper for B&W prints

    Hallo,

    I’ve been using a canon i850 with canon paper obtaining excellent results for color photography but poor results with black and white. I’d like to know if anyone has any tips to improve the quality. Perhaps a different paper works better with B&W?

    DEREK : I’ve tried to find the easy share software you spoke about but could not find it.

    cheers

  • mark
    unnecessary hassle

    IMHO, it’s far easier to just upload an image to a site like http://www.snaps.jp and then head around the corner to my local snaps store an hour later and pick up my finished print. It’s more expensive and time consuming to try to do it yourself.

  • PeterLe
    PRINTER PAPER

    you should try HammerMill Jet PRINTPHOTO Professional Photo Paper.  its great.  its features are, Brilliant Gloss Finish, Estra Heavy Weight.  Ideal for showcasing your professional quality photographs.  It has the quality, look, and feel or professional photos, it dries instantly–smearproof and water resistant, its long-lasting images are great for picture frames, and works on all inkjet printers.  Best of all, its made in Japan so you know its gotta be good quality.  Also, i’ve tested printing out something then sticking it under water and trying to wipe off the ink but it still stays exactly the same just as it came out of your printer.

  • EpsonUser
    The importance of printer paper

    It’s time you read the title of your own thread.  Here’s a crazy idea:  you have an Epson printer… why not get Epson paper?!!!  Inkjet technology is not Kindergarten stuff.  The manufacturers have gone to extreme lengths to create a system of laying down a specific ink onto a specific surface.  It’s like a hand in a glove.  Epson makes about 27 different papers, including something called “Matte Paper Heavyweight”.  Give it a try!  I guarantee you won’t get globs of ink sitting on the surface.

  • http://blog.greggman.com greggman

    Maybe you should try reading the article.

    1) At the time, Epson did NOT sell heavy weight paper.  Maybe they do now but not then so buying Epson paper was not an option

    2) Did it ever occur to you that some *might* make even better paper or make something of the same quality but cheaper?

  • Bill
    Epson stylus pro 4000

    I have just bought myself an epson 4000 and BOY the manual is like a bible as thick anyway Its going to take me a year to get through it.Any tips on the 4000? I have done some test runs on epson Matte and its good,but small,I cant get the thing to print me a2 size!for some reason.Help.Bill.

  • gunnareee
    Ink system incompatibility EPSON

    Epson use alcohol based ink and need special photo paper for this.

    For example HP Photo paper is intended to work with their system that use water based ink (as many other printer bands use also). If you use paper for water based ink in an Epson printer the overall result will be very dark.

  • Voijvode

    Congratulations to Greggman on the successful now-a-blog going since 2000 .. I’ve just gone through the same routine, and likely a similar frustration, as you found yourself doing almost 10 years ago.

    I’ve discovered my 6-ink Epson PX700W finally likes HP Premium Photo Paper when the print module is set for Epson Photo Qlty IJP. Even so, the fine print-lines can be noticed if scrutinized very closely, but its hardly perceptible.

    With my laptop, the adjustments on the keyboard and variations for correct Colour Management in applications like Photoshop (Adobe, sRGB, Apple RGB)was the biggest headache when editing an original photo. It is no longer WISIWIG (what you see is what you get),and I never get an ‘exact’ print as I see on the screen; but I find with my ACER 8730 that importing a photo into ‘Apple RGB’ format works best and the comparison with the finished print is very good.

  • http://photos.extramilehome.net Robert Egerman

    Printing at home is a very complex undertaking. In order to print what you see on your screen, you must have a color managed work flow and have ICC profiles for your monitor (I go the cheap route and use Pantone’s Color Huey), and you must also have profiles for your printer and each paper you wish to use. Usually a printer will come with several profiles that are only specific to that printer manufacturers papers. Back in the Day, hen Kodak had “One Click to Better Pictures” in their easyshare software, they in essence behind the scenes created the printer profiles for you assuming you used Kodak paper in nearly any manufacturer’s printer. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly (because there are so many printers on the market), that feature is long gone from EasyShare), and it was the ONLY thing that was good about that software. I use Picasa these days. Some paper manufacturers include a sheet describing optimal printer settings for their papers in varius papers. Kodak used to have settings listed on their website that were easy to find, but that is not true any longer. You can find some cached versions (e.g. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:dBGdRYltf04J:wwwfr.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml%3Fpq-path%3D1964%26PRINTER%3DCanon%2BPIXMA%2BMP950+pixma+mp950+site:kodak.com&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us) that are better than nothing. However, my recommendation is to get your monitor calibrated and then print your phots at a printing house that will send you profiles for their printer/paper combinations. I have had tremendous success with mpix.com. I’ve also read that Red River Paper’s are pretty good and they provide many color profiles for some common printers (http://www.redrivercatalog.com/profiles/index.htm), but I’ve never used their paper myself. To have a fully color managed/calibrated workflow of your own so you can use whatever paper in whatever printer you want will run you about $1000. There are other sites that will generate printer/paper profiles for you, but they are not cheap (e.g. http://www.booksmartstudio.com/). I know this post is going up long after the original one, but thought you might find this info useful. Google any topic I’ve mentioned for more detail. e.g. ICC Profile.

  • http://onlinediscprinting.com/ CD Printers

    Can I correct the title? It is more appreciated if you should titled is “The Importance of Photo Paper” not printer paper because there are many kinds of printer paper.