Even with the plethora of online sharing methods and virtual ways to view your photographs nowadays, there is still nothing quite as satisfying as seeing, and holding, a printed photograph. Call it nostalgia or call it a respite from our otherwise plugged-in lifestyles, seeing an image on paper is one way to give, inherently, some deserved importance to your best shots. Throughout the process of printing your photographs, numerous decisions need to be made beyond simply deciding which image you want to use, most of important of which can be the actual medium on which your photo is printed. Choosing the right medium and—in the case of inkjet printing—a paper type, can complement the subject or mood of your photograph and round out the entire look you're striving to achieve.
"Choosing the right... paper type, can complement the subject or mood of your photograph and round out the entire look you're striving to achieve."
The issue with finding the correct paper type for your specific photo is that there is a huge variety of paper types available, ranging from obscure textured papers to numerous distinctions of glossy. And no matter how well a paper type is described, the only true way to get to know a certain paper is to try it out. Luckily, saving you from buying numerous boxes of various paper types, Ilford has compiled four of its most popular inkjet printing papers into the GALERIE Prestige Fine Art Discovery Pack. Comprising five letter-sized sheets of each paper, this pack lets you try out each type before committing to that 100-sheet box for printing your portfolio.
GALERIE Prestige Smooth Pearl and Smooth Gloss
The first two types within the pack are a pair of all-around papers differentiated by their surface texture: Smooth Pearl or Smooth Gloss. Working with the distinct surface textures, you'll sometimes find that the added glossiness of the Smooth Gloss will give your image a bit more visual pop and richer appearing blacks, whereas the Smooth Pearl can give a softer, smoother look that pairs well with lower-contrast imagery. The Smooth Pearl's surface also has a bit of a physical texture and is not as prone to catching ambient reflections as the polished look of the Smooth Gloss, and the pearl finish is a bit more resistant to fingerprints than its glossy sibling.
Beyond their surface appearance, both of these paper types share the same core specs: a substantial 310 gsm weight, instant-dry surface, 99% opacity, and a durable clear, resin-coated inkjet receiving layer that benefits producing sharp, clear prints with a broad color gamut. The heavyweight thickness offers good stability that is suitable for mounting and framing and the bright white tint of both papers is ideal for printing either black-and-white or color imagery.
GALERIE Prestige Gold Fibre Silk
The next paper is the pack is the Gold Fibre Silk, which is designed to replicate both the look and actual feel of traditional fiber-based darkroom printing papers. Compared to the previous two papers, this paper has a much creamier coloring, due to its lack of optical brighteners, and its surface lacks a physical texture and is notably less glossy. Its construction features a true baryta layer and 100% cotton rag base, and is noticeably thicker than the previous two papers, at 12.5 mil versus 12 mil, while having the same 310 gsm weight. The smooth surface texture offers a good base for printing both black-and-white and color photos, and is particularly well suited for digital toning applications to simulate the look of sepia, gold, or other chemically inspired toner looks. This paper holds up exceptionally well for framing and mounting applications and the silkier surface texture is ideal for displaying your print on a wall since it doesn't pick up as much ambient reflection as the glossier surfaces.
Besides the 8.5 x 11" sheets included in the Discovery Pack, Gold Fibre Silk is available in 39-foot-long rolls from 17" to 50" wide, as well as sheet sizes up to 17 x 22".
GALERIE Gold Mono Silk
The final paper in the Discovery Pack is one for the purists, and is specifically crafted as a "dedicated black-and-white product" that is reminiscent of traditional darkroom papers. Much like Gold Fibre Silk, Gold Mono Silk is a fiber-based paper with a familiar feel, but has a brighter white base to give a longer apparent tonal scale with higher Dmax and lower Dmin values. Also separating this paper from the pack, it is intended for use as a black-and-white paper, whereas the previous three have been suitable, according to Ilford, for both color and black-and-white printing. In use, the statement seems to be referring to the tone of the base that can help to give a longer monochromatic tonal scale, with nuanced transitions between the lightest and darkest tones, yet might not look as pleasing when printing color images—at least compared to Gold Fibre Silk. Gold Mono Silk is also a lighter weight paper, at 270 gsm, and is 10.5 mil thick; making it still a substantial paper, but not to the same thickness or rigidity as the previous paper type. It also features the same silky surface texture as the Gold Fibre Silk, which offers enough gloss to produce a deep black without being overly reflective.
In addition to the standard letter size sheets, Gold Mono Silk is available in standard sheet sizes from 5 x 7" to 17 x 22" as well as 39-foot-long rolls, in widths from 17" to 50".