Color Management II

waterfallWhen we left off last time I had just gotten my new Epson R1800 printer settled in and printing decently. Now it was time to try out a range of papers and see what we could see.

As usual this is a seriously low budget and highly subjective experiment. Your mileage will assuredly vary. Take it for what it is worth.

I first searched the Web reading up on the various digital photographic papers. In the past I have bounced around between Epson, Crane, and Legion brands. I read reviews and company propaganda releases and compared prices on papers from five or six different manufacturers until I finally decided that for my purposes I would concentrate on the line of papers from Moab.

I’m not saying that these are the best papers in the world.  I don’t know that. I don’t have the time or the money to try them all. Moab is now a division of Legion Paper. One thing I really like is Legion’s new eco-friendly focus. Many of their papers are manufactured using alternative energy and renewable resources. Their prices seem reasonable to me and they produce a wide range of paper surfaces and weights.

So I ordered a sample pack. It came with two sheets each of Entrada Rag Bright 190, Entrada Rag Bright 300, Entrada Rag Natural 190, Entrada Rag Natural 300, Colorado Fiber Gloss 245, Colorado Fiber Satine 245, Lasal Photo Gloss 270, Lasal Photo Luster 270, Lasal Photo Matte 235, Somerset Enhanced Velvet 225, and Somerset Enhanced Textured 225.

For my tests I used the two Entrada 190s, the Colorado Gloss and Satine, the Somerset Velvet, and the Lasal Matte. I mixed in some Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte as a kind of known quantity since I have used it for proofing for a long time. I passed on the textured paper – I don’t like too much texture for my stuff. I also laid off the really heavy weight 300s for the time being.

First I just looked the papers over right out of the box. My first impressions were that I liked the look and feel of the Entrada Bright the best. I tend to like bright papers even though they get that way by the addition of optical brightening chemicals. I like the whites in my shots to be really white.

I was iffy on the Colorado papers at first glance. These are supposed to emulate the traditional F type surface of chemical prints. I thought the surface looked a little unevenly coated and I expected a more pearlescent texture.

The Somerset Velvet is a natural brightness and although smoother than the textured, it is still pretty rough.

The Lasal and the Colorado are alpha-cellulose based (think trees), the Entrada Rag and the Somerset are cotton based. I like the idea of using rag papers because they are naturally acid free and made from a very renewable source. (I use cotton based boards for matting my prints.)

I used the image above as my first test. It has some very bright white areas, some deep black and shadow areas, and a subtle touch of green and brown colors that often show up in the subjects that I most often shoot.

I printed from Paint Shop Pro XI. We’ll talk about PSP’s color management later – for now suffice to say I was letting the Epson printer driver handle the color management. I left all the settings in the printer driver the same for each print except that I changed the media type when needed according to the guidelines on the Moab web site. Before any printing, I did a nozzle check to be sure the printer was firing on all cylinders.

I printed the image at roughly 5 x 7 inches on each 8.5 x 11 sheet. Then I spread the prints out on a big table in my office that I use for matting and framing. I left them there for a week or so. Every so often I would look over the prints. I looked at them in natural daylight (I have big windows in my office) at varying times of the day and I looked at them at night under incandescent bulbs. Every once in a while I shuffled them around. I looked up close and I also looked from further away. Sometimes I would take them to other rooms in the house or carry them nearer to the window.

My preferences turned out to be (best to worst): Entrada Rag Natural, Colorado Gloss, Epson and Lasal Matte, Entrada Bright, Somerset Velvet. The Colorado Satine looked pretty much the same as the gloss only I liked the gloss surface better.

So even though I tended not to like the natural color of the Entrada or the surface of the Colorado at first blush, I ended up liking them the best after printing. The Somerset softened the image too much for my taste (I like things sharp and contrasty).  The Entrada Bright wasn’t as rich in the blacks and dark shadows as the natural and it seemed to soften some edges. The Epson and Lasal Mattes looked about the same to me and produced some really nice images for their relatively low cost.

I went back and forth between the Colorado Gloss and the Entrada Natural. The Colorado gave me the best colors – strong, deep, and rich – very sharp edges and good shadow detail. However, compared to the Entrada it lost detail in the mid-tones and sometimes the gloss finished became distracting, forcing me to constantly tilt the paper this way and that to find a viewing angle without glare.

metalNext I printed this more colorful and more brightly lit image of some rusting metal on just the Colorado Gloss, the Entrada Natural, and the Epson Matte. After a few days looking at these prints I decided that I liked the Colorado best. Again the colors were stronger and edges sharper than with the matte papers and (I guess because this image is brighter without any blacks) there really wasn’t much of a problem with glare on the gloss surface either.

Reviewing the images now as I write, I’m still torn between the Colorado and the Entrada. Both papers have their points. In the end I decided to go with the Entrada as my day to day paper. I felt it would handle largest portion of the kinds of images that I produce and I prefer the rag base. I may pick up some Colorado just to have around for certain images.

OK, so are we any nearer to talking about color management? You betcha. Next time I’m going to get into using it to tweak the images for printing and web display.



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4 Responses to “Color Management II”

  1. Bernie Kasper Says:

    Great info here Mark, I have a 2200 and a 4000, but I have been using only the epson paper, I have heard good things about the Moab I think I might order some and give it a shot.

    I am terrible at printing and I probably need to get a better outlook on it, I have been pretty satisfied with my prints but not wowed. Looking forward to your next installment.

  2. Mark Says:

    I recently made the next jump in my color management and invested in a package to make custom printer profiles. I am still learning about getting the most out of it, but finally I know my prints are pretty much as good as I can possibly make them, without being limited by some aspect of color management. (ie. stock or canned profiles, etc).

  3. floor jack Says:

    I must say, that I could not agree with you in 100%, but that’s just my opinion, which could be wrong.
    p.s. You have a very good template for your blog. Where did you find it?

    • forestrat Says:

      Thanks for dropping by, floor jack. The template I use is just one of the basic ones supplied by WordPress. I’m afraid I don’t even remember the name of it.


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