The Paper Shuffle - Part One - Lost In Space
In the DOD ( Dear Old Days ) of fibre darkroom paper there was Kodak, Ilford, Fujifilm, and Agfa. There were 3-5 grades ranging from too soft to too hard, and there were imaginatively-named surfaces. Most of these were due to commercial imagination and you only ever printed on them once...but you could always fall back to matt, lustre, and gloss and find something for your film image. Single or double weight was a choice you made mostly on economic grounds.
The advent of resin-coated paper was either wonderful or horrible, depending on whether you had water and time. The surface choices decreased.
Then the inkjet papers came along - and all of a sudden we had to figure out what gsm meant and what a profile was. Most of us still don't know what this is but we faithfully do what the paper makers say to do and generally things work out. I have adopted the sensible approach of letting the printer decide what it wants to do - the same approach I take to the relatives and the cat - and I am satisfied with the peace of mind.
But there's always that desire for a little more science - for a little more precision in the process. It has driven more people than I mad, so I am not willing to engage in the worst of the geekiness, but I have decided to look closely and see what it is that we are being given. I've no lab facilities but I do have a studio and I've decided to see what studio light can tell me about the printing papers that are on offer.
The methodology will be to to use grazing light to skim the papers while taking a macro picture of the surface. I do not expect to see much variation in the smoothness of a glossy paper, but I am curious to see what the pearl and lustre surfaces look like. The rougher and wilder papers are next after that - right down to the hand-laid ones.
I also want to see what relative amount of reflectance the papers send back, though the measurement may prove difficult. Not interested in percentages or numbers - interested in the look of the thing.
Finally, I want to see whether the gsm rating really does translate into a practical indicator for stiffness in the final product. I have long admired the stock that printers use for business cards and other signage and have looked in vain for it in the inkjet papers. Home-made business cards, fake drivers licences, and eviction notices just do not have the dignity of the ones made on offset presses if they do not have the same crispness.
And no-one likes counterfeit money when it is soggy. I have had limited success with my line of $ 7 and $ 8 Australian notes despite the colourful artwork and the choice of Australian Idol contestants as figureheads.
This column will publish results in a forthcoming series.