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I am planning to print my own photo books of my landscape and wildlife photography. I have a Canon PIXMA Pro9500 II pigment inkjet printer, and I have spent an extensive amount of time working with fine art papers (namely various photo-rag and other fully natural papers from Hahnemuhle, Museo, and Moab). I have not spent much time working with luster, gloss, or semi-gloss papers, and never spent any time working with double-sided papers.

I started a search, however most of them come up with the cheaper off-brand papers intended for the general home consumer market. I am curious if anyone has done any work printing fine-art photo books at home, especially on larger formats like 11x17 or 13x19. As far as specific questions go about the paper itself:

  • What type of paper works best for a photo book?
    • Some kind of ultra smooth semi gloss/luster?
    • Are natural fine-art papers viable for a book?
  • Are there any brands that make double-sided fine-art paper for inkjets up to 13x19" (A3+) size?
  • How is the gamut and dmax of such papers if they exist?
  • Do such papers work well with pigment inks like Canon Lucia or Epson UltraChrome?
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FYI for those who also want to print double-sided fine-art: Moab Entrada Rag comes in a double-sided variant of various weights up to 300. The high-weight papers should greatly help with the durability of such a book. –  jrista Oct 29 '11 at 18:53
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Stick with what you know.

"Fine art" papers are lousy for production books (they tend to show signs of handling too quickly), but then inkjet prints in general are going to suffer from the same sorts of problems (a single slightly damp fingerprint will ruin the print). Take it as read that the book(s) you will be producing yourself are going to be getting the white glove treatment.

If you were getting the book printed in the normal way for a fine art book (on an offset litho press using hexachrome or a 12-colour process screen at around 200 lines), the printer would use a heavily-coated paper and probably do a varnish hit, leaving a glossy page. That's mostly done to achieve a large contrast range (the varnish helps considerably with the Dmax). If your printing process gives you what you want with a fine art paper, then you probably won't like the "same" print done on a luster/gloss paper -- the character of the tonality will be different in subtle ways even if you spend a lot of time, paper and ink calibrating a new paper profile. It's sort of like trying to paint the "same" picture using oils for one and acrylics for the other. If your "real" prints are the result of an end-to-end previsualisation process that includes fine art paper, then a glossy book wouldn't really be representative of your work.

That said, Moab, Canson and Crane (Museo) all make at least one double-sided 13x19" rag paper. (If Hahnemuhle does too, I couldn't find it.) If you can't find them anywhere handier to you, Vistek (which is sort of the pro photo Mecca here in Toronto) carries all of them; if nothing else, you can use that evidence to convince your local retailer that the stuff does, indeed, exist.

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Thanks for the insight. Regarding protecting the paper, I have Moab Desert Varnish Spray, which I would use on any fine art paper if I used that for a book. Assuming I did use a proper amount and kind of varnish, do you think a book made from fine-art papers would be worthwhile? Also, I have done some luster color printing (and some B&W printing), and I am not averse to the results (dMax is definitely better with a quality luster paper), however I am not really sure what double-sided papers are really like. –  jrista Oct 29 '11 at 15:16
    
@jrista: I think you'll be happier with the fine art paper if you're varnishing. The varnish won't make the book bulletproof, but it will keep normal handling from ruining the prints quickly. (Art books get different treatment from pulp paperbacks or high school texts IME.) I've yet to run a two-sided gloss paper through a printer twice without one side or the other (or both) showing some signs of the transport. (Even luster tends to show some parallel striations in my experience -- but my experience doesn't include the 9500 II.) –  user2719 Oct 29 '11 at 15:49
    
Ah, yeah, that was a question I meant to ask and never did...how transport of a double-sided through the printer affects an already-printed side. I figure its essential to let the first side fully dry and cure before sending it through again for the second side. I would certainly assume glossier papers would show some kind of transit defects. Would it benefit the first-side print to varnish it first before the second side, or would transit simply damage the varnish? –  jrista Oct 29 '11 at 15:53
    
@jrista: I can't say for certain, but my guess would be that the varnish would show damage if you varnished first, and would help to hide microscratches if you varnished after printing both sides. Yes, letting the first side really dry first is essential (give it a day if you can). I would take the precaution, though, of using cotton conservator's gloves when handling the paper -- we get into the habit of protecting the "face" of the pages, but it's hard to remember that the back is also a "face" until you've ruined a hundred bucks or so worth of stock. (cont'd) –  user2719 Oct 29 '11 at 16:05
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A drying rack (essentially shelves made of fiberglass window screening and dowels or molding strips) is cheap and easy to build so you don't have first-side prints lying around everywhere. –  user2719 Oct 29 '11 at 16:07
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