Signal Mtn

In Search of B&W printing perfection

A Review of Canson's Platine Fiber Rag paper Part 2

by Miles Hecker


Sharing a View

Sharing A View ..... © David Brookover

The Verdict

I created a few 24x30 inch test prints and set up the quartz halogen floods for viewing. David Brookover came over and we gave it the eyeball test. The subtle qualities of the Canson Platine prints edged out the other test prints. The slightly buttery nature of the highlights were the deciding factor. The Museo Silver Rag was a close second. We would make the Canson Platine our new paper for B&W printing

The Why

Having a technical background, I began to wonder about what we were seeing. Was it an illusion? Were we talking ourselves into seeing something based on hype? Could we measure the difference?

I got out my trusty Xrite spectrometer and began making some measurements. The key to any printing is the white of the paper. All the profile can do is attempt to adjust the inks laid down on top of the white background that is the paper itself. An ideal white should reflect all colors of the visble spectrum equally. It should have no optical brighteners. Optical brighteners absorb and re-emit UV and violet light in the blue spectral range. They do this to counteract a yellowness in the base stock. The optical brightners can change with age and make the white artificially blue. They also can change color under light sources with different spectra. This phenomena is called metamerism

The paper should reflect as much light as possible, 100% is not realistic, but 96%-97% is possible.

The spectral data as measured can be seen in the table below. A type A tungsten illuminant was used for the test.

Two spectral curves appear in the table on the right.

The first reddish curve is for Ilford smooth pearl, an economical consumer grade RC paper. The deep dip of the curve in the violet region and rise in the blue region is the result of copious optical brighteners. The reflectance in the blue region at 430 nanometers actually measures 107%! While fine for typical color printing I would not recommend this paper for highly archival B&W prints.

The second black curve is for Epson semimatte paper. It's moderate dip in the violet region and slight rise in the blue region is the result of a moderate amount of optical brighteners. This is a good moderate cost paper. It's fine for typical color printing duty. It has a slightly cool look to it.

The spectral curve at right is for Ilford Gold Fiber Silk. paper. Note its flatness across most of the visible spectrum. The slight dip on the left in the violet region is probably the result of a very small amount of optical brighters in the paper stock under the baryta coating.

The L* luminosity of 97.82 % is the highest of any paper I measured. No wonder people find this an attractive paper, at least when printing in sizes of 24" wide or less.

The spectral curve at right is for the Museo Silver Rag paper. It is the flatest spectrally of any of the papers that I've measured. It's no wonder that it appears to the critical printers eye to produce highlights that are a dead neutral white! The L* luminosity of 95.4% is quite good, but not as high as the best papers tested. There is no sign of optical brightening agents in this paper.


The final spectral curve at right is for the Canson Platine paper. It is also quite flat and has no sign of any optical brighteners. Note however, the very slight rise in the Red region on the right side of the spectrum. This rise gives the paper its very slightly warm, buttery highlights which I prefer.

It's L* luminosity is 97.4% the second highest measured. Warm, rich highlights that rise out of your B&W print.

Closing Thoughts

The difference between various fine art printing papers are visually real and can be measured with a spectrometer. For my purposes, I've selected Canson Platine as the fine art B&W printing paper of choice.

If your preference is for dead neutral highlights in B&W prints, Museo Silver Rag may be an alternative. The more highly glossy surface however may temper that decision.

The proper profiling of the paper for your printer is an important part of the process. Do not get carried away with creating the blackest blacks at the expense of shadow detail.

Proper preparation of the image in Photoshop is also critical to the final making of the print. Over sharpening, over zealous toning and any other misuse of Photoshop's powerful tools can make the final product artifical and "digital" looking.

If you are interested in viewing prints on this paper for yourself, you may see a collection of them at David Brookover's newest gallery located at 725 Canyon Road in Santa Fe, NM.


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