When it comes to photo paper for inkjet printers, I tend to prefer media that resemble traditional photography substrates. While “art” paper is fun, in my experience it can sometimes alter a photo when printed, giving it a more abstract or impressionist look. The result can be, well, pretty arty looking, which might appeal to some people but I usually want my photos to look like photos.
Having said that, I really enjoyed printing some recent images on Epson’s new Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured, which is about as arty as art photo papers come these days. Even without any images printed on it, this paper is a kind of a work of art in itself.
With a substantial 320 gsm (grams per square meter) weight and 22 mil caliper of thickness, Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured feels hefty in your hand and has a rough texture that’s wonderfully tactile. Made of 100 percent cotton fiber, the paper is acid-, lignin- and OBA-free. In bright light, it looks blindingly white.
Despite its art-school pedigree, Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured did an excellent job of faithfully rendering my images when I printed them out on 13 x 9-inch sheets from a Canon PIXMA Pro-10. Yes, there was a slight spreading of details as there is with any type of watercolor paper but my photos looked surprisingly sharp despite the stippled texture of the media.
The paper also did a good job of rendering blacks and preserving the wide color gamut of my shots, with subtle tonal gradations of dynamic range and color. In short, if you stepped back from the paper, you might not know it was watercolor art paper at all. My photos looked just like, well, photos.
But because of its distinctive texture, this is a photo paper you probably want to examine closely and it’s almost a shame to put these watercolor photo prints under glass. The danger, of course, is that it might lead to people touching your photo prints, which could damage them. I also found that ink tended to lie thickly on the paper. With one watercolor print, a tiny spot even flaked off afterwards, leaving a dot of whiteness in a bright orange sunset on the photo. This was not common though, and, in general, I found that I got consistent results with this paper.
I would recommend choosing appropriately arty subjects for this paper, such as landscapes, nature studies, well-lit cityscapes, and images that are rich in color and tone. Gritty, black-and-white urban street photography is probably not ideal for this type of paper, but to each his own.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Even if printing on art papers isn’t really your thing, you might want to try Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured, which, along with having a wonderfully thick tactile texture, produced photo prints that were rich in color and tone and were remarkably true to life.
Pros: A gorgeous textured art paper that creates distinctive and realistic photo prints
Cons: Not ideal for all photo subjects
Price: $49 for 8.5 x 11-inch cut sheets, $129 for 13 x 19-inch cut sheets and $189 for 17 x 22-inch cut sheets (25 sheets per box); $149 for 17-inch roll, $209 for 24-inch roll and $389 for 44-inch roll (50-foot rolls)