Back to School: Top 5 Inkjet Papers for Students

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Even though it saddens me to admit it, many of today’s photography programs are being taught using digital working methods exclusively. While I wish that every photo student had access to a traditional darkroom, I have to admit that printing digitally is certainly more in line with contemporary production and is a valuable skill that every student should learn. As a photo student, you’ll certainly be expected to print your photographs for critique or discussion, and printing is a good habit to get into no matter what. Here’s a look at five of the top inkjet papers for students.

Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster

This is an incredibly popular paper due to the fact that it simply works. It’s a no-frills paper with pleasing texture, good weight, nice color rendition, and it’s very readily available in variety of sizes. Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster is a perfect photo paper for making work prints due to its value, but it’s also a paper suitable for making final prints for critique, Also, the surface texture is a nice balance between glossy and matte, so it pleases both ends of the glossy versus matte debate.

Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster

Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique

One of the biggest trends in the inkjet paper market is to make papers that closely resemble the look and feel of traditional black-and-white fiber-based photo papers. The key to achieving this look is through the use of a baryta coating, which also happens to be what Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique is named after. This is a popular paper among students due to its weight, subtly glossy finish, and lack of optical brightening agents, which all add up to solid all-around paper for making final prints for a thesis show or for printing your portfolio.

Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique Paper

Moab Juniper Baryta Rag 305

The trend doesn’t stop with Canson, though, because Moab’s Juniper Baryta Rag 305 is another popular baryta paper that’s notable for its heavier feel and total lack of optical brightening agents, which contribute to an easy-to-handle paper with long-lasting archival qualities. Distinguishing itself, Juniper Baryta also has a 100% cotton-fiber base, which should make the paper slightly more archivally stable when compared to non-buffered alpha cellulose papers. Even if, as a student, archivability isn’t your biggest concern, Juniper Baryta still stands as a solid option for making those final prints for your upcoming critique.

Moab Juniper Baryta Rag 305 Paper

Epson Exhibition Fiber

The last in our trio of baryta papers, Epson Exhibition Fiber, arguably began or at least popularized this trend of replicating the look and feel of darkroom paper. However, compared to the Canson and Moab papers above, Epson achieves its distinct look and feel with a pretty dramatically different process—it champions the use of optical brightening agents to produce a paper with bright whites and smooth tonal transitions. This is a paper I’ve been using for more than a decade now which, in inkjet terms, feels like forever. Their soft glossy finish is also among the closest to resembling that of a traditional silver paper. The paper is also a hefty weight, making it a perfect choice for mounting or framing for an exhibition, or for use in a portfolio.

Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper

Moab Lasal Photo Matte 235

Up until this point, you might have noticed that I’ve only brought up glossy or luster papers… and yes, I know that many people like matte papers. So, I’ve saved a special matte paper for last: Moab Lasal Photo Matte 235, a double-sided matte paper with a bright white base and medium thickness. The reason I tend to recommend glossy papers over matte papers is due to the wider range of tones they can accommodate, along with the visible reflectance that produces the feeling of deeper blacks and brighter whites. These traits lend themselves to prints that are meant to be displayed. On the other hand, matte papers are a good solution for prints that are sometimes handled or looked at close up (think a handmade book project). This is why I feel as though a double-sided matte paper makes the most effective use of the benefits of a matte surface type—it suits a variety of creative project applications, ranging from books to posters to cards.

Moab Lasal Photo Matte 235

What are some of your favorite inkjet papers? Is there one you’d recommend to students? Let us know what you think, in the Comments section, below.

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