Friday, August 26, 2011

Experiencing the New Metallic Paper

The hype from the industry has been intense.  One manufacturer claims their paper "captures the original beauty of an image while offering it a slight metallic ... enhancement.... [It] transforms an image into lifelike, almost 3D quality. Black & White images shine on this new paper producing deep dark blacks and ultra-bright highlights."  Another asserts that theirs "represents a breakthrough for inkjet photo papers. This paper enables you to create stunning prints that previously could be output only in a darkroom."

My curiosity got the best of me.  The paper is more expensive than conventional paper, so I didn't want to invest in a box before seeing it in person.  Samples aren't freely given.  I begged and received a couple of free sheets of a newly marketed metallic paper from a company whose paper I frequently use.  At 8.5 x 11 inches, I wasn't sure the size would do justice to the paper's potential.  But it was all I had and I put it to the test.

The word "metalllic" is a little deceiving in the paper's name.  I was expecting something with a metal kind of character.  This isn't quite the case.  The paper is a resin fiber, with a high gloss finish.   It is highly reflective and has a pearly luminescent quality.  But I wouldn't use the adjective metallic to accurately describe it. Glowing, perhaps, but not metallic.

I chose an image that might make best use of the medium's reputed qualities to test its limits.  It has an illuminated rim and an area of intricate detail.  The rim would show off that "metallic" shimmer they say the paper has.

Here's the image I used to test the paper.  It's a garlic scape.

Click on image to enlarge

The edges of the contour are almost pure white.  The seeds in the interior are outlined in almost pure black.  There is a paper-like quality to the surface of the bulb. I figured if there's something the metallic paper adds to an image, this picture would show it.

There's no way a screen can reproduce the qualities of a printed image.  But take it from me, if ever there were a paper that came close to the back-lit characteristics of a well calibrated computer screen, this metallic paper is it.  When the picture catches the light in just the right way, the highlights seem to glow!

Michael Reichmann gave the Moab version of the paper a try, and said, "[T]his is a a unique paper that will not be everyone's cup of tea, and likely won't become most people's everyday fine-art paper. But, it has a unique and very appealing "look", especially with B&W images."

At this point I've used both Moab Slickrock Metallic paper and LexJet Sunset Photometallic paper.  I can't see any difference between them.  They're both great papers.  You won't go wrong with either brand.

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