Finding the right paper for an Epson printer can be a confusing affair as an enormous amount of conflicting advice exists, especially online. When considering options, you should always start with two groups of questions
1. What am I trying to achieve?
a. Letters or presentations
b. Fancy reports, two sided printing
c. Give away / proofing photographs
‘Keep Sake” images of family or chargeable photographic printing
d. Glossy Satin or Matt finish
e. Single side printing or double sided
2. What type of printer and ink do I have
a. Is the printer older or new
b. Do I use standard inks or UV stable inks
c. Do I use originals or compatible ink systems
Once you have answered the questions in group one, you will find that for each result you want to achieve, there will be a number of possibilities. For example, coated paper comes in a number of weights, ranging from 120gsm all the way to 210gsm (paper being normally weighed in Grammes Per Square Meter – gsm). Choosing the one for you depends both on the effect you want to achieve – the heavier the paper, the more luxurious the document feels and the more bulky it is – and your printer’s capability of accepting this paper.
It’s important to check printer documentation before purchase; some printers only allow paper up to a certain thickness. Using paper that’s too thick can cause problems such as jamming, resulting in frustration and wasted time.
A further consideration is the type of ink and paper used; this will determine the quality of the resulting photograph and is especially important if the work is to be put on display (You are now delving into the world of the professional photographer trying to achieve perfection).
Perfection is the combination of the type of ink and the paper used, both being selected together to work in perfect harmony (interestingly, non professionals often use the same printing technology, not realising that they can potentially achieve professional quality work with a machine they bought for not a lot of money).
Ink should be chosen depending on where the picture is to be kept – for example, if you are going to hang the photo on a wall that gets a lot of direct sunlight then it’s likely that it will fade quite quickly. If this is the case, choose UV resistant pigment ink which tends to fade slower than dye ink. Dye inks however, provide superior quality and tend to be more compatible with inkjet papers, especially those with a microporous coating.
Microporous papers are ideal for achieving professional results; these come in Gloss, Satin and Pearl which offer varying outcomes, depending on what you want to achieve. Cast coated paper tends to be cheaper and only come in a gloss finish; however, these produce excellent quality when used with dye inks.
Microporous coated papers are compatible with both dye and pigment inks. They will work on your Epson printer regardless of which inks you have loaded. If you have pigmented inks loaded (UV Stable ones), you should stir away from papers which are described as Instant dry or cat coated. These will not handle pigmented inks very well.
Epson has a range of UV stable inks which are pigmented and are marketed under the names of DuraBrite, UltraChrome and Vivera.
Manufacturer vs unbranded papers
Remember that printer manufacturers DO NOT make paper. They make printers and inks and source their own branded papers from various specialised inkjet coating factories. It is conceivable that competing printer manufacturers often use identical papers from the same source but branded under their own different names.
Non branded papers therefore can potentially be as good if not better than the branded ones, especially if the vendor sources them from a similar geographic location. The more serious photo paper vendors will also offer some sort of satisfaction guarantee for their high end papers as they would be confident that these are on par with the major brand products.
In general, the heavier the paper, the better the image. Low weight papers are often designed for give away images, short term presentation or images which are enclosed in book or booklets. The image quality is likely to be the same as on the heavier papers but the paper will be thinner and flimsier.
The heavier the paper, the more luxurious it feels in the hand and the more stable it will be under heavy ink saturations. Therefore, if you are printing on matt paper and your image is dense and dark, the 170g matt will be better than the 120g.
When printing photographs, gloss or satin finishes are a matter of taste but satin works better behind glass and is less reflective. You can use a lighter paper if the end result is mounted in an album or a heavier paper if you are handing it to someone and want to portray quality.
There is also technical support for you at the end of a telephone or email so if you are still confused. We will always recommend the paper that is best suited to the result you are trying to achieve.