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Paper Recommendations for Epson's UltraChrome Ink Printers

Ethan Hansen/Dry Creek Photo

 

A common question we receive is for paper recommendations for Epson's UltraChrome printers. These include the R800, R1800, 2200, 4000, 7600, and 9600. We have built hundreds of custom ICC printer profiles for these printers, and measured their performance with a wide variety of paper stocks. The newer Epson models - the R2400, 4800, and larger format printers using the UltraChrome K3 inkset - are more forgiving of paper types. The following is a list of suggested media for these printers. The list is based both on our measurements and visual evaluations of actual prints. Reviews are grouped by surface finish: Glossy, Semi-Gloss, Lustre, and Matte.

You can also view interactive, 3-D color charts of many of the color gamuts for the papers below. These allow you to compare the full color gamut to Adobe RGB and sRGB. As we test more papers, we will add combinations that prove to be exceptional to the list below.

 

Glossy papers:

The original UltraChrome inks are prone to bronzing on glossy paper. This causes certain shades of dark greens and near-blacks to appear flat rather than glossy. A noticeable tint appears on the worst papers when viewed at an angle to the surface. Also be aware that the black produced by the UltraChrome PK inks is not as dark as what Epson's dye based printers create. Pay close attention to your soft proof in Photoshop to make sure the shadow detail you see on screen will come through in print.

The R800 and R1800 added a "gloss optimizer" topcoat spray to minimize bronzing. This is effective, although your prints have a distinct sprayed appearance and lose the mirror finish the best glossy papers offer. Ultrachrome K3 ink printers, including the R2400, 4800, and larger format models, have new pigments and screening algorithms that nearly eliminate the previous bronzing. Some color shifting still appears, although it now occurs in sky blue and nearby cyan colors. Prints viewed at an off-angle can take on a dark purple cast to these colors. The effect is not objectionable in most instances, as it requires a particular alignment between viewing angle and light source to arise.

 

Semi-Gloss:

So far, we are still searching for a semi-gloss paper that really stands out with the original UltraChrome inks. None we have yet seen match the performance of the lustre (E finish) papers. As mentioned above, the Epson Pro Glossy paper is close to a semi-gloss finish.

 

Lustre:

All Epson UltraChrome models perform well with lustre finish papers. The color and contrast range is superb, although none of the papers are rated as archival.

 

Matte:

These papers are where the Epson UltraChrome printers, with the exception of the R800 and R1800, come into their own. The Matte black inks are necessary to produce deep blacks. Use them, and a 2200 or its wide format siblings make stunning prints. The Epson R800, however, does not perform particularly well on matte papers. The R800's internal ink mixing algorithms do not appear to be optimized for matte surfaces. Compared to the other Epson UltraChrome printers, the R800 exhibits poor color definition in darker greens and blues on matte papers as well as reduced color range.

 

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