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Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag – First Impressions

Friday 23 September 2011

Summer Afterglow, Rideau Lakes, Ontario

I’ve finally gotten around to trying a new paper, different from the Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk (IGGFS) I’ve been using lately. When I bought the Epson Pro 3880 printer two weeks ago, I also bought a 25-sheet box of of 13×19″ Canson Patine Fibre Rag as well as a box of 17×22″ Moab Entrada Rag Natural 300 which I have yet to get into. I’m trying to “finish” all the Photo Black printing before I delve into Matte Black (I can hardly wait! A few times now, I thought I would make the switch, but then remembered some other prints I wanted to get done first. The switchover costs about 6mL total of black ink between the two, so waiting is worth it.)

So this evening I broke open the box of Platine. Why Platine? First of all, Canson Infinity has a great name in high quality fine art printing papers. More importantly, Platine Fibre Rag is a 100% cotton rag paper which translates into archival quality due to its neutral base. Interestingly, IGGFS is not 100% cotton rag, but alpha-cellulose – not ideal in my mind despite it being a beautiful paper.

Arches Platine is a paper that was once made specifically for the wet darkroom Platinum and Platine  printing processes which tells me this version, coated for inkjet printing,  must be a superior paper. Unlike the IGGFS, Platine is not baryta-coated; it’s whiteness is that of the cotton rag itself. Like IGGFS, Platine does not have optical brightening agents (OBAs). OBAs are used in some papers to boost the whiteness or brilliance of the presentation. But OBAs are not archival. OBAs rely on UV light to activate them – since UV light also destroys colour inks, it just doesn’t make sense to have OBAs in the paper. After all, when framed behind glass (especially UV-cutting glass) the OBAs become ineffective.

Basically, if I am going to the trouble of printing high quality archival fine art prints, I want to choose a paper that will last. A number of other papers fit the bill such as the Canson Infinity Baryta amongst many others. But, in this case, I thought comparing two of the fine art front-runners would give me a good perspective.

First Impressions

This is not a scientific look at the paper. Despite my science background, once a paper meets the requirements of archival longevity, the choice of a paper relies on the artist in me, so I won’t be measuring anything!

Look and feel: Right out of the box, the Platine is not as stiff as the IGGFS, perhaps due to Platine’s lack of a baryta coating. That being said, it is a beautiful paper with a lovely smoothness that’s not quite perfectly smooth. There is a very slight wavy stipple that is not apparent when viewed straight on. The IGGFS is smoother, but not better, just different.

Platine’s paper base is slightly warm. In fact, I hadn’t really noticed its warmth until I put it down beside some other prints that weren’t IGGFS as the base colour of the two papers is very similar. Personally, I prefer a paper that is not stark white. The images “feel” better and the mat board I use (ArtCare AlphaEssentials 8740) is not stark white either, but has a slight warmth to it. Of the two papers, it seems Platine is just slightly warmer than the IGGFS, but is only noticeable when the two are side-by-side.

Use in the printer: I had some trouble loading the Platine paper. I put it into the rear, single-page feeder of the 3880. The printer would take the paper in as usual, but then I would get a skew error. This happened five times before I decided to apply slight pressure while the paper was being fed into the printer by gently holding on to each side of the paper as the printer drew it in. This seemed to work and is how I loaded each sheet thereafter. A bit of a bother, actually as I had become accustomed to dropping a sheet of IGGFS into the rear feed mechanism and having the printer look after it from there.

Colour: In setting up my printing workflow, I downloaded the paper colour profile from the Canson Infinity website and targeted Lightroom to use it – no trouble there at all. The colour reproduction of the Platine straight off the bat is beautiful – every bit as good as the IGGFS. Although I’m sure there must be measurable gamut differences, a side-by-side examination has not revealed any differences whatsoever in colour reproduction. Gorgeous rich tones.

Gloss: The base gloss of Platine is slightly less than that of the IGGFS which is neither good not bad, just different. However, the applied ink makes the finish just as glossy as the IGGFS, and perhaps because of this, there is slightly greater gloss differential with the Platine. In other words, very light areas with less ink applied are slightly less glossy than more dense areas where more ink has been applied. It’s not objectionable and is only noticeable if you are looking for it.

Why choose one paper over the other? Tough question, really, I suppose it comes down to what you prefer:  the ever-so-slight texture of the Platine or the smoothness of the IGGFS; the 100% cotton rag of Platine or the alpha-cellulose of IGGFS; the baryta coating of IGGFS or that lack of it with the Platine. Price-wise, I paid the same for each: $3.40 per sheet. Since these are first impressions, I imagine I have more exploration to do. Perhaps a black-and-white or two are next! Stay tuned.

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