In Brief; Inkpress Metallic; Printing Paper With An Added Kick

The substrate and the image often go hand in hand, with a natural tendency to choose a matte surface for one type of scene, bucolic landscapes, perhaps, a hard gloss for commercial work, and a luster for deep blacks and a fine art feel. Or, you could turn everything on its head and mix and match as you wish—in short, it’s a subjective decision. Most printers tend to stick to a certain brand and surface for the majority of their work. This is done for both practical and aesthetic reasons, the practical being that the paper just works well with the printer they use, and the aesthetic being that the surface matches their images and how they see.

My first tendency was to work with high-contrast images, a holdover from darkroom days when I used metallic silver paper with lith and interpositive film. This worked quite well, but was not the only use for this glowing paper. This IR shot was rendered high contrast using Photoshop’s Threshold Adjustment Layer and Noise was added to bring in some binding grain.
All Photos 2010, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

But there are alternatives to luster (or glossy in the extreme) and matte—canvas, watercolor, and “rice” papers, with their sometimes excessive topography, though rich results. One option is a new breed of “metallics,” which bring back a look from the old Argenta darkroom days, when you could print on “metallic” sheen paper with gold and silver and even matte blue, orange (!), and green under-color. It was mostly for graphic interpretations, at least in my book, and I tended to work from lith negatives and interpositives on them.

It’s tough to show a metallic silver glow in magazine repro, but this image might come close. The ropes here were a bit “hot” but the undercoat of metallic silver seemed to fill the texture nicely, somewhat like “flashing” or giving a base density to a silver print, though here the base density is a metallic glow. I would not print very overexposed areas like this, as there is a border between highlight texture and highlight burnout. This image was desaturated about 50 percent.

The new breed, like the Inkpress Metallic under test here, don’t require high-contrast images or Threshold Adjustment Layer processing to get an image that holds together on the surface, despite my initial tendency to think that way. When ink is laid down on the surface it is quite different from a silver paper look, so the Inkpress Metallic can be used for many types of images. I worked with low-sat images of foggy mornings, where the fog and running stream, slightly overexposed, picked up an additionally ethereal feel; graphic shots where the whites picked up an “underglow” that was almost like flashing in that they retained texture even when a bit hot; and a portrait where skin tones picked up an inner glow. In short, it can give prints a new edge and “pop.”

Low-contrast nature scenes, like this foggy morning in Acadia National Park, are fun to print with this paper. The stream, shot with a long shutter speed to enhance the flow effect, seems to pick up a glow all its own that shows somewhat in the file but really pops in the Inkpress Metallic print.

Of course, the knock on metallics is the restricted viewing angle needed to avoid getting too much of a sheen, a reflection that can obscure details and block appreciation of the image. But this can occur with “regular” glass framed prints as well, though it must be said that a matte print suffers less from this than a gloss or, even more so, a metallic.

The Inkpress Metallic comes in sheets from 8.5x11” to 17x22” and rolls up to 60”. The Inkpress website offers a host of compatible paper profiles for printing (with Epson printers it’s mostly Premium Luster and with Canon it’s Photo Paper Plus Glossy) although you can download their custom profiles for numerous printers as well. I worked with an Epson 3800 and the Ultra Premium Luster preset and was well satisfied with the results, which invariably matched the screen image.

Experimental work can benefit from this paper as well, giving some scenes a somewhat “ghostly” aura. This image is from a series of scanned files from old photo albums bought in flea markets and has a cyanotype-like duotone treatment. I didn’t know it at the time I started this project, but this paper provided just the look I wanted.

My aim in testing any paper is first to see if it throws a curve, if you will, in getting what you see on the screen onto the surface, how it dries down (and whether the dry down shifts density or color too much), and how it can be used for added expressiveness with certain types of images. While I certainly would not use this surface for a majority of prints, I have to say I enjoyed the experience of seeing what a new substrate could do with abstracts, scenics, and portraits. At first I was hesitant because of the gimmick factor, but found that the surface can add something extra to an image without making it seem like a novelty approach. Showing this in magazine repro would require a fifth ink, so all I can show here are images that to me got an interesting boost from the paper. Hopefully you’ll get the idea of the kind of image that came up for me when this paper was loaded in the printer. This 10 mil, 255 gsm paper might just inspire you to bring out some images that haven’t visited your monitor in a while as well.

I was curious how a portrait would look on this surface, so printed this photo of Kallie Polgrean photographed five years ago on it. The soft treatment worked well with the surface, and when you look at the print there seems to be an almost internal glow to the skin tones.

For more information, contact Inkpress at: Be sure to check their website for dealers in your area or on the Internet.

brucedarnell's picture

I am a commercial photographer and use inkjet metallic gloss paper to print vibrant and stunning prints of images.
letterpress printing