Red River Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag Photo Paper Review

©Laurie Excell

Print surface decisions are usually conditional, that is, they depend on the look you want for each image and how you might intend to display the print later. There is a general wisdom that states that glossy surfaces make prints look “sharper” and matte makes them look “softer”, although that softness is more in overall tone and mood (and ink dispersion) than edge definition.

But what about the “semi-“ print surface world, the semi-matte, semi-gloss and luster realms that sit somewhere between full matte and snappy gloss? Getting a test sample of Red River’s new Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag gave me an opportunity to check this out.

First, Some Specs
The paper is in the “premium” class, meaning a goodly weight (310gsm) so use single sheet feed when loading it into your printer. A fact sheet on the Red River web site ( provides helpful guides for various printers when working with PC or Mac, including setting platen widths and the like. The Canon Pro-1000 I used for test printing sets those automatically when you do a manual feed, as do numerous other printers, but if yours does not then follow the provided information.

It is 100% cotton rag, meaning “archival” and stable, with no OBA’s (optical brightening agents). Interestingly, non-OBA papers tend towards the warmish side, most noticeable in monochrome prints, with a warmer paper base overall, but the Palo Duro SG paper base is bright and black and whites were spot-on neutral.

The folks at Red River tell me that there is a barrier coat between the paper and inkjet receiving layer, which in practical terms means that deep blacks are reproduced with richness.

Profiles and Print Tests
I printed both color and monochrome images with a variety of tonal and color ranges. I worked with both “generic” and the Red River supplied profile for the paper ( and soft proofed via Photoshop for the Red River profile (in Photoshop, after installing the profile go to View>Proof Setup and choose it from the dropdown offerings.) The Canon generic is Photo Paper Semi-Gloss, although it may have some other (though similar) nomenclature in your printer driver. The folks at Red River suggest turning off High Speed printing.

The differences between these two options are minimal, but as I have found in the past the generic profiles tend to be slightly more contrasty, although not to the point of burying shadow detail, while the dedicated profile nailed the screen image and offered a somewhat more “open” rendition. In short, if you can, use the provided profile; if not available to you then the generic will not be a disappointment.

In this review I am showing two of the many images I printed on the paper, and both are indicative of results overall. My comments are on the profiled prints.

In the monochrome, blacks are deep and rich, deep gray values retain separation and middle grays sit where they should, but it is in the highlights that the benefits of this paper really come through. They retain texture and tone without any harshness, and sit nicely above a brighter middle gray. Indeed, where there is an overall area of brighter values even the subtlest differentiation of highlight tone is evident. Very pleasing. ©George Schaub

The color prints are luxurious without being overly saturated, a nice dispersal of ink with this surface. There is a very nice separation of values, with rich, deep shadows and clarity in the middle values, although all this does not affect the rendition of brighter colors. Spectral highlights do not glare. ©George Schaub

All in all the paper is lively and responsive and handles both monochrome and color images with equal vigor.

So, what about that semi-gloss surface? If you were to put this paper on a scale between matte and glossy it certainly tends well towards the glossy side, although it does not have the sometimes bothersome sheen of a hard gloss (for darkroom printers, a ferrotyped look) and is more like the “glossy dried matte” look preferred by many printmakers.

It absorbs the ink nicely (thanks to a microporous coating) and while it does have a slight shine when light plays across it you don’t have to fight through it to get to the print. True, there are some images that call for that “hard-gloss” look, but I am confident that this paper will serve you well for many of your printing needs.

One more thing: there are no logos on the back of the print, a trend we see in higher-end papers that those who sell their prints will appreciate.

Pricing and Sizes
The Red River Palo Duro SoftGloss Rag paper is available in cut sheet in standard sizes up to 17x25 inches and in 24- and 44-inch 50 foot rolls. Cut sheet in 13x19” in 25 piece packages runs slightly over $3 a sheet; the 17x22-inch 25 sheet package costs slightly over $3.30 a sheet.

More information here: