Brett Wilson

HP B 9180 Paper Impressions

Glossy
Fiber
Luster
Matte
Watercolor
Textured

I tried a lot of different paper for the HP B9180 printer and I’ve recorded my impressions here. The results should be the same for the HP B8850 which seems to be the same printer with no ethernet or LCD screen.

A Note About Bronzing

Gray-only inks on glossy paper are basically unusable from this printer. The composite gray option (or just printing a grayscale image in color mode) almost eliminates bronzing (except at very extreme angles), but isn’t quite as neutral. Before I got my printer profiled, I found that adding just a touch of sepia color to black and white images when printing in color mode often makes them look better (most people can’t even tell) and eliminates the perception of color cast (because the whole image is warm). The soft gloss/luster papers hide this problem to some extent, but I would say that none of them eliminate the problem enough to be acceptable (to the contrary of some manufacturer’s claims). If you want to print glossy B&W prints, it’s definitely worth getting your printer profiled, which gives me pretty good results.

Spraying prints seems to solve the problem completely, and is probably a good idea anyway for people selling or displaying prints for a long time. I tried Sureguard Clear Gloss which was very unpleasant to work with (it really smells awful and catches dust) but which worked very well. The sprayed photos are very glossy using this coating, and feel thicker and more durable. Spraying luster paper also works well. On the Polar Satin, it makes the bumps a little smoother, and overall makes the paper a little shinier, but keeps the overall impression.

I also tried ClearStar ClearShield which is water based and doesn’t smell as bad, but no amount of special rollers or brushes could get the coating to go on smoothly without bubbles. Unless you have a spraying rig, don’t bother.

Glossy Paper

Most of the good-quality gloss papers feel and look are very similar. I have found the largest difference is the way that they take ink. There is a surprising variety of problems with this test image of the Taiwanese flag:

The bright red portions of the flag force the printer to lay a thick layer of magenta and yellow ink. The darker areas require an additional layer of black ink which tends to overload most papers. In all cases, changing the printer from “Best” to “Max DPI” improved the results slightly, and reducing ink density by one stop solved the problem completely with some loss of saturation. Different paper settings didn’t seem to improve the results over these adjustments, so I did most of my testing with the HP Advanced Photo Paper selected.

These are listed in descending order; I would recommend any of the first group for the B9180. Looking at the results, I can’t distinguish any quality difference between these papers other than the surface differences. The rest all have visible problems in areas of high ink density.

Recommended

Acceptable

Not Recommended

Fiber-based silver gelatin lookalikes

These papers all have no plastic (“resin”) and are mostly semi-gloss.

Recommended

Executive summary: The Harman, Ilford, and Pictorico Gekko are the best papers for the B9180 (possibly excepting Pictorico Film). If you want a more glossy paper with some texture, get the Harman. If you want it a little more gloss, get the Harman. Note that the example scans are only to show texture: I did the adjustments at different times and so contrast is not realistic.

Acceptable

Not Recommended

Lustre and Semigloss Paper

I found all of these papers exhibit some amount of gloss differential between areas of ink and areas of almost no ink, and gray-only prints inks still have some bronzing. Although both of these problems are much less than on the gloss surfaces, any of the papers below will probably have unacceptable bronzing for black-and-white prints. Composite grayscale images look great on any of them.

Recommended

Acceptable

Not Recommended

I’ve heard that Ilford Smooth Pearl doesn’t work well with the B9180, which is too bad because I like their pearl paper.

Matte Paper

I have grouped “Rag” and photo matte papers here together, marking the rag ones. This list is presented in the order I would take them if I had only one matte photo surface to print on. The first three are almost the same (counting the two Photo Rag variants as one). The Photo Rag Bright White is the whitest, then Museo, then Photo Rag. Museo is the thickest (though it also comes in a lighter-weight version), then Photo Rag. Either the Red River Polar or the Lumijet are excellent medium-priced papers to keep around.

Recommended

Acceptable

Not Recommended

Watercolor and finely-textured paper

Recommended

Acceptable

Not Recommended

Coarsely-textured paper

Canvas

Canvas-Textured Paper

Other

© 2010 Brett Wilson