PCIN reader Jim Kniskern sent the following email to us with some very good information about photo printing in response to our tip feature in our PCIN Update issue 360. Feel free to leave any comments on what he has to say.
Chris: On reading today’s item on having commercial prints made in preference to using a home printer, I have a comment. I worked in the paper industry for 50 years, including in a printing subsidiary. I helped develop widely used coated bleached paperboard for packaging (foods, pharmaceuticals, etc.)
Our customers included not just Canadians and Americans, but I traveled also in Europe where we had excellent sales. I was impressed that the English consider as garrish the glossy paper coatings favored in America; they prefer soft, velvety, matte coatings as a much more luxurious printing background. Yes, glossy photo paper provides lots of snap to a print, but I question whether it offers any more detail than matte coatings for photo reproduction. The real criteria for the printing surface should be:
1) Quality of ink holdout, so that the printed dots do not spread nor soak into the sheet.
2) Dot reproduction, where no dots are missing, nor missing in detail due to roughness, surface defects, or an unreceptive coating.
3) Brightness of the coating on which the dots lie. This influences true reproduction of colors. Color printing starts with all the colors of the sprectrum in the base coating, then proceeds to apply colored filters in the form of magenta, cyan and yellow inks. The higher the brightness underneath, the greater the range of hues than can possibly be produced.
Gloss levels of photo paper would appear to be unrelated to these properties. I routinely use a good matte finish paper for printing digital photos at a cost of roughly 10 cents per 8 1/2 X 11 sheet. When mounted in a frame behind glass, they appear identical to those printed on expensive glossy paper.
I am humble enough to say: “I would like to hear comments on this by others more expert than I.”
By the way, I still do not take exception to your overall conclusion. The commercial outlets that offer digital prints pay much less for their inks in bulk than do we consumers.