So last week I was watching a YouTube video where the guy presenting was a rep for Moab papers. I’d never heard of them and I do like my paper, so I went off hunting on the internet to find out more. And here’s a post adding some more information to the scant content available online…
I’m in the UK, and I had to order from Germany as there's no UK distributor which was a bit of a pain (hear that Onlinepaper?) and the test pack (which was 2 sheets of everything they do) was quite pricey at £40. However shipping from Germany isn’t cheap, and the paper isn’t cheap so plumbing for a box of something specific could have been a costly mistake. It’s hard to find well articulated reviews of paper on the internet… Oh wait…
It was a solid box, and presented with care. Each sheet has a label, which helps enormously with organising, and I was pretty excited to see what it contained. I downloaded the ICC profiles for my Epson SP4800 and went to work with a set of test prints.
The first paper I tried was the Slickrock Metallic Silver. I did a B&W print and my LK nozzle was blocked. This ruined one of the 2 sheets, which was a big disappointment. I usually do a test print on one sheet, then another print of something appropriate on the second. For example, if the paper looks like it works well with B&W, I’ll print a B&W image as my second print. More on this later…
The Somerset Museum Rag is their matt paper, and it pushed the reds quite hard in my test print. I think I will be sticking with St Cuthberts' Somerset Photo Satin and/or Fotospeesd's NST Bright White for matt which give better (neutral) colour rendition out of the box with no fiddling, but this is still a really nice matt paper. Unfortunately it’s just too costly to ship in from Germany at no benefit over the St Cuthbert's paper for my liking.
The Juniper Baryta is a really nice paper that has lovely colour rendition and texture. However it's no better than Canson's Platine Fibre Rag, Museo's Silver Rag, or Hahnemuhle's Photo Rag Baryta, but it is much more expensive by the time you've ordered it from Germany. And paid P&P. And paid VAT. /grumble. There are a lot of nice Baryta papers out there, with little to separate the high end fine art rags. The Juniper Baryta would probably compete if I could get it in the UK, but I can’t. So that’s that.
The Moenkopi Kozo/Unryu are really interesting silk Japanese papers that aren’t for me at all. The Moab ICC profiles are *very* red and would need some tweaking to get right. The Unryu has got bits in it that really distract from my image, and the Kozo is extremely soft. For pencil drawings they'd probably be fab, but for photography they're not for me.
The rest of the papers in the box were average. Nothing really standing out over and above UK sourced (hence much cheaper!) Fotospeed or Permajet papers.
And that would have been it. A bit miffed at £40 for nothing special. However the day was saved by the Slickrock Metallic Silver.
Sadly, this is an RC paper that's got the same texture as my PC World unbranded "luxury photo paper". You can't even tear it by hand it's so plastic and I'm sure my bin men would want it in the plastic bin rather than paper recyc. It's got a huge red overtone that requires aspirin to resolve and a further colour saturation across the rest of the gamut that's Fuji Velvia ramped up to 12. As for soft proofing, well my Lightroom just went white. Literally. White. Joy.
But with half a decent black & white image rolling out of the printer specifically, 850nm infra-red conversion, it was just bloody lovely. So lovely that I immediately remortgaged the house for a box of A4 & 13x19. Plus VAT, Plus delivery.. For an RC paper. A glossy RC paper. The antithesis of what I'd normally buy.
3 days later it arrived (you pay through the nose for delivery, but it’s quick and well packaged - those Germans are efficient!) and I popped the box of A4 to try and start getting decent prints out of it.
First up, as someone who hasn’t used gloss since I started printing my own, I was surprised by how carefully you have to handle the surface. My inks take a good few minutes to dry (on my Baryta/Matt papers they come out dry) and it’s really annoying to get bits of dust on them. I’m sure there are fine art photographers out there with an air free studio and cotton gloves, but I think I’ve been spoiled by my environment. 2 of my first 5 prints have got bits of dust on them and one has a scratch (no idea how that got there!). 1st tip - handle with care. Also - there is a statement on the box that suggests that you avoid touching the printable surface. Do this. Seriously. My wife picked up a print with slightly damp fingers and left a big white “stain” on the border. Not good!
Next, is the fact that because the inks take time to dry, the appearance of the print changes. Images go from “crap” to “amazing” just by waiting a few minutes. Looking at the paper on an angle, allows you to see very clearly where ink has been laid down and where it hasn’t (white), but this effect fades as the ink dries.
Now for the biggie. Colour & contrast. I used the Moab ICC profile out of the box, and as I mentioned above, it over-saturates the colours too much for my liking. In Lightroom, when I try and soft-proof to correct, the screen goes completely white. This happens in Photoshop too, and I can’t be ar$ed figuring out why. Instead, a quick Google suggested changing the Intent from Perceptual to Relative. Fixed in one click. Other sites have suggested using Epson’s own profiles but from the SP4800 point of view, all I can say is no. Don’t. My B&W experiment using the printer to manage colours was a flat toned, soft disaster. Use the Moab profile and set the Intent to Relative. Especially if you have a 4800 ‘cos that worked perfect for my eyes. Proper England. Sepia is good.
The paper itself is blue. This means any “white” in your image will actually be blue. Those of you who remember “bluey white” ads from the 70s/80s may know what this means, but there is no white to this paper. If you have a high contrast image you’re going to be disappointed because the Slickrock paper works at its best on your “flatter” images that are monochromatic (toned or B&W). Even with the rendering intent set, there is still a Velvia-like punch to the colours which is too OTT for me. Your mileage etc etc. I’ve been giving my 900nm+ IR images a blue treatment (they come blue OOC) and this paper is just superb for that as it enhances the blue already present. True B&W is still an experiment for me. I reckon that even with messing with the printer to force B&W, I’m still getting sepia (slightly red caste) but all our eyes are different, so I am going to accept that I lie what I like, or I’ll just go insane. I’m not a hair-splitter when it comes to colour.
Actual full colour images are distorted by the paper. If colour was an important part of your story, this paper could wreck it, or it could enhance it to head-noddingly cool values. Marmite paper. No doubt. One cross processed portrait looked fab. Another ordinary rose still life looked carp. Take what you like etc, etc.
All In all, I’ve never found a paper that’s required so many test prints to get how I like. But the effort was worth while. Just done a 13x19 of Lothlorien (my wife’s name for it!) and it’s just amazing. Any image that I’ve taken that makes me chuckle at how much I enjoy it is worth every penny.
Oh - and Moab - if you;re listening. Here in the UK. That’s a lot of pennies…