So I suddenly got the urge to buy some Hahnemuhle test packs recently. This was really apropo of nothing other than a desire to look at more paper, and after a bit of messing about with various sites, I managed to source the two Hahnemuhle Fine Art Matt test packs. You can have "textured" or "smooth" and each pack contains different papers with 2 sheets of each for your perusal. The Textured one had 5 papers, while the smooth had 6.
It's possible that I'm getting a tad... obsessed... about my paper as you can see below. I ran off a sheet of each (with the Hahnemuhle ICC profiles which are thankfully dead easy to get hold of!) printing my favourite test image and shuffling them in with my existing box of matt papers. A proper blind test.
I also have a spreadsheet (cringe!) that scores each paper based on Feel (what it feels like in my hand), Finish (how does it look with a print on it?) and Quality (how well does it reproduce colour?) Each paper can get up to 10 points in each category giving an overall score out of 30.
These papers are competing against my current "favourite" papers of St Cuthberts Photo Satin (30), and Museo Max (27) - both of which are very subtly textured papers (to the point of no real discernable texture!)
The textured papers were very heavily textured. Too much for my liking, so almost all the papers lost points on Finish. The "ripples" in the paper on these samples were so strong that they cast shadows on the print from an angle which was an effect I really didn't like. It's a minor point though, and very subjective, so it only cost the papers a mark or two. All papers scored highly on "Feel" (9s and 10s) because you can feel the quality in the manufacture. It feels reassuringly expensive...
Coming in last place, was the Albrecht Durer (18). This paper not only had a texture that was overbearing, but I was surprised to see the shadow detail completely disappear in the test print. This was a deal-breaker for me as I hate having to soft-proof and tweak. I'm lazy and just prefer to get a print out of the printer that looks like my screen without a lot of messing about.
Next up were the William Turner (24), Museum Etching (25) and Torchon (25) all of which had a clear warm/magenta caste to the image which pushed skin tones too far into the "orange-tan" spectrum for my liking. Again - this could be fixed with soft-proofing, but why?
Finally, the "winner" of this pack was the German Etching (27) which had a texture that wasn't too overbearing. It had the red caste that the other papers had, but it wasn't as bad, and it adds a lot of nice warmth to my sepia processed soft portrait work. I'm still not 100% sold on the texture though. I might have tried an A3 print to see how it looked big (probably less noticeable) but on A4 it's just not my cup of tea.
I was expecting the smooth papers therefore to fare much better but they didn't. I'm not going to cover the rice paper - that's not really comparable, but the others were a bit duff.
The Photo Rag Bright White was immediately binned (18) due to the excessive OBAs and magenta caste which made the colours just look... weird. Easy to fix with lots of faffing, but my Museo & Somerset papers look superb out of the box. The other photo rag's didn't fare much better I'm afraid with the trademark red caste, and loss of shadow detail (in particular with the Fine Art Photo Rag). Only the Bamboo redeemed itself (25) which rendered the images beautifully but had a huge red overtone that ruined colour images.
So all in all, I'm not switching to Hahnemuhle for matt paper. I'm really happy with my Museo Max & Somerset Photo Satin. Both are superb papers, and the Somerset paper renders colours absolutely Bob on.