If you read my Printing 101 eBook then you know that the real cost of printing isn’t the ink, it’s the paper. Paper costs add up and the better the paper the worse it gets! Times are tough so real working pros are looking for ways to lower their costs without lowering their quality. Hobbyists are in the same boat since there’s no income involved. As a result, I thought it would be useful to compare some of my favorite Epson papers to what I would call their “generic equivalents” at Red River Paper.
I should note that this article not only applies to Epson printers, but Canon and some HP printers as well.
I will say up front that I really like Epson papers quite a bit, so if you fall into that camp consider this: How often do you find yourself making a few prints before you think “okay, that’s perfect”? Even the best of of the best print masters I’ve spoken with say that it usually takes them 3 or 4 prints (minimum) before they reach that point. What if you could have a paper that was very similar to do your test prints with and then you used the Epson paper for your final print? You’d have the same end result, but you’d save some money in the process!
Personally I’ve found Red River Papers to be excellent replacements for my Epson papers, so I use them quite often. If I’m giving a print away to a friend or family member, or I’m just doing some print testing I’m often reaching for Red River Paper as a way to keep my costs down. In some cases though, they have the perfect paper that isn’t offered by Epson (like Polar Pearl Metallic or various double-sided paper choices). As a result, I’ve enjoyed getting familiar with their paper lineup and experimenting with their wide variety of papers to see which paper suits a given print the best.
In this article I focus on the papers Red River Paper makes that are best suited for photographers. I feature notes about these papers and where applicable I list what Epson papers they offer that are comparable along with my two cents about what I think of both.
It’s tough to switch paper brands and it’s even harder to pour through all of the choices to know what to get. As a result, I highly recommend you try out Red River Paper’s Photographer's Choice Sample Kit because it includes two 8.5x11 sheets of the papers listed in this section.
Resin Coated Photo-Feel Papers
- 66lb. Polar Pearl Metallic – This is my “money” paper when I want to wow clients. I’ve become very fond of the new 80lb version, but this will give you an idea if you will like metallic paper or not. See my metallic comparison article to learn more.
- 66lb. Arctic Polar Gloss – This paper (255g/m² 10.5mil) is just a great glossy paper comparable that is much more substantial than Epson Glossy Photo Paper (196g/m² 9.4mil), but like all of the Arctic Polar papers, it has a cool tone to it.
- 66lb. Arctic Polar Satin – This is a great paper with less texture than Luster and less gloss than Glossy. At 255g/m² and 10.5mil it compares very favorably to Epson Photo Semi-Gloss Paper (170g/m² 7mil), and it’s my preference over both Luster and Glossy paper. This is great stuff, but I prefer the UltraPro Satin 2.0 listed below.
- 75lb. Arctic Polar Luster – Epson Exhibition Fiber (EFP) is 325g/m² and 13mil and this paper is 300g/m² & 11.8mil so it’s a bit lighter with a lot more flex than the very rigid Epson paper. This luster is definitely a superior to Epson Ultra Premium Luster (240g/m² & 10mil) in terms of thickness and has a cooler bright white appearance. EFP is slightly warmer but it also has a more pure bright white appearance. This paper is ideal for those who like Luster and want a superior presentation and feel, but who dislike the rigidity (and the price) of EFP.
- 68lb. UltraPro Gloss 2.0 – This is an excellent 240g/m² 10.4mil glossy paper with a warmer more natural tone and a slightly more substantial feel than the Arctic Polar Gloss. This is my preferred Glossy paper from Red River Paper as it is closer to Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper.
- 68lb. UltraPro Satin 2.0 – This is comparable to Epson Premium Semi-Gloss Photo Paper (251g/m² 10.4mil) at 270g/m² 10.4mil. I love this paper and it’s second only to the 80lb. Polar Pearl Metallic as my most used Red River Paper. It has a wonderful luster-like performance with less texture and a pleasing bright white but warmer tone than the Arctic Polar.
Matte Photo Papers
- 60lb. Polar Matte – This is a nice cool white paper that comes in a single and double-sided version. It’s a 229g/m² 10mil paper that is perfectly smooth and super high quality. I really like this paper and prefer its brightness to the 60lb. Premium Matte mentioned below.
- 47lb. Premium Matte – This 176g/m², 8.5mil paper reminds me of Epson Matte Heavyweight Paper (167g/m² 9mil). It is not a fine art paper, but it’s good for volume use where higher quality is needed.
- 50lb. Premium Matte Double Sided – This 185g/m², 9mil paper compares with Epson Double Sided Matte Paper (178g/m² 9.7mil).It’s good for cardstock needed when printing on both sides.
- 60lb. Premium Matte – This 232g/m², 11mil paper blows away the Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte (192g/m², 10.3mil) paper that I a lot of people use for their fine art matte printing needs. This smooth and natural paper is closer in quality to the Aurora Fine Art Natural at a slightly cheaper price. It’s good stuff that Epson Premium Matte users are sure to enjoy for a price that’s about the same.
Watercolor 100% Cotton Papers
- Aurora Fine Art White – This is a hearty 250g/m² 13.5mil paper that claims minimal OBA’s, but it’s so much brighter white than the Natural that I have a hard time believing that claim. Instead it seems to have the amped brightness of Epson’s Hot Press Bright (330g/m² and 17mil). Color wise they are very similar with the brightness advantage to the Epson paper. If you find the rigidity of the Epson paper to be frustrating, then this is an excellent replacement. Unlike the Natural paper below, I find it much easier to distinguish this paper from Epson’s Hot Press Bright.
- Aurora Fine Art Natural – This is a hearty 250g/m² 13.5mil paper with minimal OBA’s. It reminds me a lot of Epson Hot Press Natural (330g/m² and 17mil), but it’s a little less rigid and it seems to have an even smoother texture. Color wise they are virtually identical. If viewed separately I think one would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two, so if you find the rigidity of the Epson paper to be frustrating, then this is an excellent replacement. The natural papers from both Red River Paper and Epson have a much more substantial feel than their white/bright counterparts, despite being statistically the same.
- 45lb. Zeppelin SemiGloss 2-sided – Need to do a tri-fold brochure? This is your paper! It’s think, folds easily and supports double-sided printing. I really like it for handouts, but I wouldn’t use it for fine art.
- 60lb. Pecos River Gloss – I’ve never had a chance to check this paper out yet, so I can’t really comment on it. It’s purpose seems to be for situations like greeting/Christmas cards where you want a glossy outside and a plain paper back that supports light graphics and text.
Specialty Matte Papers
- 62lb. River Linen – This is what I’d call “Resume Paper” because it has a beautiful linen pattern. At 220g/m² and 10mil, it feels impressive in the hand. It’s an archival paper suitable for fine art that brings its own texture to your print.
- 60lb. Paper Canvas – This is a brilliant idea for those who love the texture of canvas, but hate the flex and mounting requirements. This is a paper, NOT a canvas, with a canvas looking texture that looks and performs very much like the River Linen. At 230g/m² and 11mil, it is quite hearty and feels very special in the hand.
NOTE: Sample sheets are labeled on the front lower right for easy identification. This leaves room for a full 8x10.
Profiles & Support
A paper company can’t (and shouldn’t) survive without great ICC profiles and instructions. I’m very satisfied with Red River because they offer profiles for a wide array of printers. I’ve also heard great stories of readers getting excellent customer service – better than Epson according to some – so service after the sale seems to be the name of the game.
I’ve been very satisfied with the Red River Paper products that I’ve used, and I’d have no reservations recommending them to a friend. I still go with some of the heavyweight Epson papers for my most important clients, but for friends and my personal print jobs I’m totally satisfied with the Red River Paper alternatives. It’s great quality at an affordable price, so I highly recommend you pick up a sample kit to see for yourself!
The 80lb. Polar Pearl Metallic is my first choice for fine art metallic printing, and I have used the 68lb. UltraPro Satin 2.0 and Aurora Fine Art Natural quite often in my studio (more than Epson equivalents).
Where to order (SPECIAL OFFER)
- 68lb. UltraPro Gloss 2.0
- 66lb. Arctic Polar Gloss
- 66lb. Polar Pearl Metallic
- 80lb. Polar Pearl Metallic
- 68lb. UltraPro Satin 2.0
- 66lb. Arctic Polar Satin
- 75lb. Arctic Polar Luster
- 50lb. Arctic Polar Luster Double Sided
- 32lb.Premium Gloss
- 42lb. Pecos River Gloss
- 86lb.Pecos River Gloss Double Sided
- 26lb. ColorJet – This light-weight paper will surprise you with its ability to print brilliant color and detail to equal Epson's Presentation Paper Matte. 8.5x11 only 5¢ / sheet
- 32lb. Premium Matte
- 37lb. Premium Matte
- 47lb. Premium Matte
- 60lb. Premium Matte
- 60lb. Polar Matte
- 60lb. Paper Canvas
- 62lb. GreenPix - Made of 100% post-consumer recycled content. Unlike many post-consumer product papers, GreenPix™ has few surface imperfections. Photos come out clean and sharp. The back of the sheet is plain paper, suitable for text printing and writing. Its pleasing warm color, top grade photo inkjet coating and sturdy card weight and thickness. Landscapes, portraits, and artistic reproductions all benefit from the neutral warmth of GreenPix™.
- 62lb. River Linen
- 88lb. Polar Matte Magna
- 32lb. Premium Matte Double Sided
- 50lb. Premium Matte Double Sided
- 60lb. Polar Matte Double Sided
- Aurora Fine Art White
- Aurora Fine Art Natural
- San Gabriel Semi Gloss Fiber – This is comparable to Canson Baryta, but not any Epson paper that I’ve used. I wasn’t a big fan of its texture, but as of this writing it has 10 reviews with a 5 star average so if you like Baryta then I think you’ll be happy with this one.
- Blanco Matte Canvas
Other articles you may enjoy
If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy these:
- Metallic Paper Comparison: Red River Polar Pearl vs LexJet Sunset Photo (Coupon Code Included)
- Which Printer Should I Buy? Epson or Canon?
- Breathing Color Lyve Canvas – The best canvas I've ever used! (discount offer)
- Color Management 101 - How do I get prints to match what I see on my display?
- Dano’s Dictionary of Fine Art and Photography Printing Terms (Concise Edition)
- GTI PDV-2020EX Desktop Viewer - 23.5 x 25.3" with Lower Luminaire and Side Walls
- Ilford Galerie Prestige Smooth Pearl Photo Paper
- The PERFECT Print DVD Series by Randy Hufford - A MUST own series!
- Epson Ultra Premium Luster Review and How To Walkthrough Videos for Mac & Windows - Covers Lightroom & Photoshop for Mac and Windows for the R3000, 3800 & 4900
- Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper Review and How To Walkthrough
- Epson Hot & Cold Press Papers Review
- Canon Fine Art Bright White 330gsm Review
- How to print a 4x6 strip of prints without wasting paper on Canon iPF Printers
- Understanding Epson’s Printable Area Feature to Avoid Uneven Margins on the 4900
- Printing Series – Tons of information on printing topics
If you make a purchase using links found in this article, I may make a commission. It doesn’t cost you a penny more, but it does help to support future articles like this.
I was not paid or asked to do this article. I like and believe in this product, so I’m sharing this information to share my excitement for a great product at an affordable price.