Saturday, November 1, 2014

REVIEW: Epson Metallic Photo Paper Glossy & Luster

Epson Metallic Glossy & Luster Photo Papers
Epson Metallic Glossy & Luster Photo Papers

I’m delighted to finally get a chance to bring you my review of Epson Metallic Glossy & Luster Photo Papers. This blog was made famous in the printing community for my previous metallic papers reviews, and I had been encouraging Epson for years to develop a metallic paper. Epson also surprised me by not only doing a traditional glossy metallic but also introducing a luster metallic paper. I’m a huge fan of the Epson Ultra Premium Luster and an ever bigger fan of metallic, so the marriage between the two is more than a dream come true!

Impressions

When I did my last metallic paper comparison, I loved Red River Polar Pearl Metallic and felt it was the winner on price but identical in quality to the Lexjet. As a result of the price advantage, the Red River has been my paper of choice for the last 2+ years and it even had a short run in an incredible 300gsm version (now discontinued) that is still my most favorite ever! As a result, when it comes to glossy metallic, Red River Polar Pearl is the standard by which others are judged.

Glossy

When I flop the papers around in my hands, I notice that the Epson Glossy Metallic seems to have less flex in it – which is great, because that’s the only gripe I have about the Red River (which is what the 300gsm fixed). The color of the Epson seems to be slightly warmer when viewed under a GTI light box, but other than that they are very similar. The amount metallic flake (for lack of a better term) in both papers seems to be about the same, and in my testing the printed results when using the superior Red River ICC profile on both papers surprisingly resulted in the Epson having a slightly cooler temperature image. The cost of the papers currently gives Epson the slight advantage, but if you use my discount coupon code for Red River papers then the Polar Pearl is slightly cheaper.

Luster (or Lustre)

Regardless of how you spell Luster, the Epson Luster Metallic is the first of its kind to come into my studio. I was absolutely THRILLED to find out that Epson had done a luster version because I prefer luster over glossy by a large margin.

As you would hope, the Epson metallic luster has what appears to be an identical luster texture and pattern to the ultra premium luster yet the color is slightly brighter for the ultra premium. The metallic characteristics of this new luster metallic are exactly what I would have hoped for, so I was very satisfied to see that it is a true metallic.

Again I had ICC profile issues, but overall I found the DMax and quality of the print to be very good. In the end I would strongly recommend this paper for anyone who loves metallic but would prefer to print on luster instead of glossy papers.

Compared to Red River & LexJet Metallics

When it comes to luster metallic, there’s only one game in town for me – Epson. However, when it comes to glossy metallic I still prefer the Red River Polar Pearl as my go to paper. My opinion could change if Epson improves its paper profiles, but given what I used during my testing I found the Polar Pearl to have deeper blacks and a more faithful color matching to what I saw on my color calibrated screen (when viewing the prints in a GTI lightbox).

ICC Profiles need work

I downloaded my ICC profiles for my 3880 from http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/jsp/Pro/ICCProfilesAll.do on November 1, 2014. At that point in time, I felt disappointed with the quality of the ICC profiles provided by Epson. This is rare as they are famous for making brilliant ICC profiles, so hopefully they will do an update in the future. In the meantime, if you can generate your own ICC profiles I’d recommend that you do. You may also find that using the non-metallic equivalent Epson profiles might yield more satisfying results than the actual metallic profiles – however, I strongly discourage that practice unless you have no option. If you don’t mind wasting a little paper and ink, I’d encourage you to do test prints where you print the same part of a image on roughly 1/3rd of the paper with one profile and the same on the other side with the same image and compare the results on the same sheet of paper.

To my eyes the metallic glossy profile generates images that have a cooler color temperature than they should which results in red’s feeling more purple to my eyes. Printing the same identical image with identical settings, but on Red River’s metallic with their profile yielded a perfect print. When printing on the metallic luster and comparing to the ultra premium luster I observed that the metallic print resulted in an image that was too yellow whereas the ultra premium luster was perfect.

I repeated the prints with the metallic papers just to make sure I didn’t make a mistake and got the same identical results, so I’m convinced the problem is the quality of the Epson paper profiles.

Conclusion

My bottom line is that if you are printing metallic and like luster paper over glossy, then definitely get the Epson Metallic Photo Paper Luster – it’s great stuff! Once I get a good paper profile for it (and I’ll make one myself if I must), it’ll probably be my preferred metallic paper. However, if you still like the glossy metallic – which does have a bit more metallic appearance to it – then I’d still recommend the Red River Polar Pearl Metallic over the Epson Metallic Photo Paper Glossy.

If my opinion changes based on future paper profile updates then I’ll be sure to update this article.

Where to order

Click here to learn more or order these papers on the B&H web site. My friends at Amazon have it available here.

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ron, I really appreciate your tests as it saves me some time (and money) as I've been doing some metallic tests myself. So far out of the 11 different brands I've only come across three distinct papers, Mitsubishi (aka Red River, Lexjet, Moab, Proofline Photochrome and Pictorico), Breathing color and Kodak, and from your description it sounds like Epson could be the same as Kodak which has a sort of muddy brownish/magenta substrate that leaves the highlights with a similar muddy cast.

By far the highest quality is the Breathing Color having the thickest paper and deepest blacks, but it is also a bit too metallic for most of my work.

But there are three papers I'm still unsure of: Inkpress, Finestra and itsupplies' Simply Elegant Chrome. So I was wondering if you were familiar with them?

Thanks