Friday, July 21, 2017

REVIEW: Red River Paper Palo Duro Etching Fine Art Paper

If you've followed along in my printing series, you know that I'm a fan of Red River Paper as a suitable alternative to more expensive papers. In fact, my article entitled Red River Paper vs Epson Papers has been one of my more popular articles because I offer my honest opinion on similarities and trade offs for going with Red River over various Epson papers. In fact, my last review entitled Red River Paper - San Gabriel Baryta Semi Gloss 2.0 I declared it just as good as the more expensive Baryta's.

It's no wonder that when Red River came out with their Palo Duro Etching paper a few months ago that they immediately reached out to me to get my thoughts on it. I printed with it and liked it right away, but I've been so crazy busy I haven't found time to write about it. Lucky for you and some insomnia after the baby waking me up in the middle of the night means that you'll finally get to hear my thoughts on this hearty fine art paper.

No Epson Comparison

While I've got a lot of Epson papers, for this review I only had 13x19 and 5x7 versions of this Red River paper. I have no other 5x7 papers to compare against and I can't scan 13x19 sheets, so this review will simply judge it on its own merit.

I will say that the closest thing I've used to this paper is the Hahnemühle German Etching, but that is still a very different paper that has no equal that I've seen (yet). I reference that paper because it's one that has a heavy texture, and that is something this paper definitely has - loads of visible texture. If that is something that bothers you, then stop reading as this isn't the right paper for you. However, if you can look at a canvas print and ignore the texture then read on.

Now the feel of this paper reminds me of the gritty feel of Epson Velvet or Epson Ultrasmooth  paper.

Tech Specs

Media: 100% cotton rag
Weight: 315gsm
Thickness: 21mil
Coated: Microporous coated one side
Color: Natural warm white tone
Surface: Heavy textured matte

Pigment Ink Users: This media is designed for Matte Black ink 

Archival Characteristics: Acid free, lignin free, OBA free, museum grade

Color Quality

Click here To get an ICC profile.

Color gamut of Palo Duro Etching (larger) vs Epson Cold Press Natural (smaller)
Color gamut of Palo Duro Etching (larger) vs Epson Cold Press Natural (smaller)

Matte black ink on fine art matte papers are always going to have a smaller color gamut than photo black on resin coated papers, but the color gamut of the Red River ICC color profile for the Epson SureColor P600 completely consumes that of the excellent Epson Cold Press Natural as shown in the graph above. What this means is that you'll get better color across the entire color spectrum using Red River's profile with this paper than you will with Epson's.

Color gamut of the Canon PRO-1000 (larger) vs Epson P600 (smaller) using the RR ICC profiles
Color gamut of the Canon PRO-1000 (larger) vs Epson P600 (smaller) using the RR ICC profiles

The Canon PRO-1000 had a wide color gamut in the ICC profile that I used for my testing

Now before the hate mail comes in, for the record here's the Epson P800 profile compared to the PRO-1000 and it's smaller too:


and to counteract more conspiracy theories - here's the settings I used for the above graph where the PRO-1000 shows a larger color gamut than the Epson P800:

ICC Profiles Used for Testing

Here's a scan of 5x7 print made on the Epson P600 using the Red River profile on Paulo Duro Etching and you can see the color gamut is quite impressive for a matte paper:

Full Resolution Tiff V850 Scan of a SureColor P600 Pal Duro Etching Print

It should be noted that my scanner couldn't pick up the full range of grayscale so I had to scan it twice to get the gray squares and the grayscale gradient is better in real life than what's shown in the photo. Simply put, the scan doesn't do it justice compared to what you'll see in real life.

Click here To get an ICC profile.

In The Hand

At 21mil and 315gsm, this is no flimsy paper! It's got a hearty chalky feel with a noticeable texture. It doesn't flex easily and Red River recommends using the fine art media tray, but I was able to run it through the Auto sheet feeder on my P600 without any problem, so it's not unbearably thick!

Photo Quality

The following are unedited s of actual 5x7 prints made using my P600 (my dedicated matte black printer). In the first photo, this is Epson's Advanced Black & White mode of a color photo:

Full Resolution Tiff V850 Scan of a SureColor P600 Pal Duro Etching Print
Advanced Black and White Mode (Warm | Dark setting)

It was a little darker than I hoped so some of the details were muddy in the vest, but it looks better in real life than in the scan. Here's the color print which is remarkably close in tone to what I get using photo black and luster paper:

Full Resolution Tiff V850 Scan of a SureColor P600 Pal Duro Etching Print
Photoshop Manages Color using Red River P600 ICC Profile

Here's the actual photo file used for the print  which of course has a much wider dynamic and tonal range:

Gary Original Image printed from Photoshop

In this next photo, the loss of color fidelity in the reds and yellows can be seen fairly easily - as well as the hearty texture of this paper:

Full Resolution Tiff V850 Scan of a SureColor P600 Pal Duro Etching Print using RR ICC

It should come as no surprise, this isn't a great paper for high fashion, but that's not its intent. Landscapes, abstracts, and images with lots of texture are the ones that will benefit the most. 

Model Original Image printed from Photoshop

Full Resolution Tiff V850 Scan of a SureColor P600 Pal Duro Etching Print using RR ICC

Naturally the best type of image for this type of paper is going to be a images with lots of texture, so I've printed my famous Treehouse photo using both the P600 (above) and the Canon PRO-1000 (below) using ICC profiles provided by Epson and I was quite pleased with the real world results.

The wider gamut of the Canon comes through in the form of warmer tones and deeper blacks. In real life under a light box in ideal lighting conditions, the Canon really shines but in normal tungsten lighting conditions the Epson print doesn't feel as dark so it is easier to see some of the detail in the shadows.  Simply put, both look good but if you have great lighting conditions then the Canon will produce the more visually pleasing print.

Full Resolution Tiff V850 Scan of a Canon PRO-1000 Pal Duro Etching Print using RR ICC

Epson Driver Settings (Windows)

For Epson SureColor printers, the driver will be basically the same so here's the settings I chose:

Epson SureColor Settings on Windows for Red River Palo Duro Etching

I did Cold Press Natural so I could use the sheet feeder, despite Red River's recommendation for using Velvet because 5x7 paper can't be used for the manual feeder (required for Velvet).

No matter what paper you use, you have to set Paper Thickness to 5 in Paper Config(uration):

Epson P600 Paper Configuration for Red River Palo Duro Etching

In all of my testing, I had no issues with the paper being scratched - even when I forgot the paper thickness set to 2. You'll also noticed below that I did LEVEL 4 (1440x1440 dpi) per Red River's guidance. 1440 does variable size dots vs 2880 which uses fixed size, so the lower resolution can still result in higher quality results which was my observation with this paper. As a result, I agree with Red River's recommendations:

Epson SureColor Settings on Windows - Summary Red River Palo Duro Etching

In Photoshop I chose to do Perceptual rendering intent (despite my normal preference for Relative Colormetric) for the best results:

Epson SureColor P600 Photoshop Settings Red River Palo Duro Etching

Mac settings look different, but the values are all the same so what you see here - despite looking very different - still applies to the Mac.

Canon PRO-1000 Settings (Windows)

For the Cano - PRO-1000 I chose Heavyweight Fine Art Paper so I could use the Rear Tray (for the same reason as above for Epson - you have to do this with 5x7 paper). I also chose the highest quality which with the optional XPS (non-default for Canon) driver can result in better color fidelity:

Canon PRO-1000 XPS Driver Settings (Windows) for Red River Palo Duro Etching

On this page the key thing to remember is to click Advanced Settings and Color Intensity to Manual (then click Set):

Canon PRO-1000 XPS Driver Main Settings (Windows) for Red River Palo Duro Etching

For color you want None so Photoshop can apply the ICC profile without double color management:

Canon PRO-1000 XPS Driver Manul Color Adjustment Matching for Red River Palo Duro Etching

For Advanced Settings you have to set Print Head Height to "Avoid Paper Abrasion" which just means this is thick paper:

Canon PRO-1000 XPS Driver Paper Detailed Settings for Red River Palo Duro Etching

Canon PRO-1000 Photoshop Settings for Red River Palo Duro Etching


This paper feels substantial in the hand with a hearty texture so some will perceive that as high quality and others will be think ugh, that's too chalky for me. However, that's the art of choosing the right paper for the right photo. When paired with a texture heavy image like the treehouse shot, it's a great choice that feels good in the hand.

This paper has the fine art "special" feel that separates it from your cheapo prints, so even a novice will know that this wasn't printed at your local discount warehouse or volume online print service. When commanding a premium price for your images, this is important so that's where paper like this really pays for itself!

Red River has done a good job of offering a museum quality paper at a reasonable price with excellent ICC profiles. As a result, this paper is an easy one to recommend to both Canon and Epson fine art printer users.

Where to Buy?

CLICK HERE to learn more or buy today.

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