Fotospeed Matt Fine Art Inkjet Paper Review

In this inkjet paper review, we are looking at the matt fine art papers available from Fotospeed. But Fotospeed has a large range of inkjet papers for anyone wishing to print their own photography, that isn’t restricted to simply fine art papers.

If you have ever been to one of my club presentations, you will know that I bring along prints. I like to encourage people to handle and view the prints during the break and I’m ALWAYS asked what paper I used. The answer is Fotospeed Matt Ultra 240. If you are looking for an affordable matt inkjet paper for regular printing, I would recommend Fotospeed Matt Ultra 240. But if you are looking for an excellent matt fine art inkjet paper, the rest of this review should help.

Before we jump into the review there are a couple of things that I want you to know:

  1. Fotospeed gave me the test packs to complete this review. Ordinarily, I don’t accept gifts in return for reviews, but I made an exception in this case. Reviewing the Fotospeed fine art inkjet papers was already on my to-do list so this was an ideal opportunity.
  2. I’m already a Fotospeed paper user. I don’t think this will make me biased because there aren’t any other papers involved, but I wanted to share this for complete transparency.

Why I Picked Fotospeed

Around 8 years ago, I invested in an Epson 3880 A2 printer. At that time, I was experimenting with inkjet papers from lots of different manufacturers but didn’t feel entirely happy. I decided to invest some time (and money) testing lots of papers. I bought test packs from many of the leading paper suppliers and printed a colour and B&W image on each paper type.

Following several months of testing, I picked Fotospeed Natural Soft Texture (NST) as my choice of fine art matt inkjet paper. Since then, Fotospeed has released several new fine art inkjet papers so this is an ideal opportunity for me to revisit my decision.

Inkjet Paper Testing Approach

To complete this review, I’ve used two Fotospeed Fine Art Inkjet test packs:

  1. Matt Textured which contains four different fine art papers with 3 sheets of each. These papers have a medium to strong surface texture which may be visible in the finished print.
  2. Matt Smooth which contains six different fine art papers, also with 3 sheets of each. These papers have a smooth surface or in a couple of examples, a very slight texture.

I then printed two A4 images, one colour and the other black and white, to make my assessment. You can see the two images I used for the exercise below.

Images selected as test prints for the inkjet paper review

Making Inkjet Test Prints

To make my inkjet test prints I used an Epson 3880 printer with Adobe Lightroom on an Apple Mac. The printing process used the generic ICC paper profiles which I downloaded from the Fotospeed website.

Before making any prints, I ensured my monitor was correctly calibrated using my SpyderX Pro calibration unit.

To make the print I first soft proofed the image where I made any minor adjustments using a proof copy. This allowed me to compare the soft proof with the original image to ensure it was a match.

Here’s a screenshot of the soft proofing for printing to Fotospeed Signature Platinum Etching, using the Relative rendering intent. You can see the soft proof (right) is a good match for the original image (left).

Softproofing the Signature Platinum Etching 285 in Lightroom

I then printed the proof copy from the Lightroom Print module using the correct Fotospeed ICC profile and chosen rendering intent. I also disabled printer colour management so that Adobe Lightroom handled everything using the Fotospeed ICC profile.

Despite all these steps, not everything went quite to plan.

Mac Problems with the Test Prints

Whilst making my test prints, I encountered a couple of problems worth mentioning.

The first of these was one that I’ve encountered several times now. Here’s an example to help you understand what happens.

Example of the printer problem on the mac

The print on the left illustrates the problem whilst the print on the right is an accurate print to the same paper. Notice how the print with the problem has poor pink and blue saturation. The first time I encountered this I thought that I had clogged print heads, but they weren’t. I finally traced it to the Mac Printing system.

This problem seems to occur following updates to the Mac OS and requires a complete reset of the Mac printing system to fix it. If you’re not sure how to do this, I’ve published this tutorial explaining how.

ICC Profile Problems with the Test Print

In addition to the issue with the Mac printing system, I ran into a problem using some of the ICC Paper Profiles. Here are a couple of examples.

Examples of ICC paper profile issues

In both examples, the soft proofed image matched the original but neither print looks anything like the soft proof. Notice the print on the left appears to lack certain colours, like the Mac printing issue above.  The print on the right shows a different problem where the image is too dark and far too saturated.

Where I suspected problems with the generic ICC profiles, I opted to use a different profile from a paper that I felt was similar. This isn’t ideal but it gives a better idea of how the paper performs compared to using the “correct profile” for the paper and printer combination.

If you are unsure about using profiles for printing, this ICC profile tutorial will help.

Because of these problems, I would strongly recommend using the free custom ICC profiling service from Fotospeed. I’ve used this service in the past and it’s excellent. I didn’t use it for this review because time was against me.

When it came to making the black and white test prints, I opted for a different approach. Instead of using ICC profiles, I opted for the Epson Advanced B&W mode (ABW). This gives some consistency between the prints and produces a good quality result.

With the technical stuff covered, let’s look at the papers.

Paper Characteristics

When comparing the papers, I’m not only interested in how the image looks but also some of the paper characteristics. The three main characteristics that I’m interested in are:

  1. Surface Texture – In this review I’m looking at both textured and smooth papers, but I will be doing each separately. You may prefer one over the other but if you don’t, I would suggest using the smooth papers. Most people I speak to tend to dislike strongly textured papers, even when they don’t feel they have a preference. I also think textured papers don’t suit every image. Smooth or very lightly textured papers, on the other hand, work well with most images.
  2. Base Colour – Different papers are different shades of white. Some may be completely neutral whilst others may have a slight tone. You can see this best when placing the papers next to each other.
  3. Weight, Thickness and Stiffness – You may think that these aren’t important if you are framing your prints, but they are. Whilst you can’t feel the weight of a paper when framed, your printer may have limits on what it can handle. Because these papers are quite thick, I had to widen the print head gap (in my printer settings) to prevent the print head striking the edge of the paper. I will also say that I prefer a stiffer paper when printing as it tends not to warp if you need to lay down a lot of ink.

Now let’s look at how the inkjet papers in the test packs faired.

Evaluating the Textured Matt Fine Art Papers

Here is a photo of the texture fine art inkjet papers side by side. There is a slight discolouring which is down to the lighting being uneven, but it gives an idea of the difference between papers.

Textured paper showing different base colours

The papers are:

  1. Signature Platinum Etching 285gsm
  2. Signature Cotton Etching 305gsm
  3. Natural Textured 315gsm
  4. Natural Textured Bright White 315gsm

Whilst it may be difficult to see from the photographs, the Natural Textured paper (3) has quite a warm tone. The Signature Platinum Etching (1) and Natural Textured Bright White (4) are similar and quite neutral in tone. Signature Cotton Etching (2) seems to have the brightest base. Of the four papers, perhaps only Natural Textured has a base colour that won’t suit all images.

The photo also gives an indication of the surface texture of the papers. The two natural textured papers (3 & 4) are quite similar and have a strong surface texture. Again, this won’t suit all images and probably won’t be to everyone’s taste. The other two surfaces are more subtle and I’m hard pressed to pick a favourite; I would happily print any image on either.

In terms of stiffness and weight, I found the textured papers (3 & 4) to be thicker but not as stiff as the other papers. They feel softer to the touch which may suit printers with a curved paper feed. Stiffer papers need a flatter paper path into the printer otherwise they can slip during printing.

The Platinum Etching and Cotton Etching papers (1 & 2) both feel quite stiff in comparison to the textured papers. I doubt they would warp when laying down a lot of ink on the surface. Also, whilst there isn’t much between them in weight, the Cotton Etching feels slightly thicker and has more of a quality feel to it.

If I had to pick a favourite at this point it would probably be Signature Cotton Etching with the Signature Platinum Etching coming a close runner up. Now let’s see how well they print.

Colour Prints on Fotospeed Textured Matt Papers

The results from the colour test print came as a bit of a surprise to me. Here is a photo of the prints side by side.

Matt textured paper colour test print

Print 1 on Signature Platinum Etching is probably the nearest to the image that I wanted to achieve whilst print 4 on Natural Textured Bright White looks too dark. The real surprise came with print 3 on the Natural Textured paper which also looks good despite this being a warm paper. Print 2 which is on the Signature Cotton Etching is OK but a little disappointing. I had expected it to be more like the Signature Platinum Etching paper.

Trying to make sense of the results, print number 4 may be dark because of a problem with the ICC profile. The variation between the prints is also greater than I was expecting. It could be down to the different paper base colours but I’m not sure.

If I had to pick a winner for colour printing it would be print 1 which is the Platinum Etching. The runner up is print 3 which is the Natural Textured paper. Print 2 is nice but I would like to see it printed using a custom ICC profile.

B&W Prints on Fotospeed Textured Matt Papers

Now let’s compare the papers using a black and white print.

BW test prints on matt textured fine art inkjet paper

Again, there are a couple of surprises with this batch of prints. The first is print 4 on the Natural Textured Bright White. As with the Colour print, this is too dark. With the colour print I suspected a problem with the ICC profile, but this isn’t the case with the B&W print because I printed it using the Epson ABW mode. If you look at the foreground tree trunk you can see that it’s lost most of the shadow detail.

Print 3 is on Natural Textured is a little too warm but I suspect this is more down to the subject matter not suiting the paper. If you have a photo that would suit a warm base paper and you like a strong texture, this is an excellent choice.

Print 1 on the Signature Platinum Etching and print 2 on Signature Cotton Etching both look good and appear to handle the high dynamic range well for a black and white matt print. If I had to pick between the two, I would probably opt for print 2 on the Signature Cotton Etching. Print 1 on the Signature Platinum Etching is still an excellent choice.

Textured Fine Art Inkjet Paper Choice

Comparing all four papers side by side I’ve noticed a few points:

  • All four of these fine art inkjet papers are excellent in terms of their quality and characteristics. This makes them all easy to handle and print with at home.
  • The print quality in terms of detail and handling of the dynamic range is excellent in most examples. The two question marks are over the colour handling of the Signature Cotton Etching and the Natural Textured Bright White paper appearing too dark.
  • When I started this exercise, I thought that I preferred a strong paper texture but now I’m not sure. I find the texture on the Natural Textured Bright White paper a little too strong and it seems to appear more obvious because of the bright colour base. With the Natural Textured paper, which has a warmer base the texture isn’t as severe.

If I had to pick a preferred textured paper from the four, it would be Signature Cotton Etching providing I could get a custom ICC profile I was happy with. Alternatively, I would pick the Signature Platinum Etching. Both made excellent prints in this test.

Now let’s consider the Smooth Matt papers.

Evaluating the Smooth Matt Fine Art Papers

In the following shot you can see the 6 papers from the smooth test pack laid out next to each other to show the difference in base colour. The papers are lighter than in this shot as my phone has slightly underexposed the image. It does though help you appreciate the difference in base colours.

Fotospeed Smooth Paper Base Colour

The papers are:

  1. Signature Smooth Cotton 300gsm
  2. High White Smooth 315gsm
  3. Platinum Cotton 305gsm
  4. Platinum Matt 280gsm
  5. Signature Natural Soft Texture Bright White 315gsm
  6. Natural Soft Texture 315gsm (this is the paper I currently use)

In terms of feel and weight, all the papers are quite similar except for the Platinum Matt paper (4) which is more obviously lighter and thinner. The two Natural Soft Texture Papers (5 & 6) have a slightly stiffer feel to them than the others as well as having a slight texture.

Overall, there isn’t one of these papers where I don’t like the look or feel. Of the two Natural Soft Texture papers, I prefer the base colour of the Bright White paper (5). The other paper that seems to stand out to me at this stage is Signature Smooth White (1). This has a great surface and a reassuringly stiff, quality feel to it.

Let’s look at how these papers perform when printing.

Colour Prints on Fotospeed Smooth Matt Papers

Colour Prints on Smooth Matt paper

With the smooth papers, it’s much more difficult to pick a preference or rule out a paper than when reviewing the textured fine art papers. All the prints have turned out well and all show great colour handling and separation of tones. Reassuringly, my current paper of choice of Natural Soft Texture (5) has performed well with this print and it’s possibly my favourite. The other print that I like here is (1) made on the Signature Smooth Cotton paper.

What’s difficult to convey in a photograph of the prints is how the actual print looks. Whilst all the prints look good, it’s the two prints (1 & 5) mentioned above that stand out. They appear so natural and almost as if you could reach into the print and touch the heather.

B&W Prints on Fotospeed Textured Matt Papers

I did experience a problem with one of the papers during printing due a printer cartridge running out. Despite the printer having large 90ml cartridges, they still run out when you least want them to. I have a replacement on order (it was out of stock) so I can’t complete the final print until it arrives. Despite this hiccup, here are the five prints that I could complete.

You will also notice that I changed the black and white image for this test. On reviewing the Textured paper results, the image was too dark in areas. This image has a nicer graduation of tones, making it better for judging the results, although this doesn’t come across in the photo.

BW prints on smooth paper

The papers are:

  1. Signature Smooth Cotton 300gsm
  2. High White Smooth 315gsm
  3. Missing (Platinum Cotton)
  4. Platinum Matt 280gsm
  5. Signature Natural Soft Texture Bright White 315gsm
  6. Natural Soft Texture 315gsm

Looking between the prints, the base colour of the paper makes a significant difference to the final feel of the print and is more noticeable than in the colour prints.

Overall, I can’t pick a winner between these. Looking closely at the physical prints there is some minor improvement in how the creamier papers retain bright detail, but this is probably my perception. I think selecting any of these fine art inkjet paper for black and white printing will come down to personal preference and I would happily use all of them.

Summary of the Fotospeed Matt Fine Art Inkjet Paper Review

This has been a useful exercise for me in confirming my choice of fine art inkjet papers. I’ve found myself veering away from the stronger textured papers and towards a subtle texture. I felt the papers in the smooth range produced better results than the textured papers although I was extremely impressed by the textured papers. If I had to rank the top 3 fine art inkjet papers by my personal choice would be:

  1. Natural Soft Texture 315gsm (my current paper)
  2. Signature Smooth Cotton 300gsm
  3. Signature Cotton Etching 305gsm (providing I can get a good ICC profile)

What also occurred to me during this exercise is how wide a range of Fine Art papers Fotospeed is and what good results they produce. If you are looking for a new matt surface fine art paper, I would recommend purchasing a couple of these test packs and going through the same exercise yourself. It’s very instructive and much better than looking at a photo of my prints.

At some point in the future I will repeat this exercise but using the fine art Glossy test pack. This has three papers with interesting surfaces and are not your typical gloss paper. The benefit of these papers over matt is that I expect them to have an excellent dynamic range and colour reproduction.

I hope you enjoyed this review of Fotospeed matt fine art inkjet papers. If you have any experiences of your own, I would be interested to hear them.

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