Breathing Color River Stone Satin Rag
When we were discussing the idea of testing and reviewing Breathing Color’s Belgian Linen, the company recommended that we may also wish to look at their new River Stone Satin Rag paper. This is also “a paper with a difference” (or several).
Breathing Color’s documentation says the substrate is 100% cotton. The user wouldn’t see this from handling the paper, because it does not have the warm and fuzzy feel of the usual cotton papers on the market. Instead, the back is also coated, which is rather nice because it avoids shedding cotton lint into the printer. Because of this the paper can be printed on both surfaces, but Breathing Color advises that for the best results we should print on the front.
Weighing 350 gsm and with 18 mil caliper, this is a thick, fairly stiff product. Breathing Color advises using the widest platen gap the printer driver provides and setting the paper thickness manually to a level corresponding with its thickness. Doing so, it feeds through the manual feed slot of the Epson SC-P5000 easily, which requires the paper to bend as it feeds through to the printing platen. No curl or creases occur.
According to Breathing Color the paper contains no OBAs, and I find no evidence of OBAs in my testing – that is, no spike in the 380-400 nm range when I measured paper White with my i1Pro2 spectrophotometer.
The texture of the coating is “Satin”, hence very similar to a Luster paper, printed with Photo Black ink; Breathing Color recommends using Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper 260 as the Media Type. The company also recommends using custom profiles for this paper, as they do not yet supply OEM profiles.
I cannot speak for the longevity of the paper apart from noting the absence of OBAs and the cotton substrate. I refer readers to the Breathing Color website where they describe their method of longevity testing, which is neither Wilhelm nor Aardenburg.
The paper is supplied in a range of sheet sizes and roll widths – details on their website.
I profiled the paper with my i1Pro2 spectrophotometer and i1Profiler using the application-generated 2371 patch set. Figures 1, 2 and 3 show the profile shape in 2D, 3D upper and 3D lower respectively.
This is on the whole a well-formed profile, with fine performance characteristics, as shown in the evaluation results (Figure 4).
The gamut volume, at 916,577, sits within the high range of inkjet papers and provides enough for most photographs. The White point, at L*98, is normal for this kind of paper, and the Black Point, at L*3, is just one point higher than for some other similar papers, but most human beings wouldn’t see a difference between L*0~L*3. The neutrality of the White and Black points is very good, as seen in rows 5, 6, 8 and 9 of Column C in Figure 4.
The paper performs very well in respect of printed tone and colour accuracy, as seen from the overall average dE values of 0.73 and 0.48 for dE(76) and dE(2000) respectively (Figure 5). These averages are a bit higher than they would be if patch 35 were excluded, which has a file value of L*1 (Black), whereas the minimum the printer achieved is L* 3.4. Most individual patch values are well below dE 1.0 for both dE versions (76) and (2000).
Consistently, the reproduction of the grayscale (Figure 6) adheres very closely to its file values from Level 3 upward and shows excellent neutrality characteristics over most of the tonal range.
Figures 7, 8 and 9 show a more detailed level-by-level reproduction of the grayscale for each of the 100 L* values in the scale.
Notice the close adherence of the red line (printed values) to the black line (file values) for all L* steps that are within gamut. As well, neutrality is pretty remarkable over the in-gamut range, which spans from L*3 to L*98. This means that tonal separation, gradation smoothness and neutrality should all be fine for B&W printing using a good ICC profile.
With these results, one would expect fine prints from this printer/paper/profile combination, and the tests do not disappoint. I printed the Atkinson Printer Test Image on both the correct and wrong sides of the paper (Figure 10 for the correct side). The B&W patches show very distinct and smooth tonal gradations, while the colour palette is rich. The paper coating does have a satin-looking finish, which is very pleasing to the eye. It provides a refined texture, wide gamut, and dark Black point, without the harsh glare of high gloss. I also made the same print on the wrong side of the paper. Good thing I wrote down which is which, because hard as I try, I can’t see any difference between them – so I am not providing a separate illustration for the wrong side of the paper.
Finally, I printed one of my mural art photos – Nick Sweetman’s Raptor in Kensington Market, Toronto, for an appreciation of detail rendition. I provided a higher resolution scan for this illustration, so you can enlarge it to better appreciate how well the paper retains edge sharpness and texture detail.
Summing up, I think Breathing Color River Stone Satin Rag is a fine addition to the repertory of PK luster-type papers. Its uniqueness lies in its being a cotton substrate paper but coated on both sides, and from my finding, printable on both sides. This, combined with its heavyweight and high thickness, making it a robust product for successful two-sided printing and should, therefore, appeal to anyone who wants this combination of features. It is capable of being profiled to produce accurate, high gamut colour and Black & White photographs, which due to its satin finish are easy to look at.
Mark has been making photographs for the past six decades and started adopting a digital workflow in 1999 first with scanning film, then going fully digital in 2004. He has worked with a considerable range of software, equipment, materials and techniques over the years, accumulated substantial experience as an author, educator and communicator in several fields, was a frequent contributor to the Luminous-Landscape website and now contributes frequently with in-depth articles on the PhotoPXL website. Mark has contributed some 65 articles to the two websites up to end 2020, with a particular emphasis on printers and papers, given his position that a photograph printed on paper remains the epitome of fine photography, as it has been from sooner after the medium was invented and started gaining momentum in the 1830s/1840s. Mark developed a particular interest in film scanning and authored the ebook “Scanning Workflows with SilverFast 8, SilverFast HDR, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop” (please check our Store for availability). In his “other life” (the one that pays for the photography), Mark is a retiree from the World Bank Group and was a consultant in electric power development.