Ilford Galerie Matte Papers

I’ve been looking for a smooth fine-art paper with warm base tint, but less than Hahnemuhle Bamboo and with a smoother surface, and came across Ilford Smooth Cotton Rag. Anyone have experience with this paper?

What starting curve for Pro K5 inks would work well for linearization on this and the other Ilford Matte papers? I bought a trial pack and will be fun to see how they compare with others I like.


when introduced Epson Fine Art Hot Press Warm was quite a performer, considering you know, the uh, brand and all. A lot of my print clients back in those days selected it, and I made many prints both color and B&W on it. I heard the “real” manufacturer changed, so maybe the quality too. Just a thought. Portfolio Rag was nice too, didn’t take ink quite as well but very sharp. My info may be long out of date…

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Thanks for the feedback Tyler! Many paper choices these days…

I’ve wondered which of the Curves would be best to build curves for these papers, and in the absence of any feedback decided to start with the Hanemuhle Photo Rag curves for making the curves for the Ilford Smooth Cotton Rag and Smooth Cotton Sonora. I used the Canson BFK Rives curve for the Ilford Textured Cotton Rag. I also tried using the Canson Rag Photo curve for comparison with the Smooth Cotton Sonora with similar results as the H. Photo Rag - in both cases the measurements are significantly lighter than the linear ideal but overall very smooth. In fact, that was the case for all papers in spite of overnight dry down. Did need to make a small correction for reversals on the bottom end, suggesting a bit of over inking since the bottom 3 L* values were bunched up for both of the Ilford Smooth papers.

The Ilford papers have great feel in the hand, and the target prints look really good. Have yet to print any images, but I’m impressed with the niche they fill, and they compete really well with other favorites. I have to say the new Canson Arches papers are really good, although I tend to prefer the more natural white version of the BFK - very nice paper. Where I like the Ilford Textured Cotton Rag is a more muted texture than the BFK, more akin to the Canson Edition Etching, but with a bit warmer base tint and richer feel, not as warm as H. Bamboo, and has the richness of cotton rag. I can see that paper making it into the lineup. I’ll eventually compare results of the smooth Ilford’s with Canson Rag Photographique, and like them already for the warmer feel. Now on to making some prints!

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@mscarbrough I went through a similar exploration a couple of years ago. At that time, Epson Hot Press Natural was one I liked, and then I started using Canson Rag Photographique. As you probably know, it also has no OBA. I like the Hahnemuhle Bamboo, but I agree it can be too warm for some images. In those cases, Canson Rag Photographique is the go-to.

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Always appreciate and enjoy hearing your comments and voice of experience, Scott!

Canson Rag Photographique has been one of my selected papers as well, but this recent exploration was looking for something with a warmer base tint - thus the Ilford papers. Ilford’s offerings aren’t the only ones out there, as you and Tyler have mentioned, but they check all the boxes many of us are looking for, and my early tests give reason for cautious enthusiasm.

I also want to see how the Cone inks interact with the paper, which is one reason why I’ve launched into Piezography after spending a lot of time using ImagePrint’s Narrow Gamut Toning tool, which is quite remarkable for printing split-toned black and white images with an OEM inkset. While Canson Rag Photographique is a wonderful paper with a neutral base tint, when using ImagePrint Narrow Gamut Toning, I ran into metameric failure in the 3/4 and shadow tones with that paper. It exhibits a magenta cast under some gallery lighting that I find very distracting for a fine print. I didn’t observe that with Edition Etching. I anticipate that issue will be resolved using the PiezoPro inks, but have yet to test that paper/ink combination.

Although I find it interesting and informative to talk about papers - what printmaker doesn’t (!) - my post was really to find the best starting curve when working with the Piezography “Curve” model for a paper unknown. I understand the baseline principal of finding the most similar paper where a published Curve exists, considering weight, thickness, texture; but how ink absorption varies from one proprietary coating system to another’s is a significant unknown, even where a different brand’s paper shares all of the other characteristics by comparison. In the case of Ilford, there is one published curve, MonoSilk, which shares no characteristics with the Galerie line I’m investigating. Because the Piezography curve model makes it easy for us by not having to do ink limiting tests and setting the ink limits for each channel as we would using a robust RIP, we aren’t privy to the real differences that are baked into the Curve, and don’t have those controls either - fine by me - I’d rather make prints. Diving into the world of StudioPrint would be great, Tyler’s done that to his credit, but if there’s a more efficient way to get there, why not. I just want to take best advantage of this system before deciding I need something more. Where to start with paper unknowns though, will be trial and error it appears. The linearization process will iron out a lot of the unknown, but controlling ink, though provided indirectly with PPE (but without channel by channel controls or documentation of how to use the New Curve Ink Limiting tool), I’m left believing that the individually crafted curve starting with an unknown may never be idealized for that new paper, even though it might be “close enough”, I won’t know. While there is complexity in this process, it’s actually fairly simple in concept - just like the Zone System! One only has to know the underlying assumptions and the end point, learn the tools to get there, and then it’s easy.

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I hear ya—my experiences with Piezography pre-date PPE and using QTR for the RIP functionality. Back at K2 Press with @bill, I took a slightly different path than @tboley, and we drove our Piezography K7 printers with Bowhaus IJC/OPM.

Each new curve started with an exercise in properly ink limiting each channel to find where it reversed, and then building the curves from there. About the time when IJC/OPM became an unsupported tool, Piezography Pro was hitting the streets, along with curves for QTR and a set of Piezography Professional Edition tools that included Google Docs and utilities from QTR.

I considered bringing up a StudioPrint process (I had done a bit of research on this back at K2P) but ultimately decided to go with QTR/Print Tool for two reasons. First, QTR/Print Tool had made the move to a full 16-bit workflow, and second, the provided profiles from Jon and Walker were SO good. Since that time, the PPE tools have kept getting better and better, and even though I am not controlling the individual channel levels before making the curves, the other advantages of PPE2 far outweigh that limitation. Pun intended.

I have considered cracking open the QTR .quad files to do the ink limiting (either by hand using a text editor or hacking through it with Richard Boutwell’s QuadToneProfiler-Pro) but have never felt the need/had the energy, especially when I look at the library of possible papers and curves that Jon and Walker now have available.

That said, I would never discourage someone from cracking open a black box or going down a rabbit hole. @bill can attest to that!

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Quite a story Scott! No, I’m not tempted to pursue rabbit holes at this juncture, but I always enjoy and learn from the history of those who have. I have great respect for those who have done the heavy lifting to give us the tools we have today, and gratified to hear your endorsement of the current status of Piezography; I just need to learn how to best utilize it.

Yep. I can, indeed, attest to that! I’d just add that there are Good rabbit holes and there are Bad rabbit holes. Sometimes you won’t know until you’ve spent way too much time, energy, and money trying to solve a problem but that’s just the way the game is played. The Good rabbit holes are usually pre-dug by people like Jon, Walker, Richard, Roy, and many others. Michael, have you considered non-inkjet coated papers for your project? The good ones are often offered in various shades of white and buff. There is a different thread on this forum that includes a lot of good information from Tyler Boley.

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Hey Bill, indeed I have. I’ve collected a range of traditional fine art papers and done some experimentation before beginning this journey with Piezography, with limited success. I love the papers, and understand the archival considerations, etc. why some including Tyler have put considerable time into perfecting printing on them in spite of the challenges. That’s one reason I’ve chosen DTP photogravure as my preference for printing on an uncoated paper, among its other attractive qualities - I love the look/feel of ink pressed into the paper and the dimensional quality that imparts.

For now, at my stage of learning what can be achieved with Piezography on an inkjet printer, I’ll hone my skills with the coated papers. If I had the experience that you, Tyler and others have, I might be more adventurous. That time will come!

Michael- Please share your DTP experiences with us. Scott and I are climbing that curve now. There really is nothing like ink pressed into beautiful paper.

For sure - it will be a while as I have an immediate demand to fulfill for piezography prints, and normally I’d be in the field this time of year… spring is quickly passing me by. But as soon as I get back to the print studio with DTP, I’ll post some experiences. I’ve been reading Scott’s posts, and it’s contributed to my knowledge base, so will try to do the same and post when I have something to contribute.

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I always wanted to try the Bowhaus IJC/OPM RIP. I have old horror stories of making hand drawn curves for using a little Adobe desktop RIP called PressReady. But you know, we all walked 10 miles through shoulder deep snow to elementary school back then too. For a variety of reasons I’d not suggest StudioPrint to anyone anymore. I use old versions out of habit, it’s kind of second nature. I don’t know what they are up to these days.
if you open a variety of existing curves in the free utility that comes with QTR, standard coated papers like the hahnemuhles and cansons, you’ll see that often the individual ink limits are identical, or close to it. Differences in the look of the curves are more due to the linearizations, I assume. Unless you have a particularly fussy paper/coating, I wouldn’t sweat the limiting too much, given the amount of ink overlap, the nearly ubiquitous performance of contemporary coatings, and the expertise that went into the curves to begin with. I think the linearization is more important to try to nail, a few percent more or less of any of the grays is not likely to be visible. Like Scott said there are good and evil rabbit holes… I don’t mean to dismiss the limiting issue, but I’m guessing the good Ilford paper coatings are likely to perform much like other good papers. Your experiences may prove me wrong of course. It’s taking me decades to keep from letting tech ponderings keep me from printing


Great to hear your thoughts, Tyler. FWIW, I just made curves from the Ilford sets, second iteration, and they’re dead on linear - who would’ve thought!. The paper that’s acting up for me is Epson Legacy Etching since it’s what I had and knowing it’s nearly identical to Canson Edition Etching, used the Canson Edition Etching as the base curve. A couple of other papers were just as ill-mannered. Just received my order of Canson, so will see if it’s better behaved. Thanks for chiming you, helps keep me on track.

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To close the loop from my original post, using curves from the P9000 ProK5 folder, I can confirm that using the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Curves as the base for constructing personalized curves for Ilford Smooth Cotton Sonora and Smooth Cotton Rag worked very well, and for Ilford Textured Cotton Rag, I used the Canson BFK-Rives curve, which also performed very well. Perhaps the HPR curve could have worked well for it also, but this curve produced a very flat linearized curve superimposed over the ideal from 0 - 255. Similar excellent results were achieved for the other Ilford papers.

For those interested in these papers, I’ll share some preliminary data from my linearized Neutral Curve data set:
Smooth Cotton Rag: black: L14.01, D = 1.76; white: L 97.3, a* 0.09, b* 2.23
Smooth Cotton Sonora: black: L* 13.85, D = 1.77; white: L* 96.67, a* 0.00, b* 4.27
Textured Cotton Rag: black: L* 13.42, D = 1.79; white 97.26, a* 0.23, b* 1.04

By comparison using the Neutral Curve data set, Hahnemuhle Bamboo achieves a darker Dmax, 1.83, has lower white point L* 95.9, a0.33, b 3.55. Canson BFK Rives natural white achieves even darker Dmax, 1.86 and L* 11.86, with white point 97.35, a* 0.13, b* 1.88; Canson Edition Etching reaches black L14.58, D = 1.74; and white: 96.52, a 0.26, b* 0.65. Canson Rag Photographique has black L13.39, D = 1.79; white L 97.51, a* 0.28, b* 0.65.

I use all of these papers, and will do more work with the Ilford papers. The Sonora is quite warm and provides an interesting choice for selective images with a beautiful, refined finish, velvety in the hand. Likewise, the Smooth Cotton Rag provides a warmer alternative to Canson Rag Photographique and like the Sonora has one of the finest smooth finishes of any paper I’ve used. The Textured Cotton Rag is beautifully textured, very similar to Canson Edition Etching, but has greater warmth, yet remains on the neutral side by comparison with H. Bamboo and others. I’m particularly drawn to its possibilities as an alternative to Edition Etching.



Thank you guys for this very interesting discussion. One of the best on this forum. I don’t know about Ilford but the Epson fine art papers are manufactured by Hahnemule and Canson so the coatings are most probably the same as on their own branded papers.

I have just finalized the conversion of a P7000 to Piezography Pro K5 and noticed that my favorite Canson papers Rag Photo and Edition Etching only have the neutral and warm curves in the Curves / P7000-P9000-Pro folder. Wondering why the cool curves are missing?

br Lasse

You might nudge Walker to update these absences, but as he advised me previously, you can use the Cool curves found in the x900 series printers that use the same printhead as the 7000-9000 printers until that happens. If I understand correctly, they are the exact same set of curves with different names.

Happy printing as you enter the piezo world!