There’s nothing quite like the look and feel of an image printed on the kind of matte paper traditionally used for watercolor painting. For those who make prints in-house or outsource our prints to a photo lab, there are many inkjet-compatible papers from which to choose. Epson has just released their newest version, called Legacy Textured.
Epson Legacy Textured is 100% cotton on a mold-made paper base with a heavily textured surface and no optical brightening agents (OBAs). The paper is 310 GSM and comes in a variety of cut sheet and roll sizes up to 60 inches.
I tested the paper on two printers that have two different pigment ink sets: a 17-inch-wide Epson SureColor P5000 with UltraChrome HDX ink, and a 17-inch-wide Epson Stylus Pro 3880 with UltraChrome K3 ink. The prints from the Epson P5000, output from a roll, were nothing short of incredible. The deep black areas were among the richest I’ve ever seen on a matte inkjet paper, and the difference was noticeable when I compared the same print made on my Epson 3880 using the UltraChrome K3 ink set. Color saturation and overall detail were excellent, but the P5000 prints were more vibrant.
The texture of the paper is apparent, and it’s random rather than a repeating pattern. The paper is well suited for still-life images, landscapes, cityscapes, abstracts, and for photographs that have a watercolor look. I don’t find it well suited to images depicting skin, which takes on a textured look that can be distracting.
I observed no flaking (tiny white spots) on the surface of the paper, even in the darkest tones, which I’ve seen with some other fine art papers. However, much like other fine art matte papers (especially with large, even-toned areas), the surface can be fragile and scuffed easily, so don’t allow printed sheets to rub against each other, as they do in books, for example.
One thing that stands out in the prints is the relatively neutral tone of the paper, despite it having no OBAs. To my eye, it’s slightly less warm than Epson’s other non-OBA fine art papers, which can make a difference visually, especially when you want to make black-and-white prints with a neutral tone.
I made some prints on the reverse side of the paper. Although detail reproduced well, color was not as vibrant, and the overall density was not nearly as deep in tone as the side of the sheet that’s optimized for printing.
I was able to cut sheets from the 17-inch-wide roll easily, which isn’t always a simple task due to paper curl. By carefully reverse rolling the paper around a 5- to 6-inch diameter tube after cutting, I was able to get most of the curl out in a few seconds, and the paper flattened out even more after printing. Six-inch mailing tubes or concrete tube forms work well for reverse rolling paper and are readily available for less than $10 each.
The roll-cut paper loaded just fine into the top feed of my Epson Stylus Pro 3880. You can also use the single-sheet rear (or front) paper feed slot, depending on your printer. Using those feeds generally gives you more fine art paper types from which to choose in the Epson driver. For use in other printer brands, just choose a heavyweight matte paper type.
If you don’t need to make different size prints, consider purchasing sheets rather than rolls; there’s much less work involved and far less chance of the paper being damaged prior to or during printing.
I compared Legacy Textured to some of Epson’s other fine art matte papers, including Epson Legacy Fibre, Somerset Velvet for Epson, Epson Cold Press (both Bright and Natural), and Epson Hot Press (both Bright and Natural). The primary differences are their surface textures, weights, and brightness. And there are some major differences. Epson Legacy Fibre is extremely smooth to the touch with only a hint of texture. Hot Press Bright and Hot Press Natural are more textured than Legacy Fiber but not as textured as Cold Press Bright and Cold Press Natural. And Legacy Textured has a texture very similar to Epson Cold Press Bright and Cold Press Natural, but it’s just slightly less pronounced.
Epson’s new Legacy Textured paper gets my highest endorsement. I believe it stands out in a crowded field for its distinctive surface, brightness—especially since it has no OBAs—and its ability to render fine details, saturated colors, and amazing dark tones.
Andrew Darlow is a photographer and digital imaging consultant based in the New York City area.