04 Aug 2015 Breathing Color Pura Bagasse Fine Art Paper Review (Podcast 484)
Last week I got my hands on a roll each of two new types of fine art paper from my friends at Breathing Color, Pura Bagasse Smooth and Pura Bagasse Textured, so today we’re going to take a look at these excellent new offerings.
First off, one of the most exciting things about these two new media types, is that “Bagasse” is the pulp produced as a byproduct of raw sugar production. This pulp is mixed with cotton to make this paper’s base, so it is the perfect solution for the quality loving photographer or buyer, because the print quality is incredible, as we’ll see, and it’s eco-friendly. No trees were harmed in the production of this fine art media!
Until now, my favorite matte fine art paper has been Breathing Color’s Pura Smooth, and this is still a beautiful media, but if I can get the same archival quality without harming trees in the production, this is a no-brainer for me.
Archival Certification on the Way
Now, as of August 2015, neither of these papers are actually certified as being archival, but that’s just because these papers are so new, they are still in the certification process. The word from the Breathing Color team is that both of these Bagasse papers are en-route to the Fine Art Trade Guild for archival certification, and they are very confident that they’ll pass, because the coating formulation is quite similar to that of the Pura Smooth and Pura Velvet which are both already certified.
[UPDATE: The Bagasse papers are now archival certified. Yey!]
I actually include a certificate of archival quality with Pura Smooth fine art prints that I send to customers, and I think that this adds a nice touch. I fully imagine that by the time I’ve finished my current stock of Pura Smooth, there’ll be a similar certificate available for both of these new papers too.
So, I’ll be replacing my Pura Smooth matte media with Pura Bagasse Smooth, but I’m also very excited about the new Pura Bagasse Textured paper, because I used to love printing to Hahnemühle’s Museum Etching paper which was a beautiful textured media. I moved away from this paper some five years ago, when I found Breathing Color, but I always missed this textured fine art media, so I was very excited to hear about this new offering.
We’ll get into some more details on the paper shortly, but first let’s look at a few photo of some prints I’ve made on Pura Bagasse Textured. First of all, I printed this photo (right) of a Northern Red Fox. I chose this image to see how the texture of the paper added to the texture of the fur and snow, as well as that pale blue background in this photo.
Here is a photo of a part of the print, taken at an angle looking up at the print towards window light coming into my studio. This is perhaps one of the best angles to appreciate the texture that we’re looking at here (below). Click on this to view it larger if necessary.
Here too is a 50% magnification crop from the above photo, just of the fur to the left of the foxes nose, which I thought was probably one of the most beautiful parts of the print. The texture really adds so much to the final print here (below). You can see that the texture in the paper has modified the texture in the foxes fur, really enhancing it in my opinion.
Here is a photo of the top of the foxes ears with the blue background, which is of course just a very smooth blue in the original, and again here, you can see how the texture of the paper has enhanced the image (below). It gives the photo a painterly feel, and for me, because the texture is organic, subtly different for every square inch of this paper, it provides a special uniqueness to each print, that you don’t really get with smoother media.
Another aspect of these papers that I’d like to touch on, is there incredible gamut, or ability to reproduce a wide range of colors. I create my own ICC profiles with X-Rite’s i1 Photo Pro 2 calibration tools, and this gives me the ability to take full control over my printing. I won’t go into detail on this today. If this concept is alien to you, consider picking up my Making the Print ebook from Craft & Vision.
What this does for me though, is enables me to print to my printer with the absolute best color reproduction possible, and bring out the best in the media that I use. If you don’t have the ability to create your own ICC profiles, not to worry. The Breathing Color team have great quality profiles available for you to download for many of the popular printers that are available. The important thing is to ensure that you turn off printer color management, and print with your own profile, be it home-grown, or from Breathing Color.
Fly in the Face of the Gamut Gods
Before I print anything, I hit the D key in Lightroom to jump to the Develop Module, and I then hit the S key, to activate Soft Proofing mode, so that I can select the ICC profile that I will print with, and check that the image will print OK.
As you can see in this screenshot of a flowerscape photo that I printed, Lightroom tells me that there are large areas of the image that should not print accurately. These are all of the bright red patches, which are called gamut warnings. You can adjust the saturation and change your image to bring the colors into gamut, but more and more, I’m simply choosing to ignore these gamut warnings, and just print anyway, as I did here when I sent this photo, without modification, to the printer and my roll of Pura Bagasse Textured paper (below).
Here now is a photo of a part of the image. I didn’t modify this image in any way for print. I just ignored the gamut warnings, and printed it out, and the printer did a fine job (below). If you aren’t sure things will work out, it’s probably more intelligent not to go straight for a 17 x 24″ print as a test, but I’ve been printing like this for long enough to know that it’s often fine to just go ahead and print.
As you can see in this photo (above), once again, the texture of the paper has added a beautiful painterly feel to this flowerscape photo. It’s almost as though I’m looking over the shoulder of someone doing a watercolor painting of the scene that I was photographing. Really, I can’t tell you how happy I am that Breathing Color have added this option to their range of fine art papers.
Before we move on, to give you a better reference than the soft-proofing, gamut warning version of this photograph, here’s the original (below).
Let’s look at one last example of the beauty of the Pura Bagasse Textured paper before we look at the Smooth. This is a photo from my Hokkaido Landscape Photography Adventure Tour (below). With a photograph like this, you can certainly go either way, and print on Smooth or Textured, because the smooth looks beautiful too.
Here’s a photograph of a portion of the print (below). You can see once again that the texture adds so much to the photograph here. It takes the print to a different place, that I for one really enjoy.
So, what about Pura Bagasse Smooth? The coating is a very similar formula to the Textured paper, although Bagasse smooth sometimes seems to have a very slight yellow tint to it. In this photo, I have added a print on Pura Smooth, which you can see is not as bright a white as the two new Bagasse papers (below). Here you can see Pura Smooth on the left, Bagasse Smooth in the center and Bagasse Textured on the right.
The slight difference in the color of Bagasse Smooth is perhaps coming in to play here, but with my ICC profiles created with the same printer and exactly the same patch sets, I’ve actually found that my Bagasse Smooth profile seems to handle yellows just a tad better than the Textured paper. As you can see in this soft-proof screenshot, Bagasse Textured was showing a patches of the image that were supposedly out of gamut.
Here though (below), is a screenshot of of the same photo, without changing anything, other than selecting the Bagasse Smooth ICC profile to proof. As you can see, there are no gamut warnings.
I’m sure that this photograph would print just fine on the Bagasse Textured paper, as we saw earlier, with the flowerscape image, you can just fly in the face of the gamut gods and it doesn’t really seem to hurt that much, but I wanted to see this image with a smooth sky anyway, so I printed this on Bagasse smooth, and here is a photograph of the print (below).
OK, so let’s look at one last print on Bagasse Smooth, before we look at a few final details about these two new papers. This image (below) is actually the first photograph that I’ve made time to print so far, from the new Canon EOS 5Ds R that I reviewed recently.
All of the other images that we’ve look at today were from images of around 20 megapixels, with a native resolution of somewhere between 240 and 280 pixels per inch when printed at 17 x 24″ which is the print size I used in these tests. When the native resolution drops below 300 ppi, I generally turned on the Print Resolution check box in the Lightroom Print module, and set it to 300 ppi, which forces Lightroom to upsize the image a little for print.
With the 50 megapixel images from the 5Ds R though, I had a whopping 418 ppi native resolution for this image at 17 x 24″, so I unchecked the print resolution check box, and let Lightroom send everything it had to the printer. I print at 600 ppi anyway, so this was not going to go to waste. Here is a photo of the center of this image printed on Pura Bagasse Smooth (below).
I know that this is not going to come across fully in the Web sized images I’m posting here, but I think you’ll still be able to appreciate the incredible amount of detail in this print, again, shot looking up at the image with light from the window in my studio. This is of course not only a tribute to the image quality of the 5Ds R, but to these beautiful new Pura Bagasse papers from Breathing Color. Without a quality paper to print to, this level of detail just isn’t possible.
One other important aspect of these two new papers, is that they are both OBA free. That means there are no Optical Brightener Additives in these papers. OBAs are commonly found in cheaper media, and are almost always in office paper, which is why I can show you that there are none in the Bagasse brothers, by shining a small LED UV light onto them, as you see in this photograph (below).
OBAs work by absorbing light from the invisible ultra-violet end of the spectrum and emitting light in the visible blue/white range of the spectrum. This is what makes media that include OBAs look whiter and brighter. As you can see in this photograph, the office paper in the background reflects the UV light, but the Bagasse papers do not, proving that it’s OBA free.
Why are OBAs bad? Well, they decrease the longevity of fine art paper by accelerating metamerism and causing color shifts and yellowing over time. Although there are some archival fine art papers out there that do contain OBAs, it’s generally best to avoid them whenever possible.
I should also note that there are no OBAs in Pura Smooth either, so that is not an issue, but if you consider how much whiter the Bagasse papers are compared to Pura Smooth, as we saw in that example photo earlier, I think the Breathing Color team have done a cracking job with these two new offerings.
Printable on Both Side
One last detail that I’d like to include for good measure, is that the Bagasse papers are printable on both sides. That means that you could use this paper for high-end note cards and photo books etc. I’ve created a large batch of New Year post cards for a customer in the past, and I’d have loved to have been able to print on the back of those cards for my customers back then. Now I can do that.
OK, so let’s wrap this up. It will come as no surprise after that review that I give both of the Pura Bagasse papers a huge thumbs-up. These are game changing fine art papers. Heavy, at 320gsm, so prints on this media just ooze quality, and they’re bright white, and can easily cope with extremely high resolution images.
You couldn’t go wrong with this media even without the eco-friendly aspect that this paper is made from a byproduct of sugar production, but when you throw that into the mix, it makes this media an even more attractive addition to your printing workflow and fine art product offering. Think about that. If you sell prints, you can also market your prints as eco-friendly, and I’m sure before too long, that will include archival certification as well.
I do hope you’ve found this review useful. If you decide to pick-up these or any of Breathing Color‘s products, you can get a $20 discount by using our code MBP20. You can use this code for orders of any amount, even if you are only ordering a $19.95 Sample Pack, so if you are new to Breathing Color, give this a try.
One last bit of housekeeping before we finish. By the time I release this, I’ll be on my way to Namibia for almost three weeks. I was just able to make time to finalize this review before I left, but I didn’t have time to fill the pipe with episodes for the following two weeks. Next week though, I’m going to share a video interview that Paul Griffiths did with me a few weeks ago for his Live and Uncut show. I won’t have time to add any intros etc. though, so don’t be surprised when we just launch into a totally different show. It was a good chat though, so I hope you enjoy it.
See you on the flip-side!
Breathing Color’s Web site: http://www.breathingcolor.com/
See Breathing Color’s Fine Art papers here: http://www.breathingcolor.com/action/bc_shop/164/
Music by Martin Bailey
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