Publics knowledge of printing paper: RC vs FB : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

To the many photographers who have answered my questions on this forum, I want to say thankyou for your help and ask one more question relating to the strong bias against RC papers. I have printed on both types of papers and prefer the look of FB papers also. But because of the long wash times, curling when drying and because I do not have a dry mount press, I am printing mostly on RC paper. I am selling my prints ( 5 x 7 to 11 x 14 ), matted and matted/framed at art and craft shows in southern Ontario as " fine art " and am enjoying some success. (I have been involved in large format and black and white printing for 2 years). I am using only RC paper for these shows at this time. I think that if the public likes my work, buys a 11 x 14 print on a 16 x 20 mat for $55.00 and hangs it on a wall, it may be there as a decor piece for a few years and I am happy with this. In the past 2 years I have been to 16 shows and have never been asked what kind of paper I print on, what type or quality of mat board I use or how long the prints will last before they might start deteriorating. Because of this general lack of knoweledge about photographic processing and maybe because the majority of the public does not care that a print might not last 100 years, and if they did, would they pay 50-100% more for it? I am inclined to continue printing on RC for the next few years until I hone my skills and my work can deserve asking a higher price, at which time I would switch to FB paper and promote the fact that I am printing on FB paper and its archival properties. My question is this; Is this a sensible approach to a budding career in fine art photography? Thanks for your opinions.

-- J. L. Frost (, October 22, 2000


Response to Publics knoweledge of printing paper

I stayed away from FB paper for many years because of the curling problem. Every print I made was ruined because of this. All I needed was a dry mount press (used for $200), and the problem was solved. I don't dry mount my prints. I press them for a few minutes, and they come out beautifully flat. Now, I would never go back to RC.

Long wash times is not a bother for me. I don't mind waiting. I don't see that printing of FB paper is so much more expensive than RC paper, as you suggest. The dry mount press is a one-time expense, and what's a few pennies worth of water?

-- William Marderness (, October 22, 2000.

Response to Publics knoweledge of printing paper

J.L.: I used to print everything on the old Seagull. When it was discontinued, I tried several papers and settled on Kodak RC paper and am completely satisfied. I do the art shows and have no problems whatsoever with the RC paper. I use Polycontrast 111 and tone the larger prints in selenium. I have compared prints side by side and it's difficult to tell what paper is used. I talked to the folks at Kodak's professional division and they assured me that a properly processed and toned RC print will last as long as a fiber print. Not was not always the case, but it seems to be now. I have prints which are 10 years old and they look as good as the day they were made. I retired early to be able to do the art show circuit, and I would have quit selling a long time ago if my prints were not good. The customers never ask about paper, just about the image. I have won prizes at many art shows doing RC prints, so I can highly recommend it to you.


-- Doug Paramore (, October 22, 2000.

Response to Publics knoweledge of printing paper

While many prints look great on RC paper and some of us like specific RC papers for what they do for our images there is no current RC formulation that can be said to be "archival" in the same sense fibre papers are.

We don't know what will crop up in the next few years with RC papers. Every time, and I mean EVERY time during the past 30+ years the makers of RC papers have said "It is just as good as fibre", we have been bitten in the butt for our trust. RC is not 'just as good as fibre' for long term prints.

Beautiful, yes. Easy to work with, yes. But consider most of what RC does as throw away artwork. No matter what one does to try and preserve it, with the present state of the art we can't trust it will last. Brown spotting, bronzing, veiling and cracking are just a few of the problems RC has for now. Who knows what the titanium dioxide brightening layer may come up with in the next 10 or so years. Or what other surprises await us. Match your RC with substandard materials in framing and you have a time bomb waiting to go off in your otherwise exibition quality print.

RC is nice and for quick commercial or throw away wall decor is just fine. The real problems arise with "I have had it for XX years & it is just fine", and extrapolating that to everyones prints. Trouble is that anecdotal evidence of its lifespan can't be relied on. We know what works for fibre prints and no doubt in the future RC will catch up and maybe pass the traditional printing substrate. But until the makers and marketers come clean about its current probems, why trust what is said? And yes, I do agree with one comment that with so many lousy photos out there, the sooner some fade the better the world will be.

But, with the current state of the art, fibre is the only real choice you have if you want the prints to last.

As for the public at art shows not questioning your mounting and presentation materials, how often have you done the same for items and products you aren't too familiar with? The stuffing on the couch cushions or mattress? People buying at the art shows are looking for a good image to put on the wall, other than those few just wanting something cheap to cover a hole, and if they buy your prints they will most likely be happy with them for the time you expect. You are being realistic with this one.

But, if you want it to last, print on fibre based silver papers with high quality materials and technique, or go further & learn platinum printing. Yes, your prices will rise to compensate. But having an images that lasts is a different marketing niche than interchangeable wall decorations.

-- Dan Smith (, October 22, 2000.

Response to Publics knoweledge of printing paper

if you want to be taken seriously as a fine art photographer, you have to present a very professional product. this includes high-end archival 100% rag museum board, linen-tape mounting, and archivally- processed fiber-base prints. as you have discovered, the majority of the buying public is not discriminating or educated enough to know the difference, but i can guarantee you that serious buyers of photographic art, gallery owners, and museum curators know the difference, and will judge your work accordingly. perhaps you could try offerering both RC and fiber-base prints at different prices - it would give you a chance to discuss the differences with your buyers, and you might start selling some more expensive prints (with a bit more profit margin built in to compensate your additional costs). at almost 50 years old, i have found that my goal at this point is to prepare my work using the best possible materials and to the limits of my abilities - your work is a reflection of who you are.

-- jnorman (, October 22, 2000.

Response to Publics knoweledge of printing paper

I agree with jnorman, if your work is not going to be your best, why do it. Take his advice and make two sets of prints and let the customer choose, and if you explain the difference to them many times you will sell the more expensive FB print have also have a good chance of repeat customers because of the willingness to take the time and explain the difference to them, most of us are ignorant in a lot of area's and we don't like someone taking advantage of that, and if someone explains the difference and helps us understand we are more inclined to return to that person, enough, you get the point I hope. Pat

-- pat krentz (, October 23, 2000.

Response to Publics knoweledge of printing paper

Sorry folks, I just don't agree with the bias against RC paper. I am not a beginner at printing fine art prints or selling at art shows. My customers are told, if they ask, that the prints are made on RC paper. I believe that RC will last based upon my own experience. As for it lasting for infinity, my work is probably not deserving of lasting that long, although I have more than 40 ribbons I have won in art show competition. As for museums, I haven't been asked to display my work in museums. I will not display prints again in galleries due to several bad experiences, such as them selling prints and forgetting to tell me about it for several months. I do have prints in the permanent collections of seveal arts societies. Print on what you like and I will do the same. I don't have a bias against fiber paper other than that it takes a lot longer to print and mount with no increase in quality of the way the image looks.


-- Doug Paramore (, October 23, 2000.

"No increase in quality"?? You should look a little closer.

-- lootaas (, October 27, 2000.

If your not convinced about the quality of RC papers, then take a look at Ilford's Warmtone RC paper pearl surface. It's stunning, every bit as good as any FB paper I've used and they include Ilfomar, Bromesko, Seagull, Elite, MGIV, and the FB Warmtone. Also just released by Kentmere for the cooltone RC lovers is another superb paper also called Elite.

-- Trevor Crone (, October 29, 2000.

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