Whether your do your own printing or task that to a competent lab, Greener Photography recommends using natural fiber paper in place of traditional RC/silver halide paper for printmaking as a greener option. Read more about that in our Greener Photographic Prints article. But which natural fiber paper to choose? One important factor to consider: the use of OBAs, or optical brightening agents.
OBAs are used to make paper look more uniform, and more white. But at what cost? As OBAs break down, their effects do as well—and they don't break down uniformly. A paper that is made unnaturally white through the use of OBAs will start to yellow—it is a matter of the paper returning to its "natural" color. However, when OBAs break down they can cause irregular yellowing. OBAs call into question the longevity of a photographic print—what good is a lightfast rating of 200 years if your print will yellow sooner than that? The greenest options for printing are also those that will withstand the test of time.
What's a photographer to do? To avoid color shifts and yellowing of your fine art prints, chose papers with zero or very low levels of OBAs. How do you find out if your paper has OBAs? Check out the manufacturer's website, and look for information on OBA content. Click on "Continue reading 'Reexamining the Greener Print'" to find our list of a few examples of papers that have zero-to-low levels of OBAs:
Hahnemuhle Matte Digital Fine Art Paper: smooth
Hahnemuhle Matte Digital Fine Art Paper: textured
- William Turner - zero OBAs
- Albrecht Dürer - zero OBAs
- Sugar Cane - zero OBAs
- German Etching - zero OBAs
- Museum Etching - zero OBAs
Moab Paper (Moab by Legion Paper)
- Entrada Rag Natural - zero OBAs
- Somerset Enhanced Velvet - minimal OBAs
- Somerset Museum Rag - minimal OBAs
Red River Paper
PPA and Greener Photography member Mark Pawlyszyn is known for his beautiful images and printmaking skills. He has worked with nearly all the Hahnemuhle papers. In his experience, "The Hahnemuhle Bamboo paper is a great paper. It is in no way inferior to their other papers. It just has a different look. And it's a quite distinctive look, too. The paper has a very nice tooth, or texture, like a watercolour art paper. The texture is in between their Photo Rag and Museum Etching papers. There is a warmth to the paper that really works well with warm images. It's not yellow, though. It's more like the rich cream of an old writing paper. It takes the ink very well, though like with all matte papers the blacks are not as deep as with gloss papers. I like it more for images with a vintage look to them, though you could really use it with any image that didn't require really bright whites or deep blacks."
Want to read more?
Print permanence ratings for specific papers at the Wilhelm Imaging Research website.
How does your favorite paper rate? Leave us a comment below and let us know! Greener Photography is working on compiling a comprehensive list of recommended papers.