By Stan Sholik
Ilford Imaging Switzerland GmbH traces its roots back more than a century to the early days of photography. Through the years, companies under the Ilford name have produced high-quality photographic papers from darkroom days to the inkjet present. Now owned again by the British, the current inkjet paper offerings from Ilford Imaging Switzerland are grouped into two lines: Galerie Premium and Galerie Prestige. The more affordable Galerie Premium papers are aimed at enthusiasts, amateurs, and students. The Galerie Prestige line products are designed to meet the tastes and needs of professional photographers.
Ilford recently introduced four new papers in their Galerie Prestige line: Gold Cotton Smooth and Textured, and Fine Art Smooth and Textured. At 330 grams per square meter (gsm), the Gold Cotton papers are the heaviest papers in the Prestige line except for the Smooth Fine Art Canvas. The Fine Art papers weigh in at 220gsm. Ilford’s 190gsm Galerie Prestige Smooth Fine Art paper remains available despite the similar name to the new Prestige Fine Art Smooth paper.
The color of all four papers is the same slightly creamy white with a matte finish. The two smooth papers are indeed smooth, similar to hot press fine art papers from other manufacturers, while the two textured papers have a subtle texture reminiscent of cold press papers. Despite the smooth vs. textured surfaces, prints are virtually indistinguishable in color, contrast, and saturation when printed using the downloadable Ilford printer profiles. The most obvious difference when handling the papers is the weight difference of the heavier Gold papers over the Fine Art, and the more subtle differences in surface texture.
The Gold Cotton papers are mold-made without optical brighteners from 100-percent cotton rag. No optical brighteners are used, ensuring that the colors will not fade or shift over time. While archival information is not available, images printed on these papers should be very long lasting.
The Fine Art papers are also mold made, but rather than 100-percent cotton rag the paper contains a high cellulose content giving it a similar feel to cotton rag papers. Other than the weight difference, the Fine Art papers do feel very much like the Gold Cottons.
Despite the similarities, there is a major difference between the papers. The Fine Art papers are coated on both sides for printing, making them ideal for wedding albums or other projects requiring double-sided printing. The Fine Art papers are heavy enough to ensure no bleed through of images, but light enough to work well as pages of an album. The creamy white matte finishes, and for me the textured surface, make a beautiful setting for wedding photos.
Handling and printing the papers is straightforward. As mentioned, printer profiles for many Canon, Epson, HP, Kodak and Lexmark printers are available at Ilford.com for each paper. On Canon PIXMA Pro printers, the media type is “Other Fine Art Paper,” while for Epson it is “Ultra Smooth Fine Art Photo.” Using the correct profile and media type is essential to obtain optimum quality output with these papers. As with any heavy fine art paper, you must load sheets one at a time through the proper loading slot for the paper to feed properly.
The new Ilford Galerie Prestige papers are available in cut sizes from 4 x 6 inches to 17 x 22 inches as well as 24-inch and 44-inch rolls. Street price is about $60 for 100 sheets of 8.5 x 11 paper.
Stan Sholik is a commercial/advertising photographer in Santa Ana, Calif., specializing in still life and macro photography. His latest book is "Lightroom 4 FAQs" (Wiley Publishing).