One of the most popular paper has been our “Fine Art” paper, originally known as Epson Somerset Velvet. We designate it as simply Fine Art paper because it was one of the first papers we introduced back when most of our focus had been printing on canvas. Initially I had some reservations on just labeling it Fine Art Paper since I was worried it would cause some confusion since at the time, FinerWorks was planning on offering a number of different fine art papers with their own unique names.
Since then we have over a dozen papers such as Archival Matte Paper, Premium Giclee, Cotton Etching, and more. All have their unique properties which make them special. Likely we will be adding new ones in the future as well but it should be made clear that all of these are fine art papers specially made to produce giclee prints for artists and fine art photographers. Going back to the original Fine Art paper, which still is one of my personal favorite, I think it is time we let you in on a fun little secret about that particular paper.
Let it be known, this is one of those papers our customers either love or hate. It is a 100% cotton and has a slight texture with a velvet like finish. Because of it’s absorbent nature it’s usually wise to elevate your contrast a bit on files you plan to print on this paper. Where people get into trouble is using the same file on a glossy stock they would use on this paper.
Offering this paper started back when we were big proponents of the Epson brand printers. Over a decade ago, we switched from HP to Epson simply due to the wider color gamut we wanted when producing our stretched canvas prints. When we started to look into fine art papers, a few name brands really stood out. One was Moab and the other was Hahnemuhle. Also popular was the Epson Somerset Velvet. Initially we started with the Hahnemuhle Albrect Durer. Unfortunately back then Hahnemuehle they had some distribution issues within the U.S. which was resolved the next year. But because we ran into frequent shortages due we decided to switch to the Epson Somerset Velvet as a replacement. It was not exactly the same as the Albrect Durer but I frankly liked it and thought most people would too.
I am happy I did because soon I realized I had made the right decision. This paper was a popular topic in online forums I had visited. I saw it being used as the paper in online galleries. And it seemed like some ethereal force was pulling me to that particular paper. For instance, I ran into a display that an artist was able to get placed of their prints in a Sam’s Club (not sure how they did that). All were all on that particular paper. I also had discovered a local Hospital had all their wall art on the main floor printed on that particular paper. Lastly a prominent fine art photographer who was showing his work at my local photography club was printing all his work on it. After all this I knew we were using the right paper.
The secret I discovered started to make itself known only after we decided to switch to Canon as our brand of choice for producing giclee prints. As I was thumbing through a paper sample swatch booklet Canon had sent me I discovered some of the papers looked and felt the exact same as a number of Epson papers. Most notably was the Canon Enhanced Velvet. The weight was the same, the velvety texture was the same and when I printed and image on it then the same image on the Epson Somerset Velvet, the results were identical. After that I was suspicious that it must be coming from the same manufacturers. This suspicion was given some credence when I spoke to my supplier who told me that many of the fine art papers are rebranded but come from only a handful of mills. This was actually a relief because he also said that there had been a rumor going around in which the Epson brand was going to be discontinued. Fortunately that had never happened but we were prepared to switch to the Canon version if they did. Truth be told we have had to go back and forth between the two due to shortages with one or the other but we always have it readily available.
A few months back I met with another supplier whose warehouse was literally around the corner from us. After speaking to him he said the same thing I had been told. He was even more specific by stating the Somerset Velvet is one rebranded by a number of companies most notably Moab by Legion. Because Moab is renowned in the fine art community we saw this as an opportunity to forgo the Epson or Canon label in favor of the Moab branded version.
The paper, whether it is the Epson, Canon, HP or even Moab brand is actually manufactured by St Cuthberts Mill in Somerset, England. Surrounded by green fields and quiet country lanes of the English countryside, in the beautiful county of Somerset, the St. Cuthberts Mill has been making paper on the same site since the 1700’s. St. Cuthberts Mill actually has one of the few remaining Cylinder Mould Machines left in the world. This machine is over a hundred years old having originally been built in 1907. The water they use is also special. Its naturally limestone filtered from the River Ax originating in the Mendip Hills. To achieve it’s velvety texture, real woolen felts are pressed into the paper. These felts have a wonderful random texture, which adds a uniqueness to the paper.
So if you continue to label your prints as printed on Epson Somerset Velvet or even one of the other name brands, rest assured it is the same paper just under a different label. If branding is important then by all means begin using the Moab name on your certificates of authenticity. After all this is what we are using now. If you like to soft proof also note that you can continue to use the same profiles as before. There is no need for us to change these since the paper regardless of the brand is the same.