By Rick LePage | May 11, 2008
We recently purchased some of Moab’s Somerset Photo Satin, a new paper that we first encountered at this year’s PMA show in Las Vegas.
Somerset Photo Satin is a thick (300gsm), 100% cotton fine-art paper made by St Cuthberts Mill, one of the oldest paper makers in the U.K. It is quite white, with a brightness of 97.5%, and it is free of whiteners and other optical brightening agents (OBAs). It does, however, contain buffering agents designed to help protect the paper from atmospheric contaminants.
The paper is extremely smooth—which is where we’re assuming the ‘satin’ designation comes from—with no visible fuzz or imperfections. It produces prints with a nice broad color gamut and deep blacks: color images are bright and well-saturated, and black-and-white photos have a warm, silky feel to them, with excellent range and rich blacks. (Moab says that the paper has a dMAX of 1.75, which is quite good for a fine-art paper.)
We were consistently pleased with the paper’s overall tonal range, detail and color transitions. Unlike some other fine-art papers we’ve used, Somerset Photo Satin holds detail extremely well in the shadows, without blocking up and creating areas of mud. On our Stylus Pro 3800, Somerset Photo Satin produced better color and black-and-white prints than either Hahnemühle’s Photo Rag or Epson’s Velvet Fine Art.
Viewers felt that Somerset Photo Satin was most comparable to Epson’s Ultrasmooth Fine Art paper, another of our favorites. Somerset Photo Satin has a slighter hint of texture than Ultrasmooth Fine Art, but it is also whiter than Epson’s paper (which has a brightness of 90%). Some people liked images on the Epson paper, while others preferred the Moab paper, but all said it was more of a personal preference with respect to the paper’s finish and color more than the quality of the print.
Overall, we think Somerset Photo Satin is an exquisite paper for people looking for gallery-quality prints on fine-art media. Moab has only posted an ICC profile for Somerset Photo Satin and the Stylus Pro 3800, but they should have more fairly soon, and we’re working on creating profiles for HP’s Vivera inks (for the B8850 and the B9180), as well as the Canon Pixma Pro9500 and iPF6100 printers.
Somerset Photo Satin is available in a variety of sizes. As we noted in our original post, it isn’t cheap: Twenty-sheet boxes of letter-size paper are $58, although we’ve found it as low as $42 on Amazon. Tabloid sheets (11" by 17") are priced at $115 ($80 at Amazon) and 13" by 19" sheets are $130 ($95 at Amazon). You can also purchase the paper in standard European sizes and in 17", 24", 44" and 60" rolls.