In our Fine Art Printing Laboratory, our star paper is 100% cotton (papers made of cotton fibres). It is the type of paper that we most recommend. You often ask us why these papers are so good and now we are going to tell you why.
Composition of fine art papers
Without going into the physical qualities of the paper that we can appreciate by touching it when we hold it in our hands, we realise that a 100% cotton paper is a superior paper. But this softness of the paper and its characteristic touch has its origin in its composition. Let’s see why.
For the manufacture of the paper, normally two types of cellulose pulp fibres are used from which the paper is normally made: wood and cotton.
The alpha cellulose fibres are extracted from the wood of the trees, which usually contain acids and lignin, which is responsible for the yellowish colour and ageing of the paper over time.
In order to remove the lignin from the paper and improve its conservation, the paper is subjected to chemical processes to bleach it. In some cases, this produces whiter paper, but the lignin has not been completely removed, which causes the paper to turn yellow in a few years.
100 % cotton paper
Cotton fibres, on the other hand, are the most durable fibres and come from the fine fibres left in the seed of a cotton plant after the ginning process.
These input fibres do not contain lignin, so no chemical pre-treatment is required for their disposal, which contributes to the conservation of the environment, while ensuring durability and colour retention in the paper over time.
When cotton fibres are converted to pulp, they tend to fray and create hundreds of tiny fibres which, when mixed with water, intertwine to create a uniform surface with a lot of strength and flexibility.
This surface is easy to recognize when you touch your fingertips to a 100% cotton paper, you can feel like a soft velvet on its surface, creating a three-dimensional layer in relief, capable of absorbing a greater amount of ink, producing a greater tonal richness in the images while achieving a better gradation in the pure blacks.
A perfect white
On the other hand, another characteristic of the papers that is very much appreciated to achieve high fidelity in the colour reproduction of our photographs is the whiteness of the paper.
Normally, this whiteness is achieved artificially by chemical processes that “bleach” the paper by adding optical brighteners.
Optical brighteners (OBA) are chemical agents that are very often used on photographic papers (e.g. RC papers). They are incorporated into the coating and sometimes into the base of the paper itself.
The natural alpha cellulose fibres (from wood fibres) tend to absorb the rays in the blues and therefore have a yellowish appearance. It is therefore necessary to apply bleach to artificially compensate for this loss in range.
Thus, the paper will appear whiter and brighter due to its fluorescent effect.
The main disadvantage of optical brighteners is that they can degrade their fluorescent properties, causing the paper to lose its initial “whiteness” and recover its natural, more yellowish colour.
On the other hand, in terms of colour management, it is more difficult to effectively control the result of certain images on more or less bleached paper.
The Cotton Test
In a 100% cotton paper, these fibres are naturally bleached, due to the presence of natural pigments in their own composition, so it is not necessary to add bleach to them. They are more chemically stable and are not usually affected by ageing processes, they are more durable over time,
Cotton papers are known for their purity, durability and permanence, making them the best giclée printing medium for artists who want to create a work of art that lasts over time and maintains its properties of faithful colour reproduction to the original file.