Black and white photography and Baryta paper often cross paths, but have you ever wondered what exactly it is and why you should be using it? Within black and white printing, Baryta papers are top of the list for many photographers. So what are these papers and why do they suit black and white photography so well?
Baryta Papers originate from the darkroom and traditionally have an “UnGlazed” Gloss surface. Similar to a modern semi gloss finish. The name Baryta comes from the layer of Barium Sulphate which would stop the developers & fixers from penetrating and affecting the fibre base of the paper, as well as enhancing the Dmax of the print.
These days the Baryta layer isn't there to stop chemistry attacking the base of the paper but still helps to enhance the D-max level. It also has a very nostalgic smell, which any darkroom user would be familiar with. It’s important to note that a paper can not be referred to as a Baryta paper without this layer of Barium Sulphate. There are plenty of papers on the market these days which are known as Baryta style papers. These replicate “true” baryta papers almost exactly…if not better.
It’s important to note that there are now Baryta papers with a Matt surface. Definitely worth experimenting with.
Almost all Baryta papers are what used to be called ‘fibre-based papers’, be it Cotton Rag or Alpha Cellulose. These were the paper of choice of photographers and darkroom printers all over the world in analogue printing. Now, in the digital age, this is Inkjet or Giclee printing.
Why should you use Baryta paper?
Because they have archival qualities. When used with pigment inks, Baryta & Baryta style papers will last well over 100 years, meaning you will have long lasting rich black shades in your images. In addition to the deep blacks they offer, Baryta paper provides a sharp, crisp and brighter image. This is due to the Bayrta layer being able to reflect the light back more efficiently because of the makeup of the Barium Sulphate .
Though Baryta papers are generally seen as a black and white paper, they work wonders for colour photography, too, allowing for a full, wide and rich gammutt of colour.
One of the big points to Baryta paper is the feel, they feel like nothing else when you hold the prints, especially if you have a Cotton Rag version. For those who appreciate a little nostalgia, the Cotton Rag Baryta paper is reminiscent of early darkroom paper in its feel.
Almost all of the Baryta & Baryta style papers have a gloss or semi-gloss finish. However, if you are looking for something different, Canson offers a matt version of its Baryta Photographique 310gsm paper. Due to a lack of grain interference, the paper accentuates the detail in the image making it perfect for black and white photography.
What Baryta paper should you try?
This is a fine art paper with a smooth, unglazed gloss surface. It features a natural white base with a high D-Max, revealing delicate highlights and shadows.
This is a fine art paper with a felt construction, creating a soft feel. It’s high-gloss coating guarantees vivid colour and detail, as well as deep blacks and striking contrasts.
This pure cotton paper comes in a warm shade of white. Its high-gloss coating creates vivid reproduction of colour and detail, as well as deep blacks and contrasts.
The smooth glossy construction of this paper replicates that of traditional darkroom papers. With its high D-Max and sharpness of image, it allows for intense black and white images.
This satin-finish paper replicates the look and feel of traditional darkroom prints, but with improved handling and finishing. It has a high D-Max which creates black and white images with depth and clarity.
What are Baryta "Type" of Papers?
All the papers listed above are true Baryta papers containing Barium Sulphate, However there are other papers to consider when looking at Baryta papers. We call these papers Baryta-like papers and I have put a few of my favourites below. To be clear these paper do not contain Baryta but do have the look and feel of Baryta papers and are well worth a look.
Legacy Gloss is a 100% Cotton paper that has no OBAs. This gives the unglazed gloss finish of Legacy Gloss a warm base, perfect for warm tone Black and White prints. The paper also feel great in hand and really reminds me of darkroom papers.
Platinum Gloss Art Fibre is another great alternative to Baryta papers. Although it does not have the Baryta layer to really live up to that style of paper. The Gloss Art Fibre delivers amazing deep black with a subtle texture. This one has to be one of my favourites.
I have included this paper as a comparison to the Canon Baryta Photographique Matt. I was instantly reminded of the Platinum Matt when looking at the Canson paper. The high white of this paper makes it perfect for Black and White and Colour images. The black point is so close to the Canon Baryta Matt. It really is a great alternative.
This 100% cotton paper is beautiful, it has a natural white point and contains no OBAs, so is a little warmer than a high white paper. The blacks are deep and the images have a stunning sense of depth. It reminds me a lot of our Fotospeed Platinum Gloss Art Fibre but maybe with a little more shine to the Pearl finish.
You can watch Fotospeed’s Tim testing out papers for black and white printing on the Fotospeed Youtube channel.
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