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Paper Curl

16th September 2015 Printing, Papers & Presentation

Paper curl is a fact of life with inkjet papers, especially with fine art hand made papers and papers that have come off a roll. All paper ultimately comes of a roll - it is either cut into a smaller roll from a larger one or cut from a roll into paper sheets.

Further, due to the grain of the paper (the direction in which most of the paper fibres run), and the type of coatings used (which will react differently to the paper base to changes in temperature and humidity), paper is destined to curl. It's part and parcel of the entire production process and not really a fault per se, more something that is a fundamental part of the natural paper making process.

If you really hate paper curl, then you have a few choices. Double sided papers, being coated on both sides, tend to curl less. Museo Portfolio Rag is not really a double sided paper but they've treated the back side to help the paper resist curl. In general, resin coated papers curl less than fibre based ones as the resin helps the fibres resist the urge to curl.

SKU Price (inc) Qty.
Hahnemühle Photo Rag Duo 276gsm Hahnemühle Photo Rag Duo 276gsm
Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl 310gsm Ilford Galerie Smooth Pearl 310gsm

But largely, if you want to use beautiful fine art papers, paper curl is a fact of life you are bound to encounter. Here are a few tips for working with paper curl.

General Tips

Epson SureColor P800 A2 Inkjet Printer
The benchmark A2 fine art printer today, and our default recommendation for anyone wanting to make big, beautiful, archival prints in-house.
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  • Carriage WidthA2 (17", 432mm)
  • Inkset Type (# Inks)Pigment (9)
  • High Quality Black & White?
  • Roll Paper Support? (w. accessory)
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  • Use the platen gap settings in your printer driver to move the print head out from the page. This is probably the best way of avoiding head strikes. Set to 'Wide' or further.
  • Keep the paper in a plastic bag.The plastic bag slows down changes in humidity in particular and can really help prevent curl. Papers usually comes with in one inside the box but if not, use polypropylene bags - do not use PVC bags as these will age the paper.
  • Keep paper in a dark, cool place. Do not leave paper boxes anywhere near the sun.
  • Purchase an inkjet printer that is more capable with fine art papers. Experience has shown that all models below the Epson SureColor P800 can't really be expected to be consistent performers with thick fine art papers.
  • Recognise that inkjet prints on fine art paper straight out of the printer are not really fully finished products. They may need clean up edge trimming and/or coating to be complete.

Sheet Tips

  • Store your paper flat, not vertically.
  • Store sheets upside down in the box. Paper is always packed with the printable side up, but this also means that you're not taking advantage of gravity, so the first thing to do with any new box of paper is to open it and flip the paper over in the box so that gravity will naturally bear down on the paper and help keep it flat
  • Before loading the paper in your printer, gently but firmly bend the paper back against itself in the opposite direction of the curl - the best way to do this is to wrap the sheets of paper around a tube and gently rub the edges around the curve of the tube (use gloves of course, and with the printable face outwards). We do this to pretty much every sheet of fine art paper we load.
  • If all else fails, try loading the paper in landscape orientation instead of portrait - you will probably need to create a custom page size in your driver to do this.

Roll Tips

  • Regard the last metre or two, where the curl is worst as the winding is tightest, as waste material suitable for tests but not final print.
  • Save empty inner roll tubes and roll your paper backwards on these before loading the paper for printing.