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What Paper Type to Use in the Epson (or Canon) Driver with Aftermarket Inkjet Papers

9th February 2021 Printing, Papers & Presentation

A very common question we get is about what paper type to use in the Epson or Canon printer drivers when you are using a paper from a third party manufacturer like Ilford or Hahnemuehle.

The confusion comes because, of course, Epson and Canon only really list their own paper types in their drivers.  This is a bit of not-so-subtle marketing where they imply the only paper you can or should use with their printers are their own branded papers. 

This is, of course, complete nonsense (and legally dubious - a printer manufacturer cannot limit you to using only their own branded products with their printer - that said, when it comes to inks - we still strongly recommend you do use the original inks.). 

With paper, however, their is a world of choice, and very rarely do Canon or Epson offer best in class papers at attractive prices. They also have a terrible track record for availability of supply, so you will find that in practise almost everyone mostly uses after-market papers in the fine art print industry.

So - when using these papers, and given you can only see OEM papers in the list of paper types to specify in your driver, what should you do?

The answer depends on how you are printing. 

In all cases, you can - and this might seem strange - completely ignore the advice on any materials supplied with the paper - e.g. you sill see a lot of fine art papers telling you to use 'Textured Fine Art' or similar in the Epson driver.  This advice is not ideal...it won't cause major problems, per se - but it can, for example, limit the gamut achievable with a particular paper.

Instead, follow our advice below.

(It also pays to read the PDF manual that came with your printer and our material on Solving Inkjet Printer Issues - specifically read the areas about settings for paper configuration, such as Platen Gap, Paper Width, Tension, Ink Load etc...whilst mostly you won't need these controls, they can occasionally be useful, particularly if you're experiencing issues like marks on the edges of your prints).

Using a Custom ICC Profile

Custom ICC Profiles remain the absolute most effective way to consistent high quality printing with any paper. 

For a very minor fee, they absolutely give you better accuracy and consistency and are just about the best money you can spend in all of photography/imaging - they are superbly effective.

If you are printing a profile target, then you can always use one of three paper types - this has worked very well for every Epson & Canon pigment ink printer since 2001.

All 'Art' Papers - any fine art matte paper, smooth or textured.  Also all matte canvas.

Epson - Epson Archival Matte (also listed sometimes as Epson Enhanced Matte or Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte)
- Use Premium Fine Art Smooth if available, otherwise Photo Paper Pro Premium Matte

All Gloss/High-Gloss/Metallic Papers & Gloss Canvas

Epson - Epson Premium Glossy
(n.b. some metallic papers use Pearl in their name - but they are by definition high gloss papers so they fit this option.
- use Photo Paper Plus Glossy

All Lustre/Pearl/Semi-Gloss Papers & Semi-Gloss Canvas

Epson - Epson Premium Semi-Gloss
(n.b. here we are referring to papers which use Pearl to describe their surface, like Ilford Smooth Pearl)
- Use Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss

&...That's it!

You really only need to know and use those three types for ALL after-market papers (photo and art papers, anyway).

Using A Stock (Downloaded) Profile

If you are using a profile from a paper manufacturer's website, or one you have found somewhere on the internet, note that you must specifically use the matching settings the profile was made for.

If you do not use this, you are effectively not using the profile and will likely be worse off than had you simply not used a profile at all!

These settings are always available from the same place.  They either comes as a document included with the profile, or they are a README type file available for download in the same area you found the profile itself.

You must read this document in full use use the precise settings - specifically you must identify the print quality, paper type and settings for colour management that the profile requires to use.  Only when you identiofy and then use these precise driver settings will you get correct results.

(Over the years, this is where almost everyone goes wrong with downloaded profiles and causes them to conclude they are not good - they assume that just popping the profile into the Photoshop print dialogue is all they have to do and the rest is automatic.  This is NOT correct.  You must use the correct, matching driver settings as well.)

You Are Printing Without A Profile

If you are not using a an ICC profile when printing (and note - for good results, you really should use profiles, at the very least downloaded profiles) - then follow our paper type advice for using a profile above. 

But seriously - use a profile if you want good results.