LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper Print Test Observations

Here are my observations after several rounds of print tests, expanded a bit to include not only LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper but also satin & glossy papers and both Hahnemuhle Protective Spray and PremierArt Print Shield spray. I hesitate to call them anything but observations, as the differences I noted were in many cases subtle, and in all cases my preferences reflect my personal biases.

My objective in this print test was to see if it is possible to apply a protective coating to prints on LexJet Metallic so I can present them without glass, letting the full pearlescent effect come through. To avoid suspense, based on my observations the answer is a definite “probably” – Print Shield does a pretty good job in terms of appearance, but I still need to do some durability testing. If you're interested in how I arrived at this conclusion, read on.

Initial testing consisted of printing the 4 images below from Lightroom 3, grouped on a 13″ x 19″ paper size. On the HP Z3100, I printed this paper size on the LexJet Metallic 24″ roll; on the Canon ipf5100, I printed on 13″ x 19″ sheets of the paper cut from the 24″ roll. On the HP, I printed 2 sets, one with Gloss Enhancer (set to full page coverage) and one without. The Canon doesn't have Gloss Enhancer, so I only printed 1 set from it. Each set consisted of 2 identical prints, so I could spray 1 print and compare it with the original off the printer without any coating.

So, if you're following along and doing the math in your head, I ended up with 6 prints on the metallic paper, with 3 to be sprayed with Print Shield and then compared to their uncoated twins. I only sprayed with Print Shield for this portion of the test, as I'd previously done limited tests with the Hahnemuhle Protective Spray on the metallic paper and was hoping to find something that yielded a better result.

Among the unsprayed prints, my (slight) preference was for the HP print with Gloss Enhancer. The Gloss Enhancer helps even out the gloss differential that results from spraying pigment ink on a glossy surface, but still lets the pearlescent quality of the paper come through. The HP print without Gloss Enhancer and the Canon print were neck and neck with each other and only a smidge behind the HP with GE. All the prints looked good, and I'd be happy with any one of them in the absence of the others.

(Side note: One interesting difference was in the rendering of reds – the HP renders colors with a red component much warmer than does the Canon. The Z3100 was noted to have problems with reds on glossy paper early in its production; HP addressed this in subsequent revisions of the Z3100's firmware, but they might have gone a tad overboard. This really wasn't an apples-to-apples comparison, as the Z3100 creates its own paper profiles, while I created the Canon's profile using the ColorMunki, so the difference might just come down to differences in the profiles created by 2 devices for the same paper. The really interesting thing to me, though, is that the difference between the the colors on the HP & the Canon is almost the same as the difference between how I see colors in my left & right eyes – I see reds “stronger” in one eye than the other…)

On to the spraying tests. Again, my slight preference was for the HP print with Gloss Enhancer, although after spraying with Print Shield that preference was even slighter – Print Shield itself helps even out gloss differential, although it does it differently than HP's Gloss Enhancer. Spraying with Print Shield leaves the surface almost unaltered – it does slightly reduce the glossiness of the surface, which is more apparent on some images than others. The sprayed prints all received 2 initial light coats, followed up by an additional 4 light coats on half of each image on the HP with GE print. The additional coats had only a tiny, almost-indiscernible additional impact on surface glossiness. I typically use 6-8 light coats of protective spray on any prints I display without glass, so I was glad to see that the additional coats didn't degrade the image quality.

While I was at it, I also made test prints on glossy & satin papers. Hahnemuhle Protective Spray and Print Shield seem equivalent on the glossy and satin prints. The metallic paper definitely has a pearlescent / luminous quality the other papers lack, but I think the image needs to be properly displayed and lit for full effect.

So. There it is, then. More tests are to come – I'd like to compare a sprayed print with an unsprayed print face-mounted behind Tru Vue Museum Glass or Tru Vue Optium Museum Acrylic, and I haven't tried to dry-mount the metallic paper yet. I'll be sure to post updates.

This is an area of some interest to me, so I'd love to hear how others prepare and display their prints. Please leave comments below sharing your procedures, preferences, and experiences!

– Jack

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  1. Hi Jack,
    I did a small test print with the paper you sent me, and it certainly is an interesting paper. I am a bit undecided if I like this high level of gloss.

    As far as mounting, I have had a few prints box mounted where they apply some type of lacquer over the top of them for protection, but I don’t know exactly what it is. It is part of the reason I have outsourced my canvas – spraying can be a bit of a pain, as well as a hazard if you don’t have good ventilation. It was always hard spraying in the winter time! 🙂

  2. Hi, Mark –

    The glossiness has taken some getting used to for me as well, as previously I always printed on either e-Satin paper or matte canvas. But some images really pop on the metallic! I can’t accurately predict which ones will yet, but in observing the prints I like best on metallic, I think it has to do with the tonal contrasts and position/pattern of areas of low & higher ink density.

    I should probably outsource my printing – the time and money I’ve spent on it has been all out of proportion to my needs. The geek in me really enjoys it, though! :^D

    – Jack

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