Paper 101 – Part 4: Baryta
Now that we’ve taken a look at Fine Art and RC papers, let’s move to a paper type that in some ways can be considered a hybrid of the two. Baryta. These papers offer the weight and feel of fine art stock while enjoying the color gamut and density of RC photo prints.
Just like RC papers Baryta inkjet papers come to us from their traditional photo paper counterpart. The word Baryta comes from barite, also known as Barium Sulfate (BaSO4). Barites are minerals found in nature and used in the production of things such as linoleum, oilcloth, paper, textiles, rubber and plastics. (Drilling fluids consume 85% of the total barites consumption). In paper-making the material is used as a coating: A highly refined barite powder is applied to the paper board to improve whiteness and coverage. Paper manufacturers sometimes add tints to the barite coating to alter the final tone of the print but more frequently it is used with optical brighteners to increase the whiteness of the media and extend its tonal range.
In the traditional (non-inkjet) photographic paper market, Fiber-based papers are synonymous with Baryta papers, and these papers are still the papers of choice for medium and high-end print exhibition purposes.
In the inkjet media marketplace we also see both “Fiber-based” and “Baryta” used on labels but in this case you should not assume those terms are interchangeable. For example, I have seen 100% alpha-cellulose media labeled as “Fiber” that contain no barites at all. (Strictly speaking, any cotton rag or alpha cellulose paper is a fiber paper–ie, not RC). So be careful—while it is safe to say that all Baryta papers will be fiber-based, not all fiber-based papers contain barites.
So just what is the significance of these berite coated papers anyway? Well, it comes down to look and feel. Baryta papers, since they are fiber paper based, are heavier and more textured than RC papers while managing to duplicate much of that paper type’s biggest strength: density. Photographers often need a paper of considerable weight and thickness for that “Fine Art feel” but want to avoid the density and color gamut limits of fine art papers. Since Baryta papers are used with Photo Black ink they have a maximum density well above what one can achieve with a matte paper. This is especially important when printing in black and white — that extra density is vital to fully realize the detail in the shadows without losing the overall D-Max.
Baryta papers are available from many different manufactures and each has its own unique feel and texture (though all Baryta papers will have some amount of sheen). Some Barytas are designed to be extremely bright while others have a more natural or even warm tone. As usual, it’s a good idea to get some sample packs and see which one fits your needs the best, but with their great density capabilities and solid, art-paper feel, most print makers will want to have a Baryta paper or two in their mix. If you haven’t had the opportunity to print on one of these papers yet, do yourself a favor and try some. I think you will love it!