Review: Red River Palo Duro Etching Paper (Looks Like the Darkroom)

When most people look at prints, they often see them in one way: glossy and pretty high contrast–but Red River Palo Duro Etching paper is looking to turn that on its head. Red River Palo Duro Etching paper is a matte paper designed to print in a way that emulates what a photographer would get in the darkroom. And indeed, it is surely something that goes along very well with all the vintage Insta-looks and the presets that you’re bound to find in images. But at the same time, it could take folks some getting used to simply because of the fact that if you’re part of the newer generation of photographers, you probably have never seen what a true darkroom print looks like.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Beautiful with black and white images
  • Images maintain their sharpness
  • Nice texture
  • A much different look from everything else out there
  • No real need to brighten the image at all despite it being a matte paper

Cons

  • May take some getting used to
  • If someone hasn’t seen what this paper is or knows what it is trying to do, you may be the subject of some misunderstood harsh critique

Gear Used

We tested Red River Palo Duro Etching paper with the Epson P-800 printer and the Canon Prograf 1000 printer. All images were shot with the Pentax 67, Mamiya RB 67 Pros S, and the Fujifilm GFX 50s.

Tech Specs

All tech specs about Red River Palo Duro Etching paper taken from their website

Made from 100% cotton rag, Palo Duro Etching gives you the classic look of a fine photographic art print. The surface adds just the right amount of texture to your print and will not distract from the details you worked so hard to capture. This OBA-free archival paper is ideal for museum quality and conservation grade prints.

Why “Art” Paper for Photography? – For many years, cotton art papers were emulsion coated for darkroom printing. The result is sublime – an elegant surface texture and sophisticated hand-feel. With modern inkjet coating, your prints will have a powerful impact and are sure to please.

Warmer White Paper – Palo Duro Etching is a natural white paper. This is because we do not add any chemicals that make paper look bright white. The whites of your image are going to take on an elegant, warmer look. This is a benefit for images of nature, skin tones, landscapes, rich black & whites and artwork reproductions.

Deep Blacks – You will be amazed that a matte paper can make luxurious deep blacks. The secret is a barrier coat between the paper and inkjet receiving layer. Ink stays locked into the inkjet coating and cannot sink into the paper base. The results are luxurious deep blacks.

Museum Grade – This means a museum curator would be comfortable putting this paper on display. The keys to museum quality are 100% cotton fiber, acid-free, lignin-free, and optical brightener (OBA) free. OBAs are chemicals used to make paper bright white.

Ideal For:

  • The look and feel of original fine art or darkroom prints
  • Deep blacks, smooth gray tones, true saturated colors
  • Fine photographic reproductions – for sale or for display at home
  • Discerning print enthusiasts

Good To Know:

  • True conservation grade media – No optical brighteners, acid free, lignin free
  • Warm white tone for amazing landscapes, nature, and scenes with a natural color pallet
  • There are no markings or logos on the back
  • Handle this fine product with care – hold by edges and use gloves.
  • Download the handling guide to get the most from Palo Duro Etching.

Base Stock: 100% cotton rag content
Acid free base stock and coating
Internally buffered
No optical brighteners present
90 brightnessWeight: 315gsm (84lb.)Thickness: 21 milCoated: Microporous coated one sideBack: Printable plain paperPaper Tone: Natural (warmer) whiteSurface: Textured matte

Pigment Ink Users: This media uses Matte Black inks.

White Paper: Palo Duro Etching is not far from neutral white. For print geeks, the spectro is Lab: 97.28, 0.39, 2.65

Build Quality

Red River Palo Duro Etching paper is a matte paper. This paper has a very textured surface and if you haven’t felt this type of matte paper before, just think of it sort of like plaster on drywall–specifically the first thin layer. It’s rugged and I brought it out with me for an entire day it was an in box getting tussled around. Where other paper may earmark or something may happen to it, it was almost as if the Red River Palo Duro Etching paper hadn’t even left my office. The prints are sitting in my living room right now.

Part of this matte surface texture perhaps has to do with the way that it’s designed to look. Matte paper is best viewed when it is being blasted with light.

Ease of Use

In some ways, you’d think that as long as you’ve got the ICC profile for your printer and either Lightroom or Capture One all set up, you should be golden. That’s sort of the case here.

Here’s what this image looks like no printed.

Here’s another example. Check out above being the print. And below being the photo.

See what it’s doing? It’s lightening the colors and lowering the contrast–which is more or less what would happen with a darkroom print.

Here’s another example

Again, same thing happening here. So keep that in mind when you’re printing. To give you a bit more insight into what I’m doing, I’m using Fujifilm’s film profiles, applying them to the images and then printing them after some editing.

What I’m getting is a look that is sort of painterly and looks like a sketch. At the same time though, it’s very different and I like it.

This was a film scan made by Lomography and then printed onto the paper.

Conclusions

Red River Palo Duro Etching paper is surely an acquired taste for the photographers that are used to very high contrast, almost HDR-like prints. But if you’re a person that doesn’t mind the low contrast look and all the film-like presets that are out there, then you’ll really love this. In fact, you probably have no reason to even need to apply the preset when you’re printing a photo onto Red River Palo Duro Etching paper.

Go get some of Red River Palo Duro Etching paper over on their website. And if you really like this paper, be sure to check out more of their Matte Paper!