View Full Version : Fiber based versus RC papers: Tonal quality differences

J. P. Mose
29-Jan-2002, 12:11

I have heard pros and cons on fiber versus RC paper. I want your opinions on th e total quality difference (if any) between the two. Has RC paper advanced to t he point where image quality is just as good as fiber? Thanks.

J. P. Mose

29-Jan-2002, 12:53

Why ask J.P.? haven't you printed on both just to see what the difference is. Instead of asking, better buy a box of RC and Fiber and see what you like (no pun intended).

I like fiber over RC just because of the 'look and feel' it has.


J. P. Mose
29-Jan-2002, 13:08
Dear Huib,

Actually I haven't! I am just rebuilding a darkroom after several years of not having one due to lack of space. For the past several months I have been developing film only! I send out the ones I want printed and they always come back on RC paper. I'm about a month from completion so I am getting ready to by the supplies. I am very excited about having a darkroom again...I had no desire to get a scanner (at least not at this point). Normally, I would do as you recommend. The feedback on this website is so full of detail, I love to hear all of your opinions, especially since a lot of you are experts.

JP Mose

paul owen
29-Jan-2002, 13:08
Are you putting the prints behind glass? If you are then the "feel" of Fibre is lost and it is impossible to tell Fibre from RC (I have found).

29-Jan-2002, 13:16

Well I guess that they print on RC just for the sake of convenience and economics.

I would say: hurry up and finish your darkroom :-) :-) :-)


David R Munson
29-Jan-2002, 13:23
Over the last 5 years or so, I've tried various fiber and RC papers made by Kodak, Ilford, Forte, Luminos, Bergger, and AGFA. Might be the placebo effect here, but I've found that I much prefer the prints I make on FB paper over those on RC. Prints I've made on RC never seem to have the same feel and subtleties I can usually get on fiber. Of course, much more of an issue to me than RC vs fiber is just the specific paper in question. I've tried RC papers that were infinitely better than some fiber papers. The reverse holds true, too. To date my favorite papers are all fiber, but I know people who print on nothing but RC and hate fiber. For the record, about the best enlarging combination I've found so far has been Bergger papers in Ansco 130. Both the graded and VC versions of Bergger paper are wonderful to work with and tone nicely in selenium. I guess I don't really have any big point to make here. My suggestion would be to buy a few 25-sheet packs of some good papers, both RC and FB, once you get your darkroom up and working, and just find what you like best. Good luck.

29-Jan-2002, 13:27

At the office: behind glass At home: glassless

Yes, behind glass the difference between RC and Fiber is less visible.

My personal favorite is air dried glossy fiber, even behind glass I find it better than pearl or luster RC not to speak of glossy RC (do not like that at all).

As with many things this is also a matter of personal taste.


Bjorn Nilsson
29-Jan-2002, 13:45
The quality for RC papers is probably as good as for the equivivialent fiber based papers nowadays. (The quality was questionable in the beginning of the RC era, but that was ages ago.) Another fact is the quick and easy handling of RC paper, which of course have made it very popular.

Another question that is relevant here is single grade vs. variable contrast. While VC really saves some money and shelf space, I still prefer single grade for my final prints. I simply don't like the somewhat greenish color casts that I've had with Ilford Fiber Multigrade.

But I for one does still prefer fiber based. First, I love the surface of air dried fiber based paper, which isn't as "perfectly shiny" as the RC surface. Second, some of the papers that I use arn't available in RC. (I prefer to use single grade papers of high quality.) As fine printing is a long and (and sometimes tedious) process, I often start with making a print on VC RC paper as a "scetch". When I've decided about what to do with the picture I set up the darkroom for fiber paper work and continue from there.

I still havn't seen any single "art print" done on RC, and maybe it's because of some kind of stubbornness (sp?) with the few that really knows printing.

I take it you want to start printing yourself. In that case I'd recommend you to start with RC and stick to that until you've learned how to make really good prints on a regular basis. The more immediate response time makes it much more fun to go into the darkroom. (And getting out of it before the next morning. :-) Spending a long night to make/tone/wash the prints just to the next night find out that the print dried down more than you had expected is not exactly my definition of fun.

Jim Galli
29-Jan-2002, 14:35
I've always got some RC around for the first print. If a picture is worth going beyond that point, the fiber paper is far more beautiful. It has a reflection quality that looks like.....well....paper and silver gelatin, instead of plastic. It's richer.

Will Ewing
29-Jan-2002, 19:26
I agree with Bjorn about learning to print with RC before you look for the holy grail with fibre based paper. The fast turn around of the RC paper will give you fast feedback on printing skills. The BIG reason fibre based papers are "better" is the archival question. If you store the final prints you make in a box it is no big deal, but I think the jury still says the RC papers will not hold up to UV. I have some old RC stuff from 20 years ago that still looks OK, but that was kept in storage boxes. What IS great these days is the quality and versatility of the variable contrast papers. If you have been away from printing for awhile then you might enjoy Anchell's book "The Variable Contrast Printing Manual" and "The Elements of Black-and-White Printing" by Carson Graves. I am impressed by the improvement in silver methods manuals considering there are some who seem to be moving to the digital world. Silver is still the preferred "art" material (and Platinum/Paladium too.) Good luck!!

james mickelson
30-Jan-2002, 00:13
The difference between RC and FB is the beauty of FB vs the shallow flat two dimensional look of RC. There is a big difference. Learn to print on FB and skip the waste of time that RC is. If you want deep lucious prints then FB. If you just want to put an image on plastic, then RC. Go look at any gallery you want and then decide. James

Jim Chinn
30-Jan-2002, 01:29
I agree with previous posts that fiber provides a certain "depth" to an image. I always find the glossy RC papers to have to much of shine or glare when viewed at certain angles which takes away from any delicate highlights. I do however use RC to make initial prints of images that I may want to complete as fine prints on fiber. I will print from a series of negs and then use the RC prints to put on the wall and "live with" for a few weeks to decide if I should go further with that neg.