Paper spectral sensitivity is the ability of a paper to respond to specific colors
of light. The terms monochromatic (colorblind), orthochromatic, and
panchromatic, used to describe the spectral sensitivity of films, also apply to
photographic papers. In selecting black-and-white papers for printing,
spectral sensitivity is not a factor. Black-and-white papers may be handled in
the darkroom under a (manufacturer-recommended) soft light called a
safelight. In selecting color-print papers, spectral sensitivity determines
whether or not to use a safelight and what color safelight to use.
Paper contrast is the ability of a paper to produce images that replicate the
highlights, shadows, and midtones found in the original scene. Navy
imaging facilities and graphic shops use papers called variable-contrast
papers. These papers have two emulsion layers, a high-contrast layer and a
low-contrast layer, that make achieving the correct contrast in prints easier.
Paper surface refers to the physical texture of paper and the coating on the
surface of paper. Photographic papers are available in a wide variety of
paper surfaces, such as matt, semimatt, lustre, high lustre, pearl, and glossy.
Textured papers that resemble canvas, linen, and brush strokes are also
available. The most common papers in graphics shops are glossy and matt.
GLOSSY: Papers that have smooth glossy surfaces provide prints with high
contrast and high-density color saturations, resulting in apparently sharper
images. This occurs because glossy papers reflect light directly. Glossy
papers are used for photographic prints that must show fine details, such as
equipment damage, intelligence photos, or small photographs of cluttered
MATT: Light reflected from matt papers is diffused, providing softer, lower
contrast in the images. Details do not appear sharp. Matt-surfaced papers
are commonly used in portraiture and expansive scenes.
The surfaces of papers used by the Navy are coated with either polyethylene
or resin. Papers are coated on both sides of the base. This clear coating
protects papers from abrasion and from sticking to each other during the
processing procedure. You may write on polyethylene papers with pencils,
pens, or markers. Resin-coated (RC) papers require you to use markers with
special inks that adhere to slick RC surfaces.
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