Musings on Photography

Harman Gloss FB AL/Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk

Posted in paper by Paul Butzi on April 17, 2008

Yesterday afternoon, Mr. UPS delivered my most recent order of paper. To my delight, the delivery did, indeed, include my 17″x50′ roll of Harman Gloss FB AL and my 17″x40′ roll of Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk.

So I set myself down, and I popped those rolls into the Z3100, and I cranked out profiles for both of them. Since I know that all of you have been waiting for my report on these two papers with bated breath, I will get right down to the brass tacks, the nitty gritty, and the bottom line. (pet peeve alert: note that you are all waiting with ‘bated’ breath, indicating that you have been holding your breath and not breathing, as opposed to ‘baited’ breath, a concept which is too disgusting to be discussed here. ‘Nuff said.)

First up: Harman Gloss FB AL. I ordered this paper both because of and in spite of Kjell Harald’s comments on it (see this post, this post, and this post). My first impression, which matches that of Kjell, was that the smell really triggered a tidal wave of emotions and memories. I’m serious. It smells exactly like Ilford Galerie fiber based gelatin silver paper when it comes out of the box. Weird.

Ok, so anyway, somehow I expected the paper to be a little thicker than it is. That is, my initial assessment was that this paper is not as thick as, say, Crane Museo Portfolio, on which I’ve been printing. But when I actually measured, they’re almost exactly the same. The Harman seems to be about the same weight as the Crane Museo Portfolio, but the Harman paper is far more flexible. That’s too bad, because I rather like the stiffness of the Crane paper, which feels very substantial in your hand and gives off a vibe of being a Very Permanent Object. I’m guessing (but don’t have enough experience to know for sure) that kinking of big prints on Harman Gloss FB AL is going to be a bit of an issue, although I don’t expect it to be as bad as the problems I had with Epson Premium Luster and Premium Semimatte.

The surface texture of the Harman Gloss FB AL paper is just a little glossy for my tastes. It’s not glossy like the old Ilfochrome glossy stuff that was based on voided polyester, or the Fuji Supergloss stuff (similarly on voided polyester), or ferrotyped glossy Kodabromide F surface. Those papers were Glossy with a capital G. This is more a matter of glossy with a lower case g, and a slight stippling of the surface. It’s very much like the surface of air dried glossy gelatin silver papers of yesteryear, just as advertised. I was hoping for a gloss surface that was more like the old Agfa Portriga Rapid – sort of a smooth surface, not quite so matte as to be semi-matte but also not quite so glossy as to be really glossy. And it’s just a smidgen more glossy than that target of mine.

On to the good news. I fired up the colorsync tool immediately I had the profile for Harman Gloss FB AL done, and compared the gamut to that of Crane Museo Portfolio. What I saw nearly made me fall out of my chair. Harman Gloss FB AL is the wireframe, Crane Museo Portfolio is the solid. (the Harman profile was generated with gloss optimizer ON, which makes a pretty significant difference).


The win that CMP is making in the ligheter yellows and greens is very small, perhaps not even visible. But the big addition of volume for Harman Gloss FB AL at the bottom of the luminance axis (the vertical one) is monumentally huge. I looked at the difference, and the alarm bells in my head started ringing. Comparing the low tone gamut of this stuff to the previous ‘looks like glossy’ paper I used, which was HP Professional Satin Photo Paper, the Harman blows the doors off the HP paper. And I liked the Hp paper, and wished that it was offered in widths other than 24″ and 44″. Let me tell you, if you’re using the HP Professional Satin Photo paper, both the Harman Gloss and the Ilford Gold Fiber Silk papers are going to change that pretty darn quick. In fact, the gamut of this stuff is larger than every HP paper I have a profile for. Every. Single. One.

This stuff is just magic in roll form. I’m stunned.

On to the Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. For reasons I’m not quite sure of, I had relatively modest expectations for this paper, and bought a roll because, well, the stuff is damn inexpensive. So I was stunned when I profiled it and compared it to the Harman:



When I looked at these two charts, I thought “Well, now, isn’t THAT interesting?” because for all intents and purposes, the gamut of the two papers is the same. Oh, the Ilford paper wins by a scootch in the reds, there, and the Harman paper wins in the rest of the gamut, but for all intents and purposes, both of these papers do about the same as the other (and whip the stuffing out of all the other papers I’ve tried).

On to an assessment of the physical properties of the Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

On weight, the Harman and Ilford papers are identical as far as I can tell. I mean, I didn’t weigh them to the gram, but they have the same heft. And they’re the same thickness, as well. Stiffness, they’re the same. In the hand, the Ilford paper feels just a little nicer – more papery, and less plasticky. Both feel pretty nice, actually, but my preference is the Ilford. The Ilford has the same smell as the Harman paper, but not quite as intensely.

The Ilford paper is a little less glossy than the Harman paper, but has a more pronounced luster texture to the surface. Half the time I think I like the Ilford paper better, and half the time I think I like the Harman better. If I could get the reduced gloss of the Ilford paper with the smoother surface texture of the Harman paper, I’d be happier than the Stellar’s Jay that just won the territorial battle for the stump outside my workroom window, and let me tell you, judging from the racket he’s making (“I won, I won! This stump is MINE! Attention Lady Birds – I am now taking applicants! I am very SEXY!) that’s one happy Stellar’s Jay.

Both papers scuff easily. One of the two (Ilford? I can’t remember) actually included cotton gloves in the box with the paper, which is amusing because shipping print handling gloves to my work space is like shipping coals to Newcastle. (I got tired of hunting around to find gloves when I wanted them and at one point just ordered up a truckload, so they’re laying about with the approximate density of drunken university students on Fraternity Row on Saturday night.) Drying overnight seemed to help but they still scuff pretty easily.

Finally, the base color – the Ilford paper is a warmer, creamier white. It’s not overtly yellow, it’s just not the OBA whiter than white that other papers have. The Harman paper, on the other hand, is exceedingly bright white – perhaps even a bit cool. I’ve read that the Ilford paper is OBA free but can’t find that reference any longer. If the Harman paper is OBA free, I’ll eat my mechanical pencil. It’s pretty bright.

And now, the final difference – price. I bought the paper from (my first order with them, by the way, and I was pleased with the service). The Harman cost $143 for a 17″ x 50′ roll. The Ilford cost $88 for a 17″x40′ roll. For comparison, the Crane Museo Portfolio cost $136 for a 17″x50′ roll.

That difference is cost is substantial, especially when the two products are so similar. If I needed that bright white base, or wanted exactly the surface texture of the Harman paper, I’d pay the extra price. But for now I’m guessing there’s going to be a fair bit of the Ilford paper going through my HP Z3100.

17 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Andy Chen said, on April 17, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    Thanks for the review, and especially the gamut charts. When I got my Z3100, one of the first things I looked for was a website full of gamut charts. Nowhere to be found. Now, what am I going to do with my just arrived first roll of HP Professional Satin Photo?

  2. Ed Richards said, on April 17, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    You can see why I was so impressed with Harman for my black and white prints. If you have not printed some black and white LF on the Harman, give it a try.

  3. Joe Sawicki said, on April 17, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    May be worth checking out for the paper as well. Not sure how the shipping would compare, but they have the “silk” for 78.33 for the 17″x40′ roll.

  4. Kjell Harald said, on April 17, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    It was interesting to read, but I didn’t hold may breath waiting for it. And what the heck is “baited breath”?

    I haven’t tried the Ilford paper, only looked at it in the store, and I didn’t fall for it. The Harman paper is slowly coming up as my new favorite. It may be a bit on the glossy side, but if you compare it to the more pearly surfaces, it won’t scatter the light as much, which I think is less distracting. A selling point for me is the almost non existing gloss differential between white paper base and inked areas. At least on Epson printers this is usually a problem for glossy media. I guess it is better on HP with gloss optimizer.

    I have had some Harman prints lying around on my desk for a couple of days now, and surprisingly enough the surface still looks fine. If I look very close, I can see some very fine lined scratches, but nothing that is visible under normal viewing conditions. It looks like the worst enemy is the equivalent of a finger nail, but that would ruin most papers (except, in my experience, the Fine Art Pearl).

    I totally agree on your description of the paper weight/thickness/feel.

  5. Kjell Harald said, on April 17, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Just one comment on pricing.
    Here in Norway, at least in the store I shop, the Harman paper is the least expensive of all the serious papers. The Premium Luster is cheaper of course, but not by much, and it’s not what I call a serious paper. All Hahnemuhle papers cost approx twice as much in Norway compared to US (that is including shipping to Norway from B&H and Norwegian sales tax), but the Harman paper is comparable in price. The Ilford paper is more expensive. Just a late post on the previous discussion on differential pricing for different markets. It doesn’t really make any sense.

    The positive thing for me is that when using Harman Gloss, I see no reason to use Premium Luster for proofing. The paper cost is still manageable, and I get the pleasure of the real thing even when making test prints.

  6. Frank Armstrong said, on April 18, 2008 at 6:23 am

    I, too, was turned on to the Harman paper, but then up and ordered some 8.5×11 of all the new “just like silver” papers: Innova FibaPrint Ultra Smooth Gloss, Hahnemuhle Glossy Fine Art, Epson Exhibition Fiber, and the Ilford Gold Fiber Silk. Making comparison prints on these five papers, showed that indeed the Hahnemuhle and Epson favoring the warm end of the spectrum. But without doubt, the paper that won me over was the Innova. I’m making B&W prints that look so much like Ilford Multigrade IV fiber glossy silver prints that died-in-the-wool, darkroom folk can’t tell the difference. And the color prints have the look of a c-print. For me, the appeal of silver print and the c-print is how the image sits deep in the paper, and not on the surface like so many of the ink jet papers. Finally somehow these new papers have been able to emulate the feel of the traditional print. I would be interested in your opinion, and those of your readers, of the Innova paper.


  7. matt said, on April 18, 2008 at 7:26 am

    After receiving a few impressive prints on Gold Fibre Silk in a print swap, I’ve started using it as my standard paper for B&W prints. It’s cheap enough to use all the time, and cheap enough to play around with, but the weight and quality are excellent. Blacks are deep, whites are creamy and I like the slightly warmer base. I haven’t noticed any problems with scuffing, but I usually let my prints sit unmolested for a few days before I try to do anything with them.

    I just wish it came in 5X7 like Galerie Smooth Pearl (what can I say, I like printing small).

  8. Peter De Smidt said, on April 18, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I’ve been using the Ilford GFS (what a silly name!) for awhile now, and I really like it. I’m using an R2400, Ink Republic CIS and MIS K4 inks.

  9. CMPatti said, on April 18, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    Ilford GFS was the final element that allowed everything to fall in place when I recently abandoned medium format film and “in-sourced” my entire workflow by acquiring a Canon 5D and Epson 3800. I hate fiddling with new materials, and after some experimentation quickly settled on the Ilford as my only paper for both color and B&W. In my opinion it was both the best paper I tried and the cheapest. The Ilford-supplied profile is pretty darn good also. My prints are the best I’ve ever produced, and I don’t think I’ll need to tinker with this set-up for a good long time.

  10. quantumcapture said, on April 21, 2008 at 5:11 am

    in the UK the ilford is more expensive than the harman paper and for a lot of my work the B&W prints onthe ilford are too warm. I’ve not compared the warm tone harman gloss to the ilford yet plus the curl you get with the ilford is a pain in the arse. As for the gloss effect it does say gloss on the packet lol if you want a less gloss look the innovaart fiba print ultra smooth gloss is less shiny. I’ve written a few words on my blog abotu the Harman papers too

  11. […] I have a very limited number of readers on this blog, but just before the weekend I got mentioned on Paul Butzis Photo Musing in his post about Harman Gloss. The traffic went through the roof for two short days, but now the honeymoon is over and everything […]

  12. Eric Etheridge said, on May 3, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Can you detail the settings you used to profile the Ilford GFS on the z3100?


  13. Paul Butzi said, on May 5, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I took a crib from the Ilford web site, downloading their profile for the paper, and noting that it was done using the Fine Art Pearl Paper, More Ink.

    So that’s the setting I used.

  14. Jasper said, on June 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Thanks for the review; very good. I’ve used both papers in sheet form on Z3100 and like both. Please could you let me know the diameter of the rolls.

  15. wilfred smith said, on June 27, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    Enjoyed you review of the Ilford and Harmon paper. I have printed B&W on a sample sheet of both of these papers. I seem to favor the Harmon, but the price difference of the Ilford has my eyes and mind trying to convince me otherwise. The Harmon paper I tried was the “Warmtone Gloss FB AL”. Were your test done on the Warmtone or the regular Gloss FB AL?
    I saw sample print made on the Glos FB AL and it is definatly less warm . Now I don’t know whether to order the warm paper or the cooler. I first thought I liked the cooler but now dont know.

  16. Umesh said, on July 17, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Wow! i stumbled across to your site via Google. and your results are astoundingly similar to my conclusions!

    Harman Fb Al vs Ilford Gold Silk

    Have you switched to using Ilford these days? Have you tried out the Harman Warmtone?

  17. popularity « Musings on Photography said, on December 5, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    […] post, on Harman Gloss FB AL […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: