On Printing | Baryta Coated Paper; Its History And Its Use Now.

On Printing | Baryta Coated Paper; Its History And Its Use Now.

Baryta Coated Papers; Why they're special and what are they all about?

Well firstly they smell gorgeous... I could just leave it there and have you all wondering.

But I will not do that, instead we will take a look at the history of Baryta coated paper and discuss the benefits it can have for your prints (as well as answer why it has the unique smell).

At Hatter Editions we have a range of Baryta coated papers which you can purchase and smell for yourself here... But I would recommend reading this short article first. 



Here is brief run down of what is covered:

  • The historical significance of the Baryta Coating and what it actually is- Darkroom printing, fibre based silver gelatine paper and protection for archival purposes.


  • The benefits of using it for digital print making- sharper images, high white point and the way it reacts with light.


  • Suited uses- A run down of some of the papers, their recommended uses and why rules should always be broken.


What is Baryta & The Historical Significance of Baryta Coated Papers in Photography. 

Firstly lets take a look at what Baryta is. The term is short hand for Barium Sulphate (impress your friends with calling it by its chemical formula BaSO4), which is a white opaque clay like substance with a high density and is insoluble in water. It is derived from the naturally occurring mineral Barite. It has many industrial uses from plastic filler through to heat resistant paint pigment. 

The historical significance for photographers comes from the fact that Baryta was, and still is, used as a coating on fibre based silver gelatine paper. This method of coating has been used for over 100 years and has a two fold purpose. To protect and to enhance. Typically the papers consist of three to four layers. The paper base, the baryta coating, the light sensitive emulsion and sometimes a super coating to protect from scuffs and handling. 

It is used to protect the fibrous paper base during chemical processing of traditional darkroom papers- resulting in increased archivability and it enhances prints by giving a smooth even bright surface so that details do not get lost to the fibres of the paper. Resulting in sharper prints.



What Benefits Does The Baryta Coating Have For Us in Digital Printing?

So the use of the coating in digital print making is multi faceted.

Like the traditional silver gelatine papers it increases sharpness by giving a smooth even coating- Even Hahnemühle Photo Rag has a slight fibrous texture, but introduce a baryta coating onto the Photo Rag (as in Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta) and what you get is the subtle textures of a rag paper but instead of the ink settling into the fibres it rests on top of a super smooth coating of Baryta. Thus you do not lose any potential sharpness to texture. 

Baryta typically has a naturally occurring high white point, this is not considered an OBA (Optical Brightening Agent)- So when applied to a paper base without OBA's (as in Canson's Baryta Prestige ii) a high Dmin can still be obtained whilst making the paper more archivally stable.

Lastly, but probably most uniquely, a baryta coating has a special way of diffusing light. This is due to the chemical structure of the Barium Sulphate and its inherent insolubility in water. The coating consists of micro particles suspended in a uniform layer- This results in a very unique way of scatter light which both enhances Dmax and reproduces tones and colours in a more natural way.



What Images Work With Baryta Paper & What Papers Are Available?

All images... It is all down to personal taste!

But traditionally black & white images really sing when printed on Baryta paper. This is due to the nostalgic feel and aesthetic; Colour images work very well too.

Usually the baryta coating enhances the papers white point (Dmin) and Black density (Dmax), which in turn gives a wider colour gamut and tonal reproduction.

There are many Baryta coated papers out there (as well as some imitations, unfortently)... But here is a run down of Hatter Editions favourite true baryta coated papers:


  1. Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique Matt ii. This paper is unlike any paper we have ever printed with, it is truly sublime. It is a matt ultra smooth baryta coated paper that gives a truly wonderful deep black with a high white point & an excellent array of reproducible colours and graduations. It's super smooth surface it lets the details in the image speak for themselves. 
  2. Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique Satin ii. This paper is similar to the Photographique matt above, but will a satin finish. Very reminiscent of the old FB gloss papers that have been left to air dry. The surface as some structured grain to it, although it is minimal and not imposing in the slightest again like the FB papers of old. 
  3. Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige ii. This has an understated glossiness. On a mix of alpha alpha-cellulose and cotton base, it has a wonderful natural white tone to the base and is echoes traditional warm tone fibre based papers. 
  4. Hahnemühle Fine Art Baryta Satin. This paper has a wonderful satin finish and a subtle silky smooth surface texture, similar to traditional FB papers. This paper has a warm white point compared to most, lending its self to achieving creamy highlights and softer blacks. This is a great alternative to a traditional warm tone baryta paper like Ilford FB WT. 
  5. Hahnemühle Baryta FB. This is a brilliant FB paper with high white point and glossiness to boot, similar gloss level to a ferrotyped traditional FB print. This is also an incredibly heavy stock coming in at 350gsm, it feel nice in the hand and have a subtle surface texture. 
  6. Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta. This is a nice paper, it has all the great points of Photo Rag IE cotton rag base, OBA free et al but with the added benefit of a baryta layer. It has a high, but glare reduced, gloss finish. Unlike traditional FB papers, it has its own unique character. 

 If you would like to know more about the baryta papers we can print on for you then please do get in touch





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