Fibre base vs resin coated prints

What are the differences between fibre base prints and resin coated.

There are two main types of black and white paper for printing analogue photography. There is fibre base paper, which we have looked at in our article here, and there is resin coated paper, which we have barely mentioned. Both are capable of creating a good print from a negative, so are there differences between the two papers? If so, what are the differences?

Read on to find out…!

Resin Coated Papers

  • Resin coated papers are quicker to process. Usually a development time of one minute compared to at least three minutes for fibre base paper;
  • Resin coated papers are easier to wash after processing. A one minute wash (two minutes for the ultra cautious!) compared to usually one hour for fibre base paper;
  • Resin coated papers dry easily and can even be heat dried by a fan heater, without damage. Fibre base papers are notoriously fussy when it comes to drying;
  • Resin coated papers are easier to work with when wet. A fibre base paper is fragile when wet; whilst handling a wet fibre base print it is very easy to mark or damage;
  • Resin coated papers naturally dry flat. Fibre base papers will naturally curl and wrinkle as they dry;
  • Resin coated papers can be (carefully) cleaned of fingerprint marks etc. Fibre base papers need a very cautious approach to cleaning;
  • Resin coated papers are less expensive than a comparable fibre base paper.

Fibre Base Papers

  • Fibre base papers are very responsive to different processing chemicals for different results, resin coated paper less so;
  • Fibre base papers are responsive to post-processing toners, either for archival purposes or artistic purposes. Resin coated papers are much more difficult to affect by toning;
  • Fibre base papers can withstand prolonged exposure to being wet and repeated wet/dry cycles, as is often the case with toning a print. Whereas the resin coated paper will start to delaminate (fall apart) if exposed to being wet for too long;
  • Fibre base papers have no casting over the image. Whereas the resin coated paper – has a resin coat! *surprise* The resin coat can give a ‘plastic’ look to the print, rather like a clear laminated paper;
  • Fibre base papers are a heavy weight of paper (thicker) whereas resin coated papers are a lighter weight of paper. The fibre base paper therefore ‘feels’ substantial, with the association of heavier paper weight with greater quality.

As an aside, referring to one type of paper as “fibre base paper” is a bit of an oddness as both types of paper are made of fibre(s)! However, there was a time, long, long ago when the only type of paper available for black and white printing was what we refer to as fibre base paper. When it was introduced, the new resin coated paper was marketed and referred to as resin coated to distinguish it as different. The fibre base paper was probably still called black and white printing paper!

Referring to the original type of paper as fibre base paper is only a fairly recent trend. Mainly since digital printing has become commonplace. It is actually useful now as this does primarily differentiate this type of print from an ink-jet or giclee print, where the ink is squirted onto the paper to make an image.

So, that was a quick look at the main differences between fibre base paper and resin coated paper. Is one better than the other? As usual, here is a hegded answer from us! One type can be better depending on the requirements. Typical noncommittal answer, can we elaborate on this? Yes we can. For speed of producing a print and economy, the resin coated paper is hard to beat. For the ultimate expression of the artist, irrespective of production time or cost then the fibre base paper is the absolute winner.

The fibre base paper is not an easy option – a printer has to gain experience in using this paper, even if they have a good grounding in using resin coated papers. However, if one is prepared to put in the hours to learn using the paper then you’ll discover why fibre base silver gelatin papers are called “The King of Papers”!


This has been a Hand Printed Photos production