Apples to apples: pigment prints vs. C prints
When it comes time to producing digital prints for a portfolio or exhibition, a likely first question is: “what kind of print should I make?”
Good question. Here is some information to help make the choice, much of it gathered from Dot Editions' testing, research and experience:
Digital C prints (also referred to as a Chromira, Lambda, or LightJet prints) are digitally exposed on photographic paper with red, green, and blue lasers or LED’s, then run through the same type of machine as a traditional C print. They look almost undistinguishable from a traditional C print, depending on the integrity of the digital file. There are slight differences between the types of digital C prints in sharpness and print quality. The longevity of a digital C prints is estimated at 50 to 100 years, and depends in large part on the condition and replenishment of the lab's chemistry. Digital C print paper surfaces can easily be face-mounted or laminated, and C prints tend to be less expensive than pigment prints.
Archival pigment prints (inkjet or Giclée prints) are incredibly stable, archival for up to hundreds of years if stored properly. Because of the nature of printing in RGB and the nature of the pigment printing process, the color gamut available in inkjet prints is much broader than other types of printing. While certain vibrant colors go muddy and dull in digital C prints, pigment prints can reproduce a much wider range of colors and incredible detail, from the highlight to the shadow areas. Because the base color of C print paper is not white, C prints tend to look duller and less sharp than pigment prints. When it comes to printing in black in white, pigment prints can look better than even a traditional silver halide print because of the incredibly wide gamut available.
The papers available for archival printing are similar in feel to fiber-based paper in traditional silver printing. They reproduce images with a deep richness that is superior over resin-coated C print paper. From the range of glossy, luster, and matte surfaces available, inkjet papers provide a velvety, lustrous black and white or color print.