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[Definition] RC Paper

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  • [Definition] RC Paper

    RC stands for "resin coated". I have no idea what resin they use, but it's basically photo printing paper with a fiber paper layer sandwiched between two sheets of plastic, with the printing emulsion on top of one of the plastic sheets.

    Introduced in the mid-70s, its far and away the most common photo paper nowadays. Virtually all color prints today and all but the most custom black and white prints are made on RC paper.

    The reason its so popular is purely the convenience and economy it offers for the printer. It requires less chemicals and less washing. Plus it dries flat without special treatment or handling. It's also less fragile while wet, so wastage is lower.

    For the consumer, it mostly has minuses. It has a lifetime measured in decades (2-3) rather than centuries (like non-RC or "fiber-based" printing paper. It also has a limited tonality and range when compared to non-RC papers (since the emulsion must be much thinner).
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  • #2
    I have not seen this before:
    <For the consumer, it mostly has minuses. It has a lifetime measured in decades (2-3) rather than centuries (like non-RC or "fiber-based" printing paper. >
    Where did you get that?
    Most of the discussions I have seen have been talking about the better job of getting all the residual chemicals off the RC bases since the chemicals do not soak into them.
    From my experiance, most of the consumer level prints from the "fiber base days" are not usually washed enough and so a very large % of the damage is from residual chemicals retained in the paper.
    Seems to me I have also read something about fiber bases being more easily damaged fumes being trapped in them and held there. But If you asked me to find where I read that, well????


    • #3
      There does seem to be an on-going debate. I typed in "resin coated archival" into google. The very first link returned was from the Library of Congress, which listed RC prints as non-archival. The next link was from Kodak, which said RC is archival.

      A very fast look at the remaining links gives me the impression that people that sell prints say RC is archival, but those who store prints still trust fiber-based more.

      I'll grant there could be some old-fogey prejudice at work, but I didn't see anyone claim that RC looked better. So, if fiber looks better and no one debates its archival qualities, I'll stick with fiber

      BTW, a lot of the links discussed RC color prints, but that's not relevant since color prints are inherently non-archival.
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      • #4
        RC fact and fiction

        A minor historical correction, RC was introduced long before the 1970's. Although it wasn't commonly used for photo finishing as it is today, it was readily available as a government surplus item for do-it-yourself darkroom enthusiasts

        My personal experience started with it in the Air Force in 1948. The need then was much the same as it is today. Speed! In that case to be able to process longs rolls of aerial film and print them for immediate use by photo interpreters in photo recon work.

        More recently, I did some analysis work for The American Institute of Physics when they had a major problem with RC photos from their lab self destructing in less then two years. Many times these problems are associated with chemistry, framing before the chemicals have had a chance to totally dissipate, using framing glass that has just been cleaned with ammonia and numerous other causes rather then the paper so the controversy goes on. A few rules, let the prints "stand" for a few days before framing and if you are going to display them, selenium toning is a necessity.

        I've never heard of a case of rapid deterioration that could be associated with the actual paper manufacture if these two rules are followed. That does not mean that the labs don't prefer to blame the paper manufacture for anything that goes wrong so you'll find enough material on the Internet to support you if you want to make a case for it either way.

        Jim Conway


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