Use good paper

Don't make that penny squeak when it comes to buying paper. Plain paper absorbs ink like a sponge and makes the colors appear dull and muddy. Invest in premium photo-quality paper that is designed for inkjet printers. Paper comes in a variety of finishes, from glossy to matte to luster, depending on your preference. Here are a few things to look for when choosing paper:

l Whiteness: Look for paper that has a bright whiteness. The whiteness of the paper will play a part in how vibrant the print looks. Bright white paper also gives the widest range of colors. Try to find paper that has a brightness of 90 percent or higher.

I Weight: Also consider the weight of the paper. Lightweight paper won't hold up when saturated with ink and is more prone to damage. Look for a weight of 65 lbs. or more per ream, or 10 mil. or more in thickness per sheet. These weights are similar to the weight of traditional photographic paper. Go online to see if manufacturers are offering free sample packs.

I have owned four models of Epson printers and have tried dozens of brands of paper. I always end up going back to Epson paper. It's expensive, but it gives me the best results. Epson obviously formulates the paper to work exceptionally well with the printer and Epson brand inks. I never use third-party inks, by the way. They may work great for you, but I have had very bad luck using them.

Also, even though their durability has improved, prints from inkjet printers are not as resistance to water, smudging, direct sunlight and fading as traditional prints. Traditional photographic prints last around 12 years, but prints from inkjet printers may survive just 2 months (most last for 2 years).

Some manufacturers claim to offer longer-life prints. Epson, however, says that its inks are designed to last around 12 years if used with certain Epson papers. And the company claims that prints will last 40 years if you use its Matte Paper Heavyweight. Epson provides a great paper and ink guidebook that you can request for free. Visit the Epson Web site (www.epson.com) for more information.

You may want to look into archival papers and archival inks or UV coatings to protect your prints. Service bureaus can apply UV coatings to your images, or you can purchase sprays. Just make sure that whatever UV coatings you add to prints are compatible with the type of paper you are using.

You aren't limited to just the standard size sheets of paper. You also can purchase inkjet paper in the form of precut and scored greeting cards, postcards, sticker, transparencies, banners, iron-on transfer paper, and more.

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