Back in the day, almost all black and white printing was done on fiber-based paper. Fiber-based paper is just that - a photographic emulsion on a base of paper, which is made from wood fibers.
To ensure the highlights reflect enough light and that the shadows absorb enough light, manufacturers add a layer of barium sulfate. As a result, photographers sometimes call fiber-based paper "baryta" paper.
In 1975, Kodak began to offer resin-coated, or "RC" paper. A layer of polyethylene, or resin, separates the emulsion from the paper base.
Because the paper base is separate from the emulsion, RC prints develop more quickly, and require only a five-minute wash as opposed to an hour or two for fiber-based paper. RC paper's reduced processing time appealed to news and other photographers working on a deadline.
Fiber-based prints depict a greater tonal range, partly because fiber-based paper's semi-glossy surface (compared to RC prints) reflects less light in the deep blacks of the image.
Although fiber-based prints require more processing time and must be flattened and then carefully dried, their greater tonal range makes them more valuable to fine art print buyers, and they command a higher price than an RC print does.
RC prints' utility stems from their quick drying time and ease of mounting. Many clients find them more suitable to their needs and budget.
Working with film and printing in a traditional wet darkroom, I enjoy the best of both worlds - Fiber-based and RC.
Photo: The Art of Living, La Brasserie de Île Saint-Louis, Paris.
Photo and text © Bob Soltys All Rights Reserved