Moab Slickrock Silver

An Introduction

Posted: 24 July 2019
Author: Robert W. Boyer

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When you first open up a box of Moab Slickrock Silver you may be surprised. It might look like shiny gray paper; it certainly did to me the first time I saw a blank sheet in poor light. When I took it out of the box and moved it around the sheet took on a few different appearances. It looked dark and then super bright white and even seemed to take on various colors in the room. In short, Slickrock silver looks a lot like a mirror or a semi-polished sheet of metal.

There are few printed examples of Slickrock Silver to see on the Internet. There are some cursory reviews. There are even a couple of videos that attempt to show and describe its appearance - unsuccessfully - because you have to see it in person. It’s absolutely the only way to know what a print on the paper looks like. The dynamic range between highlight reflections and shadows within the print is just too much to capture in any meaningful way, somewhat opposite to most papers.

You Must Experience Slickrock Silver In Person

Like Making Pictures Of A Mirror

I discovered the reason there are virtually no pictures of Slickrock Silver prints to be found while attempting to produce a couple of illustrations for this article. It’s like trying to make a product shot of a polished sheet of metal or glass or any other highly reflective object… it’s all about showing perfect reflections, negative space, and possibly colored reflection. The rub is that in doing so you cannot really show the printed image well.

Slickrock Silver is not so mirror-like that you can see a sharp clear reflection in the sheet; it’s far more diffuse, which is probably why your first impression of a blank sheet is that it’s gray. The mirror-like behavior is a property of the actual base. Slickrock silver looks like no other paper I’ve ever seen or used. The closest material I’ve seen with printed photographs is a raw metallic aluminum print.

Appropriate For More Subjects Than One May Think

Nature, Architecture, Fashion, Abstract, Etc.

I’ve been testing various images printed on Slickrock Silver for about a month. In the process of printing those images I’ve become a big fan of the paper. Like most photographers I immediately gravitated towards genres like architecture, industrial abstracts, and similar subjects as most appropriate for the metal like appearance. While those kinds of subjects look fantastic on Slickrock Silver, I was also surprised at how a wide variety of other photographic genres and subjects seem to work so well. I printed everything from landscape to portrait to fashion. Many of those tests actually inspired new project ideas that would be perfect printed on Slickrock Silver.

Slickrock Silver is obviously not an appropriate material for every photograph, but it’s not the subject or genre that dictates a good match, it’s the image itself. With that said I’ll wrap this up with a few thoughts on common image traits I’ve observed that could be good candidates for this unique paper. I’ll also give a few general tips on optimizing images for printing on Slickrock Silver. I am by no means finished testing or mastering the paper but I see it playing a significant role in future projects in our studio. Keep an eye out for more in-depth case studies featuring all of the steps in preparing and printing specific images across quite a few genres. They’ll be coming soon.

Selecting Images For Slickrock Silver

Common Characteristics

These are extremely broad guidelines, so don’t take them as absolute rules. As most things you’ll find exceptions. Take these observations more as a place to start experimenting with this unique photo paper. Experience goes a long way in getting the most out of its capabilities. The first couple of pictures I chose to proof on Slickrock silver were not what I would consider a success. When I chose the right image and started to understand how the paper’s characteristics worked I produced quite a few prints that are absolutely stunning. I’m now enamored with Slickrock Silver and what it can do when matched up with the right subject.

Image Preparation

Considerations For Printing On Slickrock Silver

There are no specific secrets to printing on Slickrock Silver. There are no massive adjustments required to any image that’s already optimized for printing and prints well on other glossy materials. There’s also no color witchcraft as you might run across on the internet suggesting using the wrong ICC profile to get good results.

If you’ve read The Art of Fine Art Printing all of the same recommendations apply when making prints using Slickrock Silver. The only thing I’ve noticed when printing a wide variety of images on it is that it can be twitchy compared to a typical white paper base. By twitchy I mean a little too dark or a little too light in terms of shadow/mid-tone/highlight density can make even a bigger difference on Slickrock Silver than on more traditional papers. This seems to be logical given that the paper is capable of extreme contrast based on lighting conditions and viewing angle.

There are two factors to consider when optimizing an image for printing on Slickrock Silver. The first is the paper itself which does seem to be a little more sensitive to minor density differences. The second factor is the nature of its base reflectivity in that when a print is viewed at an angle where it’s reflecting the most light the paper blasts so much light through the overlying ink on the surface that highlight detail may disappear. Similarly shadow detail will be very visible. Conversely when changing viewing angle even a little bit everything will get much darker. There will be very little shadow detail and highlights may show much darker as well.

This nature is what defines this paper and is the reason all subjects don’t necessarily work well. Other subjects, even images you may not have been happy with as a print in the past, can be mesmerizing on Slickrock Silver. In the few attempts to illustrate prints on Slickrock Silver that I’ve included here, each one shows a real world object in the same light with the print bent to simulate changing viewing angle when seen in person. Note how the base of the paper behaves the same way as the chrome accents on the camera do. Also note how dark the rest of the camera appears in the same light.

Illustration Notes

Each Of These Subjects Is Stunning In Person

If you’ve not downloaded your free copy of the comprehensive guide to fine art printing with Lightroom, get it now!

Plant Close-up by Les Picker: Agood example of an image from nature where Slickrock Silver shines. The simple subject with high detail is a consistent property of images I think work the best on this paper. It’s another example of many layers of increasing detail and texture that are a delight when looking at the print, but not required “all at once” for the photo to make sense.

Valves & Corrugated Steel by Les Picker: Take a look at the shadows cast by the valves in various areas of the print. In person they are all the same density. See how there’s almost no detail where the base is not reflecting the light while there’s clarity and amazing saturation where the base is at maximum reflection.

Fashion Portrait by Robert Boyer: This image works very well as it’s mostly monochrome, almost black and white with the intense red hair being the focal point, a lot of dark/light/dark/light transitions and extreme detail in the tulle mesh fabric.

Palm Abstract by Les Picker: This print looks like it’s carved out of metal in person. It’s a good example of an image with so much highlight to shadow variation across every part of the frame where that border base reference is not a requirement. It looks fantastic either way.

Autumn Aspens by Les Picker: This nature/landscape photograph has been looking for a home for quite a few years. After making the observation that light dark patterns are a good fit for Slickrock Silver I tried this image on a whim. The result is so stunning this is on the list for a 4ft x 6ft print that will be in Les’ next show. In fact it may be the center piece of the show and has inspired what we hope to be a new project. To use an over-used term, this image really gives a 3D impression and elevates this image far beyond what it looks like on a computer screen.

Architecture by Lew Rothman: Similar in characteristics to the Palm Abstract and is mesmerizing printed on Slickrock Silver.

Stay tuned for some image specific case-studies where we will walk-thru every step of individual images to get get to a final print on Slickrock Silver for landscape, architectural, abstract, portrait, and travel photos.