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Printing Photos At Home – A Quick Guide To Photo Paper

In this modern world that’s becoming more and more digital centric, it’s easy to get lost. We have digital cameras, digital photo albums, and digital versions of pretty much everything else.


When it comes to printing, whether it’s photographs, greeting cards, or downloadable prints, it’s easy to forget about the subtleties. Although for a time deciding on which type of photo paper to use was simple, nowadays there’s a plethora of papers to choose from and without a basic understanding it can be a little daunting.

That’s why we decided to put together a quick guide touching on some of the more popular types of paper used in photo printing so that hopefully, the next time you buy paper for your project you can be confident in your decision.

The Basics of Photo Printing Paper

One of the first things you should consider when purchasing photo paper is how you want the picture to look. Almost all manufactures make paper specially to modern inkjet photo printers and the quality of the picture will depend on the printer. It’s important to keep that in mind because regardless of the brand of paper you print with, the printer can be just as impactful.

The first consideration in photo printing is the paper thickness. Thicker papers usually last longer, appear cleaner, and provide less opportunity for the ink to bleed through the back. Additionally, the thickness of any given photo paper is directly related to the caliper. Since photos require a lot of ink, a general recommendation is to go with a higher caliper which ensures the image will be absorbed completely.

Also, “quick dry” papers which are very porous can be more convenient, however, it may lead to your pictures fading faster over time. For this reason, one should try and stick with non-porous photo paper whenever possible for longer lasting photos.

Last but not least, you need to consider brightness when choosing a photo paper. A paper’s brightness refers to the relation to “true white” which is measured on a scale from 1-100. A higher brightness number means the more white the paper. The best way to compare the brightness of different photo papers is to hold them up next to each other for a side to side perspective.

Choosing the Finish

There are really three main types of finishes on photo paper which are glossy, matte and luster. Like most comparisons there are pros and cons to both glossy and matte photo paper. Each will be better suited based on personal preference as well as what you are hoping to achieve.

Glossy paper is what most people find at the local photo shop. This paper is highly reflective and shiny and can often take longer to dry than matte prints because of its glossy coating. Glossy paper usually has one printable side, and one non-coated side.

Matte paper results in photographs looking smoother and with less reflected light. Matte papers are normally more thick and dry quicker than glossy photo paper. Although, many photographers feel that the contrast is lower with a matte paper. This paper, however, often features dual-sided printing options.

The best way to choose between matte and glossy is to buy samples of both from a local or only photo supply store and print using both. This way you can see which one you personally prefer since there is no real technical reason for choosing one over the other.

Choosing a photo paper doesn’t have to be a hassle. Between the various finishes, qualities, and manufacturers, you are bound to come across something you love. Even if you can’t make a decision, hopefully this quick guide to photo paper gave you a better idea of what’s out there.