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How To Choose the Best Paper for Your Photo Prints

How To Choose the Best Paper for Your Photo Prints

A photo is a snapshot forever memorialized in time. As a photographer, demonstrating your talent and creativity while creating your legacy is fulfilling. It allows you to capture the beauty in the world around you. Between long hours of picture-taking and photo editing, it’s safe to say that your days are quite full!

However, you’re never too busy to ensure your photo prints are stunning and captivating. They also contain a premium, crisp quality that encapsulates your immaculate attention to detail. As a relatively central aspect of producing quality prints, choosing the best paper can make or break a print’s final look.

While the proper material can bring out the print’s best qualities, selecting the wrong type can detract from the imagery, making the print appear dull and lifeless. But with a wide variety of materials available, choosing the best paper suitable for your printing project can be daunting!

In this article, you’ll discover how to choose the best paper for your photo prints and how each can affect the developing process.

Understanding Photo Paper

Before you can select the proper paper for your photo prints, you should understand the material and why it’s a vital element in the printing process. Broadly speaking, photo paper describes high-resolution coating material that can withstand copious amounts of ink without dot gain or bleeding. Photo paper ranges in a variety of sizes, making it a versatile material to work with.

When it comes to the technology that supports a paper’s ability to retain ink, it helps to evaluate the material’s receiving layer. The paper’s receiving layer is a type of coating that may affect the image’s durability during fading, smearing, and color loss over time. There are two options to consider:

Microporous or Nanoporous Coating

Microporous or nanoporous coatings have microscopic, silica-based pores that capture pigment. Given its porosity, this type of coating on paper can accommodate all types of pigments, resulting in a near-instantaneous dry and water-resistant color definition.

Cast Coated

Cast-coated photo paper is a form of flat, glossy paper that achieves its appearance from a hot roller press. While the final product is desirable, this type of coating requires time to dry. Premature handling and packaging can smear the ink before settling into the paper.

The Different Types of Photo Paper

Paper may have different attributes to help showcase images in their best light. You can find everything from glossy to metallic options. Here are the five most common types of mediums to choose from:


Glossy paper is a shiny option that provides a smooth, polished look. The distinctively bold and bright medium contributes a crisp aura to photo prints. With saturated colors and brilliant light hues, glossy photo paper has the widest color range and a texture that results in appealing images.

It’s worth noting the material’s reflectiveness, though. Glossy paper is shiny enough to show fingerprints. However, you can easily wipe off fingerprints for a clean, pristine image.


Matte photo paper is a fantastic option for photographers seeking non-reflective prints. This type of paper offers excellent color reproduction without the reflective glare. While matte photo paper has a smooth texture suitable for larger portraits, the medium doesn’t always work well for displaying dense shadows and deep shading.


Luster paper material is one of the most popular choices because of its classic and breathtaking results. With rich and life-like hues with deep blacks and pure white contrasts, luster paper is the go-to for photographers who focus on portraits and weddings. The material has a slight reflective sheen and a subtle texture that offers the best of both worlds.


Consider silk photo paper as a specialty medium. This type of material is ideal for photographers seeking a refined texture with a vintage aura. Silk photo paper is slightly thicker and offers a soft reflection with a texture comparable to vinyl.


Metallic photo paper shines but not in a typical way! This photo paper contains a unique sheen that displays imagery with stunning depth and impact. While dramatic and shimmery, metallic photo paper helps black and white contrasts shine. Simultaneously, it enhances colors in a way that makes them feel as if they’re ready to jump off the print!

How Paper Weight Affects Overall Image

Surprisingly, photo printing paper varies in density, measured in grams per square meter (gsm). The higher the gsm, the higher quality the medium may be, thus affecting the image’s result. In turn, the overall quality of the print may determine the image’s archival properties, including the time it takes paper to fade or yellow. Weights may include the following:

120gsm Plus

Paper of this weight is typical in flyer or brochure creation. While the paper accommodates a high-quality image, the overall product may have poor archival properties. It’s less hefty than the next weight.

200gsm Plus

This form of paper is appropriate for photos intended for long-term use and display. However, its quality may vary depending on the types of base papers and their receiving layers.

The Importance of Printing and Selecting the Right Material

Despite photography files primarily existing in the digital space, photographers still enjoy printing their work! Furthermore, the need to utilize quality material in the printing process is central to maintaining professionalism and sophistication when providing images to clients, galleries, and businesses.

While knowing how to select the best paper for your photo prints is a seemingly small detail, this step plays a significant role in the overall printing process. And if you intend on furthering your photography skills, you’ll want to know the implications of different materials so that you can provide a consistent product to your clientele.

Picking the appropriate printing material can turn into a frustrating experience if you’re not sure how to proceed in the process. While many different elements affect the look of your final image, it helps to contact an expert that specializes in professional photography printing services like The Stackhouse.

At The Stackhouse, our team’s passion for art and photography allows us to prioritize quality and beauty, ensuring that you obtain the highest quality prints. Thanks to our top-of-the-line equipment, obtaining impeccable images that last for generations is a no-brainer. To get started, upload an image to our webpage and complete our intake form. We’re glad to assist you!