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What is the Best Paper for Printing Your Pictures

Austin Winder Aug 20, 2019
At some point we all have wanted a picture printed out and hung on or put in a picture book. You might be a pro at taking those photos but the paper you're using can make all the difference in how they look once they're printed out!
Today's technology lets us store thousands of photos on our smartphones or computers, giving us access to them wherever we are. This ease of accessibility allows everyone to be a photographer, and there’s something special about getting your best photos printed either as a marketing tool for your business or for personal use.
But how does printing photos work? If you’re looking for quality prints of your photography, here’s what you need to be looking for.

The Right Type of Paper for Photos

To print photos, you need a strong paper stock. One that holds the ink that makes up your image. In addition, it should have some form of protection to minimize fading from the sun's rays.
You need the photo paper -- the same type your parents or grandparents got their photos on. This is available in most retail outlets in various sizes and styles. What is the best paper to print your pictures on? This depends on a few factors.

The Printer Matters

The printer is one element that determines the photo paper type. For instance, you need a heavier stock of paper for an ink jet printer. Not only does this absorb the proper amount of ink but also gives the image a glossy look.
Laser printers fuse ink powder (toner) to a paper's surface through a laser beam scan and static electricity. In turn, the photo paper needed here must be heat-resistant and, if possible, minimize smearing.

The Thicker the Better

As mentioned, thickness of the paper is critical when printing photos. Heavier paper absorbs more ink and increases photo quality. This is particularly true when printing an image at 600 dots per inch (dpi) or higher.
Thickness is also needed to increase the sharpness of colors. When you shop for photo paper look at the label for both its ISO brightness scale and where it measures on the TAPPI chart. Higher brightness ratings equal the higher radiance of colors once printed.

Photo Formats

Now that you know the printer being used and the paper's thickness, you can choose the format for the photos. There are three main styles.
  • Matte has a non-reflective texture. You may see this paper labeled as flat or smooth. The lack of shine results in muted colors, so this paper is right for black-and-white images. Plus, matte minimizes visible smudges and doesn't give off a glare.
  • High Gloss (glossy) is similar to the photo paper used by professional printing labs. It has a shine to it that produces vibrant images with bright colors.
  • Semi Gloss (Satin) is a hybrid. It's not as shiny as high gloss nor as muted as matte. Nevertheless, it still retains the full color capabilities of glossy paper with high resolution. Thanks to its low glare factor, wide-angle images are seen clearer, especially when displayed behind glass.

It's A Matter of Taste

Overall, the finish you decide on for your photos depends on personal preference. Fortunately, because you can digitally store the images, you can run test samples to determine the best format.

The only thing to remember is you will use a lot of ink during these trials. Try to choose the right format the first time to save both money and photo paper.