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How To Ensure You Choose The Best Photo Paper

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The best photo paper depends on both a given picture and the printer. There is, of course, always a subjective element, and it's fun to play around with the effects achieved by different kinds of inkjet photo papers.

But, when you're first getting to grips with printing, it's always worth bearing in mind this simple principle:

Top Tip: Buy paper produced by the same company that made your printer. The performance and quality of both have been tested with each other, not other companies' products. Papers absorb ink differently, so it's well worth sticking to this. When you are more familiar with the process, then you can try out some third party papers, like those reviewed here.

Common Categories of Inkjet Photo Papers

Photo papers come in a range of finishes, weights (measured in gsm, grammes/square metre), materials and sizes.

Inkjet photo papers are most readily categorised by four basic finishes: Matte, Semi-Matte, Satin and Glossy. These are known as resin coated papers. The paper is coated with a polymer, which is less absorbent than the paper, so does not allow the rich colours from the ink to be sucked away from the surface.

(There seem to be so many names now for resin coated papers, often referring to the same finish, but the above four are the most common!)

The weight of these papers is typically between about 90gsm and 270gsm. Photo paper weight is an important aspect of its quality, so be sure to avoid any products below about 90gsm.


Matte Semi-Matte Satin Glossy
Soft, smooth, non-reflective surface. Slight sheen and lustre, smooth surface. Slight sheen and lustre, textured surface Very shiny, almost reflective surface, slow drying


Another category to know about is Fine Art Paper, or Cotton Rag Paper. If you want to make a really great job of producing a special photograph for your wall, this is the way to go. Cotton rag paper is generally at least 300gsm and made from 100% cotton, with a warm tone and rich texture.

Crucially, it is also acid free - or archival - which makes it resistant to the effects of fading on exposure to light. This paper ensures photos remain vivid for several generations, and is an essential part of the Giclee, or fine art, printing process.


Choosing the best photo paper

This A6 (4" x 6") paper from Canon is ideal for printing small pictures that could be used as postcards!  

For normal home printing, there is no best type of paper. As long as you use paper of the same make as your printer, the finish you choose is a matter of preference, and another area over which you can enjoy some creative control.

Your choice depends on a number of things, like the style of a photo and where it will be placed. Some framed black and white shots often look stunning on a matte paper, whilst a glossy finish can really make colour images sing. But there are absolutely no rules.

A range of different photo paper sizes are available, which are often given specific loading compartments in the printer. This makes it easy to create a postcard (on 4" x 6" paper), for example, without having to trim away unused parts of a larger sheet.


Where's the best place to print gift cards?

Where I go, and why, when it comes to printing special personalized gift cards.


Best Photo Paper Producers

Since the world of inkjet printers is dominated by four companies, you're likely to buying paper from one of the same companies:Canon, Epson, HP or Lexmark. As for the best 3rd party specialist paper manufacturers, check out these reviews.

Canon photo paper Epson photo paper HP photo paper Lexmark photo paper


Now, here's some advice on finding the best digital photo printers.

Where Next?

Online Digital Photography Courses

Best Photoshop Tutorials Reviewed

Famous Photographers

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