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Different Paper Types (Part 1)

One of the most confusing and difficult aspects of printing is selecting the correct paper for your image. With hundreds of different paper types to choose from, it’s difficult to even to begin to understand what actually is out there. Not only are there several categories of paper types, but there are many different manufactures who make their own flavor of each category…sometimes having multiple types paper in the same category. This post is designed to break down each category of paper type and give a brief description of each one.

Luster Paper

In the professional photo world, the luster finish is the most common finish of paper out there. A luster finished paper will have a satin or semi-gloss sheen to it and also have a slight pebbly texture to the coating. This paper can virtually be used with almost any image, but is most commonly used in wedding, portrait, and landscape photography. The nature of the paper allows for a great tonal range in both color and black & white images. You will typically see this paper having around a 10 to 11 mil thickness, but there are certain versions that will be about 12 mil thick for a heavyweight feel. The luster photo paper is truly the most versatile paper that every photographer should have in their collection.

Glossy Paper

The glossy finish isn’t as common in professional photography, but is mainly seen as the preferred finish from photo lab kiosks like Walgreens and Costco. The high level of gloss on this inkjet paper will give a large amount of glare, so hanging something a glossy paper can sometimes be difficult. The tradeoff of having the large amount of glare on a glossy paper is that the colors your images will be the most vibrant in comparison to the rest of the line of photo papers. The thickness of a glossy paper is often around the same thickness as a luster paper being about 10-11mil thick.

Matte (Photo) Paper

The matte photo paper category is typically a smooth, matte finished paper around 10mil thick. The most common applications of this type of paper is being mounted on a foam core or put into a frame and hung behind glass. Whenever a photo is hung behind glass, it becomes difficult for the observer to recognize the original sheen of the paper, the thickness of the paper, or the texture of the paper. It’s not necessary to pay extra for some of these features if you are going to be presenting the photo behind glass. A matte photo paper can be about half the price of a glossy or luster photo paper, making it a good paper type to use for your photos behind glass.

Metallic Paper

One of the newer photo papers to come to the industry, the metallic paper line has brought a new effect into the printing world. This paper has a silver base with a microporus inkjet coating on it giving the image a slight metallic look. The paper that this type closely resembles is the Kodak Endura Metallic Paper that can found at some of the large photo labs. Because this has the same inkjet coating as all of the other typical photo papers, there are no special inks required to print on this paper. One thing to note, this paper is not the same type of print as the “metal prints” that some of the larger labs offer to their customers. The metallic paper is more of a pearlescent finish where the metal prints have more on an aluminum finish to them.

Stay tuned for more media types that will covered. The next post will cover the types of paper that would be considered fine art papers.

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