What to Know About Photo Paper

Rainbow Rose

Glossy paper is often used with photos to make colors more vivid.
Image: Wikimedia.org

If you have a photo printer, you might be on the hunt for photo paper to complete the process of printing pictures.  There are some things you should know before making your choice.

There are a few levels of paper quality out there, all of which are suited for certain tasks. 

Everyday Pictures

For printing standard pictures for everyday use, the standard quality of photo paper will be the easiest to handle, the most affordable, and will create photos that match the quality of a photo lab.

Albums & Scrapbooking

If you are printing images for the purpose of creating a photo album or for scrapbooking purposes, you will want to jump to the mid-level quality of paper.  This paper will be a bit heavier and brighter, making it more durable over the years.

Exhibitions & Displays

When the photos you are printing are going to be displayed, either as a part of the home décor or in an art exhibition (photographers), the top quality paper is the best option.  It will help each image look professional, with accurate lines and bold colors.

Major Factors


Thick photo paper will be more durable than the regular size and provide the texture that is expected from pictures.  The most commonly used photo paper is about 7 to 10 mil.  However, keep in mind that thicker paper will most likely cause more jams.


Opacity refers to how much light can penetrate the paper.  Especially for pictures that are going to be displayed, you want to be sure to get photo paper with a high opacity rating so the surface behind the picture doesn’t show in bright light.  Shoot for the range of 94 to 97.


When photo paper has a high measurement of brightness, it will appear whiter than average paper.  Thus, the colors will contrast more to the paper, illuminating the image.  Note, though, that if you see a brightness rating of 95 or higher from the ISO or 92 or higher from TAPPI, fluorescent agents may be added which could impact the integrity of the picture in terms of lifespan.

Black and White Car

Black-and-white pictures traditionally will look more rustic on Matte paper.
Image: Wikimedia.org

Matte vs. Glossy

The two most widely used photo paper types are matte and glossy, and which one you choose should be based on the purpose of your printing.  Matte paper absorbs ink and toner more efficiently and has proven to be more durable over time.  Glossy paper is infused with chemicals to make it shiny and reflective, but is more likely to fade in the future.  Still it offers better coloring because the saturation and contrast are greater than with standard paper.  Though it is a matter of preference, most people use glossy paper for color photos and matte paper for black-and-white pictures.

There are a number of components that go into deciding which photo paper is the best for you, but other elements such as using the best types of ink or toner for photo printing, can also make a difference.  However, if you get the right paper, the quality of your printed pictures is likely to improve greatly.

Greg Gladman
Greg Gladman has two degrees from the University of Cincinnati and prides himself on managing the operations and customer service at Ink Technologies. With a mind like a vault, he is full of useful and useless information, making him an asset to the company and to his Tuesday night trivia team. When he is not working, he spends his time bowling and playing golf. Greg dedicates much of his free time to raising money and awareness in support of the fight against blood cancers.

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