Photo Paper…The What’s and Why’s

When choosing Professional Photo Paper to deliver your printed images on, it’s always good to know exactly what you’re delivering. It’s also really important to be able to educate your clients as to why the product you’re delivering is better than just the plain old consumer grade paper. (Which is but one way we can charge a premium for our creations)
Canon, Epson and Hahnemühle are but a few of the companies that offer fine photo rag for finishing your images. And each company offers several variations on their types. Why would you use fine photo rag when normal photo paper costs you so much less? Here’s a few reasons from the Epson Website below.

  • Acid free base to preserve fine art and photos
  • 100% cotton rag for archivability
  • Bright white surface for excellent color reproduction

You can see a listing here of different types of photo papers that Epson manufactures.

A few inherent qualities of each type of finish are below too.

On the matte paper, there are simply no reflections from whatever angle you view the print. Matte paper does not show fingerprints at all.

On glossy paper, the surface is highly reflective and light will make highlights on the print. This print is not mounted, so some areas of the paper show more reflection than others. If it was mounted and framed, the print would be viewable from many angles, but there might be a few vantage points where it is difficult to see because of reflected light. Glossy paper gives the sharpest image of the papers shown in this sample.

Lustre paper has a very fine texture that is hardest to show. You can see the texture best in the lower right corner of the print, but this is not really what the print looks like when you view it from most angles. The portion above the word “Paper” is probably the closest to a true rendering of the appearance of lustre paper. Lustre paper is almost as sharp as glossy, but the texture on the surface actually cuts the glare from most viewing angles. Once the ink dries, the lustre paper will not show fingerprints like glossy paper, if it shows them at all.

From Epson’s package descriptions:

Matte – A bright white, non-glare paper with luxurious weight and feel. Ideal for true matte photographic prints.

Glossy – High gloss, instant-drying paper for beautiful, durable photos made to share or display in an album.

Lustre – Instant-drying, soft gloss paper for vivid, lifelike images. Ideal for printing digital photographs with accurate colors and rich, bold blacks.

There’s a lot more detail on each of the manufacturers websites, and we encourage you to educate yourself, as to the advantages and disadvantages of each. Find out what your preferred lab is using, and ask for samples of just the blank paper with your next order, so when you’re proofing, you can show your clients what they’re getting.

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