Every printer, camera, and office supply store seems to have their own line of photo paper. With names like High Gloss, Premium Glossy, and Ultra Premium, it can make it difficult to choose which paper is best. But when shopping for photo paper, donít go by names alone, because you might not know what you are really getting.
Just like inkjet and laser papers, photo paper has specific paper traits that make each different. Knowing thses traits makes it a little easier to choose the paper that works best for you and your printer.
Weight is not measured by the sheet but by the weight of a package. Manufacturers will label weight differently, either by the pound or by grams per square meter (g/m2).
Shop for a heavier paper if you want your photographs to have the same feel as what is used at a professional photo lab. If you are printing photographs to be placed in albums or frames, a lighter paper will work just fine.
On average, you will find most photo paper will be between 24-71 lbs.
The brightness level will tell you how white a sheet of paper is. The brightness levels of photo paper usually begin in the high 90s.
Using brighter paper will give your prints brighter colors but it's not the only factor to consider when printing. The colors you are using and the paper finish will determine how the final print will look. Light colors, for example, will look washed out on brighter paper. Your best bet will be to compare several brightness levels before you commit to one. Your eyes will be the best judge on what will work for you and your printing needs.
Opacity is measured by how much light will pass through the paper. Normally the higher the opacity level the less chance of the ink bleeding through to the other side of the page. Photo papers have a higher opacity than standard paper because printers will use more ink when printing photographs.
Paper finish can be categorized as either coated or uncoated. The surface of coated paper is treated with a special coating that can be matte, glossy, dull, etc. Printing on coated papers will increase the print quality, especially with colors. Colors printed on coated paper tend to be more vibrant and "pop"from a page.
Uncoated papers have not been treated with any kind of coating but you will find a variety of uncoated finishes (vellum, antique, canvas).
Photo Paper Finishes
The glossy coating will give your printed photographs the same look and feel as those from a professional photo lab. Be careful when handling glossy photo paper because the coating makes it more susceptible to finger prints and dust. The coating keeps the paper from absorbing ink so your photographs will dry slowly.
Depending on the amount of shine, glossy paper can be described as high gloss, soft gloss, or semi-gloss.
Matte paper has a smooth/velvet finish. Pictures printed on a matte finish appear softer with rich textures but won't have the same feel as a photo lab photo. Matte photo paper is thicker, which often makes it printable on both sides.
When printing photographs at home you want to be using the right ink and paper to get photo lab quality. When shopping for photo paper, try several brands and test each out for yourself. Each printer works differently so to find the right paper print several samples.