Selecting the right inkjet photo paper for your images is very subjective. A lot depends on how you envision the look and feel of your finished print. Do you want your photos to look sharp, bright, and glossy like prints from professional color labs? Or would you like your prints to feel more substantial, less like film and more like a fine-art print?
Because choosing the right inkjet photo paper is an integral part of the creative process, inkjet media manufacturers have developed an enormous range of choices. It’s up to you to choose a paper that delivers the functionality you need and the visual impact you want.
Understanding your inkjet photo paper options is important because each major category of inkjet photo paper offers different ink absorption properties, base colors and textures, and surface finishes.
The properties of an inkjet photo paper are determined by several factors: (1) the type of inkjet-receptive coating that controls the spread of the ink droplets: (2) the brightness, smoothness, and thickness of the paper itself, and (3) the use of barrier layers that keep ink from penetrating thinner base papers and causing it to swell and ripple.
On glossy papers, the inks are designed to stay on the surface of a paper with a neutral to cool tone. This results in more vibrant colors, higher contrast, and more details. If the visual power of your imagery comes from brilliant, realistic colors and extra-sharp detail, choose a glossy paper.
These papers tend to absorb more ink. The ink droplets spread more as they come into contact with the paper. Thus, these papers produce more muted colors, less contrast, and softer details. If you want your photos to have a more ethereal, painterly effect, a matte paper can be a good choice.
Matte papers are slightly rough and can lead to feeding problems in some types of printers. Sometimes, small fibers can appear on the print surface and should be shaken off before printing.
This broad category (which includes satin, semi-gloss, luster, and pearl papers) offers a compromise between high-gloss and matte papers. Semi-gloss papers have a softer sheen and a slightly irregular surface structure in which tiny bumps diffuse light rays instead of reflecting them.
If your images will be viewed under bright lights, these papers can produce good color, contrast, and detail without the distracting glare and reflection that tend to occur with glossy papers. These papers are also less likely to show fingerprints if the photos are handled (such as in an album or portfolio).
This category of papers was formulated to replicate the fine-art photography papers used in classic black-and-white darkroom processes. An inkjet-receptive coating is applied to an archival matte art paper that was been treated with a smooth white layer of barium sulfate (“baryta”). The baryta layer keeps the ink from soaking into the art paper and provides the smoothness and whiteness needed to reproduce photographic details. Many baryta papers have a subtle warm tone because they are made without optical brighteners that can chemically degrade over time.
Metallic Inkjet Papers
The pigments in the coatings of metallic inkjet papers produce prints with a pearlescent shimmer. The prints can look different when viewed from different angles. This shimmery look flatters skin tones, and adds radiance to wedding, boudoir, or nude photography. These papers are also popular for high-key images of jewelry, water, metals, or satiny textiles.
The best way to determine which paper is right for your photographs is to experiment. Vendors such as Museo, Innova, and Hahnemuhle offer sample packs that let you see for yourself how the same image looks when printed on papers with different surface textures and finishes.
The newest inkjet photo papers have been developed to consistently reproduce wide color gamuts on 6-, 8-, or 12-color inkjet printers. Look for papers that produce deep, rich blacks, high-contrast colors, and wide tonal ranges with smooth gradations between tones.
Freedom Paper offers an outstanding selection of inkjet photo papers from top brands such as Kodak, HP, Canon, Innova, Moab, Hahnemuhle, Magic, and Sihl. Premium-grade, archival photo papers can be used for gallery exhibitions, photo restorations, and photo gifts. Budget-friendly options deliver excellent photo quality in presentations and short-term displays.
Inkjet photo papers that are coated on both sides can be printed on both sides and are ideal for photo albums, scrapbooks, and greeting cards.
If you need help choosing the right inkjet photo paper for a specific project, please call us at 866-310-3335. The friendly inkjet media experts at Freedom Paper will be happy to suggest some options.