We are often asked for photo paper in our stores and customers are sometimes surprised to learn of the many different varieties and surfaces available.
Our very own Tash also took a few minutes out of her day to put together a quick video summary of the four main types.
Regardless of the surface, these paper types are normally available in a variety of sizes, from the humble 6×4″ photograph sized cards, to jumbo A3 which requires a specialist printer. Whilst this makes the potential uses of all surfaces almost limitless, I am going to summarise the main traits and popular uses below.
What is Gloss Photo Paper?
Gloss paper is what most people think of when “photo paper” is mentioned and is normally what we end up supplying to our customers. It is most easily recognised by its shiny surface that reflects a certain amount of light and slightly sticky feel.
Photo paper with a glossy surface is normally used for printing photos or artwork for display. Printing to gloss photo paper generally improves the look of an image and helps make it look a little more professional. Some will default to gloss photo paper when framing images, but in my experience the glass and the shiny surface can make it harder to see from certain angles or lighting conditions.
What is Resin Coated Gloss Photo Paper?
Similar in appearance to normal gloss paper, resin coated gloss features the same very noticeable shine. The main difference being, that this paper has an additional sheen and a plastic-like feel, thanks to the additional protective layers of this paper. The additional layers make resin coated gloss more resistant to moisture and can even reduce the drying times of your prints.
The moisture resistant nature of resin coated gloss makes it useful for prints that will be exposed to the elements or those that will be handled frequently / by lots of people. Many of our customers use such paper for promotional materials or even incorporate it into their products.
What is Satin Photo Paper?
Whilst satin paper retains a little shine, it is a lot less prone to reflecting light than its glossy counterpart. When asked to describe the surface of satin paper, I often describe it as being somewhere between matte and gloss, which is pretty accurate.
Satin paper is great for photos and many customers use it for brochures and flyers too! The reduced shine of paper with a satin surface makes it my pick for framing or popping behind glass, I have used such paper in my own life to great effect, particularly in strongly lit areas.
What is Matte Photo Paper?
Lacking in the sheen of the three papers mentioned above, many customers are surprised when we classify matte paper as photo paper at all. Despite the fact that it looks and feels like regular office paper, matte photo paper still has a special surface and thickness that allows it to effectively absorb more ink than office paper, without becoming over saturated and soggy.
I would recommend using matte coated paper for projects or presentations which rely upon images or large graphics. The thickness of the paper allows it to display even large images and the lack of a special surface lets you slide it in nicely without the finish making it difficult to read. Many people also rely upon thicker matte paper for printing certificates where a satin/gloss surface seems excessive, the results also feel more substantial when held and help the print stay rigid.
Bonus Question: Can I use Photo Paper in my Printer?
Whether your printer can use photo paper, depends primarily upon the kind of printer you have. If you have an inkjet printer that uses liquid ink based cartridges, then you can almost certainly use any of the paper types listed above. Most dye / pigment based inks can be applied to these surfaces easily and the effect looks great. Be careful when it comes to the thickness of paper you are using though. Whilst most inkjet printers can print without issue to anything up to 260gsm, machines that pull paper from a tray under the printer may find paper thickness limited to around 200gsm.
If however you are using a laser printer, we strongly recommend being cautious when using photo paper. The heat applied by laser printers means that the surface of gloss, satin or resin coated papers can melt in laser printers, causing damage to the inside of the printer. We recommend only buying specialist photo papers that are listed as safe for use in laser printers, as the potential cost of cleaning/repairing such a machine is normally pretty high.
We hope you have found this brief guide useful, if however you have any other queries or anything to add, please let us know in the comments below.