Choosing Photo Paper to Print Your Images

Photo by martinak15 via Flickr

Photo by martinak15 via Flickr

Today we have a guest post on the blog from Joseph Eitan who is Managing Director at photographic paper seller (PPD). In this post he gives us a quick run down of all the different aspects you should bear in mind when choosing photo paper. Hopefully this advice will help you make the right choices when it comes to printing your work. So here is what Joseph has to say…[short]

Although much emphasis nowadays is placed on digital photography, images are still being printed, probably more than ever. If you are striving to improve your photographic skills, you should be familiar with the technology behind Inkjet Photo Paper and how to choose the right paper for the right job.

You may ask: 'Why Inkjet? And what happened to the popular laser technology?' The truth is that the image quality of inkjet technology far exceeds laser technology, which is why photographers will always opt for Inkjet. For one, laser is limited to 720dpi (Dots Per Inch) compared to triple that in the case of Inkjet and it cannot equal Inkjet colour accuracy or the wide tonal capability. It might be fantastic for printing simple text documents quickly and efficiently, but in the case of vibrant images it is a completely different ball game.

Guide To Inkjet Photo Paper

Printer Technology

By now we know that printers use either Inkjet or Laser technology. Before evaluating various options, you need to determine which technology your printer uses to ensure you haven't mixed the two. While both technologies depend on CMYK colours to produce results, the manner in which these colours are dispersed is different. Laser uses polymer-based powder that, by way of fusion, is transferred onto the paper, while Inkjet uses liquid ink. A paper that was designed for one printer type won't work on its rival type. Doing so could damage the printer and produce low quality results.

Matching Paper Size To Intended Use

The same base paper is often sold in various sizes. Each size is intended to fulfill a different printing need. Matching the correct size to the intended use will eliminate waste that occurs from having to reprint your images.

  • Photo Album Prints – Standard photo albums can accommodate 10cm x 15cm and 13cm x 18cm. While it is possible to obtain a bigger size paper and crop it to size, it will prove a time wasting and expensive exercise.

  • Frame Prints – Desk and wall frames can accommodate 13cm x 18cm, A5 (148mm x 210mm) and A4 (210mm x 297mm) size papers. A5 is slightly bigger than 13cm x 18cm size and precisely half an A4 size.

  • Calendars, Photo Reproduction and Proofing – These are often printed on an A3 sheet which is twice the size of an A4 sheet. It requires an A3 printer, which is the domain of professional photographers in most cases.

Photo Paper Finish

Once you have narrowed down the size of choice, you can move on to selecting the finish. Photo papers are coated in a transparent layer of coating designed to improve the print. They are measured on a scale of sheen. Common choices include:

  • Glossy – Glossy Photo Paper is the most widely used finish. As you can gather by its name, the finish is glossy with the highest levels of sheen from the various options. It is highly reflective, which is handy for viewing directly, but may prove challenging when viewing from certain angles under varied lighting conditions.
  • Satin – You may come across Satin finish under various aliases from semi-gloss (In Canon case) to Pearl (In ILFORD case). The finish includes levels of glare, but nowhere near that of glossy. It aids in viewing the print from various angles.
  • Matt – While Matt is considered a type of finish due to the use of transparent coating it includes no visible levels of glare. It is rarely used to coat professional papers, often used to coat budget papers.

Note that while it is possible to reverse the coating of choice by using an Inkjet fixative spray of a different finish, it is ill advised due to increased costs. You are better off choosing the correct finish to begin with.

Photo Paper Weights

Papers vary in levels of density or GSM (Grams per Square Meter). Broadly speaking, the higher the GSM is, the higher quality the paper will turn out to be. Higher quality reflects the end result of the print, the colour mixture and archival properties. Archival refers to the time it takes the paper to yellow or fade. Weights vary and include:

  • 80gsm – These are not photo papers, but uncoated printer and copier papers. Printing an image on such papers will cause the ink to bleed, as there is no barrier to stop the ink from running all the way to the other side.
  • 120gsm+ – These are often used for brochure or flyer creation. They will accommodate a high quality image well, however archival properties are poor.
  • 200gsm+ – These are used to print images that require some type of keepsake. Quality will vary depending on the type of base papers used, either cast coated or PE coated with the latter offering higher quality.

Enjoy your photography and printing your work!

*PPD works with amateur and professional photographers offering A3 to 6×4" photo papers.

**Images by flickr under cc license.