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Evaluating The Best Inkjet Printer Photo Paper

Date Added: February 23, 2015 12:11:04 PM
Author: Ran @ Snap Paper
Category: Resources For Photographers: Printing Services

Successful photo printing creates cherished memories that, can be shared.  To achieve accurate results most closely resembling the photographed object, simply print on the correct photo paper using the best printer for the job.

Choosing the best photo printer paper revolves around selecting the appropriate size, weight, coating, and finish.


Photo Printer Paper Size

Digital photo paper for consumer printers is typically pre-cut to a set number of sizes. Most printers allow for scaling the printed area to match the paper size loaded in the tray.

Common sizes include 6x4 inch and 7x5 inch used for photo album inserts. Depending on the manufacturer, you may also come across two slight variants offered in 10x15 cm and 13x18 cm sizes.

Larger 10x12 inch, A5 and A4 (letter) sizes are used to print photos intended for display (wall or desk mounted).

Larger A3 tabloid photo printing (twice A4 size) and A3+ photo printing (tabloid plus is larger than A3) require a tabloid or tabloid plus size photo printer.

A common mistake to avoid is buying the wrong size and having to cut printed photos resulting in waste.


Photo Printer Paper Weight

Paper weight or density is measured in GSM (Grams per square meter). Manufacturers produce a wide range of weights designed for different purposes.

The weight indicates the thickness of the paper that can affect photo printer output quality. Check paper specifications for your printer to obtain the best results and avoid printer damage.

When creating photo greetings cards (Christmas cards for example) heavier weight feels more "invested" when held as opposed to magazine paper type thickness. When printing every day photos lighter weights will suffice.

Lighter weight papers up to 150 gsm are traditionally used for printing “throwaway” prints such as colourful business brochures.

Medium weights around 180gsm to 200gsm are used to print every-day photos. Heavier weights such as 260gsm and above are used to print photos with archival or sentimental value to the recipient.  

Before opting for heavier 270gsm to 350gsm photo papers you should consult with your printer manual to ensure the printer can accommodate the weight. Otherwise you run the risk of damaging the printer.


Photo Printer Paper Receiving Layer

Inkjet photo paper is coated in a translucent chemical to accommodate the relatively large amount of ink propelled by inkjet printers

Chemical coating is absent on plain copy paper resulting in image over-saturation and poor colour definition. Eventually the print will fade or "yellow" quite rapidly. 

To avoid this situation, photo printer paper manufactures commonly use Cast-Coated and Micro-Porous receiving layers.


Cast-Coated Photo Printer Paper

Cast-coated photo printer paper is incredibly popular due to the low cost of manufacturing that, brings down cost to the consumer.

In terms of quality, prints feature sharp and accurate results however; prints are highly susceptible to smearing when pigmented inks are used. Cast-coated photo printer paper is offered by several manufacturers for budget and everyday photo printing.


Micro-Porous Coated Photo Printer Paper

The technology behind porous coating (nano-porous or micro-porous) is completely different from cast-coated paper. Jetted ink is held within tiny pores in the chemical, improving longevity of printed photos in terms of fading or changing colour.  Photos also dry instantly when using pigment inks and dye-based inks.

Nano-porous and micro-porous coating is used in premium photo printer papers offered by various manufactures and costs more, as it is more expensive to produce. 


Photo Printer Paper Finish

Paper finish is the chemical layer used to receive ink and enhance the appearance of photo prints. In most cases, choice of finish is purely visual based on personal taste. In some cases, choosing one finish over the other has a serious effect on the display of the print. 

Most photo enthusiasts are aware of glossy and matte paper finish offerings while satin, luster, and semi-gloss options are lesser-known photo printer paper finishes. 


Matte Finish

Matte finish has no glare and is often perceived as “dull." Matte-finished papers should be considered when printing B&W images as it helps create an artistic look. Matte-finished paper is rarely used to print colourful photos.


Glossy Finish

Gloss-finished printer paper features high levels of glare which helps enhance finer details in photo prints. When viewing gloss-finished prints from an angle and in direct light, viewing is restricted as light reflects off the surface. Gloss-finished prints are best viewed “straight on.”



Semi-Gloss finish is between glossy and matte and is often perceived as a safe option for fledgling photo enthusiasts. Semi-gloss finish features some glare however, much less than glossy finished photo printer paper.  Semi-gloss finished photo printer paper is sold as semi-gloss, satin, or pearl depending on the manufacturer. 


Luster Finish

Professional high-end niche manufactures offer luster finish photo paper. From a visual perspective luster finished papers resemble semi-gloss finished papers.

Luster finished papers also feature a textured finish which, gives a "special" feel when held in the hand. 



When determining suitable photo printer paper consider size, coating, weight (GSM) and finish.

Most printer manufacturers do not manufacture photo printer paper. Printer paper manufacturers produce photo printer papers with universal printer compatibility, so printer brand name paper is not always an indicator of quality.

Size, weight, receiving layer (coating), and finish are true indicators of quality and suitability.

Written by Snap Paper, a leading European manufacturer of Inkjet papers with operations in mainland Europe and other parts.


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