How to Choose the Best Photo Paper
For optimal results printing photos and images, the first step is to decide whether you prefer a matte photo paper, semigloss, metallic or glossy paper finish for a more vibrant image. If you are new to printing and want to try a variety, we recommend that you first order our sample kits. Once you have an idea of what type of surface you like photos printed with, select the weight that you want that will work well with your printer. Smaller front-feed printers should only use paper that is lighter than 60lb/230gsm while top or back feed inkjet printers are designed to handle heavier papers. If you want further recommendations, check out our Shop by Printer and Shop by Project pages.
Compare Our Inkjet Paper to Retail Brands
With Red River Paper, you get inks, products and supplies that are as good as or better than the major retail brands like Epson, Canon, and HP at a great price. We buy our papers from some of the same sources as the big names. The difference is that our brand brings the paper direct to you with only one stop on the way from the paper mill - our manufacturing facility in Dallas, Texas. You’ll find a range of paper products available such as glossy photo paper, metallic finish, archival grade satin, double sided and many more.
Photo paper from Red River Paper is carefully chosen to meet not only our standards and level of detail, but yours as well. We print test with many, if not all, of the inkjet printer models available from Epson, Canon, and HP. Not sure which paper you need?
Compare our quality, service, support, and shipping speed and you will love buying from our Red River store. Don’t believe us? Check out a few of our customer reviews below.
Guide to Photo Paper Finishes
Not all types of inkjet paper are the same. This sounds obvious, but you might be surprised by how many questions we receive about the difference between satin and matte, or matte finish and art paper, paper brightness, etc. Because it is so important to consider which surface will make your projects look their best, we're going to look at each type of inkjet paper, and what types of images are suited to each.
You can think of this as the 40,000 foot view of the different paper types, and what you should know about each choosing one for different types of projects.
Editor's Note: There are thousands of subjects, genres, and topics of interest in the world of photography. Our take on the different types of inkjet paper finishes and best images takes years of customer feedback and printing into account. However, we will never say you should not use one finish or another for printing photos. The choice is ultimately yours to make and enjoy.
Satin / Luster
Satin and luster are the most popular kinds of inkjet paper and represent the "universal" photo, the vast majority of lab prints worldwide are printed on these surfaces.
Most other subjects benefit from the satin finish because the slightly textured surfaces lower reflectivity while maintaining good saturation and detail. Portraits are a popular genre for this surface. Digital cameras tend to capture every detail, some in high.
While images are still sharp, they have reduced hyper-detail and help mask some imperfections in skin and body features.
Try These with Satin / Luster
- Most image subjects
- Various B&W subjects
Because glossy paper is highly reflective, colors can appear more saturated and bold. The smooth finish also helps print look slightly sharper. However, reflections from polished surfaces can be distracting and actually reduce the viewer's ability to see all of the details in an image. Competition prints for the Professional Photographers of America are often with a highly glossy finish under special lighting conditions.
Pictures to Try with Glossy
- car photography
- high contrast images
- head shots
- high contrast black & white
Metallic paper is a close equivalent to the look of photo lab metallic such as the Kodak Endura™ and Fuji Pearl™ processes. The surface features a high glossy finish, pearlescent look that yields an elegant iridescence in your images.
Metallic paper is much more versatile than many customers think at first. Images from flowers to waterfalls to custom motorcycles look great. We recommend you give it a try!
Pictures to Try with Metallic
- Planes, trains, and automobiles
- Images with reflections
- Bold colors
- High contrast black & white
- Black & white portraits
Matte paper is the go-to media for graphic design, artwork reproduction, architecture, landscapes, black and white, and lower contrast images. No reflection or gloss means that details are the primary focus of the print. This type of paper is available in many weights and double-sided versions. That makes it attractive for book and portfolio production.
Pigments do not fully sink into the coating and are therefore subject to abrasion, scratching, and offsetting to a much larger degree than gloss, satin or semigloss media. Sprays, laminate, and interleaving sheets solve the problems presented by matte with pigment inks.
Pictures to Try Printing with Matte
- Art prints
- Graphic design
- Nature and wildlife
- Lower contrast images
- Artistic black & white
Digital Fine Art
This inkjet paper (made with 100% cotton rag) can have a smooth or textured finish. You can print any subject on this type because art is a bit subjective. The point of this media is to add one of the following to your work: depth (surface texture), warmth (most art paper is a warm white), or cache from the feel or the brand name of the paper. Nature, fine art portraits, artwork, and black & white are often printed on cotton art.
This class of inkjet paper can have a matte or reflective coating. The earlier has no gloss or sheen. Reflective finishes are typically semi gloss or satin and not overly glossy. Matte uses black pigment inks while the reflective stock uses Photo Black pigment inks. Papers with reflective surfaces have more dynamic range - deeper color saturation and black density. Your choice depends on the look, feel, and mood you desire for your image.
Try Printing These With Art Paper
- Fine art - paintings, drawings, etc.
- Nature & wildlife
- Black & white
- Abstract subjects
Any of a wide variety of other papers made from substrates other than tree or cotton fiber. Images with softer contrast, delicate feel, or more subtle content might work well with these. Inkjet papers made from recycled content, bamboo, mulberry, and rice papers are all in this category. Because this type of printer paper is specialized, the photographer is likely to first seek a "special media" for a specific print project or piece, therefore, recommendations of type are difficult.
Pictures to Try Printing with Specialty