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The Inkjet Paper Surface Guide

A look at different types of inkjet paper and which photography subjects work best for each.

Not all inkjet papers are the same. This sounds obvious, but questions abound regarding the look, feel, and performance of different inkjet media. The confusion is partially because paper, being generally flat and white, is hard to describe. It takes real effort to represent these products in words. This guide is here to help make a mental picture of each inkjet paper type. You can then make an informed decision about which will work for your needs.

Editors Note: The best paper is the paper YOU like! There are thousands of subjects, genres, and topics of interest in the world of photography. Our take on paper surface and best images takes years of customer feedback and printing into account. However, we will never say a particular inkjet paper is unacceptable for a photo or project. The choice is ultimately yours to make and yours to enjoy.



Because glossy paper is highly reflective, colors can appear more saturated and bold. The smooth surface also helps prints look sharper. Competition prints for the Professional Photographers of America are often on highly glossy papers under special lighting conditions. Find a great glossy paper now


Glossy paper can be either a photobase or cast coated variety. Photobase looks and feels like a lab print. A cast coated glossy feels more like paper and usually has a plain paper backing.  

For Epson and Canon pigment inkjet owners, this type of paper uses "Photo Black" inks.

Subjects for Gloss

  • sports
  • head shots
  • high contrast black & white
  • fashion
  • industrial / commercial

Photo Metallic


Photo Metallic inkjet 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 gloss, pearlescent look that yields an elegant iridescence in your images. Discover the first ever inkjet metallic paper here


Photo 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!

Subjects for Metallic

  • planes, trains and autos
  • images with reflections
  • bold colors
  • high contrast black & white
  • high contrast images

Satin / Luster


Satin / Luster are the most popular types of inkjet paper and represent the "universal" photo paper surface. The vast majority of lab prints world-wide are printed on this surface.  

Most photography looks good on satin because the slightly textured surface lowers reflectivity while maintaining good saturation and detail. Portraits are a popular genre for this surface. While prints are still sharp, they do not show as much tight detail as a glossy. This helps mask some imperfections in skin and body features made apparent by today's high resolution cameras. This surface an excellent choice if your prints will be handled often.  
Find your favorite luster/satin now


The terms satin, luster, pearl, and e-surface are interchangable and often describe the same surface texture.

Subjects for Satin / Luster

  • most photo subjects
  • portraits
  • landscapes and nature
  • scenics
  • various B&W subjects



Matte is usually smooth and always features a non-reflective finish. It is a good choice for landscapes, black and white photographs, low contrast images, and more artistic work.  A lack of reflections means that details are the primary focus of the print.  This type of paper is available in many weights and double-sided versions, which makes matte paper attractive for book and portfolio production.  
Choose your matte paper here


Pigments inks do not fully embed into the coating of matte paper. A very thin layer of dried ink rests just on top of the surface. This makes matte papers prone to abrasion, scratching, and offsetting.  Handle matte prints with extra care. For Epson and Canon pigment inkjet owners, this type of paper uses "Matte Black" inks.

Subjects for Matte

  • landscapes
  • nature and wildlife
  • flowers
  • lower contrast images
  • artistic black & white

Cotton Fine Art - Matte surface


Inkjet fine art papers can have a smooth or textured surface.  Popular reasons for choosing fine art paper include adding depth, warmth (most fine art paper is a warm white), or elegance from the weight and thickness. Nature, fine art portraits, and black & white are often the subjects printed on cotton art papers. Shop for matte cotton art papers

Special Notes

Cotton rag papers are made from cotton linters or recycled cotton rags. Cotton paper is typically superior in both strength and durability compared to wood-based papers. You will find cotton content ranges from 25% to 100%. Most inkjet fine art media is 100% cotton rag content.

 For Epson and Canon pigment inkjet owners, this type of paper usually uses "Matte Black" inks.

Subjects for Cotton Matte
  • Nature & wildlife
  • Fine art portraits
  • Black & white
  • Abstract subjects

Cotton Fine Art - SemiGloss Surface


These papers are essentially the same as the above in terms of the base stock texture and composition. The difference is the top coating which has a slightly glossy sheen. The result is more saturated color and deeper blacks.

Special Notes

For Epson and Canon pigment inkjet owners, this type of paper usually uses "Photo Black" inks.

Subjects for Cotton SemiGloss
  • Fine art portraits
  • Black & white
  • Abstract subjects
  • Urban landscapes

Fiber Base / Baryta Papers


These papers look and feel like "fiber prints" from traditional chemical darkrooms. They typically have a lightly textured surface and a semigloss to glossy appearance once printed. Most of these papers are whitened with an inert variant of barium sulfate, which makes them warmer white than other photo paper. Barium sulfate is chemically stable. The result is the whiteness of a baryta paper will remain the same over long periods. The back of the sheet is usually plain paper with a slightly rough texture. Contrast this to modern photo papers with plastic coated backing. Most baryta inkjet media is made from wood fiber. There are a hand full made with cotton rag content. Bring back the old school lab look

Special Notes

This surface is delicate and should be handled with care before and after being printed.  For Epson and Canon pigment inkjet owners, this type of paper usually uses "Photo Black" inks.

Subjects for Baryta
  • Fine art portraits
  • Black & white
  • Abstract subjects
  • Landscapes, flora, fauna

Canvas Inkjet Media


Add some texture and fine art sophistication to your work with inkjet canvas. This type of media is made by weaving cotton, polyester, or a combination of both into a heavy but flexible sheet. They are coated with inkjet recpetive chemicals so you can print photo quality from your desktop or wide format printer. Most are warm white and may or may not contain optical brightening agents. Inkjet canvas can be stretched or mounted for a beautiful display of your work.

Try real woven inkjet canvas now

Special Notes

Inkjet canvas should be coated with specialty coating before stretching or being displayed without glass protection. Your printer will need to either accept rolls or have the ability to use thick media to use inkjet canvas.

Subjects for Canvas
  • Portraits
  • Landscapes





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