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What is the Difference Between Glossy and Luster Finish Photo Paper?

Many Red River Paper customers and readers have asked "What is the difference between glossy and luster finish inkjet media".

Glossy and Luster are both surfaces of photographic inkjet paper. Most glossy and luster papers are resin coated (RC) - also called photobase - media. RC papers look and look and feel like a traditional lab print.

Choice Between Glossy and Luster

Your choice of surface is ultimately subjective. The best selling surface by a factor of two is luster. This is because luster has been the default surface used by photo labs for decades. For the biggest visual impact glossy paper is more popular. But for a more traditional look, better handling, and more subtle surface, luster papers are the most popular.

Luster Surface

The luster surface is also called satin, pearl, and sometimes semi-gloss. The industry term for luster is the "E-Surface". Luster inkjet paper has a repeating textured surface. At certain angles it can look like the surface of an orange or automotive paint. This texture serves two important functions:

1) Allows the paper to better withstand handling. The texture hides minor scratches and scuffs from wear and handling.

2) Lower direct reflection of light to the viewer. This makes for less glare, shine, and makes the image easier to see at all angles.

Below are four examples of the Luster / Satin surface:

UltraPro Satin 4.0®

Medium Surface Texture

Arctic Polar Satin®

Shallow Surface Texture

Arctic Polar Luster®

Deep Surface Texture

Palo Duro Satin®

Shallow Surface Texture


Glossy Surface

Glossy inkjet paper is characterized by a smooth, highly reflective surface. The photographic industry refers to glossy as the "F-Surface". High gloss paper can be extremely smooth (like a coated plastic), or it may have a very slight texture (typical on RC inkjet papers). Glossy paper is desired when you want the most light reflected back at the viewer. This makes for more saturated colors and the ability to see sharp details. It's no wonder that high gloss inkjet paper has the highest D-Max (deepest black) of all inkjet media.

Examples of glossy inkjet papers are:

68lb. UltraPro Gloss - Resin coated high gloss

Polar Gloss Metallic 255 (formerly 66lb. Polar Pearl Metallic) - Resin coated metallic gloss

60lb. Pecos River Gloss - Cast coated gloss with a plain paper back

All Glossy Photo Papers



About Red River Paper

Inkjet paper from inkjet paper experts. Red River was founded in 1997 and has over 40 years experience in fine papers. We hand pick fine paper from mills around the world and bring them to our plant in Dallas, Texas. From here, we convert the paper to various sheet sizes and rolls, as well as add special features available only from Red River. We offer wholesale direct pricing, and the convenience of over 30 different inkjet papers under one roof. Red River Paper invests the time and money to understand and test the latest inkjet technology from Epson, Canon, HP, Lexmark and others so you do not have too. Our client services representatives are well versed in our products and inkjet printing, and can give our clients helpful advice on which Red River papers will suit their needs.


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