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.
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.
Examples of the Luster / Satin 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 the Glossy Inkjet Papers
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