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The Great 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 you might be surprised by how many questions we receive about the difference between satin and matte, or matte and fine art papers. Because it is so important to consider which surface will make your images 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 classes of paper, and what you should know about each choosing one for different types of images.

Editors Note: 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 you should not use one surface or another for a photo. The choice is ultimately yours to make and yours to enjoy.

Satin / Luster

Satin and luster are the most popular types of inkjet paper and represent the "universal" photo, the vast majority of lab prints world wide are printed this surface.

Most other subjects benefit from the satin surface because the slightly textured surface lowers 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.

Find your the perfect satin or luster now.

Images to Try with Satin / Luster

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


Glossy

Because glossy paper is highly reflective, colors can appear more saturated and bold. The smooth surface also helps print look slightly sharper. However, reflections from a polished surface 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 on highly glossy papers under special lighting conditions. Find a great glossy paper now

Images to Try with Gloss

  • fashion,
  • car photography
  • aircraft,
  • high contrast images
  • head shots
  • high contrast black & white


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!

Images to Try with Gloss

  • planes, trains, and automobiles
  • images with reflections
  • bold colors
  • high contrast black & white
  • flowers
  • black & white portraits


    Matte

    Matte is a non-reflective surface Matte papers are go-to media graphic design, art 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. Choose your matte paper here

    Special Notes

    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.  

    Images to Try with Matte 

    • art prints
    • graphic design
    • landscapes
    • nature and wildlife
    • flowers
    • lower contrast images
    • artistic black & white


    Fine Photographic Art 

    Fine photographic art papers (made with 100% cotton rag) can have smooth or textured surface. You can print any subject on this type of paper because art is subjective. The point of this media is to add one of the following to your work: depth (surface texture), warmth (most fine 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 papers.

    This class of inkjet paper can have a matte or reflective coating.  Matte has no gloss or sheen.  Reflective surface fine art papers are typically semi-gloss or satin and not overly glossy. Matte papers use Matte Black pigment inks while the reflective stock uses Photo Black pigment inks. Reflective surface papers have more dynamic range - deeper color saturation and black density.  Your choice depends on the look, feel, and mood you desire for your image. 

    Discover premier fine photographic art papers here.

    Images to Try with Fine Photo Art Papers

    • Fine art - paintings, drawings, etc.
    • Nature & wildlife
    • Fine art portraits
    • Black & white
    • Abstract subjects


    Specialty

    Any of a wide variety of 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 papers. Papers made from recycled content, bamboo, mulberry, and rice papers are all in this category. Because the papers are specialized, the photographer is likely to first seek a "special media" for a special work so recommendations of photo type are difficult. Specialty inkjet media

    Images to Try with Specialty

    • Your choice