With the production of consumer-oriented high-end printers, printing your photography at home has become easier than ever – though finding the right tools of the trade can be a bit overwhelming.
To make your life easier, here is our guide to the best inkjet photo paper around, helping you bring your beautiful digital photographs to life.
(For those looking for fine art printing, check out our nifty guide to fine art papers.)
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What You Need to Know About Buying Photo Paper
There are so many types and so many varieties of photo paper, but all photo papers can be grouped into four categories: matte, semi-gloss, luster, and glossy.
High gloss or glossy paper mimics the photo paper offered by printing labs. High gloss or glossy is widely used for printing vibrant bright images which feature a cheerful mood. If you’re printing a vibrant landscape shot with beautiful colors in bright tones, a glossy photo paper is probably what you should use.
Matte paper offers a textured surface, which is the opposite of glossy. Matte comes in different variations of textures. Some are flat, almost textureless to the point of being smooth. Others are more textured. But they are never glossy or reflective. A matte paper will set the right mood for a darker, somber photo. It is a great choice for black and white prints.
Semi-gloss paper sits somewhere in the middle between glossy and matte. They are sometimes textured and can be shiny, though not as much as the high-gloss variations. Because of this, semi-gloss papers are perfect for subjects where you need to limit the amount of glare.
Luster, or lustre in British English, is an interesting paper type that is sometimes called Pearl or E-Surface by print labs. Luster is a bit of a middle ground between matte and glossy, but still less shiny than semi-gloss. Luster is textured but not as textured as matte, and the texture is really only noticeable under certain lighting conditions.
Depending on the paper type that you pick, you will need to pair it with the right kind of ink. Matte paper is best printed on with pigment ink and glossy and semi-glossy paper is best printed on using dye-based inks.
So, choose your photo paper carefully by considering what you need to print!
Alongside paper type, there are also color brilliance ratings to consider. The TAPPI Scale, which is the color brilliance rating for inkjet photo paper, measures how bright the colors on a paper are reflected.
Always go for a paper that has a TAPPI rating of around 90. Anything above 90-92 and it means that the paper contains artificial fluorescent material that reflects light. Though the whiteness of such paper is brilliant and colors are more saturated with deeper blacks, in the long run, the ink fades more quickly. This is because the artificial whitening (or fluorescence agents) will start to wear off and the paper will revert back to its normal, creamy color appearance.
The Best Inkjet Photo Paper
1. Canon Luster Photo Paper
A beautiful paper that delivers great results – without the super gloss!
Canon has been the leader in imaging for 84 years with its variety of cameras, lenses, printers, and more. With such high praise for bringing photographic media to life, it’s of no surprise that their papers tend to be high on buying guide lists.
In particular, the Canon Luster Photo Paper tends to pop up pretty frequently in recommendations.
The Canon Luster Photo Paper comes in a pack of 50 sheets. The beautiful finish is not as shiny as glossy paper, which may ward off photographers looking for that cheerful finish, but the advantage to luster is that this type of paper has a natural capacity to resist smudges.
There is almost no glare when the photo has been printed because of how light reflects off the texture – making this the perfect paper choice for a wide variety of projects, including portraits, landscapes, and wedding photography.
2. Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II
Looking for a glossy paper that can print big? You’ve found it right here!
If you favor that gorgeous shiny sheen, Canon has you covered with their Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II. Coming in a pack of 20, 8.5” x 11” sheets, this photo paper produces an exceptionally vibrant color scheme and glossy finish.
The brightness rating of the paper is 92 lm, which means the final colors will be bright and vibrant with little or no artificial fluorescent elements used to reflect more light. This also makes the paper incredibly long-lasting, ensuring you are able to share your beautiful memories for generations to come.
If you’re using one of Canon’s PIXMA printers with a minimum of five ink cartridges, this paper performs exceptionally well. (It makes sense, too; use the paper made by the company that created your printer!)
3. Canon Photo Paper Pro Premium Matte
The matte texture of this paper is truly exquisite, both to the touch and as a printed medium.
For the matte lovers out there, the Canon Photo Paper Pro Premium Matte will leave you with a very enjoyable result. Also beneficial for those that like to print larger-scale images (as the paper is sized at 17” x 22”), this matte offering emphasizes deep colors and rich blacks.
With no shine or reflection, the mood set forth by this particular matte paper is quite lovely. Although matte papers tend to work best with pigment ink, the Canon Photo Paper Pro Premium Matte can actually function well with dye ink, too (so you have far more options with the printer you currently own!).
4. HP Premium Plus Photo Paper
Have a lot of photos? This paper lets you print 100 4″ x 6″ in one go!
HP is another one of those fantastic imaging companies that really pride themselves on printers and printed mediums. The HP Premium Plus Photo Paper comes in a packet containing 100 sheets of glossy photo paper!
This paper option has quick drying properties, so it can be shared almost as soon as it is printed – great for those not interested in watching the paint (or ink!) dry. With a brightness rating of 90, the prints you create will last you a good chunk of time.
Additionally, the prints are smudge and water-resistant, so each photo should be able to take a bit of abuse. This is great for families who love passing photographs around at the dinner table.
5. HP Advanced Photo Paper
At around $14 for 100 prints, this paper is inexpensive – and the quality is good, too.
The glossy-type HP Advanced Photo Paper is slightly lighter than the HP Premium Plus Photo Paper discussed above (when I speak about paper weight, I’m referring to the paper’s thickness). A heavier, thicker paper gives the same feel as a photo that has been printed at a lab, but not all printers can handle thicker papers because it’s more likely to jam.
Now, the awesome thing about the HP Advanced Photo Paper is that its lighter weight allows it to be used in a huge array of printers with ease. Although it may lack the hardiness of the other paper types, this is made up for with excellent functionality.
This paper is glossy and comes with some amount of water and smudge resistance that HP is known for, as well as the instant ink-drying technology.
6. HP Everyday Photo Paper
If you love to scrapbook or make crafts from photos, this paper will serve you well.
The HP Everyday Photo Paper is a slightly lighter paper that is suitable for everyday prints and fun projects. If you’re someone who favors scrapbooking, making greeting cards, or other craft projects, this paper is perfect for all of your artsy endeavors!
The pack consists of 60 5″ x 7″ sheets. This means you can print landscapes, portraits, and anything vibrant and colorful with great results. The paper has been made from recyclable material and is therefore environmentally friendly, awesome for those who care about the world.
The sheets have all of the same perks as the other HP papers, such as quick-drying technology and smudge and water resistance.
7. Epson Premium Photo Paper
Epson’s paper types are tremendous, and this glossy 8″ x 10″ option is no exception.
The Epson Premium Photo Paper is a beautiful glossy option that comes in a pack of 20 8” x 10” sheets, great for standard size prints. This paper is a bit on the lighter side in comparison to other glossy models, but the print quality is superb! Bright and vibrant, the Epson Premium Photo Paper features a lot of beautiful detail.
The glossy coating itself is made out of a resin-based substance; this lets the paper resist fingerprints and smudging, plus it helps it handle a wee bit of moisture or water splashing. This paper is relatively affordable, all things considered, and ensures your print quality is similar to that of much more expensive papers.
8. Epson Premium Semigloss Photo Paper
If you like both gloss and matte paper, this middle ground may satisfy you best!
For those that need a bit less shine to their work, the Epson Premium Semigloss Photo Paper is a great choice! Semi gloss tends to be the nice middle ground between glossy paper and luster or matte, offering a nice sheeny finish without being too reflective when hung on the wall near a light source. This paper is touted as being “exhibition friendly,” thanks to its ability to hold fine details (and at non-fine-art pricing, too).
The color saturation is rich and deep, much preferred by photographers that pride themselves on their color grading work. However, there can be a very light bronzing in certain colors – just something to bear in mind.
9. Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte
For those that pride themselves on tonal range, this matte paper does a great job for black and white images.
For the black and white photographers out there, the Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte will make you super happy! Known for its ability to handle a wide tonal range, this paper has a brilliant whiteness to it that will accept your inks with ease. Featuring many of the same perks of other Epson papers, the Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte limits the shine and offers a dreamy, almost-velvet texture.
The caveat is the limited size availability, but the maximum 8.5” x 11” size is more than enough to satisfy many at-home printing photographers.
10. Canson Infinity Rag Photographique Matte
This Canson paper features great quality for the price and works well with inkjet printers.
The Canson Infinity Rag Photographique Matte is a fine-art paper that also works great for all-purpose inkjet photo prints. This paper is available in cut sheets as well as rolls to fit a variety of different printers.
The paper’s cotton fibers provide an excellent whiteness and deep rich black tones, helping colors appear as true to your monitor as possible (assuming you calibrated your screen, of course!). This paper was developed to offer the longevity required for museum archival prints, but with a price tag that many enthusiast photographers find acceptable. The paper feels smooth and almost creamy, making texture-based photographers very happy!
Which Inkjet Photo Paper Is Right for You?
Now the million-dollar question: Which of these papers is right for you? In truth, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer here, because the best paper depends on so many different factors.
What subject are you printing? What printer do you use? What mood are you looking to achieve? By answering these questions, you may be able to narrow down the paper that works best!
For Epson users, the Epson Premium Semigloss Photo Paper is an incredible choice, while Canon’s Infinity Rag Photographique Matte is fantastic for consumers that want something a bit fancier than regular inkjet photo paper.
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