Glossy vs matte photo: Pros and cons

Svetlana December 12 2021

When it comes to printing your photos, you may have wondered about the difference between glossy and matte prints. Here's what you need to know.

Glossy prints are created on high-quality photo paper that has a shiny surface. This type of print is great for displaying vibrant colors and details. However, glare can be a problem with glossy prints, so they may not be the best choice for every situation.

Matte prints are created on photo paper that has a dull surface. This type of print is good for reducing glare and is less likely to show fingerprints or smudges. However, colors may appear less vibrant on matte prints than on glossy prints.

Mechanics of glossy paper surface

Glossy photo paper has a shiny surface with smoothness in the 100-500 gloss units (GU) range. Glossy paper is available in different thicknesses with low grammage (below 128gsm) resulting in efficient ink absorption and fast drying time.

The glossy finish enhances colors helping them look more saturated, vivid, and enhanced. The high contrast of images on glossy paper makes colors stand out from the background giving images a stronger visual impact. The matte coating applied to one or both sides of the sheet can enhance colors even more and make images look vivid and stunning depending on which type of matte finish is used.

Pros:

  • Vibrant colors
  • Smooth surface for superior printing quality

Cons:

  • The glossy coating can cause glare which makes it difficult to view images under certain lighting conditions (e.g. windows, stage lights)

Mechanics of a matte paper surface

Matte paper has a dull finish with a roughness in the 100-500 GU range. It is available in different thicknesses but has a higher grammage (above 200gsm) to give it stability and prevent cockling.

A matte coating applied to one or both sides of the sheet can enhance colors even more and make images look vivid and stunning depending on which type of matte finish is used. The matte surface significantly reduces glare, making prints easy to view, even under direct lighting.

A matte finish applied to both sides of the sheet gives you a photo with even more visual impact because it eliminates all reflections and increases contrast. The fine-tooth surface will not show fingerprints or smudges, making your photos look great for years to come.

Pros:

  • Great detail
  • Smoother surface than glossy paper
  • Absorbs ink quickly and evenly

Cons:

  • It may not be as vibrant as a glossy print
  • Images may have a subtle texture to them

Glossy and Matte: price difference

Glossy prints are generally more expensive to produce than matte prints because the high-quality photo paper used for glossy prints is more expensive than the paper used for matte prints. However, the difference in price may not be significant enough to warrant choosing one type of print over the other.

Usage peculiarities

Glossy prints are often used for photo albums because the vibrant colors and smooth surface create a high-quality look and feel. Matte prints are often used for wall art because the subdued colors and lack of glare make them less distracting in a home environment. However, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to using glossy or matte prints – it simply depends on your individual preferences.

Difference of colors

Vibrant colors on glossy prints or subtle textures on matte prints? It all depends on your taste. Do you prefer the extra glare of glossy prints, or do you appreciate the smoother surface of matte prints? The decision is yours! Also for this question, there are not so many rules as preferences, but one thing is sure: vibrant colors will be more visible on glossy photos, while subtle textures will be more visible on matte ones.

Which is better for your needs?

The answer to this question really depends on what you're looking for in a print. If you want vibrant colors and a high level of detail, glossy prints are the way to go. However, if you're concerned about glare and would prefer a print with less color intensity, a matte finish will serve you better.

When to use glossy photo paper?

  1. For prints with high color saturation and vibrancy
  2. For images with strong visual impact
  3. When you want to showcase details and textures
  4. For prints that will be displayed in well-lit areas

When to use matte photo paper?

  1. For reduced glare
  2. For prints where fingerprints or smudges may be a problem
  3. When you want natural skin tones
  4. For prints that will be displayed in less well-lit areas.

What photo paper is better for posters?

Glossy photo paper is better for posters because it has a high gloss finish that will really make the colors in your image pop. This type of paper is also durable and scratch-resistant, so it's perfect for displaying your photos in high-traffic areas.

What photo paper is best for album pages?

If you're looking for photo paper that will give your album pages a subtle texture, matte paper is a good option. The matte paper also reduces glare, making it ideal for viewing photos in bright light. Plus, this type of paper is fingerprint-resistant, so your album pages will stay clean and glossy-free.

Which one is better for photo cards?

If you want your photo cards to have a high level of color saturation and vibrancy, glossy photo paper is the way to go. This type of paper is also fingerprint-resistant, so your recipients can enjoy your photos without having to worry about smudges.

Which one is better for postcards?

Matte photo paper is a good option for postcards because it eliminates glare and gives your images a subdued look. Plus, this type of paper is more affordable than glossy photo paper, making it a great choice for large quantities of cards.

Which one is better for framing?

When it comes to framing, both matte and glossy photo papers work well. However, if you're looking for maximum protection against UV light and other damaging elements, then glossy photo paper is the better choice.

Which one is better for canvases?

Glossy photo paper will look great when printed on a canvas. This type of paper has a high gloss finish which can really make your photos shine. Plus, this type of paper absorbs ink quickly and evenly so you won't have to worry about smudging or fingerprints.

What about print materials?

Print materials for glossy and matte paper are very different as well. Glossy photo paper is available as regular or fine-art paper in a variety of thicknesses and grammages up to 350gsm. Matte photo paper comes in regular only and is available in a wider range of grammage options up to 310gsm.

When considering print materials, it's important to consider what your needs are and how the material will be used. If more durability is required, select a thicker paper with a higher grammage rating such as canvas or fine-art paper. If you're looking for a photo to hang on your wall, consider one of our gallery wraps which are printed on thick matte photo paper and wrapped around a wooden frame.

No matter what your needs may be, Paper Culture has the perfect print for you. Glossy or matte, with or without a frame, we have something that will make your photos look great. Visit our website today to get started!

How to choose good photo paper for print?

  • Consider the quality of finish you want
  • Think about how your photo will be displayed (in a frame, on the wall, etc.)
  • Carefully consider what you need from your print materials (durability, texture, weight)

Other considerations while printing your photos:

  • Make sure your photo is in the correct format (.jpg, .png)
  • Check to make sure your photo resolution is high enough for printing (at least 300 dpi)
  • If you're not sure how to resize or crop your photo, consult our online tutorials or contact us for assistance.

How to decorate your room with printed photos?

Framing your photos is a great way to add some personal flair to your room decor. But before you frame your photos, you need to choose the right photo paper. Glossy photo paper will give your photos a high gloss finish that will really make the colors in your image pop. 

Printing your photo on matte paper will give it a soft, downplayed look that's easy on the eyes. This type of paper is less likely to reflect light than glossy photo paper, so if you're looking for the minimal glare in your photos then this is the way to go.

You don't have to print just black and white images! Colorful images can be printed on either glossy or matte photo paper. If you want high color saturation in your photos, choose glossy photo paper because it has more ink coverage than matte paper. If you want a softer, less vibrant look for your prints, select a matte finish instead.

Ideas on how to put photos stylish:

  1. Print your favorite photos on canvas for a classic look
  2. Create a photo collage and frame it for a fun, eclectic look
  3. Print your photos on metal for a modern, industrial vibe
  4. Hang your photos in a grid pattern for a contemporary feel
  5. Print your photos on wood for a rustic, earthy look

Conclusion

For the most quality output, print your photos on glossy paper. If you are printing a color photo, choose glossy photo paper for higher color saturation. If you're printing black and white images, the matte or fine-art paper will work great as well.

Gallery Wrap is an especially good option if you want to display your photo without framing it. It is printed directly onto thick polyester fabric material which can be wrapped around a pre-made wooden frame, ready to hang on the wall!