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Top 5 Best Photo Paper for Printing Pictures at Home

September 16, 2019

All photographers can achieve lab-grade prints at home. All you need is a photo printer and quality photo paper. With all the paper for printing photos on the market, however, you should spend time getting to know options. We’ve identified a few of the best photo paper choices around to help you narrow your search.

Top 5 Best Photo Paper for Printing Pictures at Home

  • Canon Photo Paper Pro Platinum
  • Canon Premium Photo Paper
  • Epson Premium Photo Paper
  • HP Photo Paper Advanced
  • HP Premium Plus Photo Paper

As you get familiar with photo paper choices, you’ll start to learn some common terminology. Knowing the basics about these factors will help you make the right paper selections for your photo printing needs.

Things to Consider When Printing on Photo Paper

When you’re first experimenting with printing on photo paper, your best bet is to select paper that is compatible with your printer manufacturer. Why is this the case? The paper marketed by your printer brand is compatible with printer inks, capacity, and sizes. You’ll receive good results while you boost your knowledge of photo printing.

Over time, you can branch out to papers by other manufacturers. Choose a reputable brand whenever possible. Off-brand photo paper products are unlikely to deliver the quality, clarity, and color contrast you’ll desire for your photographic work.

Also, make sure that you know whether you have an inkjet or laser printer when selecting your photo paper. What’s the difference? Inkjet printers deliver ink to the paper via small jets, while laser printers use a melted powder-like substance. Plus, an inkjet printer can achieve 2,880 dots per inch (Dpi), while laser printers can only achieve 720 Dpi. As you can imagine, many professional photographers prefer inkjet printers for their pictures. Still, laser printers remain popular, and you can find laser photo paper at many retailers.

Paper Weight

Simply put, paper weight measures the heaviness of your paper. In the U.S., you’ll see paper weight designated in pounds (lbs). The identified paper weight of your paper, such as 20 lbs, means that a ream of that paper weighs 20 pounds. You may also see the acronym “GSM” associated with paper weight. GSM stands for “grams per square inch” and is a more common term in non-U.S. printing and paper operations.

In general, printing pros use higher weight papers for prints that are meant to last, and a lower paper weight for prints that are not intended to stand the test of time. When printing photos, you’ll usually opt for a higher paper weight. The typical paper weight range for most inkjet photos is 24 to 71 lbs. You may not want to aim for the top of that range, but a thicker paper better mimics the feel of a photo print produced in a lab.

Keep in mind that thicker papers are more apt to cause jams in your inkjet printer. To avoid this issue, opt for manual feed and add single sheets of photo printer to your paper. This can slow down the process a bit, but the results will be worthwhile.

Opacity

Opacity is a term that relates to how see-through–or opaque–your photo paper is. When opacity is low, more colors and/or text bleed through or are visible on the opposite side of the paper. As you can imagine, you don’t want colors bleeding through to the back of your pictures. For that reason, the opacity of photo paper is usually very high. Always select photo papers with opacity between 94 and 97.

Finish

Finish is an exterior coating that describes the look of the paper. It’s often one of the first factors people consider when choosing a photo paper. There are several types of paper finishes.

Glossy Finish
The most widely used type of paper, glossy photo paper has a distinct shine. Glossy photo paper comes in a range of styles–from low gloss to high gloss. Many photographers appreciate glossy photos since they showcase details in the image. However, gloss can produce an unwanted glare and make photos difficult to view from every angle. This diminished visibility can be an issue when pictures are mounted and framed.

Matte Finish
Matte photo paper is the opposite of glossy photo paper. Since matte papers aren’t coated with expensive finishes, they are often more affordable than other types of paper. A matte photo paper can be a good choice if your planning to print a lot of copies of your pictures. Also, matte paper is ideal for black and white photo printing since a glossy finish can deter from the photo’s quality.

Satin Finish
A satin finish is between a glossy and matte finish. Some manufacturers call it “semi-gloss” since a satin finish does have some shine.

Pearl or Luster Finish
Pearl or Luster finish papers are professional-grade options that combine a satin finish with subtle texture. Photos printed on these types of papers can feel more special or upscale.

Metallic Finish
With metallic photo paper, you can achieve a unique 3D effect on your printed photos. This type of paper features a pearl or luster finish and a touch of added shimmer. Typical metallic photo papers are highly durable and offer rich colors and blacks for a stunning look. For best effect, you can skip the glass when framing and let the innate beauty of the metallic photo paper take center stage.

Brightness

You may see a brightness rating listed on your photo paper. What is brightness? It is a measure of how white a paper is and is usually expressed on a scale of one to 100. Most photo papers have a brightness rating over 90. However, you should know that the papers with the highest bright may have a fluorescent whitening agent added to them. These whitening agents can degrade inks over time and should be avoided when printing photos.

Paper Quality

Paper quality reflects several factors—including the paper’s archival quality, color range, and how long it takes to dry to touch. The paper’s “receiving layer” is the chemical layer that “receives” ink during printing, determining the quality.

There are two types of receiving layers to know. First, a cast coated receiving layer is a more budget-friendly option for everyday photo prints. It does not have a barrier coating on the surface, so inks penetrate more deeply into the paper. Prints on paper this type of receiving layers will fade more quickly.

By contrast, prints on papers with micro or nanopores receiving layers are far more durable. Ink sticks in tiny pores in the chemical layer, which vastly improves archival quality. The ink also dries instantly. For these reasons, papers with micro or nanopores receiving layers are a top choice among professional photographers.

Top 5 Best Photo Paper for Printing Pictures at Home

When first buying photo paper, stick with reputable brands. Canon, Epson, and HP are three top names for home printers and for photo papers. Plus, all three brands offer a range of finishes, paper sizes, and price points, so you can get the results you want at a price you can afford.

Canon Photo Paper Pro Platinum

Canon’s flagship paper, Pro Platinum photo paper has earned accolades from professional photographers around the globe. Pro Platinum paper delivers a top-notch finish and outstanding color for studio-quality prints. When combined with select Canon inks, Pro Platinum paper can deliver archival-quality pictures that can last up to 200 years.

With a high paper weight of 80 lbs and brightness of 98%, Pro Platinum paper is compatible with Canon’s popular PIXMA line of printers. Pro Platinum comes in traditional 4×6 photo paper, along with larger paper sizes, such as 8×11.5 or 13×9. Multiple finishes are available to meet your every printing need.

Canon Glossy Photo Paper

Another excellent Canon photo paper choice, the brand’s glossy photo paper is an economical choice for your everyday photo print needs. You can find a package of 50 sheets of 4×6 size glossy photo paper from Canon for under $10.00. Also, consider Canon’s glossy magnetic photo paper in 4×6 to create magnets to keep for yourself or give as gifts.

Epson Premium Photo Paper

Epson offers a complete line-up of Premium Photo Paper Products in various sizes. You can choose from 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, 11×17, 13×9, and more. Featuring a weight of 62 lbs, brightness of 92%, and opacity of 97%, this smudge-resistant and water-resistant photo printing paper is certain to make every image look its best. Print snapshots and enlargements at home with this top-of-the-line Epson photo paper.

HP Photo Paper Advanced

A budget-friendly choice, the HP Photo Paper Advanced lets you print pictures with true-to-life colors. Your photos will dry instantly and resist smudges, so you can feel confident handling the moment they come out of your printer. Choose from multiple sizes, including 4×6 and 5×7, and take care of all of your printing needs at home.

HP Premium Plus Photo Paper

Considered by many to be HP’s best photo paper, HP Premium Plus Photo Paper is compatible with all HP inkjet printers. You can print photos that feature an 80 lbs paper weight, vibrant colors, and vivid details and look just like ones printed in a professional photography lab. HP offers glossy and matte options, along with a soft-gloss satin matte finish. You can choose from paper sizes that range from 4×6 to 11×17 to print eye-catching snapshots or enlargements. With HP Premium Plus Photo Paper, you’ll gain print-shop quality in the convenience of your own home.

Print Brilliant Pictures at Home with Top Photo Paper Products

As you progress in photography, you’ll want to print pictures for various purposes. Your photo printing needs can range from wall displays to gifts to entries in a photography competition. The good news is that you can achieve lab-quality prints at home with the right equipment and materials. That’s why it’s a good idea to get familiar with the basic features of photo paper—and to know some top brands, too.

There are several factors to consider when selecting photo paper. You’ll want to consider the paper weight, opacity, brightness, and finish. It’s also essential to understand the concept of receiving layers in printer paper–and make the right choice for your needs and budget. For everyday prints that don’t require durability or exceptional quality, lower quality papers may be the right choice. But if you plan to create a gallery-style display of your best examples of photography composition, superior paper quality is a must.

Fortunately, top-name brands—including Canon, Epson, and HP–produce excellent photo papers that earn rave reviews for photographers. Always match your paper to your printer brand at first but feel free to branch out after you’ve gained some experience. Professional photo paper is available via online retailers and popular brick-and-mortar stores such as Walmart Photo and Office Depot.

If you’ve taken the steps of getting an advanced camera and printer, choosing quality photo paper is the logical next step in your photography journey. With these three tools, you can expand your photographic horizons and explore new creative ideas. You can also enjoy the experience of printing your images at home instead of waiting for them to be ready at a print shop or lab. With the right photo paper, you can print pictures that you and loved ones can treasure for years.


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