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Which Finish is Best for Your Pictures?

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

Matte? Lustre? Or Glossy?



I’m asked this question all the time by clients and my short answer is, it’s completely an issue of personal preference. However, I can offer some basic guidelines that I use when deciding which paper finish to use for a project.

The three most common photo paper finish options are matte, lustre and glossy. And each has its pros and cons.

MATTE

Matte finish has a flat, textured surface that allows for little to no reflection of light on the image.

Pros – It looks professional and clean. It is also a favorite among artists because the dullness can evoke certain moods in the viewer. With matte there is no need to worry about glare, fingerprints do not show and the surface is fairly scratch resistant.

Cons – This finish can make pictures look dull, less rich and less vibrant.

LUSTRE

Lustre finish has a less textured surface (called “pebbled”) than matte.

Pros – This finish allows for some light reflection, but not enough to cause glare. Images have more color saturation and less texture on the paper’s surface increases the sharpness of the images. This finish also hides fingerprints well and is a popular pick for wedding pictures.

Cons – The lustre finish can cause certain images to appear slightly darker, but in general, this isn’t a problem.

GLOSSY

This finish, which has a very shiny surface, is perhaps the most well-known and certainly the most widely used for printed pictures.

Pros – Images on glossy paper have very vibrant colors and appear crisp and sharp. Because this finish is best for showing fine details, it is often used for technical prints where this element is crucial.

Cons – Glossy prints are magnets for fingerprints, particularly in dark areas, and scratch easily. This paper also cannot be framed under glass as it sticks to the glass and adds an extra layer of glare that can make the picture difficult to view at certain angles.

So, as you can see, each type of photo paper finish has its pros and cons and works well in certain cases and not so well in others. However, as I stated in the beginning, the biggest factor when choosing a paper type for your pictures is your personal preference. Whatever looks best to you is the best pick!

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