Tips for Choosing Photo Paper

The type of photo paper you choose will affect the final look of your digital prints. It's important to make the right selection to create the best quality photos. This choice isn't always easy. There are dozens of different types of photo paper available at any office supply store. Choosing the best paper for your needs involves taking into consideration finish, size and manufacturer. Here are some guidelines and tips to help you with your decision.

Paper Size

Epson photo paper, as well as photo paper from other companies, comes in a variety of sizes. You can buy four-inch to six-inch pages for traditional photo prints that won't require cutting the paper. Legal size is another option and so is standard letter size. To make sure you choose the right size, consider how you'll use the paper. Do you want to print one or two family photographs or are you looking to print a full-color report cover?

If you're not sure and are simply looking for the most versatile size, go for standard size. Even with standard size paper you can easily create traditional photo prints. Be aware that selecting only one image to print at a time will most often position the photo in the center of the paper which can be a waste if you're printing a single photo. Try importing the photos into a page layout program, like Microsoft Word, before printing. This allows you to position them to maximize the use of page space.

Paper for Your Printer

Often photo paper manufactured by the company that made your printer will provide the best quality prints. This is because the manufacturer knows the print technology in their equipment and can create paper to maximize the good qualities and minimize the bad qualities. Although you can use any photo paper in any printer, sometimes the only way to get the best looking prints is to use paper from the same company that made your printer. For example, if you have a Lexmark printer, consider using photo paper made by Lexmark.

The Finish

When getting your pictures developed at a photo-finishing place, you typically have two finish options: glossy or matte. The same is true when choosing photo paper to create picture prints from your home computer. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to finish selection. Matte tends to be less reflective and creates a softer finish while glossy is highly reflective. Some users say glossy paper creates more of a studio quality to the prints.

But ultimately the choice between the two is subjective. It depends entirely on how you prefer your pictures to look. Just be aware that while many printers create great images on glossy finishes, some have a type of ink that won't dry properly on this type of finish. Or the ink the printer has will only work on glossy paper from the same manufacturer.

Brightness and Thickness

Besides the finish, image quality is affected by the brightness of the paper. This means it's whiter with less of a yellow tone than regular print paper. The whiteness helps reduce color distortion. Most photo paper will have a brightness range from the high 90s to the low/mid 100s. Brightness level is clearly marked on the packaging. Generally the higher the whiteness rating, the better quality of paper for photo printing. Paper with a higher brightness rating also tends to be more expensive.

Some photo paper has the same thickness as typical printing paper. If you're looking for better quality prints, it's a better idea to spend the extra money and buy the thicker paper. The thicker paper is closer to the photo paper you'd get if you professionally developed your photos. Photos printed on the thicker paper will look more professional and will last longer.

If you want the images you're printing to last, or if you want to create a professional looking report cover, make sure you buy premium paper. It costs more but doesn't become brittle from exposure to sunlight as easily as basic printer paper and it doesn't turn yellow.