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To get the most from any photo, the way you present it is crucial. It does not matter whether you print at home or have someone else do it for you. Sometimes, the size of the print makes a difference. Other times, the frame decides which way you might go. Still, never underestimate the quality of the paper you choose. Photographs are artistic expressions. Quite often, the paper makes a tremendous difference.
It's tempting to buy that bargain-bucket glossy photo paper at the local drugstore... Remember this: not all photo paper is equal (and here on the Gulf Coast, glossy paper is just a bad idea).
How complicated can photo paper be? Well, maybe a bit more than many would imagine or like. We can simplify it for you. Below are some qualities that affect how your photos look and feel.
Paper brightness refers to the amount of blue light that reflects off a page. The brighter the paper, the more vividly it will display colors. Paper brightness is usually measured along a scale of 0 to 100, though many manufacturers don't tell you. To choose your photo paper, it helps to understand the difference between paper brightness and paper whiteness (see below).
Paper whiteness refers to the ability of paper to reflect the entire visible color spectrum. You'll often see this graded as a percentage in paper specifications. Higher percentages typically have a slight blue (think bright daylight) bias. Still, they aren't automatically "better" than lower percentages.
A lower whiteness rating indicates a lack of optical brightening agents (OBAs) in the paper, which in turn means it is more likely to be warm white.
Like light bulbs, photo papers can be warm, neutral, or cool white. And just like lighting, these different hues enhance certain subjects. For example, warm white flatters skin tones, whereas bright-white will emphasize blue skies, winter scenes, and high-contrast black and white photos. A neutral white paper is a good all-rounder.
Weight is measured in GSM, and the heavier it is, the thicker your prints will be. Slightly thicker papers capture the feel of old-style chemical prints. The more substantial weight often seems intrinsically more valuable, too. However, more substantial papers are not always higher quality in printing terms.
Glossy paper has always made photos look slightly sharper, bolder, and richly saturated. Its drawbacks include low resistance to fingerprint marks and glare. Glossy paper is exceptionally vulnerable to heat and humidity, and it has a tendency to "color cast." Over the years, photos turn orange, red, or sometimes purple. Lastly, the surface is often easily scratched. Again - if you live on the Gulf Coast, please don't use it.
Metallic finishes on traditional photo papers are not new. Iridescent papers have been impressing art lovers for years. However, new metallic papers do exist in inkjet or dye form. We love Hahnemühle Photo Rag® Metallic. This finish adds depth to the razor-sharp detail with a shiny finish.
Matte (or matt) finishes are often favored by professionals for their low shine and high resistance to fingerprinting. There are different subcategories of matte finish, such as smooth matte or textured matte.
Satin paper is midway between glossy and matte, offering a little more punch and detail than a matte without being a magnet for fingerprints and glare. It's a bit more suited to handling, in case you like to pass your prints around.
Pearl and luster finishes are similar to satin, with a subtly textured surface that feels good to the touch. However, every time you touch it, the surface is damaged. Still, the tactile quality of paper is always a consideration for photographers, as well as a selling point for manufacturers.
Fine Art Paper uses high percentages of natural materials such as cotton in manufacturing (usually 100% for inkjet papers), which makes it more than suitable for archival purposes. Aside from longevity, when used with the right inks, it has a high tactile quality and weight that many enjoy. Though it may seem a bit more flat at times, it also yields itself to gorgeous contrasts.
Baryta papers have a smooth, lightly textured satin finish with the look of a traditional silver-halide print. Many photographers use this paper for fine-art monochrome photos because of its rendition of dense blacks.
Breathing Color is a leading U.S. manufacturer of fine-art papers, photo papers, linen, canvas, and metal substrates for dye-sub printing. Try Breathing Color's Optica One. It's a certified archival grade fine-art paper. It's slightly warm matte finish boasts a remarkable capability to display wide color gamuts and deep blacks. Its ability to distinguish between extremely dark tones (it's Dmax capability) makes this paper ideal for black and white photography, too. The slightly warm, vintage look is spectacular.
Among others, we use Breathing Color Vibrance Matte. This 229 gsm paper has 98% brightness, which helps it to deliver vibrant colors.
Best Metallic Photo Paper
All around, Breathing Color Vibrance Metallic is the best paper for portraits and colorful landscape photography. It has an unsurpassed incredible eye-popping dmax. In our tests, it outperformed metallic papers from all other vendors we use.
Another of our favorites is Canson Infinity Rag Photographique in 310 gsm. With its 100% cotton content, this museum-quality matte paper offers excellent archival protection. This is another paper with impressive Dmax capabilities, which enables it to render great detail in ultra-deep blacks. It's an excellent choice for restoring old black and white photos or reprinting images with wide contrast.
Canson Infinity PrintMaKing is another 310 gsm paper that is particularly soft and silky to the touch, giving it a luxurious quality.
German paper manufacturer Hahnemühle is one of the biggest names in art materials, which include an extensive range of photo papers. We like to use Hahnemühle William Turner and Hahnemühle German Etching papers.
William Turner 100% cotton paper is named after possibly the most celebrated landscape artist of all time. It has an exquisite texture and creates gorgeous prints with an amazing, unique look. Its textured matte finish is created by a process that simulates the feel of handmade paper.
To extend the lifespan of canvas inkjet prints, Hahnemühle Varnish is invaluable. You might even call it a lifesaver. It protects the print against UV light and humidity. It won't change the appearance of your photographs or artwork, but the protective aspects are invaluable.
Among the unique papers we use is Red River Polar Matte 88lb, which is unusually thick stock with a snow-white finish. When you want a beautiful matte with a little more durability, this archival grade and Its microporous surface are a great choice.
Here at Heritage Photo Restoration and Genealogy, we also admire (and frequently use) other papers from industry giants like Epson, Fuji, and Ilford.
Epson Legacy Fibre is long-lasting with its 100% cotton composition. It is a particularly bright paper for rendering colorful, detailed pictures.
Washi Torinoko by Ilford is a remarkable paper. It is specially made for Ilford on a traditional Japanese Tanmo machine. The paper has a refined, tactile quality that feels handmade. This process of paper-making boasts a Japanese heritage dating back 1500 years.
From Fuji, we have Fujicolor Crystal Archive Deep Matte Paper. This silver-halide based paper delivers prints of astounding quality on large format and Fuji Frontier laser printers. A photograph on this paper will last 100 years on display or 200 years in storage.
Photo Paper Comparison Image. Can you see the differences?
If you're printing on any of these particular papers, remember to calibrate your monitor and use the manufacturer's ICC profile to preview (or "soft proof") the result if you're technically oriented.
Always use the correct ICC profile so that different devices can describe the color to each other. In simpler terms, make sure the print accurately portrays what you see on your screen. In almost all situations, you can find ICC profiles from the paper company you choose. Just check their website.
Here at the best photo restoration in Houston, our primary concern is your satisfaction. We're a boutique operation, and we care about your photos. We also care about your family history and current situation, so rest assured we treat your items as if they were our very own. Ours is a business that cares—about the past and about the present.
We're Restoring Yesteryear!