Things to Know Before Buying Inkjet Photo Paper

Stack of printed colorful images

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The variety of photo quality inkjet papers can seem overwhelming. However, there are really only five main differences in all these papers with four of these playing a critical role: brightness, weight, caliper, and finish. Learn how to choose the right paper for your needs based on these criteria and see how a few different types of paper stack up against each other.


How see-through is the paper? The higher the opacity, the less that printed text and images will bleed through to the other side. This is especially important for double-sided printing. Inkjet photo papers have a relatively high opacity (94-97 usually) compared to ordinary inkjet or laser papers so bleed-through is less of a problem with these papers.


How white is white? In terms of paper, there are many different levels of whiteness or brightness. Brightness is expressed as a number from 1 to 100. Photo papers are usually in the high 90s. Not all papers are labeled with their brightness rating; therefore, the best way to determine brightness is simply to compare two or more papers side-by-side.


Paper weight may be expressed in pounds (lb.) or as grams per square meter (g/m2). Different types of paper have their own weight scale. The bond papers which include most inkjet photo papers are found in the 24 to 71 lb. (90 to 270 g/m2) range. Terms such as heavyweight do not necessarily indicate a heavier paper than other comparable papers as you will see in the weight comparison.


Photo papers are heavier and thicker than typical multipurpose papers. This thickness, known as caliper, is necessary to accommodate the greater ink coverage typically found in photos. Typical inkjet paper caliper may be anywhere from a thin 4.3 mil to a thick 10.4 mil paper. Photo paper is usually 7 to 10 mils.

Gloss Finish

The coating on photo papers give your printed photos the look and feel of photographic prints. Because the coating keeps the paper from readily absorbing the ink some glossy papers dry slowly. However, quick-dry gloss finishes are common today. The finish may be described as high gloss, gloss, soft gloss, or semi-gloss, each reflecting the amount of shine. Satin is a less shiny coated finish.

Matte Finish

Images printed on photo matte papers appear soft and non-reflective, not shiny. Matte finish papers are not the same as regular inkjet finish papers. Matte finish photo papers are thicker and are specially formulated for photos. Many matte finish papers are printable on both sides.