While we spend a lot of time talking about ink, paper choice is another important factor in how you want to present your prints. For fine art or photographic prints, the paper you choose does matter and you have a number of options to pick from to get your desired look.
Photo Paper typically has three different aspects you need to think about when purchasing- Weight
and Finish Type
is the thickness of the paper and there are two types of measurements-American and Metric. American measurement is typically in pounds per 500 sheets, this is called Basis Weight
. Basis weight can be a bit confusing because it changes depending on what kinds of paper you are talking about. Basis Weight does not take into account the size of the pages involved so as a measurement it is not ubiquitous like the metric system. So if you want a very thick paper and buy a 70lb poster, it will be significantly thinner than a 70lb regular paper size.
For this reason it is always better to use the metric system whenever possible just to make sure you are getting what you want. The metric system uses Grams divided by Square Meters (weight/area or gsm). This gives you a consistent measurement of the actual weight of the paper rather than a relative weight based on its comparison to other similarly sized pages.
For reference standard copy paper is 20lbs or 75 gsm. Regular photo paper can be anywhere from 40lbs to 80lbs or 150 gsm to 350 gsm. Here is a conversion chart for paper weight based on standard sized pages-
||Standard copy paper
||Light Photo Paper
||Standard Photo Paper
||Heavy Photo Paper
, another factor in paper types is also measured using two systems, the TAPPI and ISO systems. These two systems measure the amount of light able to reflect off a page. Because photo paper is built for performance, almost any photo paper you buy will have immaculate brightness and so their ISO/TAPPI numbers will be largely irrelevant. This is mostly for other kinds of paper.
is the last element in paper types. Essentially with photo paper you are choosing between gloss
finishes. Gloss finishes come in different levels (low, medium, or high usually) and are good for getting traditional shiny prints that resemble film. Matte paper is better for photos placed under glass as the reflection of the glass combined with glossy paper will weaken the clarity of your prints. Most of the time it is simply personal preference for which is better.
Choosing the brand of paper is fairly simple if you are just looking for something that will work but there are also some premium options available to you. All the major printer manufacturers make their own brand of paper and claim to offer better performance when their paper and ink are used together. There are many independent companies that also make photo paper either with the advantage of lower prices or higher quality. Companies like Hahnemuehle offer specialty paper made from 100% cotton and are acid free. Other companies focus on environmentally friendly paper or other features.
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