A Guide to Matte Photo Paper
When it comes to choosing the perfect photo paper for your prints, you can’t go wrong with a high-quality matte paper. It is a non-shiny photo paper with a soft, grainy texture. Regardless of what you’re going to do with your prints, a matte finish works for most types of photography, including stunning landscapes and family portraits.
So, if you plan on making photo albums or displaying your work in a gallery, chances are you will opt for a matte finish because it makes the details pop. You can also print beautiful prints for scrapbooks and photo albums.
This article details the main characteristics of matte photo paper and when it’s best to use it.
What is matte photo paper?
When you think of matte, you probably imagine a dark or opaque type of paper. Matte photo paper has no glossy coating, it is flat, and it has almost no sheen. But, this kind of finish makes your pictures look more artistic. It is excellent for vintage style photos as it has that grainy palpable texture.
This type of photo paper is more robust and suited for frequent handling. It is less sensitive than glossy paper and more resistant to light.
The matte paper absorbs more ink than its glossy counterparts, so images have a higher contrast.
What makes the paper matte special is the grainy layer of coating. This refracts light, which means that any light is absorbed and scattered. As well, this coating scatters the light, so it bounces off the paper’s surface and creates a matte effect. Since the matte paper has an uneven texture, the light scatters in many different directions, which means glare and shine don’t appear.
The texture can feel a bit grainy to the touch, but it’s a result of tiny microscopic indentations.
Characteristics of Matte Photo Paper
There’s a reason photographers like to use matte photo paper, like the Epson S041405 Ultra Premium Photo Paper. The photos express beautiful tones, and this type of finish is often the top choice for wedding and fine-art photographers.
Most matte papers are fast or instant drying, so you can touch them as soon as they’re printed.
Here’s what an architecture matte print looks like:
Here are the main characteristics of matte paper:
Great for showing off details:
Since matte paper is best for showing off all the details of a picture, a highly detailed photo looks best with a matte finish. For example, if you have urban shots of buildings, a matte finish will make it easier for viewers to spot the small details.
A matte finish is excellent because it doesn’t have a glare effect like glossy paper does. This means that you can place the photos in a frame with a glass covering to protect them from damage. As well, matte papers minimize any reflection or shine.
No fingerprint marks:
Smudges and fingermarks do not show up on matte photo paper. Therefore, you can let people touch the prints without worrying about oil marks.
Look great in bright lighting:
Matte photos look beautiful under bright lights because there is no glare. This means that they are ideal for gallery expositions and private viewings. Even under artificial light such as a spotlight, the details are not lost.
Matte paper has a smooth and uniform finish, but some paper has a slightly grainy effect, which is actually advantageous for the pictures.
The matte finish brings out the best colors in your images. The colors remain true, so there is no need to worry about any color distortions. This type of finish is even suitable for washed-out colors such as pastels. It makes them pop and look even better than on screen.
Look at the gorgeous colors of this photo:
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The Disadvantages of a Matte Finish
There are a few disadvantages to matte paper, so it comes down to knowing when to use it and when to choose an alternative photo paper.
Imperfections are visible:
There is one major disadvantage of using matte paper. This finish magnifies any image imperfections. Unless you are specifically trying to attract attention to a fault, use a glossy finish for problematic images.
It is more expensive to print on matte paper. The reason is that the matte coating absorbs more ink, so to get a saturated image, the printer uses more ink. This means you need to buy more ink for your printer.
When to Print on Matte Photo Paper
Matte photo paper is the best option when you print photos that people will handle. A matte finish doesn’t pick up fingerprint marks and smudges; therefore, it’s the best option when you know people will touch your photos.
A matte finish is excellent for both low contrast as well as high-contrast images. It also makes black and white photos look beautiful, especially portraits. Since the paper absorbs more ink, the dark tones are sharps and enhanced in a photo. Therefore, we recommend a matte paper for any dark-toned images, including colors like black, grey, brown, and dark green.
If you have HDR landscape photos, the matte finish brings out your image’s colors and textures, which makes it look very sharp and professional.
But the matte finish is also suitable for all kinds of shots, including group photos and even macro close-ups. The details are highly visible, and the photo paper’s textured coating makes the photo come to life.
Finally, if you have any text on your photos, we recommend printing on matte photo paper. It has a muted and flat feel, which makes it ideal for printing any text-based designs.
When NOT to Print on Matte Paper
Matte paper is much more versatile than its glossy counterpart. It works for almost all types of photography. Therefore you can almost always print on a matte finish. The only time you shouldn’t is if you are specifically looking for a high-gloss finish or you want the highest clarity in your photos. Some high-definition images lose clarity and sharpness when printed on a matte paper.
It’s up to each photographer to choose the perfect photo paper finish for his or her project. Depending on the sought after effect, a photographer can choose between glossy or matte photo paper. You can’t go wrong with a matte finish because it’s versatile and goes with most types of photos, especially if you don’t want your images to have a shiny finish.