Even in the age of digital photography, many people still prefer printing photos to display at home. It’s not just about convenience, either. Many photographers love to feel the sense of gratification granted by their works coming into life on paper.
However, printing great photos isn’t just about placing a stack of paper into a printer and calling it a day. If you’re printing photos on regular photocopier paper, you’re not going to get the best images. If you want to really bring out the richness of your photographs, you need to print on specialized photo paper.
Picking out the right type of photo or fine art paper can be challenging – different papers give you different results, and some types of paper are best used for certain kinds of photos. Fortunately, we’re here to help! Read our photo paper reviews to find out which photo paper is the best for you!
The Best Photo Papers Of 2021
We’ve scoured the market to find the best photo paper products on sale today. Our selection comes in various surface finishes and sizes, so choose the one that best fits your needs!
1. Canon Photo Paper Pro Platinum
- Surface finish: Smooth gloss
- ISO brightness: 98
- Thickness: 0.30 mm
- Weight: 300 gsm
Canon’s Pro Platinum photo paper is one of the company’s premier products, boasting a lifetime of over 200 years if maintained well. Its paper structure incorporates color reproduction technology that allows it to absorb ink pigments quickly. This results in faster printing without sacrificing print quality. Its back-coating layer also helps printers feed the paper quickly.
The chromogenic enhancer used in creating this glossy photo paper also gives it a better whiteness compared to other papers. While this may not sound like an important thing, the better neutral white quality allows pictures printed on it to be even more colorful and vivid. If the regular white doesn’t fit your needs, these glossy papers also come in bluish-white, yellowish-white, bright white, and dark white variants.
Prints with the Canon Pro Platinum doesn’t just look premium, it also feels premium. Its resin coating gives this professional photo paper a thick and professional feel to all photos printed on it. If glossy prints aren’t your thing, Canon also offers Pro Luster and Pro Premium Matte versions.
All in all, you can’t go wrong with the Canon Photo Paper Pro Platinum. True to its name, this is the best photo paper for Canon Pixma printers.
2. Canon Luster Photo Paper Letter
- Surface finish: Luster
- ISO brightness: 92
- Thickness: 10.2 mm
- Weight: 255 gsm
As the luster-finish sister product to the Canon Pro Platinum, the Canon Luster photo paper similarly delivers excellent print results. This high-quality photo paper is designed to give you the most consistent prints with the most vivid colors and sharpest details that are perfect for fine art photography.
Its smooth luster finish calls to mind the resin-coated papers used in most darkrooms. This is done on purpose to invoke the feel of a traditional photo-lab picture without having to develop photos yourself.
Like other high-quality photo papers, this product also promises great longevity. Combining this paper with Canon’s LUCIA or ChromaLife100+ inks helps it stave off degradation from gas and UV light. This means that any photo you print on this paper can be kept safe and looking great for a long time.
Different from its glossy variant, this Canon photo paper is more resistant to fingerprints. Its tactile sensations also make it a better photo paper if you love to show your prints to friends and family.
As with all inkjet print results, this high-quality photo paper requires time to completely dry. According to the instruction manual, the ink used on this paper will be sufficiently dry for stacking within 15 minutes, and will fully dry in 24 hours. We recommend waiting the entire 24 hours before framing the prints to ensure that the ink is thoroughly dry.
Similar to the Canon Pro Platinum paper, this is one of the best professional photo paper choices on the market.
3. CanonInk Photo Paper Plus Glossy II
- Surface finish: High gloss
- ISO brightness: 92
- Thickness: 0.27 mm
- Weight: 265 gsm
If you’re a budding photographer looking to print your pictures, the CanonInk Photo Paper Plus Glossy II is an affordable alternative. This high-gloss paper starts at around $8 for a 50-sheet pack. If you’re planning to buy in large amounts for future use, there’s also 400-sheet packs priced at just $23!
Don’t let the price fool you, though. This glossy photo paper can still withstand the test of time much like its Pro cousins. Like the Canon Luster, using LUCIA and ChromaLife100+ inks allow photos printed on the CanonInk Photo Paper Plus to withstand damage from gas and light so it can last for years.
Canon makes sure the finish of this photo paper looks as best as it can. This product locks ink deeper beneath the paper’s surface compared to other types. Thanks to this, the paper is sure to retain its glossy finish.
Overall, the CanonInk Photo Paper Plus is a great alternative if you’re looking for affordable photo paper with high quality. The balance between price and print results makes it the best photo paper for a laser printer in terms of value.
4. HP Premium Plus Photo Paper Glossy
- Surface finish: Gloss
- ISO brightness: 90
- Thickness: 11.5 mm
- Weight: 300 gsm
Computing giant HP shows its experience in the photo paper game through this product. The glossy finish feels premium and just thick enough to turn out the best-looking prints.
While most people print photos to display in frames, having some degree of protection from damage is still nice to have. That’s why the HP Premium Plus Photo Paper Glossy is made smudge and water-resistant to protect it against the elements. Moreover, this high-quality photo paper also has quick-drying properties.
Another great thing about this glossy photo paper is that it’s environmentally friendly. It’s made out of responsibly sourced fibers from sustainable forests. Its packaging is also made out of recycled fiber!
No HP printer? No problem! While the HP Premium Plus works best with HP printers, it’s still the best photo paper for inkjet printers from any brand.
5. HP Photo Paper Advanced Glossy
- Surface finish: Glossy
- ISO brightness: 90
- Thickness: 10.5 mm
- Weight: 250 gsm
HP’s offering into the mid-weight photo paper market promises lab-quality prints that can dry instantly. This makes it perfect if you’re planning to print photos for other people – you can easily give it out fresh out of the printer! Quick-drying properties also mean that this paper is resistant to finger smudges.
This glossy paper works well with any inkjet printer on the market but works best with HP inkjet printers. When used with HP’s Vivera line of inks in an HP printer, your print can last for more than 60 years. Moreover, using HP inks will allow the paper to produce the best print results.
As one of its more unique features, this photo paper is Auto Sense-compatible. Available on select HP inkjet systems, Auto Sense allows the printer to automatically choose the best print settings and prevent common printing mistakes. So not only do you get to prevent paper waste, you’ll get the best print results right off the bat!
If you’re in the market for a mid-weight photo paper that produces retail-quality prints, look no further than the HP Photo Paper Advanced!
6. HP Inkjet Photo Paper Everyday Glossy
- Surface finish: Glossy
- ISO brightness: 90
- Thickness: 8 mm
- Weight: 235 gsm
If you’re a new photographer or just want photo paper that’s good for everyday use, the HP Everyday Photo Paper has you covered. We recommend this paper if you’re planning to print brochures, newsletters, and leaflets.
Coming in at $6 for a 50-sheet pack and $11 for a 100-sheet pack, you’ll have a hard time finding cheaper photo paper alternatives in the market. However, the cheap price doesn’t mean this isn’t good photo paper. Its glossy finish and slight texture allow it to display colors beautifully when paired with any inkjet printer.
Like many other photo papers from HP, this paper is made from well-managed forests and other responsible sources. It’s also recycle-friendly, so it can easily be taken in by local recycling programs.
While the HP Everyday Photo Paper is great for art projects and new photographers, it may not be good enough for professionals. The paper is thinner than its peers and the ink may smudge if you rub it with your fingers.
If you’re looking for the best inkjet photo paper for everyday, casual use, then the HP Everyday Photo Paper is for you. However, professional photographers may need to look into HP’s other photo paper offerings.
7. Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy
- Surface finish: Glossy
- ISO brightness: 92
- Thickness: 10.4 mm
- Weight: 252 gsm
Similar to Canon and HP, printer company Epson also produces its own line of photo paper. This photo paper offers a high gloss finish that works well when printing images for frames and albums on Epson printers. Moreover, the resin coating found in the Epson Premium Photo Paper defends your photos from smudging and water damage.
In terms of price, the Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy is similar to its closest competitors. A pack of 50 letter-sized photo paper costs $17.50, about the same as a similarly-sized pack of Canon Pro Photo Paper.
The company also provides two other high-quality paper options: the Ultra-Premium Photo Paper for the best-quality prints and the Value Photo Paper for everyday and casual usage.
8. HP Sprocket Photo Paper
The HP Sprocket Photo Paper is a unique item compared to others on this list. This 2×3-inch photo paper is exclusively usable with the HP Sprocket, a portable photo printer. This small printer easily fits in the bag and provides smartphone connectivity through an app, which means you can print images anywhere.
Another unique feature of this photo printing paper is its sticky back. Thanks to its adhesive backing, all HP Sprocket prints can be used as stickers! They also dry instantly, so you can stick them wherever you like as soon as they come out of the printer.
The non-traditional size and its ability to become stickers may appeal to people who are looking for a different way to print and share photos. However, its price may be a hurdle to some. A pack of 50 sheets will set you back $25, a higher price tag compared to a 50-pack of traditional photo paper.
Despite its limitations, the HP Sprocket still provides a unique printing experience that you can bring anywhere. If you’re the type to share pictures with friends and family on a whim, this could be the product for you!
Finding The Best Photo Paper For You
Not all photo and fine art papers are created equal – different types of photo printing paper cater to different needs. If you choose the wrong kind of photo paper, you’re likely to get subpar print results.
Here are four important things to pay attention to when picking your next pack of photo printing paper:
Choose The Right Surface Finish
One of the first things to think about when choosing photo paper is its surface finish. Choosing the right surface finish can help make your photos look the best when put up for display. There are three common surface finishes you can find on photo paper:
Glossy paper is highly reflective, making colors appear bold and more saturated. The smooth finish on this paper type also allows your prints to look sharper.
However, lighting conditions can influence how people view glossy paper prints since the reflections can obstruct parts of the image.
Matte photo paper is the most popular paper type in graphic design and art reproductions. Since it doesn’t reflect light, matte paper can bring out all the details in a photo print.
The textured surface of matte papers also can invoke a “classic” feeling reminiscent of paintings. Many people prefer matte photo papers for black and white prints as well.
Matte paper is prone to abrasion and scratches because it doesn’t absorb ink as well as other paper types. However, you can counter this by laminating the photos.
Also known as luster paper, this finish is known as the “universal” photo because it’s used by many retail photo labs. The slight textures on this paper type help lower reflectivity without sacrificing saturation and detail.
While luster paper gives you sharp images, the results don’t end up hyper-detailed. This helps conceal a model’s skin or body imperfections to a degree. This paper type is also an excellent option if you want your black and white print to look more vibrant.
Examine The Paper Material
Another important consideration in photo paper selection is the paper’s material. For the most part, you’ll probably need to choose between cotton rag or alpha-cellulose paper.
Acid-free cotton rag is generally considered the higher-grade material, typically used in fine art papers for galleries and exhibitions. However, they’re more expensive compared to other kinds of photo paper.
Meanwhile, alpha-cellulose paper is made out of high-grade wood pulp and is considered of slightly lower quality compared to cotton rag. If you’re on a budget or are looking for everyday-use photo paper, alpha-cellulose is the way to go.
Pay Attention To The Paper’s Specifications
Size is an essential detail when it comes to photo prints. What size of paper you need will depend on your needs. If you’re printing for personal use and family photos, then it might be a good idea to stock up on 4×6” and 5×7” photo papers. If you’re a professional photographer or like printing out images in larger formats, you can look into A4, A3, and A2-sized photo papers.
Paper weight and thickness are also important. A good rule of thumb is that heavy and thick paper tends to last longer. For long-lasting photos, you can opt for heavier and thicker papers. Conversely, lighter and thinner everyday photo paper is the best option if you’re printing for home or planning to send photos to friends and family.
Consider Printer Compatibility
Most inkjet printer manufacturers also sell their own branded photo papers. If you’re still new to photo printing or don’t want to fiddle with the settings, we recommend getting the same brand of photo paper as your printer. Most inkjet printers come pre-installed with settings to make sure you get the best results even if you don’t change anything.
However, if you already have some printing experience and are comfortable with changing print settings, you can experiment with different photo papers to see which one works best for your needs.
Preparing Your Images For Printing
Choosing the right photo paper isn’t the only thing you can do to make your prints look perfect. Great prints begin from the editing process. That’s why you should keep these tips in mind when preparing your photos for printing:
Calibrate Your Monitor
Properly calibrating your monitor is important as-is, but it’s downright essential when it comes to photo printing. If a monitor isn’t properly calibrated, you may end up seeing the wrong colors – which means all your photo prints may turn out wrong.
It’s a good idea to calibrate your monitor every month to make sure it still shows colors properly. However, you may need to calibrate it more often if your monitor is an older model.
Pick The Right DPI Setting
DPI (dots per inch) refers to how many dots are printed on every inch of paper. The more DPI a picture has, the more details it’ll have in print.
While it may be tempting to save all your pictures in the highest DPI possible, we don’t recommend it since large DPI settings mean large file sizes. Generally, saving photos at 300 DPI is good enough for most photo prints.
Resize And Crop The Image
Even if you’re printing on your own printer, resizing and cropping them is still good practice. If your camera aspect ratio is different from your photo paper, resizing and cropping help you choose which parts of the image to feature.
Proof Before Printing
Once all the settings are done and you’re ready to print, it doesn’t hurt to check your image one more time. Photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop allow you to soft proof an image by scrolling through different color spaces and printer presets. This helps you see how the image turns out in different circumstances.
Alternatively, you can hard proof an image by printing a test version on paper and making adjustments based on the results. While this is an easier way to proof your own images, you may end up wasting time and money because you can go through several prints before finding the best version.
One of the greatest feelings as a photographer is seeing your work being displayed on someone’s wall. To make sure your prints look outstanding, you need to find the best photo papers that can suit your needs.
If you’re looking to print out old photos, you have to make sure they’re restored properly. Contact Image Restoration Center today for world-class photo restoration services at an affordable price!