Which paper should I choose for my print?
Just as with the mat and backer board, an acid-neutral photo paper is critical to the longevity of a print. Luckily, the photo papers used today by virtually all professional print labs are “archival” in quality and will last at least 100 years without deterioration.
The main practical difference between paper choices offered by a print lab involves the surface texture of the print, which, in turn, affects both the reflectivity and perceived sharpness of the printed image. (Most of us are familiar with the “gloss or matte?” question we’re invariably asked when printing snapshots at the local photo-finishing kiosk. However, “gloss & matte” have fallen from favor for larger prints – having been largely replaced by “luster & metallic”).
A summary of the commonly available photo paper finishes:
As the name implies, gloss finish paper has a very shiny surface. While the initial impression is of very vibrant colors, this finish is very reflective and that reflection (as well as glare) winds up obscuring the image of a larger print. This problem is compounded by the glass of a framed mount. As a result, glossy paper is not commonly used for prints larger than 8x10 inches.
Luster finish papers have a slightly softer surface texture and have quickly become the most popular finish for larger prints. This finish has the vibrance of gloss without the glare and reflection and is ideal for prints intended for framing.
Matte finish paper has a flatter texture than either gloss or luster. In addition to not producing any glare at all, matte papers will offer darker blacks and thus produce finer contrast. Matte paper is commonly used in black and white printing for this very reason.
Metallic prints are a relative newcomer the photofinishing world and produce an image with an iridescent sheen and deep, vivid colors. Metallic prints have a lifelike, almost three dimensional appearance. The most popular metallic papers are actually multi-layer laminated sheets (and thus can be mounted and framed just as with other photo paper types) but several companies now offer printing directly onto metal sheets (usually Aluminum). Because the dye is infused into the metal, rather than applied to the surface, these prints are nearly indestructible – but special mounting hardware is needed.
True Black & White
While most labs (and color printers) can print a black and white image using standard photo paper, doing so with color ink often results in both poor contrast and defect known as “color bleed”*.
*A color printer creates the “blacks” in a black and white image by laying down successive layers of colored ink in order to achieve the desired hue. Unfortunately, the colors that make up the black hues degrade at different rates, resulting in the appearance of the component colors in the image over time - - this is known as color bleed.
True Black & White printing utilizes silver halide paper (just like traditional black and white film printing). The result is a true continuous tone print with deep blacks, sharp contrast and no color bleed.
As the name implies, the image is printed directly onto canvas, which is then stretched over a (usually wooden) frame. Because there is no glass to reduce contrast and saturation, colors on a canvas print appear much more vibrant when viewed from a distance. Be aware though, that, because canvas has a relatively rough texture, care must be shown when hanging -- excessive side light will highlight the surface texture of the canvas and distract the viewer.
Here at Klarphotography, you can order Luster (Kodak Endura E-surface Premium), Metallic (Kodak Endura Metallic), True Black & White (Illford True B&W) and Canvas Wrap prints of any image directly from the website. Large prints, Aluminum metallic prints, and fine art cotton rag prints are available by special order – please contact us for more information.