Printing your images can turn into a struggle if you don’t know what you’re doing. Colour profiles, size, resolution and file format affect your final image.
If you decide you want to print from home, your printer and photo printing paper become crucial.
Our article here will help you choose the best printing paper for your images.
[ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]
Your choice in a printer is going to be one of the most important aspects of printing your own images.
There are many printers you can use, but only two for professional photo printing. These are inkjet and Dye-Sublimination.
Inkjet printers print by spraying small droplets of ink pigments on a sheet of paper. This is a controlled action. Dynamic colouring effect comes from varying the amount of ink sprayed from each colour cartridge.
Print quality depends on the paper used. Good quality paper absorbs the right amount of ink. It gives the print a glossy and shiny appeal.
An ink-jet printer uses a printer cartridge that creates an image that is 300 x 300 dpi (dots per inch.) Most printer cartridge brands do not create a resolution that is true photo quality.
The Canon Pixma Pro-100S is a good inkjet option.
Sublimation printer is a type of thermal transfer printer. Here, the main idea is heat. The print head generates heat. It applies it to a specifically prepared ribbon that contains special pigments.
Upon application of heat, the ink on the ribbon gets vaporized and sticks to the paper. Since it uses controlled heat, print density is modifiable to a minuscule level.
With this, smooth gradations appear. This process is called sublimation. The solid present here directly converted to gas. It doesn’t reach a liquid state.
The inks employed here are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and overcoat. The pigmentation used is different from inkjet printers. These colours fuse with the material of which it sublimates with.
These printers can print at 5760 x 1440 dpi, with 16.77 million different colours. It can also print 256 shades of one colour on one single dot with a square resolution.
That means the colour is the same on both sides. The ink-jet does not have this capability.
The DNP DS620A Dye Sub Professional Photo Printer is a perfect choice.
Printer Settings and Profiles
There is a difference between the colour profile your editing software chooses, and what you need to use to print.
As most images for web use RGB or sRGB, CYMK will not be automatically chosen.
RGB (Red Green Blue) profiles are what computer monitors use as their colour profile. This profile supports a much wider range of colours.
CYMK (Cyan Yellow Magenta and blacK) is for printing. It won’t create a shift in colour tones and brightness of your image.
If you are working in Adobe Photoshop, make sure your file is open and go to Image>Mode>CYMK>Color.
Types of Paper – Which One Is Right?
Gloss and Semigloss
Many beginner photographers go for glossy paper. This gives the impression of very rich colours. It’s great if you are just printing snapshots to show your family. They are pretty but come with problems.
The glossy finish creates reflections and a shine that can obscure your image.
If the end result is an exhibition, glossy paper shouldn’t be your first choice. You will get glare from both the print and the glass.
Matte doesn’t create the distracting reflections. But it does give your images darker blacks than the glossy paper does.
This means a better contrast and a finer detail. It makes matte paper the first choice for images rich in detail and texture.
This paper type is also known as satin.
Canvas is a great option for images you want to print big, or frame. A quality canvas print will deliver a matte-like paper finish, keeping the contrast and colour.
The colours here are much more vibrant when viewed from a distance.
And small amounts of the canvas texture from the material come through on to the print. This can add to the texture of the print. And it can reaffirm the concept behind the image.
Art papers deliver a matte finish with a fair amount of texture, such as the watercolour paper option. These papers offer varying degrees of contrast and colour.
Some can create a painterly look, others may be rich is strong beige or yellow colours.
Landscapes can work very well with these papers. This is because landscapes generally have large areas of flat colours.
Finding the Right Paper
The right brand of photo printing paper is out there, but it can be difficult knowing where to start. Here are a few areas you need to think about.
Durability and Longevity
If you are planning to hang a photograph in direct sunlight, know that the colours will fade. A print from an ink based printer will fade much slower than a print from a dye printer.
Good ink-based printers can provide you with prints that will last a hundred years and more. A dye-based print can last over 20 years.
If you want to know more about longevity testing, check out Wilhelm Imaging Research. They’ve tested many different printer/paper combinations.
The longevity of a print will come down the printer and paper combination.
For maximum longevity, look at the manual that comes with your printer. They will recommend the photo printing paper you should use alongside it.
All papers are white, but some papers are whiter than others. This is achieved by adding whitening agents.
A very white paper can be a great material to print on, but be wary. Those whitening agents can change colour very fast.
A few weeks is all it could take for the colour to shift to a yellow, creating a subtle change. If you want to be certain your image will look the same over time, go for paper without artificial brighteners.
For respected brands, there are a few names you should consider. These include Hahnemuehle, Red River, Moab, Ilford, Inkpress, Museo, and Innova.
Some of these offer sample packs, allowing you to experiment with a few different types.
Handmade or speciality papers can be fun. Be wary of papers that shed off a lot of dust, as these can block your printer from working correctly.
It is much better to use paper that has been tested. You’ll know its longevity and durability.
- Printer. You may think that a printer will be the biggest cost you will incur. Well, as an initial payment, you are not wrong. Inkjet printers are created that you will need to keep buying ink as they will run out. Some printers will not work unless all the colours are present. They even stop working before the ink has run out, so read reviews and do your research.
- Ink. Ink will be the most expensive area when it comes to printing, as each photograph will use a butt-load of colour. There are ways to refill the ink at home, which is messy but offers you the printing at a fraction of the cost.
- Paper. You will find there is a higher cost for a higher quality paper. A cheaper paper will deliver an inferior image. Affordable, everyday paper will give you great results. Keep the expensive paper for exhibitions or the selling of your prints.
There we have it. Now you know enough about printers and paper to do your research.
The key is to try to find a good combination of photo printing paper and printers for the best images. Find two friends who have a different setup and test a print to see which you find to be the best for you.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
Thank you for reading...
if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.
It's my training video that will walk you how to use your camera's functions in just 10 minutes - for free!
I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects:
You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos!
Thanks again for reading our articles!