So, are you a photographer who wants to immortalize your work in print, or are your parents asking you to take some good family portraits with your new camera? Either way, one of the most important components is the paper or media you choose to print on.
If you’re new to the whole process, the huge library of media available can be intimidating. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most important terms and specifications to help you choose your perfect A4 photo paper.
The easiest aspect of any paper to understand is the surface finish. Papers range from extremely textured matte to exceptionally smooth glossy, and also come in specialty options such as metallic and baryta. Basically, you only have two basic types of paper: glossy or matte.
A glossy finish, instantly recognizable by its reflectivity and smooth appearance, is most often considered photographic paper. This is due to the paper’s ability to display deep blacks with rich, vibrant colors. Along with these benefits, glossy paper can provide a sharper image, which is more suitable for graphics with fine details.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, matte papers offer the look and feel of more traditional artwork. Many matte papers have a texture that can add an artistic touch to a photo. This texture is also reminiscent of classic papers such as watercolor. In addition, a plus for matte surfaces is that the paper is much less prone to fingerprints and marks when working.
Photo paper specifications
Now we move on to the stage of paper selection when you need to pay attention to the characteristics. They include weight, thickness, brightness, whiteness, tone, opacity and more.
Weight and thickness affect the overall feel and quality of the paper. Weight is often expressed in grams per square meter (g/m2). Heavier paper is less likely to warp when hung for long periods of time. The thickness of the sheet of paper also plays an important role. Thicker papers tend to be stiffer, though care should be taken as not all printers can accept thick A4 art sheets. It is also important to find a printer that can meet your photographic needs.
Brightness, whiteness, and tone indicate the general appearance of the paper. The brightest part of your image is limited by the brightness of the paper itself, which also affects the overall dynamic range. Color is determined by whiteness, with a lower percentage meaning warmer (or more natural) paper, and a higher percentage meaning cooler (or more blue) tones. They can give a great idea of how one paper will look compared to another. Opacity is an important specification as it tells users how much light will pass through a piece of paper.
You can print two-sided images for a book or brochure, but you need specially designed paper that is ink-resistant on both sides. Finally, if you’re new to printing, it’s a good idea to stick with paper that matches the brand of your printer. This is because paper manufacturers do have a solution with optimal settings for their printer. This allows the computer to match the colors of your image to the language of the printer to match your digital file and your print.