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Digital Photo Printing with a Matte or Glossy Finish

Aug 13, 2008
When printing digital photos you have a choice between matte and glossy photo prints. Glossy photo prints have a shiny finish while matte ones have a more subtle neutral one. So which one should you choose? There is no right answer - there are pros and cons to both.

Matte and glossy are two different finishes to the photo paper digital photos are printed on. Using different chemicals and processes photo paper can have a glossy or a matte finish. Glossy finish looks shiny, reflects light very well and looks vibrant and color rich. Matte finish on the other hand does not reflect much light and looks "darker" and duller.

Let's take a look at some of the pros and cons that come with both glossy and matte digital photo finishes.

Glossy photo prints: With their shiny finish, glossy prints draw the eye. They seem to be fancy and have a high quality feel to them with their bright colors. The colors are also deep and rich in glossy prints. But the same features that can attract can also be a disadvantage. The shiny veneer on a glossy print can act as a reflector making viewing difficult when under an intense light source such as an extremely high wattage bulb or in sunlight. Glossy paper seems to attract more dust and gather more fingerprints when people handling photos. Black and white prints work much better in a matte finish than in black and white.

Matte finish: Matte photo prints do not reflect light and are therefore easier to view in almost any light condition. Matte photo prints are also less likely to attract dust and fingerprints and are less likely to get dirty over time. Black and white matte photo prints look better than black and white glossy photo prints. Drawbacks of matte photo prints are that they do not have the fancy high quality look that glossy photo prints have. Colors in matte photo prints are less animated and less rich than on glossy photo prints.

So which one to choose - matte or glossy? It really depends on your needs and what you are going to do with the photo prints. As a general rule use glossy photo prints for color prints and matte photo prints for black and white ones. If the photo prints are going to be touched by many people and used a lot matte is a better choice unless you do not mind spending time cleaning your glossy photo prints every now and then. Also if you plan to print large photos (for example to hang on the wall or frame and put on your desk) matte is a better choice since a large glossy print would act as a large glossy and shiny light reflector.

As with many other choices a matter or glossy choice is a matter of personal preference. To make an educated decision you should have experienced both. If you do not have that experience you can choose a few photos some color and some black and white and print them both on matte and on glossy paper and in different sizes. Look at the prints and see what you like and what you do not like about them. In the future you would be able make better choices by applying that experience.
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