Glossy Paper vs. Matte Paper

Framed Paper Print of Rainy Day, Fifth Avenue by Childe Hassam

Paper finishes are an important part of choosing your art for home decor or reproducing your own art or photographs. Simply put, there are two major types of papers to pick as your preferred substrate: glossy and matte. Satin also fits in the picture but for our purposes, we are including it in the glossy category.

The finish of the paper you choose for your print is important for two reasons:

1) The paper finish determines the best framing method

For instance, matte paper prints can be framed without a mat, because there is no concern of the surface of the print sticking to the glass over time (‘matte’ refers to a lusterless surface sheen, while ‘mat’ refers to the colored border that can be put around an image when it’s framed…ah…the English language is a fickle mistress). Matte paper prints lack surface coatings, providing the freedom to decide whether a mat is wanted or not. On the contrary, glossy or satin paper must be separated from the glass by either a mat or spacers to ensure that it never touches the protective glass, possibly adhering it permanently and forever damaging your valuable print.

2) The paper finish will present the printed image differently

Both glossy and matte paper are capable of presenting images with bright colors, smooth gradients and perfect contrast (provided they are produced with a giclee printer of course) but one will provide a great image no matter the angle at which its viewed, while the other will always have a slight glare or “hotspot” due to its finish. Glossy and satin papers obviously are going to show some reflection due to their coatings, while matte paper will remain flat and glare free.

Photography hanging on a line

If you’re investing in online wall art or printing your own work, both surfaces can produce stunning prints and reproductions. Typically, photographers tend to lean towards the satin and glossy finishes, while fine art prints are more likely to be provided on matte paper. Over here at Encore we offer both options, however, our poster paper (which is our satin finish option) is a much more informal media, meant for art educational purposes, dorm room art, or any other more temporary function. We prefer an archival, matte finish paper for our historic and classic art prints because we believe it results in a beautiful, timeless result once framed. The matte paper may be slightly more expensive than our poster option, but that is because it’s a much higher quality and therefore worth the investment involved in matting and framing. Or you can just order the whole shebang framed from us and have your art arrive ready to hang on your wall, no trip to the framer necessary!

So, that’s the simple low-down on paper finishes courtesy of yours truly. I hope we cleared up the mystery surrounding which paper option will work best for your specific needs, whether that’s purchasing fine art prints online, or printing your own photography at home. Glossy or dull, the choice is yours!

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