How to Pick the Right Paper for Printing Digital Photos

For those who purchase a digital camera hoping to print their photos at home, there are numerous decisions to make before creating photo lab quality images. The printer, ink, paper, and print settings selected will all be important. For the easiest and surest way to get the best results most experts would recommend that the printer, ink, and paper should be produced by the same manufacturer.  There is good reason behind this, as manufacturers develop these products specifically to work together and they can vary significantly between makers.

There are a variety of sizes, finishes, textures, and so forth to choose from when selecting the paper to be used. Using plain printing paper is generally not sufficient for printing images from a digital camera, as the ink tends to absorb too quickly resulting in puddles of ink and fuzzy images. This paper, typically used for printing text documents, may also curl or warp and offers no real protection from fading due to exposure to air and light.

A porous coated paper is a somewhat better choice and it allows quicker drying resulting in a more acceptable image.  However, these papers generally don’t produce a photograph that will stand the test of time as they are not well protected from the air. Fading will occur rather rapidly.

Photo paper is designed specifically for producing and preserving photos taken with a digital camera. This paper will produce a more color saturated image. Some of the paper is described as “swellable, non-porous” paper.  This swellable attribute means that the paper swells as ink is absorbed and then shrinks as it dries, resulting in a barrier that protects the ink from exposure to air. Although offering better fade resistance, this swellable paper is generally a bit more expensive. However for those who are willing to accept a slower drying time and live in a low humidity environment, it is a good choice.

There are numerous finishes available.  In most instances, a glossy, high gloss, or satin gloss finish is preferred by most consumers for color photographs while a matte finish is generally the choice for black and white photos. Glossy photo paper is among the most expensive but is highly recommended for most color prints to assure the best image and greatest durability. Images produced on glossy photo paper tend to make images from a digital camera look most similar to those created in a photo lab.

The size of paper used depends upon the images that will be printed and, of course, the printer’s capability. Common sizes include 4×6, 8.5×11, 11x 17, and 13×19.  Although 4×6 is the traditional size of most prints, larger paper can allow the user to fit multiple prints onto a single page.  Specialty sizes are available for printing panoramic shots, gift cards, and other odd size images.

The digital camera has brought many conveniences to the world of home photography. The ability to produce high quality, durable photographs without a photo lab is quite possible using the right paper, printer, and ink.