Staples | The Advantages of Photo Paper

The Advantages of Photo Paper

Printing Your Digital Photos

Knowing how to take good pictures is only half of the equation to printing great digital photos — using the right paper is the other half.

Why you need photo paper

You might be tempted to print your digital photos on ordinary multipurpose paper (it's less expensive than photo paper), but you would be cheating yourself — and your memories.

Photo paper (which primarily works with inkjet printers) is designed to create photos that "look realistic — with the color, contrast, and detail that you expect of color prints."1

The Kodak Digital Learning Center says you can easily spot the difference between pictures printed on photo paper and those printed on multipurpose paper.

Photo paper Multipurpose paper
Strong highlights Flat highlights
Deep blacks Muddy blacks
Smooth skin tones Uneven skin tones
Rich colors Dull colors
Realistic contrast Low contrast
Excellent details Loss of details

The properties of photo paper

Why does photo paper produce better prints?

  • Photo paper is much heavier and thicker than multipurpose paper. It looks and feels like conventional photo paper – the kind professional photo labs use. For best results look for photo–quality paper with a weight of at least 55 lbs. (205 g/m2) and a brightness rating of at least 90.
  • According to Kodak experts, "the special coating on the surface of [photo] paper tends to "hold" ink in place,"2 unlike the rough surface of multipurpose paper, which will often cause ink to bleed. When the ink bleeds it produces murky images that often lack detail.
  • Photo paper is also pure white in color. It does not have any of the grayish–tint that some multipurpose papers have. The pure white color contributes to the superior contrast and saturation of pictures printed on photo–quality paper.

Pick the right paper

Glossy photo paper will provide the look of traditional photos. For artistic looking prints, experiment with matte, satin, and high–gloss photo papers.

Paper type


Best for


Sharper images and vibrant colors

High quality graphic arts applications, enlargements, reprints, and unframed photos


Reduces glare and resists fingerprints

Posters, banners, tradeshow materials, and photo proofing

High gloss

Brilliant colors and rich skin tones

Photos that will be framed or placed in an album

Before you purchase your photo paper, check to see if the paper was produced to work with a specific dpi setting, such as 360–dpi, 720–dpi, 1440–dpi, or 2800–dpi. Keep in mind that your photos will print faster at a 360–dpi or 720–dpi, but typically have better resolution with a 1440–dpi or 2800–dpi. Most printers are capable of printing at several dpi settings.

Printing tips

For best results:

  • Be careful not to get too many fingerprints on the paper, especially when loading the paper into the printer and when showing your pictures.
  • Remove each sheet of photo paper from the printer as it comes out – do not allow the prints to stack up in the printer’s output tray.
  • Allow each print to dry individually – image side up. "Drying time will vary depending on the printer, ink brand, ink coverage, and room conditions (high humidity may increase dry time)," according to Kodak experts.3 Expect to wait an average of 10 to 45 minutes for prints to dry completely.
  • If you plan to laminate your prints, experts at Hewlett–Packard say "wait at least 30 minutes after printing to laminate prints, however waiting 24 hours before laminating [prints] is recommended."

What's available

Photo paper comes in a variety of sizes, often with perforated edges, which will allows you to print out 3" X 5", 4" X 6", 5" X 7", and 8" X 10" photos.

For the most part, photo paper comes with a print (typically glossy) and a non–print side (typically has the watermark or manufacturer’s information). However, there are a few brands of two–sided photo paper. Before printing on both sides, be sure you're using two–sided paper.

Scrap–bookers may want to look for photo paper with a self–adhesive back. The self–adhesive back also makes creating signs, stickers, and labels faster and easier.

1Chapter V, Great Paper Makes Beautiful Prints, Kodak Digital Learning Center
3Chapter IV, Printer Tips, Kodak Digital Learning Center

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