Paper Printing 101 (2021)

Printing on Paper 101

The Paper print. It’s been around since 1839 after British inventor William Henry Fox Talbot created the salt print, the earliest form of paper photography. Since it’s inception, there are and have been 100s of different types of papers that you can print your photography or art onto. In this article I’ll discuss the Pro’s and Cons of printing on paper


  1. Versitile
  2. Many Finishing Options
  3. Price
  4. Framing Options


  1. Framing / Displaying the Art Cost
  2. Fragile
  3. Common

Pros Expanded

  1. Versatility at its core. Paper prints can be accommodated into almost any room. Due to the 100s of different types of paper, finishing’s and ink. You can get anything from a glossy clean finish, to a hard textured matte. 
  2. The finishing adds a protective layer, all while enhancing the appearance the paper. You may know this from your local print shop where they ask, glossy or matte. Glossy images will always have that reflective property to them while matte will not. But Glossy prints will always have more vivid colours then a matte finish. You get other finishing’s such as Metallic (which gives the impression that the image is backlight) or Matte Velvet (zero-reflections and crisp deep colours) which are more premium and luxurious. 
  3. Even though there are many options, prices vary dramatically. But it will always be cheaper then say a Metal or Canvas print in the same quality class. You get what you pay for and you’ll never regret buying a more expensive print! 
  4. Framing is an art in itself. The millions of different options. From boarder colours and thickness. To styles and finishing’s. The possibilities are nearly endless. Correct framing enhances not only the Artwork it frames but the surrounding artwork aswell. The correct frames can create beautiful collages and bring unison to a cluster of very different photographs.

cons expanded

  1. The Framing/Displaying Cost. While the prints may be ‘cheaper’ you still have to hang them. Framing can greatly vary in pricing, from Ikea bought to custom made and everything in-between, these ‘Art’ vessels are always worth the investment. You can change the artwork inside. You can fit abit ‘slightly’ similarly sized artwork into the same frame with a different sized matte(Cardboard boarder). All of this ofcourse adds to the overall cost of the piece, which is only fair when choosing say between a paper print and canvas. 
  2. Paper prints are fragile and nearly impossible easy to clean. You have to keep them safe! That’s why you have to frame them. When using professional framers they will use acid-free materials and finishes so that your print will stay perfect and free from damage. Just remember to keep it out of direct sunlight to avoid fading. 
  3. They are common, maybe not high-end luxury paper prints, but we all have photographs printed from the local store down the road in our house and that is perfectly fine! Just remember that its not the most ‘out of this world’ way to display art, but the right frame will give the art the platform to shine its brightest!

What to think about when choosing a Paper...

  1. Size of the print - paper textures affect the image if the print is small. 
  2. Paper texture - Do I want any? If so, how course or light? 
  3. Contrast - Do I want the Artwork to have dark blacks? Or have a watercolour (washed out) effect 
  4. Colour - How Vivid or muted do you want the tones? 
  5. Reflectivity – Are there bright lights on the image or a lot of natural daylight? Can you control the light throughout the day? Glossy finishes will have more of a “pop” to them but will give you reflection hassles. Matte finishes will be more “muted” but have no reflections. 

What aesthetics works for certain papers...

There is a huge variety of different paper types available to help achieve looks ranging from a slick, glossy image to a more craft-inspired, watercolor texture print. These different surface textures all have a range of connotations and can be used accordingly to suit specific types of imagery. Some paper types, such as luster, satin, or semi-gloss, are best used in instances where you want the printing medium to not compete with the image itself. These surface types give a good range of tones with enough gloss to provide a deep black, but still have minimal reflective qualities to not create surface reflections. A matte or smooth surface can lend itself well to more artistic imagery without encroaching on the image in a textural manner.

Always Remember...

One characteristic many papers have, and something that should be heavily considered when printing, is to use an acid-free, or archival, paper type. Archival papers are made using materials that will not fade for a long time, assuming they are used in conjunction with archival inks. The combination of both archival products will yield prints that will hold up to the test of time with little fading or other anomalies that can occur if displaying or storing work.

In Conclusion

Choice, Choice, Choice! Paper prints should always be at the forefront of how you want to display your art. From family photographs to abstract conceptual pieces, there’s space for any type of subject matter. They are cost effective and incredibly versatile. Just remember to choose the right frame to tie your whole room together.