The 10 Best Photo Papers

Updated July 20, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Photo Papers
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 37 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Although it is incredibly convenient to have all of your family photographs and vacation memories stored digitally on your computer and smartphone, how many times do you actually go back and look at those images? Probably not that often. These photo papers allow you to print out your favorite shots and give them pride of place on display in your home, where you can enjoy them every day. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best photo paper on Amazon.

10. Canon Pixma Matte

The Canon Pixma Matte has a bright white color and super smooth texture that makes it ideal for craft projects or non-glossy photos. The price is right, though it's a little on the flimsy side compared to some of its competitors and may fade over time.
  • absorbs inks well
  • good for mass production
  • results are not super crisp
Brand Canon
Model 7981A004
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. Epson Value

The Epson Value is a great choice when you need to print a ton of photos on a budget. It comes in a 4" x 6" size that is perfect for school, work or home projects, and also has a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the product.
  • high iso brightness level
  • produces clear images
  • doesn't have a heavy-duty feel
Brand Epson
Model S400034
Weight 8.8 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

8. Canon Plus Glossy II

If you love the look and feel of a traditional print from a photo shop, turn to the Canon Plus Glossy II. It quickly stabilizes color reproduction, so it's ready to be handled or inserted into a frame as soon as it feeds through the printer.
  • premium level of thickness
  • holds deep blacks well
  • a little pricey for only 20 sheets
Brand Canon
Model 1432C003
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

7. Hammermill Color Laser Gloss

Hammermill Color Laser Gloss is not technically photo paper in its truest sense, but this high-quality option reproduces images so well it is perfect for temporary pictures, such as those needed for decorating a booth or presentation, and it makes great brochures, too.
  • can print on both sides
  • budget-friendly price
  • acid-free for preservation
Brand Hammermill
Model 163110R
Weight 5.2 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

6. HP Zink

For instant sharing of memorable moments, check out the HP Zink. It only works with the HP Sprocket portable printer, but produces stickers that are easy to peel, so you can decorate your backpack, locker or folder with your favorite photos.
  • simple to load into the printer
  • resistant to water and moisture
  • strong and durable adhesive
Brand HP
Model 1DE39A
Weight 6.4 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

5. Kirkland Signature Glossy

With its 10.4 mm thickness and premium 69 lb. weight, the Kirkland Signature Glossy gives professionally printed photographs a run for their money. Its color gamut, vibrancy and reproduction are as good as higher end brands, without costing a fortune.
  • versatile enough for most projects
  • no water marks on the rear
  • good for 3d crafting
Brand Kirkland Signature
Model 126755
Weight 5.4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Canon Pro Luster

Ideal for professional wedding or fine art photography, the Canon Pro Luster will make each print shine to its fullest potential. It has a semi-gloss appearance that creates an amazing texture and eliminates glare when on display.
  • available in two sizes
  • shows great detail
  • provides consistent results
Brand Canon
Model LU-101 LTR(50)
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. Kodak Ultra Premium

The Kodak Ultra Premium is a top-notch choice featuring superb quality. Used with first-rate inks, this option will allow you to create camera shop-like prints that can withstand repeated handling and will keep looking like the day you printed them for years to come.
  • resists smearing
  • ideal for use in frames
  • runs smoothly through most printers
Brand Kodak
Model 8777757
Weight 1.6 ounces
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

2. HP Advanced Glossy

The HP Advanced Glossy lets you crank out professional-looking photographs that are the perfect size for most albums or to slip into a card to send off to grandma's house. It produces vibrant colors that bring your images to life.
  • good choice for use in humid areas
  • has a beautiful finish
  • sturdy heavy-duty feel
Brand HP
Model Q8690A
Weight 13.4 ounces
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Epson Ultra Premium

A box of Epson Ultra Premium contains fifty sheets of thick, durable paper that can be used to print large images or which can be carefully cut into 100 4" x 6" photos. These bright white sheets dry instantly and are resistant to smudges.
  • do not fade over time
  • high opacity level
  • compatible with all ink jet printers
Brand Epson
Model S042175
Weight 2.3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

The Photo Lab In Your Printer: Choosing Photo Paper

With the relatively low-cost and high-quality of printers now available on the consumer market, printing photos at home has never been a more approachable undertaking. Choosing a great printer is a fine start, but keep in mind that you can't print great photos on regular printer paper and expect them to look like anything special.

The most important consideration to be made when choosing the right photo paper is, fortunately, also the easiest decision to make: it is simply choosing the right size for your needs. If you are planning to print a plethora of standard four-by-six inch photos for use in smaller frames, in an album, or in a scrap book, then by all means you should choose to order paper that comes in that size. The same is true if you are certain you will be using frames or photo albums designed to accommodate five-by-seven inch pictures. And of course for larger images, with eight-by-ten inches being one of the more common sizes, you will need a larger paper size. If you're uncertain which size of photo you will most commonly print, it's always a wise idea to err on the side of larger paper. After all, a sheet of photo paper measuring eight-by-eleven inches can be trimmed down to fit any smaller size, while a smaller sheet can't well be expanded when a large photo is desired.

Next, consider the finish you prefer in your photos, which is to say matte or glossy. There is no objective right or wrong choice when it comes to choosing a minimally-reflective matte finish or a high-shine gloss paper; rather the matter is largely subjective based on taste, with a few other considerations to weight. Glossy photos look great in the right light settings where the glare of lights or sunshine can be limited or filtered (such as in a gallery or a well-designed home). They also produce excellent color reproduction and depth of contrast, but can be hard to see from many angles in bright light. If you are printing photos for the purposes of sales presentation or to adorn a booth or shop interior, often using matte finish photo paper is wise, because you do not want to risk inhibiting the view of your clientele in anyway. The image may be less vibrant, but it will be readily visible. Also note that glossy photo papers tend to scratch and smudge more easily than matte papers.

Finally, consider how often you print photos and how many you are likely to print in the relatively near future, letting this thought process guide the quantity of photo paper you order at any given time. While ultimately less expensive than prints made by a shop (and certainly more convenient), printing photos at home using your own paper and printer is not exactly cheap. If you print only a few pictures now and then, by all means buy a smaller quantity of paper and use it sparingly. Many packets of photo paper contain fifty sheets and will last some households all year. Others come with one hundred sheets and are more expensive, but end up being the better investment on a per-sheet cost. These larger packets don't necessarily make sense in pure economic terms for those who seldom print, because some photo papers have a tendency to stick together and become damaged, especially in moist environments. Thus spending money to buy in bulk may result in you simply owning a bulk-sized amount of damaged papers.

Tips On How to Print Great Photos at Home

If you own a good printer -- one that is designed with photo-printing capabilities -- and you are using good photo paper, then it is easy to print good photos at home. By the very definition of the process, if you are printing photos at home, you must be using digital images (or images scanned from hard copies into digital form, at least), and therefore you have the opportunity to manipulate and improve your photos before you ever print them.

One of the best ways to improve a photo is to crop it, framing the subject and/or setting of the image to maximum effect and removing portions of the tableau that serve no purpose or take away from the beauty or focus of the image. Cropping a photo digitally on your computer (or even on your phone or tablet) is always easier and more precise than doing so by hand, and is also less permanent.

If your pictures often turn out too dark, try brightening them using photo editing software before printing and consider glossy photo paper over matte sheets. Conversely, if your images are often too bright, try darkening them on the computer and switching to matte print paper.

If you remember only one thing about home photo printing, let it be this: give your freshly-printed photos time to dry. Even the best, most efficient printer produces photos that are usually slightly wet to the touch and often easily damaged or destroyed if handled too shortly after production. Print your photos, then let them lie for a half hour or so at least; if you must touch them sooner, gently grasp the sides and the back. Also avoid framing or placing pictures in an album for many hours after they have been printed to reduce the chance that their surface will adhere to the glass or the picture pocket.

A Brief History of the Early Printed Image

The oldest known printed photograph dates from 1826, and was taken by Frenchman Nicéphore Niépce. The basic, grainy image is known as "View from the Window at Le Gras" and, while not in-and-of-itself remarkable, it is a forebear of modern media writ large.

The first commonly printed "photographs" the world ever saw were called called Daguerreotypes, and were named for their ostensible inventor, Louis Daguerre, who had in fact worked with Nicéphore Niépce and even received much of his research when Niépce died at a young age. Daguerreotype images were small, often dark, and usually poor in clarity. These images, created in small metal plates, were the only readily-available form of photography from the 1830s into the 1850s.

The early 1850s saw the development of photo exposures using glass plates. These represented a dramatic improvement over the Daguerreotype because the plates could be used to print multiple reproductions of the photograph onto sheets of paper. This not only lowered the costs associated with photography, but also brought the photograph into the mainstream mass market. Witness the proliferation of images of Civil War soldiers, politicians, and carnage as the clearest and most striking example of the early widespread use of the rapidly developing medium.



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Last updated on July 20, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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