Create beautiful wall art using photo paper

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For enthusiastic photographers, there can hardly be a more beautiful wall decoration than their own full-size photos. The only question is how they’re presented. Even for experts, the variety of photo papers and different finishes can be bewildering – which are the best for your photos?


In the photo paper "jungle" you can easily lose your way: protective varnish and coating, matte or glossy, dispersion varnish or UV ink. Sounds confusing? For photo printing, there really are a lot of finishes and printing options.

More beautiful wall images on photo paper. Lady lying in bed with Polaroid photos and vintage instant camera. 

Choose an acrylic photo print and gloss goes with the territory – and the photo is protected too. A photo on canvas with UV ink has the advantage that your print is durably colourfast – at, that means for at least 75 years!

But what should you choose for a print on real photo paper? The most popular finishes are glossy and matte, satin matte and metallic. Ultimately it boils down to your personal taste. But this article should help you with choosing the right paper.

High gloss paper

With this option, you’ll receive a photographic print on coated paper with a very smooth and shiny surface. This means your photo is highly reflective – the typical photo gloss. The colours appear rich in contrast, lively, brilliant and saturated; the details come out razor sharp (or at least the illusion of sharpness increases with this special paper).

Sounds exactly like what all photographers wish for! But there are also some disadvantages – for one thing, the maintenance. The extremely smooth surface (which is even a bit sticky to the touch) is highly sensitive to dirt and – if touched without gloves – to fingerprints.

It is possible to remove these stains with a photo cloth or a special cleaning solution. But if you have small children in the house, you know without a doubt that even your wall photos are not safe from little hands – and then the need for frequent cleaning can become pretty annoying.

More beautiful wall images on photo paper. Photo canvas print featuring beautiful young couple.

Now one could argue that the photos can easily be presented behind glass. But even here, there's a downside: the surface of high gloss prints will most likely stick to the glass.

Anyone who doesn’t mind cleaning their photo regularly will benefit from the excellent characteristics of high gloss photo prints. And because your image deserves to look as refined as possible, there’s an option at for you to get an elegant aluminium print. You can even get it covered with an additional layer of acrylic glass.

Matte photo prints

Matte-finish photo prints have a slightly textured surface. The contrasts are somewhat subtler than with high gloss prints, because the matte surface doesn’t reflect as much light. Therefore the pictures appear dark, and perhaps a little more restrained than on smooth high gloss paper.

But the matte surface is much less sensitive: children's fingers and dust don’t affect it very much. It’s also quite resistant to minor scratches.

Sometimes the pictures acquire a slightly grainy appearance due to the structure of the paper. This doesn’t have to be a disadvantage: for black and white prints, which often call for that classic screen look, matte photo paper is much better than the high gloss version. A lot of professional photographers opt for matte prints.

Many people also prefer the reduced gloss of matte photo prints to the high gloss version. In terms of elegance, images printed on matte photo paper are not at a disadvantage. If you’re also a fan of matte photo prints, then photo board prints are just right for you!

Satin matte or silk finish

Satin matte prints are characterized by a light gloss and a fine, pearly structure. The colours come out stronger than on matte paper, the contrast is higher and the paper is thicker. In addition, silk matte paper is relatively impervious to fingerprints due to its structure – that's a plus for small prints. The paper can be slightly more expensive, which could be a disadvantage when choosing larger prints.

Metallic finish

If you like extravagant wall art, you might be interested in a metallic finish. Brilliant, high-contrast, three-dimensional looking images are possible. The surface has a metallic shine, almost like chrome. This effect is quite polarising and not everyone likes it – definitely not recommended for too many images.

More beautiful wall images on photo paper. Multiple photo prints lying in pile.

It's all about the motif...

So, which photo paper is the best for your photo? When deciding, you should also consider the subject of the photo. Certainly there are many subjective factors involved. However, the usual professional advice is as follows:

  • The high gloss finish is recommended for coloured landscapes and nature photographs (such as flower close-ups). Even everyday snapshots and vacation photos with vibrant colours usually look best in high gloss.
  • Matte photo prints, on the other hand, are well suited to photos (either colour or black-and-white) with strong, clear structures such as architecture or city shots. These will be highlighted particularly well and not overwhelmed by excessively bright colours in the background. Portraits are also perfectly suited to matte or satin matte prints: as mentioned before, the contrasts here have less effect than with high gloss photos, and the slight grain also works to cover up irregular skin features such as age spots.

The purpose should determine your decision...

Another tip from the professionals: the larger the print, the more you should tend to use a matte photo paper. The contrasts and transition effects of high gloss papers often act too strongly on large-format wall art, especially with super-high gloss papers such as Fuji Flex.

It can then be difficult to find a suitable place in the room: if your wall surface is illuminated by an intense light source such as the sun or strong artificial light, unsightly reflections appear on the image. With matte prints that reflect little light, you don't have these problems. They can be viewed easily from almost any angle and under any lighting. That's why large photo posters come with a satin matte finish.

More beautiful wall images on photo paper. Close up of matte print.

For rooms with less intense light, high gloss photos are better suited: due to their shiny appearance, they create beautiful accents.

Conclusion: Try it yourself!

Ultimately, the choice of the paper and finish is your personal decision and a matter of taste. But after reading through this article, at least you now know what to consider. And now it's your turn – decide for yourself which photo paper is the best for your image and get it as a very shiny aluminium or satin matte on photo board!


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