If you do a Google search for photo paper, you’ll be faced with almost 650,000 responses (correct on the day of writing). So how on earth do you begin to choose which photo paper is best and why? In order to help, we’ve put together a handy and impartial photo paper review.
Before delving into the specifics, it’s worth looking at what is actually meant by the term photo paper. Broadly speaking photo paper is the name given to a whole range of high resolution, coated inkjet papers. Although not limited to these, the most common types are microporous and cast coated photo papers.
Microporous photo paper is recognised for its stability and is made of high quality, PE coated base paper. And here’s the science bit…the microporous layer is made up of micro pores or nano pores which allow it to hold all types of inks, dyes and pigments. Microporous paper dries quickly to a water resistant finish and offers a deep colour definition with the benefit of a particularly solid black. Microporous photo paper comes in gloss, satin and pearl finish, allowing you to choose which finish best suits the job in hand.
Cast coated photo paper, unlike microporous paper doesn’t have pores but instead is a standard paper which has been coated to a glossy, flat surface. The upside of standard cast coated photo paper is that it’s ideal for dye based inks but the downside is that it can be prone to smearing when rubbed. Aware of this, certain manufacturers have come up with specific techniques to help prevent smearing and bring cast coated photo paper up towards the level of microporous photo paper. This new development they call super cast or super pore, cast coated photo paper.
In terms of choosing which type to use, it really depends upon how much you want to invest in your project and what the end result will be used for. Generally speaking however, for higher grade results, choose microporous photo paper and for a cheaper option, choose one of the basic cast coated options.
Generally speaking, photo paper comes in photo cards, which are sized 10 x 15 cm or 13 x 18 cm which are often still referred to in their old imperial sizes: 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 respectively.
Once you get out of the photo card sizes, you go into A5, A4, A3 and an oversized A3 which is more commonly used by professional printers and is known as A3 plus or SRA3.
Pretty much all home printers are capable of printing on A4 photo paper and more and more printers on the market are able to print on A3 sheets. When you get up to A3 plus or SRA3, you’re really looking at professional printers.
For more on photo paper sizes, view our short video below: