Printing Graphics: What Type of Paper to Use

A quick walk down the paper aisle at your office supply store can quickly become confusing with all the different types of paper you can purchase. The type of paper you want depends on what you are looking to print.

For graphics, it’s important to consider what your purposes are for packaging printing. Are you printing for an art gallery? Is it for just a friend? Are you printing a card or art piece? Who are you giving it to? Is it black-and-white or in-color? All these questions and more factor into what type of paper is best.

paper types

Here are some common paper types and the best uses for them:


This type of paper is dull and lusterless. It is often used in industry to produce good quality prints without a glossy, vibrant color finish. Without the glossy finish, fingerprints and sun glare aren’t a problem. There are many different types of matte paper, such as semi-matte or luster paper that look very different from traditional matte.

However, matte paper soaks up more ink which affects the sharpness of the image. Small details will be lost with matte paper, so macro shots and portraits should be printed on glossy paper for better quality and results.


Photographers use glossy paper most commonly for photos. It produces a vibrant, sharp image that is smooth to touch. On average, glossy paper is cheaper than matte paper. There are several variations: semi-gloss, premium grade, and brand specific.

Glossy paper is easily marked up with fingerprints and dust, which makes it more fragile than matte paper. Photos printed on glossy paper can framed easily to preserve the image. This type of paper is also more reflective and shiny, making it more susceptible to sunglare.

Gloss Laminated

The best examples of gloss laminated paper are postcards. The photos are printed along with a gloss laminate coat, which makes it shinier and more durable than regular glossy paper. The laminating process makes colors more vibrant and dynamic.

UV Gloss

The process of exposing photos with UV radiation creates an extremely shiny and glossy print. You can also use UV gloss of specific areas to make them stand out from the rest of the design – this is also known as spot UV. Common uses for this process is for business cards to make logos stand out.


This type of photo paper contains a metallic resin coated base, which provides a unique twist to your printed images. The result can be striking 3D images resistant to tearing, curling, and ultra-bright colors. The gloss simulates a metallic look, which can enhance your images.

Other types of paper you can use for graphics: sticker paper, pulp, silk coating, iron-on transfers, true black&white paper, and more.

Always be sure to know what you want from your prints, or the type of paper you use won’t matter. It could help to do several test prints on different types of paper to see which kind will give you the best results.

Carla Eaton has a B.A. in Mass Media with a Minor in Art and Design. She enjoys writing on the topics of business, technology, and design, and currently blogs for, who specializes in Dell printer cartridges.


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