Difference Between Glossy Vs. Matte Photo – Which is Best?

We all know that photography can be used to capture memories. But many people don’t realize how different the look of a photograph can vary depending on what type of paper it’s printed on.

Photos are taken on glossy paper look as natural as possible because they reflect light in the way our eye sees it. But they are really easy to get fingerprints on. In contrast, matte paper isn’t glossy or textured, which means there’s less of a chance for glare or reflections. However, the colors don’t stand out quite as much. But what you do get is more tonal variation and heightened contrast.

The difference between Matte vs. glossy paper will have a big impact on your final product. So it’s best to keep these differences in mind when you’re shopping for photo printing services and supplies, such as envelopes or protective covers.

What is Glossy Paper?

Generally speaking, glossy paper is just a type of photographic print that has been coated with a thin layer of plastic polymer. This protective covering makes it the perfect option for those who want to showcase photos on their walls or in frames.

It’s a great choice that lets you display printed photos without worrying about moisture damage and other environmental factors like sunlight. The glossiness also creates more vibrant colors and sharper details than matte paper, making it difficult to see small text or objects.

Use of A Glossy Photo Finish

Glossy paper is often used as the background for greeting cards, postcards, posters, invitations, and other printed materials such as business cards. It’s also popular for printing photo calendars, wall art, and family photos.

You can choose glossy paper if you’re looking to enhance the color of your print. It can make colors appear brighter than they really are!

Advantages Of Glossy Photo Finish

Glossy paper can be used to display high-quality images with vivid colors. Glowing synthetic paper looks almost 3D-like because it has a light texture to it compared to other types of paper.

Here are some other advantages that make glossy finish stand out:

  • Glossy paper is thinner, and it’s lighter to carry
  • It’s polished, which makes for excellent presentations
  • Shiny finish printers are less expensive than their matte counterparts
  • Glossy paper is more common and easier to find than Matte

Disadvantages Of Glossy Photo Finish

Photos come out all nice and shiny on glossy papers. But that’s not all there is to it. There are definitely some negatives to using glossy photo paper.

Here are a few disadvantages that come to mind:

  • The gloss of the finish can be distracting, and it may not always look right
  • Glossy finish printers have a shorter life span than matte prints
  • Printers are more costly, and you need to replace cartridges more frequently
  • Glossy paper is not environmentally friendly and hard to recycle

What is Matte Paper?

Matte paper is a type of photographic paper that has an ultra-flat matte finish. It was invented for use in bright sunlight, which makes glossy papers impractical. Matte papers are also known as “luminous” or “luster” due to their non-glossy sheen. The most common type of paper to use for matte papers is RC (resin-coated).

This type of paper is used for printing photos and other images that need to be non-reflective. It features a soft, smooth finish with a dull appearance with no sheen or glossiness.

Matte photo papers are also trendy among professional photographers. That’s because it produces high-quality prints of their picture, which helps them stand out from the rest of the amateur competition.

Use of Matte Photo Finish

Matte photo finish is often used for weddings, vintage pictures, or pictures with kids or pets to give them an “antique” or old-fashioned look. However, if the matte photo is also printed on matte paper, it appears as if it were hand-tinted.

The images in a matte finish background have a textured surface that contains fewer reflections than a glossy photo. This means that the picture’s focus is not blurred by light reflections from in front of the camera lens. They are often called “low-gloss,” “matte,” or “soft-focus” for this reason.

Advantages Of Matte Photo Finish

Matte finishes are great for making a statement with bright colors. Many photographers take advantage of this finish to make their images pop much more than glossy photos would allow them to do. It also provides an elegant look that is sure to impress the recipient. This type of finish looks very nice when paired up against other paper types such as linen.

Here are some reasons why matte photo finish is popular:

  • Allows for photo framing without the risk of smudging the print
  • Provide a classic and elegant look that will be long remembered
  • Resist fingerprints, and thus, smudging will be less likely to occur
  • Provides a brighter photo with vivid colors for more elegance
  • Brings an old school charm back to life

Disadvantages Of Matte Photo Finish

Matte finishes can give great results depending on how they are used with other elements like lighting or artistic filters. But there are also disadvantages that should be considered before opting for this finish.

Here are a few drawbacks that you need to consider:

  • Blurs the details of your photo slightly, making it less sharp and crisp
  • Not be the best option to bring out extra detail in your photos
  • Softer compared to a glossy finish which makes it less durable
  • Makes your photos look dull and lifeless depending on the lighting used

Which is Best for Framing: Glossy vs. Matte Photos

Framing glossy photos or matte photos is a great way to showcase your favorite photograph. The most significant difference between framing a matte photo and framing a glossy photo is how they will react to light.

Matte frames are much better at blocking out glare, which can be an issue when displaying glossy photos. If you are not sure which one you want to use, there are two considerations to keep in mind.

Consider how much light will reach the frame before making your decision. For example, if there are windows, trees, or other light sources near the frame, you will probably want to pick a matte finish. On the other hand, if there is no natural light affecting it at all, you can go with a glossy finish.

Framing Glossy Photos

Glossy photos are best-suited for art prints meant to hang indoors, where they will benefit from being viewed at an arm’s length distance. On the other hand, images printed on glossy paper are ideal for oversized art prints. Especially if they will be hung on walls that get a lot of natural light.

A glossy print is not recommended for panoramic images, however. It can make them appear overly dark when viewed from an angle.  The glossy paper can make them seem excessively dark when viewed from an angle.

Framing Matte Photos

A matte photo is best suited to printing on canvas or metal, where the clarity and color saturation can really shine through. It can also provide better contrast in black & white images than glossy ones do. The lack of sheen gives a more true-to-life look and feel to the photo.

Matte photos are also best if you are looking for something that can be mounted on a board, framed, and placed in an office space. It will work well as part of a documentary-style album or collection where it can fit right into among other high-quality prints.

These photos stand up well to magnification, making them ideal for any type of close-up photography or photojournalism. They can even be used as a less expensive alternative to glossy prints in order to make large-format images more affordable and accessible.

With that said, most pro photographers will tell you that matte paper is the way to go with any print, regardless of whether it’s panoramic or not.

What Print Type is Best? Matte vs. Glossy Photos

If we only could choose one print type, glossy photo prints would obviously win by a landslide. But it’s really not that clear-cut! Here are some of the essential factors you need to consider while making an educated decision on the best print type for your creative projects.


While both matte and glossy photos have very similar longevity rates, the difference between the two comes down to one thing: UV absorption.

UV (ultraviolet) light is a big no-no for all things photographic because it can cause fading and discoloration. UV rays are also what cause an image to fade when exposed to the sun.

Matte prints can absorb UV light much better than glossy prints because of their finish. While this isn’t a huge deal for most wall art (unless it’s outside), matte photos are capable of significantly more minor fading in comparison to glossy images when exposed to direct sunlight for an extended period.

However, matte prints are much more resistant to the sun’s fading effects than regular household light bulbs. This is good news for those who want to hang their images near a window where the sun’s UV rays can reach them (like in your bathroom).

Color Fidelity

From an advertising perspective, both matte and glossy photos have almost the same color fidelity.

Matte prints can reproduce 100% of the original color palette but are also susceptible to color casts. On the other hand, glossy prints can reproduce up to 160% of the actual colors and aren’t as prone to color casts because they’re highly saturated.

This makes glossy photos ideal for images involving bright colors or where perfect color accuracy is necessary (like in your makeup studio). However, it also means that you can’t print black and white images as photo-realistic glossy prints.


Both matte and glossy photos have almost the same sharpness results, but for entirely different reasons. For starters, both print types can reproduce the same amount of detail and clarity.

However, matte prints aren’t as sharp as glossy prints because their surface texture slightly blurs them. This causes a “soft” effect where colors blend together more than on glossy photos.

But here’s where it gets good. This softness is what gives matte photos their luminescent glow. The same effect makes matte prints the most preferred print type for photo booth images, family portraits, and wedding photos.

If you’re printing photographs of people or anything else with skin tones, go matte every time. Glossy prints are known to accentuate skin textures that can give your subject’s face an unflattering plastic-like look. They are also the best choice for advertisements, product shots, and images with a lot of color gradients.

Quality vs. Clarity

Both matte and glossy prints have their own set of pros and cons regarding quality and clarity. But neither one has a clear-cut edge over the other for photographic purposes.

Matte prints are perfectly suitable for photo-realistic images that involve fine details. However, it’s easy to tell the difference between a printed matte image and an original photograph because of their softness.

On the other hand, glossy photos have an impressive level of clarity due to their high saturation levels. However, they aren’t as good as matte prints for photo-realistic purposes because they tend to be too sharp.

The best choice between the two is to go with what you prefer over clarity and sharpness. If that’s quality, then go matte. If that’s clarity, then go glossy.


The difference between glossy vs. matte photos is more than skin-deep. Therefore, it’s essential to know the pros and cons of each type before you print your next batch of pictures that will be displayed for years or centuries to come.

Glossy prints have rich colors and show details in shadows to showcase what might otherwise go unnoticed. But if you want something more natural-looking without any glare, go with a matte finish photograph instead. Then, we hope you can print your next set of photos knowing that they will look their best no matter what kind of display surface you choose to put them on!