Photo Gloss Vs. Semi-Gloss – Which Is Best?

Photos hold precious memories and help you reminisce the past, no matter how old they get. However, the choice of printing paper plays a decisive role in how attractive and durable the photo will be. Choosing a specific type of paper between photo gloss vs. semi-gloss relies entirely on you, depending on your preference.

The main difference between a gloss and a semi-gloss photo is the amount of reflection. Glossy photos reflect maximum light into our eyes and make the colors pop out more. Due to a plastic finish on top, they are splash-proof. So, you can easily clean dust or fingerprints out. On the other hand, semi-gloss photos reflect less light, and the colors don’t stand out like glossy ones. They are also textured and stain-proof.

Besides photographs, cards and flyers are also printed on both paper types. The final product depends on the paper type a lot. So, you should be aware of the facts and impacts of the two types of paper before you decide to buy one.

What is Photo Gloss Paper?

Photo gloss is a paper type made on a photographic resin-coated base. This is why it can reflect light.

The paper can dry instantly and can be dyed and pigmented. It is compatible with any kind of printer. Besides, this type of paper is water and stain-resistant. You can use it for commercial and general photos, flyers, posters, and waterproofing important documents.

When to Use a Photo Gloss Paper

Photo gloss papers are commonly used for all types of photographs. We have grown up looking at photos also printed on gloss papers.

These papers are designed to reflect as much light as possible. The photo will appear sharper as a result. Colors in the image will appear more vibrant, and the picture can look improved. It also keeps the print away from dust and water.

If you want to achieve such results, you should use photo gloss paper. It will give the photo more brightness and polish. As a result, glossy papers are ideal for presentations and workshop posters.

Photos will also have significantly higher contrast than the original, making them appear sharper and attractive. Some people like them that way, while others see them as flawed.

The gloss finish hardens over time as well. As a result, any type of scratch or fingerprint may cause damage to the photograph. So if you want to preserve an artwork or a portrait, a complete photo gloss is not the way to go.

What is a Semi-Gloss Finish?

The name pretty much explains its job. A semi-gloss finish will do an almost similar job as gloss papers. But it still has a touch of matte polish.

In terms of shine and texture, semi-gloss paper falls somewhere between matte and glossy. It has a medium texture and some shine to it.

Semi-gloss paper does not show fingerprints or smudges as quickly as a glossy finish. But it does not last as long as a matte finish. Glossy finishes draw attention to contrasts, resulting in sharper images, whereas semi-gloss finishes subdue them.

When to Use a Semi-Gloss Finish

Well, just like gloss paper, the semi-gloss paper will add shine to the photos. However, it will not be reflecting over 90% of light. It has a subtle texture. This gives the image a three-dimensional effect.

Colors of a semi-gloss photo will have less contrast. The picture will be close to the original color and not very sharp. Another good news is that semi-gloss photos will still be water and stain-resistant due to the resin coat base.

The durability of a semi-gloss finish distinguishes it from a full-gloss finish. Semi-gloss finish is ideal for collecting and displaying art and photographs in museums and galleries.

It ensures the photo’s long-term beauty while displaying bright colors and a minimum reflection. The paper shows natural and realistic color palettes, which appeals to professionals.

Photo Gloss Vs. Semi-Gloss

Photo gloss and semi-gloss finishes each have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Both can be effective when used correctly. All you have to do is know your facts and decide what outcome you want.

If you are looking for a comparison, there are a few factors you can focus on.


Semi-gloss finish can make your photos last longer than a full gloss finish. The photo gloss finish gives a harder finish on one side of the photo. This is what gives the extra gloss and shine.

There is a high tendency that it would break over time or when bent or scratched. Semi-gloss photos are thinner and less prone to break in such a way.

Besides, exposure to sunlight can damage photos. Too much exposure to sunlight can cause photo fading and color burns. Photo gloss finish can cause fading or discoloration much faster than the others.

Color fidelity

There isn’t much difference between semi-gloss and full gloss photos in terms of color fidelity.

However, semi-gloss prints can reproduce almost the exact original color palette. But they are prone to color casts.

Glossy prints, on the other hand, can reproduce more than a hundred percent of the actual colors. They are also less prone to color casts due to their high saturation.

Color sharpness

Both prints can show sharp pictures. However, full photo gloss is sharper in color than a semi-gloss photo. Here is where you can get creative.

Use gloss prints for bright landscapes and arts. So every detailed work can be noticed.

But use a semi-gloss finish for portraits. Skin is more natural-looking with softness and texture. A full gloss finish might give a plastic-like effect to the skin, which you might want to avoid.

Effect of Light And Location On Paper Choice For Prints

Light is one of the most critical factors affecting the choice of printing parers. The major difference between photo gloss and semi-gloss papers is the percentage of light reflection and their opacity.

If you want to keep your photo in a room full of bright lights, both papers can work fine. However, if your room has lower access to light, it’s better to go with full gloss photo papers.

The location of a photo has a similar impact on the choice of paper. Full gloss photos are best viewed from a straight view. The light can directly reflect into the viewer’s eyes.

On the contrary, when watched from an angle, it may seem darker than the original. That’s because not enough light is reflected in the eyes. Shadows can affect in the same way.

So if you are choosing paper for a centerpiece of your wall, go for a full gloss print. Otherwise, select matte ones.

Choosing A Photo Finish For Framing

There are numerous options for photo framing. The gloss finish of your photo can also vary depending on how it is framed. Professionals generally prefer a matte or semi-gloss finish for framing.

Choose a full gloss photo finish if you like bright color contrast and want your photos to stand out. For the best appearance, use a withe or monochromic frame.

They are best if viewed from an arm’s distance. So don’t choose gloss print if you frame your photos very distantly or somewhere light can’t reach.

If you have a glass frame that reflects too much light, you should stick to a matte or semi-gloss finish for your photos. As a result, your images will reflect less light, and it all can balance out. Otherwise, the focus of the photograph may be thrown off.

Semi-gloss photos are also suitable for a metallic frame or direct mount on hard boards.

Choosing The Best Finish For Art Prints

For art prints, a semi-gloss finish or luster finish works best. This type of finish ensures that the image is as close to the original as possible.

The saturation and color contrast are realistic, unlike a full gloss finish. It also allows a subtle texture and a three-dimensional effect. The color accuracy of any landscape or portrait captures viewers’ attention more than anything else.

A matte or luster finish will not break or show scratch marks and will last longer than a full gloss finish.

On the other hand, a gloss finish will reflect more light than required. It may distract viewers from the focal point of any art prints. It can also break over time as it dries out quickly.

Wrapping Up

Choosing the best printing paper for your photos is critical. The choice between photo gloss vs. semi-gloss may appear complicated at first. But the job will become easier once you understand the pros and cons and how they affect the final result.

Choose your printing paper carefully because even minor changes to a single detail can significantly impact your photographs. If you want to make a statement with bright colors, use a photo gloss finish. If you’re going to play safe, go with a semi-gloss finish.

Now that all of the facts are in place, wait no more. Go ahead and print your photos the way you want!