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To achieve the best print-at-home images, you’ll need a good printer and ink, but also good paper. The sheets you use can make or break a print: poor-quality papers can result in muddier images, darker colors, and lines that aren’t quite clean. In addition to quality, also consider the color of the sheets, which can come in a range of whites; whether or not the product is archival; and the paper’s weight and finish. Our picks below will help you find the right product to meet your personal and professional preferences and needs.
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Best Overall: Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster
Ask fine-art photographers what their favorite inkjet photo paper is, and they’ll likely say Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster. The reason? It does the best job of simulating the look of a traditional silver halide print while consistently producing vivid, lifelike colors; excellent sharpness; and top-notch image quality. As the “Luster” in its name suggests, this paper has a shiny and bright but not highly reflective surface so your image will be viewable from a variety of angles. With a resin-coated polyethylene base, a weight of 240 gsm, and a thickness of 10 mil, this is a paper with some heft, yet it’s still thin enough to slide into most frames. We also liked that it dries instantly so you can handle your photo right out of the printer.
Purchase: Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster, 8.5 x 11″, 50 sheets $33.99 on Amazon
Best Matte Paper: Canon Photo Paper Premium Matte
If you want a nonreflective paper that will make your photos look great in various lighting conditions, Canon Photo Paper Premium Matte should be your choice. With a bright matte finish that doesn’t reveal any fiber texture even on close inspection, this is one of the smoothest papers of its kind that we’ve used. This results in photo prints that have the vibrancy of coated papers but a nonreflective finish. Blacks look darker and colors have a wider gamut than other matte papers we’ve tested. This one weighs 210 gsm with a thickness of 12.1 mil, which feels less substantial than other matte photo papers but is easier to mount and hang for a gallery show. And it won’t pick up fingerprints when handled.
Purchase: Canon Photo Paper Premium Matte, 8.5 x 11″, 50 sheets, $14.99 on B&H
Best Darkroom-Style Paper: Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique II
Lots of companies offer inkjet papers that they claim mimic darkroom-style photo paper, but a print made with Canson Infinity’s Baryta Photographique II really does look and feel like a traditional silver halide print. Baryta papers are coated with barium sulfate, which is a brightener that boosts reflectivity. Baryta Photographique II features a 100 percent barium sulphate layer resulting in superb inkjet photos that take us back to our darkroom days of classic fiber-based silver gelatin prints. We like the paper’s satiny finish, and both black-and-white and color images pop off the page. Baryta Photographique II also feels like a hefty darkroom paper, weighing in at 310 gsm with a thickness of 12 mil. It will not only create prints that feel good in your hand but also boost your photos’ perceived value so you can price them accordingly at your next show.
Purchase: Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique II, 8.5 x 11″, 25 sheets, $33.50 on Blick
Best Glossy Paper: Hahnemühle Photo Glossy 260
Glossy photo papers aren’t always the first choice of artists who make digital images because a highly reflective surface can make these works difficult to see in bright light, such as when mounted on a wall at a gallery show. But if we had to choose one high-gloss inkjet paper to use, it would be Hahnemühle Photo Glossy 260, which produces professional-quality photo prints that look stunning in a portfolio to show to potential clients. This bright white, resin-coated paper has a smooth, non-textured surface that will help your images stand out. Along with portfolios, this paper is well suited for photo books thanks to its relatively light weight and thinness. Its versatility makes it a great option for everyday use, including for test prints.
Purchase: Hahnemühle Photo Glossy, 8.5 x 11″, 25 sheets, $20.23 on B&H
Best Cotton Paper: Moab Entrada Rag Bright 300
This gorgeous cotton paper will make your images look like works of art. Made from 100 percent cotton fiber, Entrada Rag handles ink extremely well so photos look sharp with precise detail and superior tonality. Colors are vivid and blacks are deep on this bright white paper despite its matte surface. A dual-sided fine-art paper with multiple receiving layers that absorb ink extremely well, Entrada Rag dries instantly so prints can be handled right away. We also like that these substantial sheets—300 gsm and 22.5 mil thick—are acid and lignin free and water resistant, making them archival with impressive longevity. Most of all, though, this heavyweight cotton paper creates prints that beg to be hung on a wall.
Purchase: Moab Entrada Rag Bright 300, 8.5 x 11″, 25 sheets, $37.99 on Amazon