Finish Type's in Photography - Which one is Best?by Sebastien Coell
Gloss, Lustre or Matte? Which one too choose from?
One question often asked in Photography is the difference between Photographic paper finishes and how they will effect your overall result.
The right choice can help to really enhance an image, bringing out its true beauty and complementing your artwork.
In reality thought the choice often blurs and is heavily influenced by the scene, style and nature of your image.
Oddly enough its the image that defines what print it is suitable for and not what finish you prefer. But the following will give you some info into the Types of Photographic Prints available.
Gloss prints have many PRO'S which can really enhance your print giving it a wow factor and instant punch but they also come with a few CONS to be careful of.
Gloss prints are essentially that, a very glossy and Shinny finish, the glossy finish gives them Superb Saturation, essentially this means in Colour Images, the Colours will become More Vibrant and appear to pop from the image.
With Black and white images, your images become more Contrasty, giving them more depth and mood, helping to give them more separation between the elements in the scene.
Essentially Gloss prints will boost your image giving it that Extra Kick and Wow Factor.
They also can damage easy if liquid touches them, they pick up finger prints easily and can scratch easier than other prints.
The finish in Gloss prints are essentially a very smooth and reflective image.
Matte prints have many PRO'S which can really enhance your print giving it a Super Clean and Sleek look, they are favored under certain situations and tend to be seen in Art Galleries more than the home. This artistic and clean finish comes at a big cost though.
Matte prints are essentially that, a Flat Gloss-Free and Dull finish, but its not bad news at all, that super flat image can work really well if you choose the correct image.
Think of images with super clean lines, Architecture with clean backgrounds or well defined clouds or skies and portraits. Images with good separation between the elements work well.
Matte prints and Black and White images go hand in hand, give the scene a bit of negative space on top of this and your onto a winner.
This all sounds very artistic and well it kind of is, but there are the CONS.
Essentially that Matte finish will suck all of the saturation out of your image, it will reduce the pop from your colours and reduce the depth of the image.
It makes your images more washed out, and with more cluttered images with more in the scene you will struggle with this finish type.
This is why its very important to be selective with the images you print as Matte finish. You need natural contrasty images that can survive the reduction in Saturation and contrast.
Technically though, the prints are smooth very dull and fingerprint resistant, they don't scratch easily and be can framed almost straight onto the glass although Plexiglas would be a better choice.
Lustre prints are essentially an in-between version of Matte and Gloss prints, they reduce the reflections of the Gloss whilst giving more pop and saturation than Matte.
They do this by having a slightly textured surface called a Peddled finish, the textured surface catches the light reducing reflections, helping to reduce glare.
Lustre prints have quickly become the print of choice over the years as they tend to have more PRO's than CON'S for this reason all my prints automatically come as Lustre finishes unless you request otherwise.
So why are they so good?
If we assume most prints are going to be framed, that missing Gloss you loose with a Lustre print, is mostly replaced by the glass in the frame, this glass helps to add punch and saturation to the print, so your Lustre print still reduces reflections but the glass helps to boost its punch, saturation and contrast.
Lustre prints can also sit against glass like Matte prints can (although I would recommend Plexiglas)
Lustre prints are more fingerprint resistant than Gloss, they also scratch less easily than gloss.
The only real CONS are the slight texture from the "Pebble effect"
You could also argue that they don't have the same artistic feel of a Gloss or Matte finish, but this is more down matching your image to the finish correctly,
Lustre Prints are seen as a one for all Solution, and as such have lost a bit of artistic feel.
Although there are multiple print finishes available its often good not to get bogged down on the one your prefer, its better to find that all important image you want a print of and then match your image to the finish type.
Lustre prints give that true one fits all finish, they are a very good choice for most images out there, if you think you want to try a different style though, you can't go wrong with trying either Gloss or Matte. Just try and match that image with the correct finish.
Another finish I sell Poster Style Prints in is Velvet - But that is a whole different story, Think of a Matte finish with a layer of Silk on almost indestructible paper which reminds me of the new British £5 note.
Hence welcome to the joys of prints and the many finishes.
Three images which finish would you choose for each?
What is your favourite finish type in Photography? Let us know in the Comments box below!
More of our guides on prints and photography
Glass or Acrylic Plexiglas? The differences and which is right for you?.
Meet the Author:
I am a Devon based Photographer, who enjoys travel, hiking, rugby and photographing the beautiful world in which we live in, I see photography as a creative expression upon visiting beautiful places. Each picture often tells a story.
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Sebastien Coell Photography