Photo Gloss vs Semi Gloss | What Print Type is Best?

Photography is an art and a profession. Unlike many other hobbies, photography requires education and skill to capture the best picture. However, it does not end there. The outcome of the art of photography is in the print you see.

Photos are printable in many kinds of papers, ranging from matte, gloss, semi gloss finish. Although it may seem confusing in choosing the printing paper, a lot would depend on the type of finish you would want. Many artists incline to choose photo paper finish with gloss and semi gloss because of the rich color of the picture. If you want to take snapshots gloss and semi gloss photo papers are just perfect.

What is Photo Gloss?

Do you want your poster design to pop up in low light? Framing in photo gloss paper is the solution as they are most suitable for posters. The photo paper with a glossy finish creates a glare. The premium gloss papers produce crisp and beautiful pictures, showing off the colors with brightness. The deep color of the images glows in a powerful light. However, bright light reflects some parts of the image and makes it invisible.

Photo Gloss vs Semi Gloss

Glossy prints suit the vintage by photo artists because of the extra finish. The vibrant images create a play with the angle of the light, loved by many photo artists. The black and white create a different kind of beauty to the glossy paper prints of photos.


  • Prints in high contrast and color
    Reduces the need for glass in framing
    Enhances the look of prints


  • Glare from natural light sources is emphasized
  • Fingerprints are visible
  • Surfaces scratch easily

What is a Semi Gloss Paper Finish?

Semi gloss papers suit well posters for framing with glass and are placed in a position where there is less reflection of light. Semi gloss printed posters look great in areas with a dark background. The semi gloss paper photos create a clear, smooth, and colored image.

staples photo gloss vs semi gloss

The semi gloss paper also known as satin or pearl is in between matte and gloss finish. The photos do pop out in the light but with less glare. Much of the use of the type of paper for posters depends on the individual’s choice and the conditions of the space in which the posters will be on display.


  • Durable than glossy prints
  • Less prone to scratches
  • Suitable for framing
  • Ideal for black and white prints and classic photo looks
  • Reflections from overhead and natural light are minimal
  • Fingerprints cannot be seen


  • There is less vibrancy in the colors
  • There is less contrast
  • Sharpness of images reduced
  • Gloss prints are more expensive

Photo Gloss vs Semi Gloss: At A Glance

 Photo GlossSemi Gloss
Image QualityCrisp and beautiful picturesClear, smooth, and colored image
BrightnessHigher (92 ISO)Lower
Eye SightGlossy and reflectiveComfortable
FramingNot suitablePerfect
Poster PrintingSuit well with postersNo
Picture SizePerfect for large size imagesRegular image size
DurabilityDamage with fingerprint and scatchLonger uses
Color CombinationHighly colorfulNatural color

Photo Gloss vs Semi Gloss: A Definitive Comparison

To a photo enthusiast, the use of photo or gloss paper depends on the taste of the paper. However, your skill to create the best photograph is more important. The posters attract people and convey messages, so the vehicle that displays them is important.

You may wonder if location and light affect the paper, on which your image is printed. The answer is, yes, it does. The light conditions matter while choosing the printing paper. High gloss photo papers glare in bright light but pop up in dim light. Semi gloss are in between matte and gloss finish and do pop up in light with much less glare.

Both gloss and semi gloss photo papers are good for indoor as the light reflection would be suitable for the pictures to show their beauty. Therefore, the place of mounting plays an important role in choosing the king of photo printing paper. Further, if you are into a business selling posters, the choice of the buyer is important. If glass-mounting photographs were in demand, your suggestion would be the use of semi gloss photo paper.

soft gloss vs semi gloss photo paper

Gloss papers come with a high gloss finish, moderate thickness, the opacity of 96%, and brightness of 92 ISO, and a weight of 260 gsm. This paper kind is compatible with both inkjet and laser printer. The gloss creates a shimmer to the photos. As it produces vibrant colors, creating colored pictures is quite remarkable. If you are printing high-definition pictures for Christmas, gloss paper will give you bright, crisp poster photographs.

However, there are inconveniences of gloss photo paper. Printing large-sized photos because of the high light reflection. Viewing the high-reflective photographs may be distractive. Especially, the glass-framed photos with glossy paper are not comfortable for the eyes. To view the photos in the frame you may need to wear Polaroid glasses. Therefore, it is better to use paper that is less shiny, matte, or semi gloss finish.

The glossy finish is also prone to scratches with fingers or keys. The sticky nature of the glossy photo paper also retains fingerprints. Further, the glass easily sticks to the paper, so removing it to change the glass is likely to ruin the glossy printout.

Semi gloss photo papers also known as satin or pearl are soft and between glossy and matte finish. The paper has minimum reflectivity, producing smooth and clear images. Because of less reflection, semi gloss paper photos enable framing with glass with no problem in viewing. It is appropriate to print posters to frame with glass because of less reflection.

Displaying the posters by printing them in semi gloss photo papers is best in dark areas around the house. The benefit of semi gloss photos is less popping of color and insignificant light reflection. Some artists prefer the semi gloss paper because of the perfect viewing by the customers.

Frequency Asked Questions: Glossy vs Semi Glossy

Q: Is glossy or matte better?

Answer: Glossy photos last as long as matte photos. The lifespan of glossy or matte prints depends on the paper and how they are handled. Glossy photos attract fingerprints and scratches, especially if unframed. Matte prints hide scratches and fingerprints. They are also more protected when framed in glass.

Q: Should I print my wedding photos matte or glossy?

Answer: If you plan to print and frame your wedding photos, a matte finish is best. In an album with clear protective covers for each photo, this rule also applies. Remember that matte photos don’t have as much color or contrast as glossy photos. Matte finishes also reduce light reflection.

Let your photographer know you want matte finished photos so they can edit them accordingly.

Q: Which is Best for Framing?

Answer: Before you go to the printer, decide whether you want matte or glossy photos. There are many ways to frame photos, but the print you choose will dictate the rest of the process.
Many people choose to print and frame their favorite family or vacation photos. They usually choose a standard size timber or aluminum frame with a glass photo cover.

Matte is best for framing photos behind glass. A glossy print reflects a lot of light and can cause glare spots if the room is bright (from natural sources and overhead fixtures). A glossy photo in a glass frame doubles the glare, making viewing difficult. So matte prints are ideal for framing photos behind glass. The other framing option is to use a frame without glass. Many people choose to either laminate or simply stick their photo to the wall. A natural level of reflection enhances color and contrast in high-definition photos, making glossy papers ideal.

Finally, go all-digital with a digital picture frame like these.

Q: Why is matte more expensive?

Answer: While glossy photos have more vibrant colors, they use less ink than matte photos. Matte photos require more ink to achieve richer color and contrast.

Q: Which photo paper do pros use?

Answer: Professional photographers use matte photo paper because it doesn’t reflect light like glossy. Pros prefer to view the final image without the glare of the paper. To display photos behind glass, a matte finish is best.

Q: Matte or glossy posters?

Answer: Posters are usually big, bright, and bold. A glossy finish enhances the colors and visual appeal of a poster. There’s matte print and then there’s deep matte print! Deep matte photo paper is ideal for a gallery-quality finish. The lack of true black makes it ideal for photos with natural light and limited deep black areas.

Q: Which is better for black and white photos?

Answer: Aside from the matte vs glossy photo advice, it is best to print black and white photos on matte.

Final Words

Photo printing on gloss and semi gloss paper is enjoyable once you are aware of the intensity of the shine, the size of the poster, and the light conditions where you will display it. Posters created in these two types of papers are usually suitable for indoor hanging. Besides the printing paper, the skill of shooting pictures, the printer type, and the quality of the colors are of importance to create eye-catching photos. This little narrative if followed well is a guide to realize the pros and cons of using gloss and semi gloss photo printing paper. We wish you good luck in your printing!


Alice covers platforms, policy and big tech at Printer Reviews. Prior to rejoining here, Alice was Senior Technology Editor of the TechDen. Alice first joined PrinterReviews in 2021. Before joining, he was the Tech Editor of the Daily Dot and a reporter and deputy editor at ReadWeb.