Matte vs. glossy photos: Which is best for photo prints?

by David Em
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When you print a photo, you need to choose between a matte or glossy finish. So, matte vs. glossy. Find out which one is better.

Hand holding printed photos.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Choosing the right finish for printed photos is essential because it impacts how the photo looks.

If you’re printing an image, the colors need to be accurate and the photo to be sharp. So, is a matte or glossy finish better for photos?

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While it’s a personal preference, learn the benefits and drawbacks of each finish. It’ll help you choose the right one for you.

Photographer with text overlay.

Matte photo finish

Printed photos with a matte finish on a table.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

A matte photo finish absorbs light. So, you won’t see any reflections when the light comes in contact with it.

While matte photos show accurate colors, you’ll notice that the colors look muted. It won’t look as vibrant as a photo printed with a glossy finish.

A major benefit of matte finishes is that it clearly shows texture, which gives the image dimension.

Most professional photographers use a matte finish because it shows a lot of detail and doesn’t stick to the glass when framed.

The best part is that you can’t go wrong with a matte finish. All types of photography look good printed with it.

Whether you’re printing a portrait, landscape, or wildlife photo, it’ll look amazing with a matte finish.

Plus, it works well with color or black and white. You can’t go wrong with matte.

Glossy photo finish

Printed photos with a glossy finish.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Glossy photos are the best when it comes to making the colors pop. If that’s what you’re after, along with a shiny look, a glossy finish is an ideal choice.

Like a matte photo finish, all types of photography look good with a glossy finish.

The main drawback is that a glossy finish is reflective. So, any light that hits it will result in glare.

If you’re planning to hang a glossy photo, place it somewhere without bright lights.

Another drawback with glossy photos is that fingerprints easily appear. If you choose a glossy finish, make sure it doesn’t get touched too often.

Which is better?

Ultimately, it’s a personal preference. Both options are fade-resistant. If you take care of it, you can expect it to last a lifetime.

In most cases, a matte finish is better than a glossy finish because photos look incredible, and there are fewer downsides.

Most professionals use a matte finish because of the great image quality, nice texture, zero glare, and how good it looks in a frame or behind glass.

Some choose a glossy finish due to the pop of color, whereas a matte finish can be slightly duller.

Overall, a matte finish is better, but if the pop of color is important, choose a glossy finish.

Best for framing

Whether it’s a photo you’ve taken or photos of your family, framing images are a great addition to your home. It’s one of the best ways to enhance and decorate your home.

If you’re planning to frame a photo behind glass, a matte finish is an ideal choice because it won’t reflect light from the fun or lights in your home.

If you’re framing an image without glass, you can go either way. Glossy finishes enhance the saturation, contrast, and colors. Just be careful with the glare.

Difference in cost

The matte paper offers more texture, absorbs light, and requires more ink. Also, the materials used have a higher price tag.

Therefore, printing photos with a matte finish costs more than a glossy finish.


Glossy and matte are two popular finishes for printing photos. Both of the options display colors and details accurately.

However, matte finishes have an edge over glossy finishes because there’s no glare. Glossy finishes offer a better pop of color.

So, the choice is yours. Both are excellent options. It depends on what matters to you.

Featured image courtesy of Canva.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.