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Material Matters: Choosing the Right Paper for Your Fine Art or Photo Prints

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Material Matters: Choosing the Right Paper for Your Fine Art or Photo Prints

Whether you’re printing artwork, photography or display graphics, choosing the right material is crucial. You want to find the right balance of aesthetics and functionality to showcase, transport and preserve your visuals.

So, how do you pick which material is best for your needs? The options are endless here at Duggal, and so we’re introducing a new blog series called Material Matters to help guide you. Material Matters will provide insight and solutions covering the full gamut of creative trades, from photography and visual art to architecture, design and advertising. You can follow along to pick up tidbits of knowledge, or contact us directly to request a topic.

Fine Art and Photographic Printing

And with that introduction, let’s first take a look at fine art and photographic printing. The first question an artist or photographer usually asks when they come to us is, “What type of paper should I use?” With dozens of different fine art and photographic papers to choose from, making a selection can be more difficult than you would think. Here is a basic guide to use as a starting point:

Digital C-Prints vs. Inkjet Prints

First, you will want to determine whether you will be using digital c-prints or inkjet prints.

In C-prints, the C is short for chromogenic, which refers to the process by which color photography is created. Long story short, C-prints are color photographs. Digital C-prints are produced on an RGB scale and carry a distinct set of aesthetics that many photographers gravitate to. They carry the same DNA as the first photographic labs, except today’s refined technology of exposing film with light is carried out using a digitized file as the negative; the final print is the actual photo-sensitive paper receiving the light-transferred image.

Inkjet prints, on the other hand, are pigment-based and produced on a CMYK scale, so the colors are more vibrant and thus pack a more emphatic “pop.” Inkjet printers are common in personal and office settings, but have been advanced to astounding specifications for commercial use.


The Differences Between the Two

Digital C-prints and inkjet prints both have their benefits and shortcomings. Some inkjet prints can last more than 200 years in proper storage, but mounting and framing presents a challenge, as it can be difficult to mount them to a second surface. Digital C-prints have a classic appeal with continuous tone and numerous mounting and framing options, but their colors can appear somewhat muted in comparison to inkjet prints.

Perhaps the most notable difference between digital C-prints and inkjet prints is that C-prints have continuous tone achieved through a chemical process that involves dyes. To the contrary, inkjet printers lay ink in tiny dots to give the illusion of continuous tone. Continuous tone is a major selling point for photographers who want that timeless photo appearance, but not necessarily for artists who are more concerned with color and the “wow” factor.


Photographic Papers

Your two staples of photographic paper are Matte and Glossy. Matte paper has a non-glare finish that is great for photos with texture and detail, while glossy paper is coated and has a shiny appearance that works well for images with high contrast. If you are handling your photos frequently, Matte paper is probably the better selection because it doesn’t pick up fingerprints like Glossy paper will.

Then you have Metallic paper, which gives photos a pearly, almost 3D effect. Other popular photo papers include Lustre, Fiber, Deep Matte and display films such as Duraclear and Duratrans.

In 2013, Duggal introduced a rare innovation in the photographic printing landscape, revolutionary HD C-Prints with twice the resolution of conventional photographic prints. HD C-prints are available on true archival Matte and Glossy paper.


Inkjet Papers

Inkjet prints, also known as fine art giclee prints, are produced on a wide variety of fine art papers and canvases ranging from photo paper to rag paper, watercolor paper and even vinyl.

Artists will find a world of inkjet paper options, each one offering its own unique texture, contrast and lifespan. Inkjet printing accentuates your imagery while maintaining its artistic integrity, and can be used for gallery prints, museum pieces and display graphics alike.


Just the Beginning

We have just barely scraped the surface of paper options for artists and photographers, and you couldn’t possibly make a final decision without seeing and holding each paper in person. To learn more and speak with a Duggal consultant, stop by our NYC retail center at 29 West 23rd Street or call us at 212-242-7000.

Stay tuned for more Material Matters guides.


  1. I am an 87 YO working Fine Art photographer, retired (2006) Prof. from FIT. Making my own hi-res ink jet prints on an Epson 3880 printer for Exhibition. Very interested in learning about CHROMOGENIC / HDR prints!
    I am somewhat disabled and live on the UWS. Can I get some sampleS of different chromogenic paper/prints and your price lists? Is there a rep I can talk to? (212-595-5480)

    Many thanks for your assistance.



  2. Shame on you guys! In may, 2015, I wrote you about your HDR PAPER and received nary a word? Although you did print my comment. My words are still there!



  3. I saw a photograph printed on non-digital watercolor paper–it had run just a little and looked gorgeous. I couldn’t find out any more than that it was Hahnemuhle watercolor paper. Don’t know what kind and it seems difficult to buy in the States. Any suggestions or alternatives?

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