What is the Difference Between Glossy and Matte Photos in Printing?

What is the Difference Between Glossy and Matte Photos in Printing?

When it comes to bringing a book to life, every detail counts, and one of the most crucial decisions a publisher or self-publishing author must make is the type of photo finish to use. The choice between glossy and matte photo finishes can significantly impact the overall reception of a book.

While glossy photos are known for their vibrant colors and sharp details, matte finishes offer a more subtle, glare-free appearance that many people find easier on the eyes. This choice is not just about personal preference; it's about how the photos interact with the reader and the narrative of the book itself.

In this blog, we will dive into the world of glossy and matte photo finishes. We'll explore what sets them apart as well as their advantages and disadvantages. Whether you're a professional photographer, a graphic designer, or a self-publishing author, understanding these differences is key to making an informed decision that aligns with your book's purpose and audience.

What are Glossy Photos?

Glossy photos are a popular choice in the world of photography and printing, as they are known for their shiny, reflective finish. This type of photo finish is achieved through a specific coating process that gives the photographs a smooth and highly reflective surface.

5 Advantages to Using Glossy Photos

Shiny Surface

The most noticeable trait of glossy photos is their shiny surface. This high gloss finish reflects a lot of light, making the colors and details in the photo pop.

Increased Vibrance

Glossy photos are celebrated for their ability to enhance color vibrancy and contrast. Colors appear more dynamic and saturated, while blacks are deeper, contributing to a more visually striking image.

Sharpness and Clarity

The glossy finish tends to make images look sharper and more detailed. This is particularly beneficial for high-resolution photographs where capturing fine details is crucial.

Popular in Commercial Printing

Due to their eye-catching nature, glossy finishes are often used in commercial printing for promotional materials, magazine photos, and book covers where attracting attention is key.


The glossy coating can offer some protection to the photo, making it somewhat resistant to damage from handling.

5 Disadvantages to Using Glossy Photos

Reflective Surface

Glossy photos have a highly reflective surface, which can create glare. This can be problematic when viewing them under direct light or from certain angles, making it difficult to see the photo clearly.

Fingerprints & Smudges

The smooth surface of glossy photos tends to attract fingerprints and smudges. Handling these photos can leave noticeable marks, which can detract from the image's appearance and require frequent cleaning.


Glossy photos are more prone to scratches compared to matte finishes. Even minor abrasions can be quite noticeable, potentially ruining the photo.

Less Natural Looking

While glossy photos make colors pop and look more vibrant, this can sometimes result in an overemphasis of colors, making images appear less natural. This might not be ideal for certain types of photography where color accuracy is crucial.


When framed behind glass, the reflective nature of glossy photos can create double reflections, which can be distracting. This makes them less ideal for framing and displaying in well-lit areas.

What are Matte Photos?

Matte photos refer to photographs that are printed on matte finish paper. This type of paper has a non-glossy, flat surface that doesn't reflect light. Matte photos offer a different aesthetic than glossy prints, focusing on reducing glare and providing a more natural, subdued appearance. They are typically used for certain types of photography and displays.

Advantages to Using Matte Photos

Matte Photos: Ideal for Framing

Matte photos are known for their soft, non-reflective finish, making them a prime choice for framing. The absence of glare, even under lighting or when viewed from various angles, enhances their visual appeal and makes them perfect for display.

Textured Surface of Matte Finish

The slightly textured surface of matte finish paper imparts a unique tactile feel, distinguishing it from glossy prints. This texture can elevate the artistic quality of the photo, lending it a more sophisticated and refined appearance.

Muted Colors in Matte Photos

Matte photos are renowned for presenting colors in a more muted and soft manner, as opposed to the vibrant hues typical of glossy prints. This quality is especially beneficial for images where fine detail takes precedence over color intensity, such as in black and white photography.

Resistance to Fingerprints and Smudges

A notable advantage of matte photos is their resistance to fingerprints and smudges. This feature makes them more user-friendly, as they are easier to handle and require less maintenance compared to their glossy counterparts.

Professional Use of Matte Photos

In professional realms, such as for headshots, portfolio images, and art photography, matte photos are often the preferred choice. Their glare-free nature and elegant, subdued finish minimize distractions and add a touch of sophistication to the presentation.

Disadvantages to Using Matte Photos

Subdued Colors in Matte Photos

Matte photos typically exhibit colors in a more subdued manner compared to the vividness of glossy prints. The absence of a shiny surface can lead to colors appearing less vibrant and intense, which might not be suitable for images where you want the colors to really stand out.

Potential Loss of Sharpness and Detail

The texture of matte paper can sometimes affect the perceived sharpness and detail in an image. This difference is often more noticeable when a matte print is compared directly with a glossy print of the same photograph, posing a drawback for images where fine details are essential.

Susceptibility to Damage

While matte photos are less prone to fingerprints and smudges, they can be more vulnerable to other forms of damage like scuffing or scratching. Additionally, the surface of matte photos is more susceptible to being marred by water or other liquids, which can be a significant concern in terms of preservation and longevity.

Challenges in Cleaning Matte Photos

Unlike glossy photos, which can be easily wiped clean, matte photos present more challenges in cleaning. Their textured surface can trap dirt and dust, and attempts to clean them can sometimes do more harm than good, making maintenance a delicate task.

Specific Aesthetic of Matte Photos

The aesthetic appeal of matte photos is distinct and may not align with all types of images or personal preferences. In scenarios like commercial settings, where striking, vibrant images are needed to catch the eye, the muted effect of a matte finish might not be as compelling or effective.


In conclusion, the choice between matte and glossy photos in printing depends on the specific requirements of the project, aesthetic preferences, and where the photo will be displayed. Ultimately, the decision between matte and glossy finishes should be guided by the context in which the photo will be used.

For instance, glossy finishes might be preferred for personal albums or vibrant landscapes, while matte finishes could be more suitable for gallery displays, professional settings, or certain artistic photography where a softer, more natural appearance is desired. Each finish has its unique qualities and drawbacks, and understanding these can help make an informed choice that enhances the final presentation of the photograph.

If you'd like to learn more about glossy photos or matte photos and their uses, give Formax a call at 866-367-6221. Or, if you already know your specs, submit our easy quote request form.

Take care! Rick