Matte versus Glossy


Today’s Question: My understanding has been that prints made on matte surface, inkjet printing papers are generally more archival than glossy surface papers. Do you agree? And how, if at all, does the coating on coated matte papers influence the print’s life expectancy?

Tim’s Quick Answer: There are a variety of factors that impact overall print longevity. However, in general matte papers will provide the greatest longevity. Glossy papers will generally provide the least longevity, and coated matte papers can be expected to provide longevity that falls somewhere in between.

More Detail: Let’s first assume that all other factors are equal in this case. That’s not a small assumption, of course. There are factors related to the composition of the paper substrate, the degree to which a given paper is acid-free, and many others.

However, among the various factors that impact print longevity is how close the inks ultimately sit to the surface of the paper. The closer the inks are to the surface, the more exposed those inks will be to environmental factors.

Glossy papers generally cause inks to stay at the surface rather than being absorbed. As a result, the inks are more exposed to environmental factors that can cause the inks to fade over time. In other words, with a glossy surface there is a greater risk that the print will fade relatively quickly.

Matte papers, on the other hand, absorb the inks so that the inks can be thought of as somewhat “sitting below the surface” of the paper. That helps to protect the inks, so they are not as prone to fading. Of course, that also reduces the overall color saturation and tonal contrast of the print.

A coated matte paper will generally fall somewhere in between. The matte paper itself is more absorbent than a glossy paper would otherwise be. However, the coating causes the paper to behave a little more like a glossy paper than a matte paper. Thus, in general I would expect coated matte papers to have a print longevity that is longer than that of a glossy paper, but shorter than that of an uncoated matte paper.