We’ve all tried at one time to print a high quality image on plain printer paper. While the paper did accommodate the image, the results were likely quite poor. This has to do with the difference in structure between plain and photo paper.

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Plain printer paper is uncoated meaning that when you print saturated images the surface cannot contain the ink and bleeds to the other side. As a result, you get wave like shapes and the lack of finish makes the image appear dull.

Furthermore, the lack of coating makes the print susceptible to smuggling and the lightweight of the paper (on average 70gsm to 80gsm) gives it a cheap look and feel. It is really designed to accommodate plain text or used as copier paper rather than images. If you did end up printing a photo, it will quickly fade and yellow so has no keepsake properties.

On the other hand, photo papers are divided into two main types. One type includes a barrier coating which is normally the higher premium microporous paper grade and one without the barrier which has the inkjet receiving layer laid directly on the paper. The latter are usually the cast coated papers and the matt high resolution papers. Cast coated papers have inferior quality in comparison to the microporous type.

The barrier layer which is available in the microporous range is to stop the ink from running to the other side and to add stability to the paper. It is a thin polyethylene coating on both sides of the paper. On one of side there is a receiving inkjet coating on top of which is a microporous type of coating.

‘Receiving layers’ as they are called in the professional world include cast coated and micro pores.

Cast Coated – Budget photo papers use cast coated receiving layer. When printed on, the ink sits on the surface when using pigment inks, but penetrate well when dye based inks are used. Therefore in cases when heavy pigment ink is used such as the Epson DuraBrite inks, the image may smear if rubbed when fresh out of the printer. The newer generation of the European made Cast coated photo papers have improved with their compatibility with pigment inks, but still not as good as the microporous photo papers.

Due to the cast coating process, it is only available with a glossy finish. It works fantastically well with dye inks, but less well with pigment inks.

Micro and Nano Pores – This receiving layer is used to coat professional grade premium papers in which durability and colour definition are a high priority. Unlike cast coated in which the ink sits on the surface, in this case it is embedded in microscopic pores making it instant dry. It is available in photo papers of glossy, satin and pearl finish and works perfectly well with dye and pigment inks.

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