Working with paper texture

Written by Daniel Gregory

August 10, 2020

When selecting a paper for your final photographic print, there are hundreds of options that you can choose from. These variations in materials can have a subtle or drastic impact on the experience of the print. When first starting to print, some photographers focus more on the finish of the paper settling on a glossy, luster, or matte surface. Each surface has advantages and disadvantages which impact the image. Part of learning to be successful as a photographic printer is to sort out what emotion, color, and expression you want in the image.

If you are printing on a matte surface, one aspect for you to really take a look at is the texture of the paper. Unlike glossy or luster papers which have a smooth flat surface, matte papers come in a variety of textures from very smooth to rough. In my workshops and classes, I often get asked about why print on a textured paper if you don’t want a painterly or watercolor look to the image. And while that can be an option, the texture of a matte paper can shift our approach to viewing the image.

Textured papers create a subtle depth to an image. Because the ink is no longer on a flat surface, the small hills and valleys in the paper allow the light to reflect off the print creating a different dimensionality, and in some cases richer, than flat-coated papers. In some cases, this can help mimic some of the richness of traditional black and white prints. Due to the suspension of the silver in the coating of the paper, the refractions of light caused a feeling of depth that isn’t always present in digital printing.

Textured papers can also help us process images with more noise in them. The paper’s textures can help minimize the impacts of noise in the reviewing of the image. Finally, textured papers are less likely to show any marks or dings that you might often get with other paper surfaces.

For me, however, the added depth to the image is what first drew me to try textured papers. If you haven’t tried one out, I recommend you give it a try. I listed a few of my favorites below. Also, don’t forget that a matte paper will have a different color gamut producing less “pop” than a glossy paper. You will also want to make sure that you don’t over ink the shadows of your image, causing a loss of detail. These are all issues that can be quickly resolved with soft-proofing but are worth remembering before you waste some paper.

BrandPaper Name
CansonEtching Rag
HahnemühleWilliam Turner
HahnemühleGerman Etching
EpsonLegacy Etching
Red RiverPalo Duro Etching 315
MoabEntrada Rag Textured

Affiliate Links

This website may use affiliate links. This means when you purchase something through links marked as affiliate links (usually noted by a *), I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services that I personally use or have tested.

New Course at KelbyOne

You May Also Like…

The power of the photographic interview

The power of the photographic interview

One of my favorite exercises I use to teach photography and learn about my own work is called the interview project. This process involves you doing enough research about a photographer you are inspired by or want to learn from and then create a set of 10 to 20 interview questions that you would want to use to interview them. In some cases, you might be lucky and be able to use those questions to interview the photographer. Still, sometimes they might no longer be alive. Either way, part of the process is to answer those questions as if you were the photographer. This will help you get some insights into how you might approach the work. You then use those same questions, slightly modified to fit your work, and then interview yourself.
The podcast this week walks you through the process and so possible insights you might be able to get with a simple little exercise that gives you big rewards in understanding your own process and work.

The value of small changes you can make even in a year of crazy to boost your photography enjoyment

The value of small changes you can make even in a year of crazy to boost your photography enjoyment

Sometimes it is the little things that can make all the difference. In a photograph, it might be a shift in POV or depth of frame. In our printing, it might be the right paper selection. No matter what you are working on a small change can be a big deal. However, as the days seemingly run together in this year of COVID, I got to thinking about how easy it is to miss the small changes since everything and every day seem to blend. 

This week’s podcast takes a look at how small changes can impact your photography and work. Hopefully, they can inspire you to try out the same or think about what small changes you will carry forward even when things shift out of our 2020 way of being.