Matte vs. Gloss: Which is Better or Does it Really Matter?

Posted by Joshua Krogel on

When you're looking to print photos, you will often have an option to choose a "finish": glossy or matte. The same goes for almost all other printed products as well. There will usually be a matte or glossy option for business cards and labels to table tents, hang tags, and rack cards.

Just as beauty is within the eye of the beholder, which finish you select is mostly personal preference. There is no real right or wrong choise but there are some practical considerations to keep in mind when making that glossy-or-matte choice.

In Apollo's Signage and Print Simplified blog, we'll go through everything. Hopefully, we will help you determine what finish will work best for your sign, photo, or other marketing pieces.

Becoming Glossy or Matte

Curious about how the Apollo production team gets your prints matte or glossy? Because it seems there are two primary ways to realize a glossy or matte finish:

A media or paper has the finish "baked in" – the clear gloss or matte finish comes from the paper or substrate when it receives a chemical coating during the manufacturing process. The finish and smoothness (texture) will be affected because the paper is then run through high-pressure rollers ("calenders"). The more or better calendars it's run through, the more glossy it'll become.

A finish is added with a coating after it has been printed. The Apollo production team can also add a coating after the piece has been printed to add an extra glossy or matte finish.

For you, it doesn't matter how the gloss or matte effect is added – either upfront or after the graphic has been printed; the results will be the same.

Glorious Glossy

Think "bright," "sleek," and visual "pop" when you're considering a glossy finish, and you're on the proper track for this smooth effect. Glossy works exceptionally well with images (versus many texts), especially high-contrast photos.

A glossy finish provides not only vivid colours but also rich blacks and an expensive feel.

Glossy's other attributes include:

Vivid colours: It seems like a cliché, but you'll indeed get redder reds, bluer blues, greener greens with a glossy finish. That glossy coating will make all of your colours seem to burst from the photo or sign.

Most affluent blacks: A glossy finish will end in your print's blacks being more impactful deep black that will never get confused with gray.

Low-light friendly: Because a glossy finish will be highly reflective – especially under direct lighting – this finish does its best to add low-light settings.

Its just too nice: For most people, a glossy look visually seems like something inherently valuable and expensive. It is not likely to be thrown out. Glossy carries a "modern" feel to it also.

Marvellous Matte

When it involves a matte finish, two descriptors that likely come to mind are "flat" and "soft." A matte finish works well with low-contrast or muted images (little between darks and lights).

Avoid smudges, fingerprints, and reflections with a matte finish.

Other advantages of a matte finish include:

Fingerprint avoidance: Matte's ability to keep off fingerprint smudges is significant for photographic prints.

Reflection protection: Matte is the most suitable option for displaying under bright lights because a flat finish won't offer any reflections, unlike its glossy counterpart. Even under glass, a matte finish will still debar reflections.

Accentuating image details: The matte finish will naturally allow the attention to ascertain more detail in a picture and not be so visually "challenged" by a shiny gloss finish.

Write-ability: If you would like someone to write down on the printed product with a pen – think business cards, as an example – then matte should be your choice. Ink will smudge more on a glossy finish.

That "artsy" feel: A matte finish will help a black-and-white image maintain an inventive aesthetic. Matte also works nicely with sepia-tone and historical photos.

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