Print Material Quick Reference

Here at the SAM Lab, we highly recommend semi-glossy paper for poster printing. But if you’re curious about all of your printing options, we’ve compiled a reference sheet of all our print mediums, their benefits, and their drawbacks.

Matte paper doesn’t reflect light, making it ideal for projects that will be displayed to the “naked eye.” If overhead lights, glare, and reflection are a major concern (preventing you from displaying your piece from behind glass or plastic), then matte prints are the way to go. However, matte paper is generally ill-suited for poster presentations: matte paper tends to be more fragile, produces lower resolution, and provides a narrower color range compared to gloss and semi-gloss prints.

Ideal for photographs, paintings, and antique maps, canvas shares many of the same properties as matte. The primary difference between these two materials is one of durability: whereas matte prints tend to be fragile, canvas prints are extremely resistant to the types of damage commonly associated with direct handling. Yet, the most appealing aspect of canvas is its ability to fold, allowing for easy transport. Many students who travel to international conferences opt to print their work on canvas so as to avoid the fees and hassle and associated with checking cumbersome items. It is important to note, however, that this advantage is not without cost: canvas prints are prone to creasing and, unless you’re certain you’ll have access to a towel, ironing board, and an iron with a “delicate” setting at your destination, your print will likely show creases once it’s on display.

If you’re looking for a durable paper that offers the best possible resolution and widest range of color, high gloss paper is the option for you. Unlike matte, glossy paper can withstand direct contact; if you see a fingerprint on your poster, you may be able to remove smudges and fingerprints with a slightly damp (almost dry) cloth without harming the print. There are two primary drawbacks with glossy prints. First, if glossy paper is displayed behind glass or plastic, the print may stick to this protective surface, resulting in damage to the print if removed from the display. Second, the protective glossy film can produce a significant amount of glare in certain lighting situations. As such, glossy paper should be avoided if you a) wish to protect your work with either a glass frame or plastic cover or b) your print will be displayed in direct lighting.

As the name indicates, semi-glossy prints merge the best of true matte and high gloss. Semi-glossy paper offers a color range and print resolution comparable to that of high gloss, while still reducing smudges and glare. Though semi-glossy prints will still exhibit some of the reflective characteristics of high gloss paper, glare will not adversely impact the visual presentation or legibility of your poster. In fact, semi-glossy prints are only susceptible to high levels of glare in extreme viewing angles and lighting circumstances (i.e., the lighting source is too bright or close). As such, semi-glossy paper is the SAM Lab's recommended choice for poster printing.