by Michael McCarty
Founder, Tribeca Printworks

Impactful choices lie ahead once you finish artwork or capture a treasured memory on film. After selecting the best substrate for your image, you can choose matte or gloss finishes. Both options can significantly influence your work’s look and feel, creating prints with understated elegance or edgy displays that seem almost lifelike.

Both also have strengths, drawbacks and ideal use cases that can affect your preference for one or the other. Exploring these options’ traits, similarities and differences can help you make the best decision for your image.

What Are Matte Finish Prints?

Matte paper, canvas and HD aluminum mediums feature a much softer sheen than high gloss. Manufacturers create these by adding a matte coating to the substrate, which produces a more uneven surface. The coating allows the surface to scatter light rather than reflect it.

Pros of Matte Finish

Matte finish substrates offer several advantages.

Anti-Glare Properties

Since matte finishes offer a softer glow, they help prevent glare. That quality can be especially valuable for brightly lit display surroundings because the satin-style sheen absorbs more light. Viewers can admire your paper, canvas giclee or aluminum print without the loss of fine details that excess light can produce by reflecting off of glossy finishes.

Visual Appeal

Matte prints have a timeless aesthetic. The substrate isn’t completely flat, instead having a textured surface and soft luster that offers a tactile look. These properties make matte finishes popular for creating works with subtle, sophisticated beauty.

Enhanced Durability

Modern fine art paper options, canvases and aluminum mediums feature exceptional quality and decades-long durability ratings. These prints generally dry faster than those on glossy choices, which reduces the chance of smudging your work. The matte finish’s lesser sheen also makes it more resistant to fingerprints. All help create longer-lasting works for artists and enthusiasts to display.

Exceptional Value

Matte finishes are versatile for many image types, from photos to paintings and digital artwork. Giclee matte-paper prints are also a cost-effective way to create larger focal points, small collages and gallery walls featuring your creativity.

Cons of Matte Finish

Conversely, potential drawbacks to matte finish options exist. These include:

  • No thick coating: While matte substrates feature a coating, it’s not as thick as the ones applied to glossy finishes. That characteristic often translates into less protection from scratches, bending or creasing.
  • No smooth surface: The subtle texture of matte finishes can create the perception of a rougher surface, unlike the slick appearance of glossy finishes.
  • Less saturation: Matte-finish prints tend to have less saturation and vibrancy than glossy ones. That trait is ideal for some images, such as highly toned sepia works, but may be less desirable for more colorful pieces.

What Are Glossy Finish Prints?

Glossy paper and aluminum prints feature a high-sheen finish, while canvas giclee prints are available with an attractive semi-gloss luster. Typically, manufacturers create these surfaces with a special coating that reflects light.

Pros of Glossy Finish

Gloss-finish mediums offer several benefits:


Prints with glossy finishes offer an appealing glow. This attractive shine is ideal for capturing attention and showcasing special works or moments.


The special coating offers a flawless, smooth finish. The absence of texture creates a sleek, contemporary and sophisticated aesthetic.


Gloss finishes are ideal for creating display-worthy art with vibrant colors and high saturation that pop against their backgrounds. This finish is especially valuable for showcasing works with bright, bold colors, such as images featuring nature.

Cons of Glossy Finish

As with matte options, a glossy finish also has some drawbacks:

  • Glare: Gloss finishes don’t absorb or scatter light, so they’re likelier to create glares in well-lit settings. Those reflections can make it more challenging to see specific details in your work or view it from certain angles.
  • Less eco-friendliness: Some creation and printing processes for glossy substrates are less environmentally friendly.
  • Surface marks: Gloss finishes are more prone to smudging, and fingerprints are often more visible.

Similarities of Gloss and Matte Finish Options

Both finishes let your creativity be the star with:

Differences Between Matte and Glossy Finish Prints

While both matte and gloss finishes share some similarities, there are key distinctions that distinguish them from each other:

  • Texture: Matte-finish substrates feature a subtle texture, while gloss options are ultra-smooth.
  • Appear: Gloss finishes typically appear more striking, while matte ones are more understated.
  • Sheen: Matte finishes have a softer sheen than semi- or high-gloss options.

When to Print With Matte Finish

Certain factors can help you decide when it’s best to choose matte-finish pictures versus glossy ones:

  • Environmental lighting: If you display your work in an area with direct sun or bright surrounding and overhead lighting, matte is the better choice for reducing glare.
  • Framing choices: Matte is the best solution for prints beneath glass since it absorbs and scatters the light.
  • Work type: Matte finish is ideal for works with subtle saturation and broad tonal range, such as black-and-white or fine-art photography.
  • Tactile appeal: If you want the results to have a tactile feel to them, matte options offer an understated texture to create that.

On the other hand, times to avoid opting for a matte finish include:

  • Works with vibrant colors, which a matte finish slightly mutes.
  • Environments where scratches are a concern since matte coatings are thinner.
  • Display areas with low lighting that will make it more challenging to appreciate your work’s details.

When to Print With Glossy Finish

Similarly, there are times when you’ll achieve better results with a glossy versus matte finish. Gloss options are perfect for:

  • Special-occasion prints: Showcase milestones like marriages and graduations with eye-catching detail and rich color.
  • Areas with softer lighting: Allow viewers to appreciate your work at its best in areas with indirect or low lighting or in photo albums.
  • Scratch-prone environments: Gloss finishes tend to be more scratch-resistant than matte options since the coating is usually thicker.
  • Attention-grabbing displays: Command attention with gallery walls or displays featuring a professional and highly polished finish.

Cases where it is best to choose an alternative to gloss finishes include:

  • Display areas with bright lighting, which will interfere with enjoyable viewing due to reflections and glare.
  • Prints that will undergo a lot of handling since the surface finish will show fingerprints or smudges.
  • Images with low contrast, pastel colors or subtle gradients, which will be less perceptible on smooth, glossy surfaces.

Choose Tribeca Printworks for Stunning Fine Art Prints

Tribeca Printworks is a trusted printing collaborator for artists and enthusiasts alike. As creatives ourselves, we understand the need for high-quality, cost-effective, customized prints to showcase your work. We draw from decades of industry experience in fine art giclee printing and leverage market-leading equipment to help produce optimal results.

Our New York City studio is home to an expert art team ready to provide free design consultations to help you decide between matte versus glossy photos and prints. We also offer in-house custom framing to complete your look, providing quick turnarounds with superior craftsmanship.

Stop by our studio or connect with us online to get started with your prints.

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