Printing Digital Products: Which Paper To Choose?

Editor’s Note: With this article, Stephanie Vetne makes her debut as a Contributing Writer at Scrapbook Update. We hope that you enjoy her expertise in digital scrapbooking. – Nancy

As a mostly digital scrapbooker, I am often asked about printing options for my layouts and digital supplies. People want to know how I print my layouts, and how to print digital supplies for use in hybrid projects. One of the most common questions I get is “which paper should I use?”

For layouts, the answer is easy – high-quality photo paper works best for printing. Photographs are usually the highlight of any layout, and photographs always look best on photo paper. My personal favorite is a matte or luster finish but I know plenty of other digital scrapbookers who prefer glossy paper. As long as it’s photo paper, any of the finishes are just fine.

But when you’re working on hybrid projects that use a combination of photographs, paper supplies, and digital supplies, you have a lot more options. I print all of my photographs on photo paper but I mix it up a lot more when I print digital supplies. Let me show you why other options work just as well for digital supplies.

Here I started with the journaling cards from Katie Pertiet’s Labeled Journalers No. 4 from

I chose one of the cards from Katie’s kit and printed it off on three different types of paper.

In the photo above, the left card is printed on Bazzill Basics’ White Orange Peel Cardstock, the middle card is printed on Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster, and the card on the right is printed on HP C6817A Professional Brochure & Flyer Paper. For 8.5″ x 11″ sheets, the Bazzill cardstock retails for $6.30/50 sheets, the Epson photo paper is $27.51/50 sheets, and the HP brochure paper is $10.79/50 sheets.

The cards don’t look that different even though the papers are very different in texture, weight, and finish. The most noticeable difference is the gloss on the right card. The glossy finish is quite shiny and when you look at it straight on, it makes the card look a bit whiter and brighter. But it also makes the blues and the reds a tiny bit more washed out. If you look at the other two, the blues and reds appear a tad more saturated, with the cardstock just a bit lighter than the other two.

Here are the three cards from another angle.

(l-r: Cardstock, photo paper, brochure paper)

From this angle, the colors on the card printed on glossy brochure paper look more saturated and the sheen from the glare of looking at the card straight-on isn’t as noticeable. The card printed on cardstock still looks a little bit lighter than the other two. But they all still look great – no smearing, no smudging – and the colors look very true, albeit a tiny bit different from each other. You can also see the thickness of the paper from this angle. The cardstock is the thickest of the three; the brochure paper is thinnest.

Now, let’s look at them all individually.

The cardstock card looks great – the texture is visible, the colors are true, and there is no glare problem.

The luster card looks just as good as the cardstock card, although the colors are definitely a bit more saturated.

The brochure paper card again has the problem with glare, but is otherwise very similar to the other two cards.

So what paper’s the best choice for printing off digital supplies? The answer is that any of these options works well. It all comes down to personal preference, which may include such considerations as price (the photo paper is almost three times as expensive as the other two), a preference for a matte finish, durability, and texture. In this case, I would probably choose the cardstock option even though the colors are less saturated because it’s easier to write on cardstock than the other two surfaces.

But if I was printing off a different card – one that I wasn’t planning to write on – I might choose one of the other options because I really like the color saturation on those two.

For example, here’s another digital card I printed off on all three papers:

(l-r: Cardstock, photo paper, brochure paper)

This card I made myself by layering some of the word art from Cathy Zielske’s Phrase Cards No. 01 over a piece of Katie Pertiet’s digital patterned paper in her Blendable Photo Cards No. 03 kit. The color and saturation differences show up much more clearly on this card. The card printed on brochure paper is definitely darker than the other two. But again, all three cards look great and because I’m not using photographs and looking for accurate skin tones, this small amount of color variation is just fine. And the brochure paper is much less expensive than the photo paper so that’s a big incentive for me to use it, too.

So the easy answer to the question of which paper is best to print digital supplies is that there is no right or wrong paper. You have a lot of options and they will all work well for most projects. Be brave, experiment with different papers to see what you like for different applications, and have fun adding digital supplies to your paper projects!


17 Responses to Printing Digital Products: Which Paper To Choose?

  1. may January 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm #

    First of all, welcome! I look forward to reading your future articles here.

    I agree with you that there is no wrong answer, but rather that it depends on what you’re printing, and what you’re doing with it once printed.

    I often use textured cardstocks, light colored cardstocks (such as cream, kraft, pale colors as well), manila tags, sticky back canvas paper, and other specialty papers to print digital papers and elements onto. Some papers aren’t a good choice for most things (I’m thinking of vellum, glassine, mulberry paper, etc) but it’s nice to know you have a LOT of choices!

    My personal preference is to print onto more porous papers if I intend to use them like traditional paper elements I’d purchase. I like the look and feel much better. I find that I just don’t like printing anything but photos on matte photo paper (i’m just not a glossy girl ever). So, I print photos separately always now.

  2. Christie January 24, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

    Very interesting! I have been using Epson Premium Presentation paper, recommended by Jessica Sprauge in her hybrid Mouse, Paper Scissors classes. I will have to do an experiment like this. I wonder which format uses less ink.

  3. Erin Probst January 24, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    One thing to remember, though. You get the best results for pictures if you use the photo paper recommended by the printer’s manufacturer.

    • may January 24, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      that’s a great point. I will say that for this reason (as well as price) I have all my photos printed 4×6 and shipped to me. The quality + value is such that I can’t match it, and it’s well worth waiting on prints to ship for me. I’ve got a number of photos as young as three years old that are already seriously faded thanks to “value” photo paper. I learned my lesson!

    • Steph January 24, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

      Oh absolutely, Erin! Printer + paper + ink all from same manufacturer always = the best photos! I have an Epson photo printer and always use Epson paper and ink for all of my photos that I print from home. I have many, many photos that are 7+ years old and they are still beautiful.

  4. Terri Harmon January 24, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    I think your best advice was to be brave and experiment. There are so many variables in the printing process. I print all my own photos and am always finding something new or different. I’m a glossy photo fan and am always experimenting. Every printer reacts/responds differently. At one point I had the best luck with Staples Photo Supreme paper but then found HP’s Premium Plus High Gloss to be more satisfying. My latest printer which uses a different photo ink is providing even better glossy prints. I also like to journal on transparency paper. I have a variety of cardstock for other printed embellishments. The reality: if I’m satisfied with the result no one else is going to be the wiser because they will only see the final project. Remember, there is no “wrong” in scrapbooking! Have fun with it. 🙂

  5. Renee January 25, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    I recently tried printing digi Christmas tags that had a lot of dark red in them. They turned out beautifully on glossy photo paper, but I didn’t want them glossy like photos. Next I tried matte photo paper and plain cardstock. Both of them made the red look dull and washed out. Any suggestions?

    Also, I’d like to print a small word-art print. When printed with a laser printer on laser paper, the colors are beautiful and vibrant and much better than the color on the cardstock printed with my inkjet. However, I read that ink jet prints are much better quality and are more archival than laser prints. Any thoughts on this?

    • Steph January 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Hi Renee!

      Cardstock is quite porous, especially as compared to glossy photo paper, so the colors will probably look more muted on cardstock. Matte photo paper may not produce images that are as vivid as glossy photo paper, but the images should not be as muted as those printed on cardstock. Have you checked your printer settings? Make sure it is set to print best photo and the type of paper you are using is specifically selected.

      About laser printing – I am not an expert on different types of printers but it is my understanding that laser-printed images may have archival issues. Here are links to a couple of articles that may help you –

    • Ruth G January 27, 2012 at 9:23 pm #

      Renee, I’ve had similar issues with my printer and cardstock. I ended up experimenting a little and found that for the cardstock I was using and my printer, if I increased the brightness to lighter (about 25) that helped a lot. You might want to experiment yourself: print a small item with some bright colors until you get the setting right and then write it down or create a new setting for printing on that type of cardstock.


  6. Vicki J January 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

    Love the visual.. hits home that all are OK but one choice might be better for the project at hand.

    Another thing to remember is that some printer require a setting change when changing to Glossy printing.. it can make a difference too.

    Great article!

  7. Gab January 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Welcome Steph! Thanks for the great article

  8. Allie.Duckienz February 3, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    Hello and welcome to SU 😀 Looking forward to reading your articles!

  9. Selene Mackay April 12, 2017 at 8:32 am #

    Hello everyone I am thinking about printing some patterned digital paper to use it in a handmade album but I am concerned as to how ‘archival’ it will be. I am giving this as a gift and do not want it to get ruined within a short number of years. I find that printing on matte photo paper gives nicer colours. What do you suggest please?

    • Nancy Nally April 21, 2017 at 10:55 am #

      You are correct to be concerned that home printing won’t give you the archival life that commercially printed scrapbook paper will. Home printers use different printing processes than scrapbook paper manufacturers do (which is traditional offset press printing). The archival life of the offset printing is far greater than printing on your home inkjet, which is a process that is very unstable when subjected to light and other environmental conditions.

      Also, your page per sheet copy to print at home is going to be more expensive, most likely.

  10. Casey Broom May 21, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    I’m curious then. I have seen so many cute digital papers that I’d love to print and use just like scrapbook paper pads for my scrapbook pages, especially since I can’t always find the papers I like in the store but can usually find in digital format. If I want to use them in printed form the same as regular scrapbook paper, is that possible? Should I have them printed at a professional photo lab or can I print them at home? I worry about it being archival and not fading. I also wonder whether home printer ink is archival. I don’t even know though who I would use to print the papers out if that’s what I should do.

    • Nancy Nally May 30, 2017 at 8:08 pm #

      Unfortunately, no printing process that you use either at home or in a professional photo lab is going to have anywhere near the archival life of a paper that has been offset printed like commercial scrapbook paper (and most other printed items that you purchase).

Let us know your thoughts!