lustre vs glossy photo prints

Your phone’s jam-packed with all kinds of amazing photos right now. You want to print them, show them off, cherish them forever. But you’ve got no idea which photo paper is right for you. 

Don’t panic, we’ve got you. When printing your photos, you’ll probably want to start with two of the most popular photo paper finishes - glossy and lustre

But what are the differences? Which one is best? You’ve got so many burning questions, so here’s everything you need to know about lustre vs glossy photo prints

Why is your photo print finish so important?

Let’s start with the basics. Why should you even care about photo paper and finishes?

Your photos might look great on your phone, but it’s not just a case of hitting “print” and then hoping for the best. Choosing lustre or glossy paper will have a massive impact on the appearance of your prints. 

Photo papers are made of different materials and have different levels of “shininess”, so they bring your precious photos to life in completely contrasting styles, moods and tones. 

Depending on the photo you’re printing, lustre vs glossy prints involves all kinds of advantages, disadvantages and little quirks you’ll want to take into account. 

In short, the choice between glossy and lustre can make or break your photo. No pressure, then… 


Your choice of photo print size is also very important, so check out our complete guide to standard photo sizes here!

What is a lustre photo finish?

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Lustre photo print meaning

A lustre photo finish that sits nicely between glossy and matte photo prints. This unique finish essentially delivers the best of both worlds, mixing the bright colours of glossy prints with the beautiful textures and smooth tones usually associated with matte prints. 

Lustre photos are still packed with fantastic colour and sharp details, but they aren’t as shiny or reflective as glossy photo paper. They offer a slightly toned-down, more subtle finish that brings it much closer to the classier style of matte prints and works particularly well with black & white images. 

The slight texture of lustre photo prints doesn’t just make photos look more professional, but also means lustre photos aren’t prone to smudgy fingerprint marks (which is obviously a huge bonus if you regularly handle your prints). 

Advantages of lustre photo prints

  • A colourful semi-gloss finish with a matte look
  • A softer, more premium texture
  • Not as reflective as glossy prints
  • Easy to hang anywhere and view from various angles
  • Versatile - the more subtle tones suit all kinds of photos
  • Won’t show as many fingerprints, stains or smudges
  • A more premium and professional feel
  • Shows more accurate skin tones

Disadvantages of lustre photo prints

  • Not as vibrant, bright or shiny as glossy prints
  • Not as subtle or neutral as matte prints
  • Textured finish means details aren’t as sharp as glossy

What is a glossy photo finish?

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Glossy photo print meaning

Glossy photos are the most popular print finish right now. They offer the brightest, most vibrant colours and a super-shiny finish that reflect as much light as possible. 

Thanks to their beautiful natural shimmer and vivid colours, glossy prints bring photos to life in sharp detail and crisp clarity. The intense contrast between colours really makes your photos look bolder and really pop out of the paper, an effect which is accentuated by the smooth reflective coating.   

The beautiful reflective quality never fails to catch the eye, so you will have seen zillions of glossy prints over the years. Most of your old family photos are likely glossy, for example, while most standard photo prints have a glossy finish when you’re shopping online. 

Advantages of glossy photo prints

  • Shinier, more reflective finish that catches the eye
  • Smoother finish delivers sharper details
  • Offers crisper, more striking images than lustre
  • Brighter and more vivid colours
  • Sharp contrasts make images pop

Disadvantages of glossy photo prints

  • Reflective glare makes them harder to hang on the wall
  • More difficult to view in sunlight
  • Prone to fingerprints, scratches and smudges

Lustre vs glossy photo finish - the 3 main differences

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While you can see all the advantages and disadvantages above, these are the main differences between lustre and glossy photos to consider. 

1. Shine

This is the biggest difference between lustre and glossy photos.

While both lustre and glossy prints are shiny, glossy photos reflect far more light and serve up a harsher reflective glare when displayed in sunlight. This means glossy prints make a bolder impact, but can also be much harder to see in bright places (so they can be harder to place on the wall). 

2. Colour and sharpness

Colours are brighter and more vibrant with glossy photos. Lustre photos have a semi-gloss finish that offers more colour than a matte print, but lower colour rendering than glossy prints. 

The shiny coating of a glossy print also delivers more sharpness and clarity, while the textured finish of lustre prints will slightly reduce sharpness. 

3. Handling

Glossy prints are famously prone to showing fingerprints, scratches and smudges, while lustre prints are far less likely to show these marks. 

This makes the choice much easier if you’re planning to handle your photos frequently. 

Lustre or glossy - which is best for your prints?

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The choice between lustre and glossy prints depends entirely on two teeny-tiny things: the photo you’re printing and what you plan to do with it. 

You already know that both finishes offer various advantages, and both look beautiful when used on the right photo. There’s no clear winner between the two, so how can you tell if your photos suit a glossy or lustre finish?

What’s in your photo?

Glossy prints are perfect for photos that are packed with colour, such as beautiful landscape shots or sunny holiday snaps. Due to their sharpness and fine detail, glossy photos are also ideal for portraits of pets, kids or other family members. 

Lustre prints are ideal for softer images, such as wedding photos or other romantic and sentimental snaps. The semi-gloss finish and premium texture also suit your more artistic shots, so lustre photos are regularly used by professional photographers. 

How will you use your photo?

If your photos will be handled frequently, then lustre prints are clearly the best option as they aren’t as prone to fingerprint marks. However, if your photos will sit safely in a photo album, then vibrant glossy prints may be the better choice. 

Thanks to the vivid colours and contrast, glossy prints also make a big impact when framed on the wall, but lustre photos are much easier to see if you’re hanging them in direct sunlight. 

Lustre vs glossy prints - final overview

The lustre vs glossy print debate may continue, but there really is no right or wrong answer here. You’ve just learnt all about their advantages and drawbacks, what each finish offers, and how they might suit the photos currently saved on your camera roll. 

Now it’s up to you to decide. Lustre and glossy prints are used for different purposes and offer different styles, so this is a subjective choice that depends on what you want. 

Whether you’re Team Glossy or Team Lustre, you can get high-quality glossy and lustre prints online or at your local Max Spielmann store. Better yet, they’ll be ready to Click & Collect just 20 minutes from now - so you could even print photos in both styles to decide which one you like the most!