Fast & FREE Shipping to the Contiguous United States

What’s the point of Photo Papers? They’re all the same. Right?


Photo papers are as common as the printers used to print on them.

You can find them in the ‘office supplies’ aisle at CVS and at most grocery stores stacked up next to the envelopes. Going to a Staples or Office Depot today will result in seeing entire rows of different photo papers, packaged in different colorful boxes and brightly touting their print capabilities. The possibilities, as they say, are endless.

HP would have you think their photo papers will cure the common cold with the marketing they do. Canon has great photographer programs and incentives for those interested in exploring their photo papers. Epson offers ICC profiles and color management for their papers, as do many other manufacturers of papers and canvas (*ahem* Breathing Color comes to mind…*cough*) but the truth is they’re all about the same with some being just a pinch better than others. Right? Realistically, all photo papers will produce a decent result for your family photo or portrait of your beloved dog Mittens.

Traditional Uses

Before we can appreciate these creative suggestions for using photo paper, let’s briefly touch on the traditional uses. There are three main uses I can think of that apply to any type of photo paper:

  1. Printing photographs (obviously)

  2. Photo albums and crafting such as scrapbooking

  3. Printing copies of digital art or images to keep, sell, or display

Printing Photographs

Printing photos is where it all started. The oldest example of photography and the photographic process is known as “Daguerrotype” and was used as far back as the 1840’s. While compared to today’s standards, these methods were very low tech but still produced high quality print reproductions. The practice of preserving beloved memories in photograph stands to this day. Let's take a look at some traditional examples.

Photo albums and crafting such as scrapbooking

Printing and preserving photos then evolved into the collecting, sorting, and displaying of family and friend photo albums in a variety of different books, magazines, and journals. With photography and photo printers becoming steadily more affordable through the years, the explosion of the printed family photo album grew at a lightning pace. With the advent of digital platforms like YouTube and Instagram, the shift to digital took place almost overnight making the family photo album virtually limitless. Today’s average human produces so many photos on their phone or digital devices that it would take years to catalog them if one were to try.

Printing Copies of digital art or images to keep, sell, or display

Along with the advancement of the digital photo and photo sharing tools online; selling art & photography has now become second nature to most artists, photographers, and creative agencies. Printing art is now synonymous with producing it and many have made the act of printing the very art itself with things like collector’s edition prints, limited print runs, and specialized print processes.

Upon the introduction of adhesive photo papers, a variety of other uses have grown in popularity such as stickers and decals giving creatives even further reach for their craft. It’s commonplace to see Etsy shops offering coffee mugs emblazoned with a saying like “live, laugh, love” in colorful printed sticker letters.

We’ve touched briefly on the three most common traditional uses for photo papers. This article is about suggestions for creative uses of photo papers and I hope you find them inspiring!

Creative Ways to Use Photo Papers

A lot of these suggestions are from my own attempts as an artist to share my art and illustration with others. The business of selling art can be frustrating at times but approaching your creative outlet from different angles can help revitalize and remind you why you’re printing and sharing your art in the first place.

Custom Greeting Cards

This category could fit in the ‘scrapbooking’ mention above as it has become increasingly common to do with software that allows anyone to design and print cards at home. The cost of small photo paper packs makes it ideal for almost anyone to try their hand at designing a greeting card for their loved one, friend, or relative. For example, Breathing Color is offering a sale on 4”x6” packs of Vibrance Luster photo paper for under $20. That is certainly attainable for those willing to invest a little time, effort, and money.

Add to that the fact that companies like HP, Epson, and Canon all provide advanced software suites for and shipped with their printers that are specifically made to inspire their users to create text, art, or imagery that is far removed from boring b&w document printing. At just $99 the average home printer can quickly become a powerhouse in your home business workflow, from shipping labels to customized greeting cards and everything in between.

Canon's Print Software Featuring Printer
Canon’s “CANON PRINT” software making printing anything a breeze.†


Art & Mixed Media Projects

There’s an artist I follow on Instagram that specializes in incredibly detailed black and white line art that he then prints on a matte photo paper and applies watercolors to in a variety of ways for a unique mixed media art piece. There’s another artist that takes printed glossy family portraits and glues them onto woodblocks and then cuts around the shapes of the people in the photo for a 3D effect. There’s yet another photographer who does film transfers from photo paper to wood or other substrates that would be nearly impossible with a direct print method alone (how would you feed a round wood piece into a printer?).

Picture on Wood, Custom Photo on Wood, Rustic Portraits, Distressed ...

Mixed media is an ideal space for the truly hands-on Creative as it provides a fun and engaging method of artistic expression that flat two-dimensional images simply can’t fulfill. Collages, mosaics, and repeating pattern art are some examples of mixed media installations that have made great use of photo papers and photographs in their composition. For example, in the image below, the artist took multiple found objects and a photo to create a visually striking piece.

Mixed Media Photo In Frame - Image courtesy of LuvLee Scrappin††

Mixed Media Photo In Frame - Image courtesy of LuvLee Scrappin††

Home Décor

Photos have long since been a staple of home décor. Just think about every time you’ve been to your Aunt Bertha’s house to be greeted by eighteen frames of her dogs Coco and Beanie in the entry hall. Or the cascading tiles of family photos with new ones being added as the family grows (Hi In-Laws!) by the front door. Affordable photo papers, printers, and art supplies make home crafts a fun Sunday event for people who want a family-friendly activity. For less than $50 one can print, frame, and paint a bunch of photos as a fun kids’ party or keepsakes from a fun event like bachelorette night or senior graduation keychains. I’m sure most families have some decorations adorning their home that were handmade with love. Perhaps slightly imperfect but perfect in their meaning.

Home printers make customization and personalization easy to attain for most people and it’s now easier than ever for someone to take on the challenge of making their dream home business a reality. Interior Designers, for example, have been able to add a special touch to their home staging with things like personalized coasters with their brand name or glossy brochures of the home as a giveaway for their visitors. Many a career centered around home décor have been able to level up their business when introducing printing photo papers and the many options it brings.

Displays & Signage

Photo wreaths, frames glued together in interesting shapes, mobiles, or interesting hanging photo displays are examples of some ways that fun photos have been used to show family photos or even business information. Catered events like weddings, birthdays, and graduations are hot spots for custom photo papers used in displaying things like menus, facts about the event, or thank you notes to patrons/visitors.

"Vintage Travel" wedding dinner menu, ivory and gold | Dîner de mariage ...

Custom Wedding Menu - Image courtesy of Pinterest - Link

Gifts & Tags

Small photo papers such as 4”x6” make great id cards or can easily be made into gift tags showing the recipient’s face and/or name. I’ve seen a lot of artists on Etsy (myself included) offer customized and personalized gift tags as a service. A nice touch for wedding organizers would be to use small photo prints of each of the wedding guests at each table as placeholders or name cards. Companies like Kodak sell battery-operated small format photo printers that are perfect for on-site production, so much so, that I know one event photographer that prints their photos right there for you! These small photo printers and photo papers make running a mobile business easier to do from start to finish.Kodak DockPlus 4PASS Instant Photo Printer

Kodak DockPlus 4PASS Instant Photo Printer - Amazon Link


There are hundreds of thousands of businesses (if not many more) that center their entire focus on customized bookmarks of all shapes and sizes such as memorial bookmarks. Cutting photos into bookmark shapes and decorating with inspirational quotes is a staple of many a craft event or how-to video. With lamination as an extra layer of protection, bookmarks are a great example of mixed media art in themselves.

Fashion Accessories

Epoxy and resin combined with photo paper is a powerful tool of jewelry makers and designers. Used almost as much as clay, the possibilities for specialized or personalized necklaces, broaches, earrings or any other wearable are hard to beat for an affordable option to traditional gemstone accessories.

Personalized Calendars

It doesn’t take a big piece of paper to make a good calendar. Even a series of well-designed letter-sized sheets in landscape orientation can be turned into a unique family calendar with photos showing significant dates of the participants (for example, the day someone proposes). One can add layers of photos for a montage or collage of artwork to include as many photos as possible per page.

Education & Learning Tools

4”x6” and 5”x7” are the average sizes for index cards as well as photo papers making them ideal for a teacher or public speaker to design as flashcards, training materials, or interactive learning tools with engaging visuals. It’s hard enough for teachers to provide a good classroom experience without having to worry about outdated textbooks or information. Do you remember the black and white xerox copies from your science classes? The teacher was likely having to scramble to share updated images from a better textbook than you had! Imagine the efficiency of printing out the exact images they needed for you, in full color no less. Today’s schools are equipped with better technology making the classroom experience as fun and engaging as those teaching can make it.

Business & Marketing

As one can see from this entire article, a majority of these creative uses for photo papers are related to each other. As many an artist or photographer begins their journey into becoming small business owners, the interweaving of these different tools to spread one’s message become critical to keeping the doors open. From handing out bookmarks with your company name and logo to offering personalized calendars with sales offers or product mentions; there are hundreds of options at the hands of every small business that wants to be heard.


Photo papers, especially in small size, are the versatile tool of the enterprising user. There’s virtually limitless potential to what one can accomplish with photo papers when combined with your own creativity and passion for your craft. These suggestions have hopefully reminded you of something you’ve already known or have been ideal launching points for you to explore the many options available to you.

Here’s to a great print!

  • R. Carnie Littlefield


Someone purchsed a

Product name

info info