Who would have thought paper plays a major role in any type of print media and advertising, especially movie posters! That’s right, the type and quality of paper used could make or break your movie poster design.

However, most importantly, a matte finish or glossy finish may be what seals the deal for you. This article breaks down which type of paper is best suited for your particular movie posters.

What paper makes the best film poster?

Movies posters are a billion-dollar industry and are a huge part of a film studio’s marketing budget; sometimes, more money will be spent on marketing than the actual film production. Which always seems crazy to me. 

Huge amounts of money are spent designing the posters, but for best representation, it is important that the poster is finished with the correct paper. 

This can make or break a poster, whether it adorns a billboard, a cinema foyer, or is hung in your dining room. 

Generally speaking all posters are usually finished with gloss or matte. 

Hollywood

Gloss

This is the shiny finish, it reflects light well, it is excellent with establishing contrasting colors. 

Gloss is probably the most used finish for a poster due to the vibrancy, versatility, and ability to stand out. Glossy posters are more likely to grab your attention and make you look at the poster. 

They are great for cinema foyers, which are usually large, have consistent lighting, and usually not much direct sunlight. They also work at home if you are wanting big, bold colors to make a children’s room, home gym room, or man cave pop a little.

However, the challenge is that the bigger the poster, the more problems you will have with a gloss finish because it might be too confusing for the eye, and it will be more likely that different amounts of light may be hitting different parts of the poster. 

Cartoon, sports, and Hollywood movie posters look great with a gloss finish. 

Matte

The opposite of gloss really, there is no shine, it limits glare, and it is less in your face than a gloss finish. 

With a matte finish, you can see better detail, so it might not have the initial wow factor that a gloss finish does, but if someone takes the time to stop and looks at the poster, they will see more and have a greater experience.  

If you are wanting to frame a poster under glass, then matte posters do better than gloss ones due to the lack of glare.

Gloss also tends to stick to the glass.

Matte also outperforms gloss posters if used outside and is subject to direct sunlight or inconsistent artificial lighting. They also do not show fingerprints as gloss does, so if the poster is handled regularly, then matte will be best. 

Matte posters are maybe more likely to be used by independent filmmakers, where the poster is part of the whole artistic process, rather than just a means of getting as many ticket sales as possible.

You will find that a matte finish best suits posters that are full of detail but that uses a lot of dark colors. 

Black and White posters look great in matte, as do images shot on film. Gloss tends to be better for digital images. 

So, think of a horror movie or a film noir poster over the next big superhero poster. 

Semi-Gloss

There is actually a third option, too, semi-gloss. This is closer to gloss than it is too matte, so it isn’t strictly in-between the two. It handles lighting better and does not show fingerprints as much. 

So, these might perform better on an outside cinema board than both the gloss and matte finish. 

Cost

Usually, gloss posters are cheaper to produce than matte photos. Even though they are brighter, pop more, and appear more saturated… they, in fact, use less ink, and you can print the posters on the cheaper paper weight. 

Plus the paper weight plays a major role in movie posters and that is why we dedicated a whole article on the subject. You will want to read this one:

Matte posters tend to be more high-end and artistic looking. Matte posters are meant to highlight the detail and get this detail with darker colors; then, more ink is needed. Also, it would help if you usually had the highest paper weight possible for the full effect. 

Teaser and Payoff

Conclusion

Basically, gloss reflects light, and matte absorbs light. So, whether you are designing your own movie poster project or you are just hanging one in your home… the light is all-important. 

If you are in charge of the design and printing process for a large blockbuster sci-fi movie, then a glossy finish will be best, especially if the poster has been designed using vectors, which will enable the printer to show off all the crisp, colorful edges, (this also helps with the typography.)

Glossy finishes are best at getting someone’s attention from across the street, and matte is probably best if you want to marvel at the detail.

If you are framing and hanging your favorite scary woods movie in your bedroom, then a matte finish is probably best, especially if the poster is based on a landscape photo taken on a film camera. 

Plus, if you are creating fan art or limited edition prints, you will most likely want to use a heavyweight matte finish paper. Trust me, as the artwork will look fantastic!

We dive even deeper on the subject of creating movie posters for film studios and creating fan art movie posters in this article:

Bottomline, the best finish for a movie poster depends on the artwork and where it will be shown. 

If all else fails and you are still struggling to decide if a gloss or matte finish for a movie poster is best, then I would recommend you ask professionals for advice.

The people who do the printing will know what, where, and why it works. They will guide you, but make sure they understand what look you are going for and why. 

If you are also interested in design movie posters professionally as a career, you will want to sign up for our online movie poster design classes.

Our classes are taught by actual art directors within the entertainment marketing field and not some professor who has yet to step foot in a major Hollywood design studio.

The only catch is that we are currently producing these classes. Therefore we suggest you sign up for our newsletter to be notified as soon as our classes are available.

Also check out and subscribe to our YouTube channel for free movie poster making tutorials!