Zazzle Poster Paper Comparison & Review

Paper quality is a hard thing to judge when you're ordering a poster online.  Zazzle offers several different paper types for their printing, and since all of my (de)Signsby Andrea posters can be printed on any of those options, I thought it would be helpful to my customers to do a review and comparison to help distinguish between the characteristics of each style. 

To give a fair comparison, I ordered the same 8" x 10" Twinkle Twinkle Little Star poster in all five paper types.

Zazzle Poster Paper Quality Comparison & Review

Below I've listed each paper type, along with Zazzle's description and my own review.  The $ after each title indicates where that paper type falls on the pricing scale.


 
Value Cardstock Paper (Matte) - $

Available for prints 11x16 or smaller, Value Cardstock Paper is the perfect balanced white paper with a matte coating. For small posters, Value Cardstock Paper will create a beautiful poster with vivid colors and 90 brightness.

Zazzle Value Cardstock Paper Review

Zazzle Value Cardstock Paper Review

My Thoughts:

The Value Cardstock Paper is by far my favorite option for printing smaller posters.  It's the cheapest option and offers the the thickest paper stock which makes it very sturdy and durable.  The matte finish has just a very slight sheen to it, so that glare is minimized.  I've found that it looks gorgeus under glass in a frame, and since the cardstock doesn't curl or wrinkle easily, this paper style also work well un-framed on a hanging clipboard or bulletin board.

There are two disadvantages to this print option.  First, unfortunately, it's only available up to 11" x 16" prints, so if you go big, you'll have to choose a different paper style.  And second, with frequent handling or if left in sunlight, it will fade and/or scratch fairly easily.


 
Value Poster Paper (Matte) - $$

For low-cost, long-lived posters, select Zazzle’s Value Poster Paper. This very white paper creates vibrant art and photo reproductions.

Zazzle Value Poster Matte Paper Review

Zazzle Value Poster Matte Paper Review

My Thoughts:

They say it is "matte" finish, but I disagree.  This poster paper option appears to have an even more glossy finish than the "Poster Paper Semi-Gloss" version I had printed. So if you're looking for a duller finish, I'd upgrade to the semi-gloss version instead of this one.  If the sheen doesn't matter, then this is a fantastic and inexpensive print option for posters at any size.  The printed design is crisp, clear and on heavy-weight paper. 


 
Poster Paper (Semi-Gloss) - $$$

Print it, mount it, laminate it, post it. For a great wall decorating solution, choose our poster paper. Great for printing large-format posters, this bright semi-gloss paper makes brilliant, colorful images look crisp and smooth without a putting a dent in your pocket.

Zazzle Poster Paper Semi-Gloss Review

Zazzle Poster Paper Semi-Gloss Review

My Thoughts:

In my comparison, I found the print quality and sheen to be nearly identical between the Value Cardstock Paper and this Semi-Gloss Poster Paper.  The poster paper is on thinner paper stock, and that seems to be the only difference of note.  Since the cardstock paper isn't available for print sizes larger than 11" x 16", that makes this Semi-Gloss Poster Paper my first choice for larger prints.  Compared to the Value Poster Paper (Matte) version, it is slightly less glossy and on slightly thinner paper, but the print quality and colors are superb.


 
Archival Heavyweight Paper (Matte) - $$$$

With a smooth matte surface, our archival heavyweight matte paper is designed for displaying highly saturated images without sacrificing print quality. Great for professional photographers and graphic artists on a budget, archival heavyweight matte paper delivers superior quality at a lower cost. Prints on archival heavyweight matte paper are fade-resistant and have a 90+ year archival rating.

Zazzle Archival Heavyweight Matte Paper Review

Zazzle Archival Heavyweight Paper Review

My Thoughts:

Ironically, though this is a more expensive printing option and promises a long life without fading, I was most unimpressed with the Archival Heavyweight Paper.  It has the truest "matte" finish of all the printing options with almost no sheen at all.  The paper is slightly thicker than the Semi-Gloss Poster Paper, but not as thick as the cardstock paper, and tends toward curling if not in a frame. 

I would be most interested in spending a little more for the archival longevity of this paper style if I knew the artwork would be highly exposed to sunlight or would be a family heirloom that needed to stand the test of time (such as for my Special Dates Artwork or Personalized Growth Charts), but otherwise would not likely make the extra investment for this paper type based on looks alone.


 
Premium Canvas (Matte) - $$$$$

Zazzle's gloss canvas is made from an additive-free cotton-poly blend and features a special ink-receptive coating that protects the printed surface from cracking when stretched. Made with a tight weave ideal for any photography or fine art, our instant-dry gloss canvas produces prints that are fade-resistant for 100+ years.

Zazzle Premium Canvas Paper Review

Zazzle Premium Canvas Paper Review

My Thoughts:

By far the Premium Canvas is the thickest and most luxurious "paper" type available and (to me) is a much more desireable option for the archival longevity solution of more valuable pieces of artwork.  The design is printed on real heavy-duty canvas, so you can see and feel the texture of the canvas weave, which I love.  The design printed crisply and looks very sharp.  Though it lists this medium as Matte finish in the options, the description says it is a gloss finish, which is definitely a more accurate description. 

Make note that when you choose the Premium Canvas option as an upgrade for a poster, it is a paper quality choice, not a framing decision.  The canvas paper version of the posters arrive flat and true-to size, so wrapping the canvas yourself is not an option.  A frame (with or without glass) would be your best choice for displaying this type of print.  If you prefer a wrapped canvas, which I have reviewed here, you would need to order a product specifically designed for a wrapped canvas.


To wrap it all up, here are my recommendations:

  • For prints 11" x 16" or smaller, I'd go with the Value Cardstock (Matte) Paper for a durable and inexpensive option.
  • Printing larger than 11" x 16"?  I'd  choose the Poster Paper Semi-Gloss for a bright, not-too-glossy, crisp print.
  • If you need to prevent fading and make it last the test of time, then I'd splurge for the Archival Heavyweight Matte paper.
  • If you are looking for added texture, fade-resistance and long-term durability, then the Premium Canvas is a beautiful choice.

Here's a quick video to give a more three-dimensional idea of the differences between each of the paper styles:

And there you have it -- a look at all the poster printing options Zazzle has to offer.  Hopefully, this review will help make your printing choices simple when ordering posters and prints from Zazzle.

Be sure to check out more of my (de)Signs posters and canvases while you're browsing! :)

Zazzle Poster Paper Quality Review

 

Comments

Tiffany Smith said:

Hi!

Which paper would you use if you wanted people to write on it?
It's for voting purposes at a gender reveal

Tyler said:

I regret not reading this review sooner! Thanks for doing it.

I too was highly disappointed with the Archival Heavyweight Matte Paper. I got a bunch of prints as Christmas gifts for family members and really wish I'd saved some money and gone with the semi-gloss. I literally felt a sinking feeling as soon as I opened the tube.

Cam said:

Hi Amy,
Thanks for your informative review.
I found your site just after I ordered the Archival Heavyweight Matt Stock for some extra large retro posters. In your review it sounds like you didn't like that particular stock at all. Is it that bad? or is it just the added cost that makes you more critical.
I noticed that the example of what you had printed was black and white (or silver) so there is not an indication of how well these different stocks handle saturated bright colours.
It's to late for me to change my order now but hopefully the paper and prints turn out OK.
I'll let you know when I receive them.

Andrea said:

Cam,

I would love to hear what you think of the Archival Heavyweight paper for your large posters. I found that it printed a duller version of the navy print I ordered here (which may have looked gray to you?). I'd be very interested to hear how the brighter colors turn out on your posters!

Andrea

Jai Johnson said:

I, too, am unimpressed by the Archival Heavyweight Paper. Wish I'd have read your review first! Normally I use a professional printing company for my prints, but I needed a "mini" 4x6 size and Zazzle is the only place I found who offered it. I ordered a test print on the Archival Heavyweight Paper and am not happy. It's VERY flimsy...card stock would have been better, as you said. Not to mention, where it was cut on the edges, you can see the white paper "fragments". Being it was more expensive, it should be heavier weight than the card stock and should have clean cut edges. I decided to ditch my 4x6 offering to my customers, and just stick with the 8x10 and larger sizes I offer.

--Jai

Anonymous said:

You're awesome for doing this comparison! Thank you!

Anonymous said:

useful info!

jeannie jones said:

Thanks for doing this review on the different papers. This is exactly what I was hoping to see to make my decision!

Reverend said:

Thank you for taking the time and making this review. It helped me so much decide what to get and hoe to order my posters at Zazzle,,,,
Thank you

Keiko said:

Thank you very much for sharing this. I am so happy that I was able to stumble on your article before making my own posters. You helped me a lot.

Jul said:

Just adding another thank-you log to the fire (and you're sure to receive many more!). This is exactly the info I was looking for, and you just saved me 25 bucks! Most appreciated! (Adorable sign, too.) :)

Anne O said:

Thank you so much for this fabulous, informative post. It was exactly what I googled for and I am grateful you took the time to blog about it!

Kayla said:

Alright I'm a paper nerd. That's mostly because of my job as a Graphic Designer. I have books and books of different weights, sheens, and manufacturers. I just wanted to pop in and say THANK YOU for doing this review! ITs so nice for someone to have taken the time to evaluate all of these different options for those of us who might not have that option.

Stacey Lynn Stuwe said:

That was Awesome thank you so very much for that review!!