Coated vs Uncoated Paper – Choosing the Right Type of Paper
Practically every printing project is produced on either coated or uncoated paper. Both have pros and cons relative to the piece. Most professional print shops usually have a preferred or “house” stock available in both types to accommodate various types of printed projects. Coated or Uncoated paper isn’t necessarily “better” than the other but knowing when to use coated vs uncoated paper can certainly make all the difference in your final print results.
Coated vs Uncoated Paper – What’s the Difference?
When it comes to coated vs uncoated paper, the primary difference is the way the paper is manufactured. Coated papers (most people call it glossy) have a slight coating on them (typically made of a clay), so that the paper is “sealed.” This coating limits the amount of ink that is absorbed into the paper, allowing the ink to “sit” on top of the paper, in a more defined dot (think crisp or sharp images).
Uncoated papers on the other hand do not have this coating and are a bit more porous. The ink soaks into or is absorbed into the paper and has a softer appearance. Uncoated papers are categorized into different category types: bond, offset, opaque, text and cover.
Coated papers are categorized in two ways; by their clay coating finish: gloss, ultra-gloss, dull, silk or matte or by brightness. Most are called Premium, No. 1, No. 2, No.3, No.4, No. 5. A coated paper with brightness or whiteness of 88+ or above is a premium paper. The higher the brightness level, the more light that “bounces” off the paper. Most all printing inks are transparent, so the reflectiveness gives the visual appearance of a crisp sharp image.
Generally with coated papers, the more-glossy the finish, the less ink absorption means a crisper printed image.
Uncoated papers are also defined by their brightness levels. The brighter the paper, the more light reflected back to the eye. For example, our house uncoated paper stock is a 96 Bright white sheet, meaning 96% of the light is reflected back to the eye. This level of brightness helps full color and detailed images really “pop”.
The finish of paper is another way to identify uncoated paper. Some of the most common are: smooth, super smooth, laid, linen, vellum, and cockle just to name a few. Consider the smoothness of uncoated paper when considering uncoated papers for high quality printing. The smoother the sheet the more even the ink will lay. This is especially important when printing crisp photos, detailed graphics, or areas of heavy ink coverage.
What is best for your next print project?
Coated paper offers a sharp, crisp result in contrast between the printed photos or images and whitespace with a cool, sophisticated touch. Their coated surface provides an excellent vehicle for photos with fine detail and enjoy a greater contrast between the printed photo and white area. Coated paper is used for most magazines and high-end catalogs requiring “glossy” prestigious image, think sports cards, diamonds and designer hand bags. Quality coated paper provides prestigious canvas for vivid pictures with superior detail and offers greater contrast between the printed image and white space.
Uncoated papers have a warmth and tactility factor to them with lots of options for recycled and post-consumer content available. Linen or lain finish paper imply a sense of authenticity and respectability. It’s these characteristics that make them ideal for projects in the resumes, non-profit reports or annual reports and environmental marketing. Uncoated paper is almost always used for letterhead, envelopes, some direct mail and catalogs as well. Unique finishes on uncoated papers can create a “3D-like” quality to photos featuring textiles, think home furnishings, fun apparel and art and museum printing.
Regardless of the finish, coated papers are ideal for specialty techniques like varnishes, UV coatings and Gold or Silver foil stamping and die cutting custom shapes.
There are a few drawbacks of coated papers. Writing on coated paper with a pen can be a problem, not the case on uncoated paper. If the project cntaints a lot of text or small details, the glare of gloss coated papers can make it more challenging to read.
Uncoated papers work well with specialties like embossing/debossing (blind embossing), letterpress and foil stamping. They provide a nice contrast between the surface of the printed sheet and the embossing or foil stamping. Uncoated paper is great for folding, even on heavier weights (always best to fold with the grain); and are an excellent choice for custom packaging projects.
There are some areas to be careful of. Pictures and images with high detail, especially in the mid-tone areas, can sometimes appear “muddy.”
Uncoated paper may require additional drying time (good to note in tight turnaround projects).
When choosing between coated vs uncoated paper be sure to think about factors like opacity and thickness. Often you can use a lighter weight uncoated sheet vs coated.
For example, if you are looking at an 80 lb coated text paper, a 70 lb uncoated paper will generally have better opacity and thickness. This weight reduction may help save shipping or postage costs on the final printed piece.
Both coated and uncoated papers come are available in all price points. Your print budget alone should not dictate a paper specification. If a tight budget prevails, involve us early on in the process. We can help you select options that will stay within your budget and produce award winning results!