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Choosing Between Coated and Uncoated Papers

What’s the best paper choice for your books, catalogs, sales collateral or technical publications: coated or uncoated?

What’s The Difference?

Strictly speaking, uncoated papers are usually made from wood pulp.

Coated papers are those to which a mixture of pigments (such as clay or calcium carbonate) and binding agents (like starch and latex) have been applied to the surface during the papermaking process.

The purpose of this coating is to help fill in the peaks and valleys of the paper to provide a smooth, flat printing surface.

Multiple Options

All coated papers fall roughly into four categories: matte, dull, silk, and gloss.

The difference between the four is supercalendering, the process of passing the newly coated paper through a series of rapidly rotating stainless steel rollers to polish the paper’s surface.

Matte, Silk, Dull

Simply put, matte finish papers are coated, but not supercalendered; gloss finish papers are. Dull or silk finish papers are very lightly supercalendered.

Matte and dull finish papers have, as the name implies, a relatively dull surface. In reality, paper mills have taken to using the terms matte, silk, and dull interchangeably.

Apparently someone in the marketing department figured out that silk sounds much nicer than dull!

Gloss Finish

Gloss finish papers have a shiny surface. Glossy is sometimes used to refer to all coated papers. This term is a misnomer and should be avoided.

Important Considerations

Following are a few more points to ponder when specifying a coated paper stock:

  • Copresco generally runs coated stock in 80# and 100# text weights and 80# and 100# cover weights.
  • Coated paper costs more than an equivalent uncoated bond or book weight paper.
  • Coated paper will showcase your marketing materials and publications that feature color photos, high-quality graphics and heavy coverage areas.
Times Change
  • Glossy once was king of coated papers but has since lost its luster. If you are still printing text-only projects on gloss stock, ask yourself, “why?” There are no valid reasons for using it in today’s modern printing processes.
  • Gloss is bad for large blocks of type because the surface glare is hard on the eyes. What makes a fancy brochure attractive can be a detriment to text-heavy publications and books.
  • Don’t get hung up on brightness issues. Many premium #1 coated papers have about the same brightness rating as uncoated economy grade copy paper.
Uncoated Paper

Many Copresco clients prefer uncoated papers for their digitally printed projects.

Uncoated sheets—available in a wide selection of colors and finishes—offer a warmer, more natural look and feel than coated stocks. The nonglare surface provides effortless reading.

Copresco clients most frequently specify 50# and 60# uncoated offset papers (which are the equivalent of 20# and 24# bond papers.)

Best of Both Worlds

Overnight Lite is printed on a 70# premium uncoated paper that gives vibrant colors with crisp blacks for our photos and cartoons as well as laser-sharp text. Many readers think it is a coated stock due to its smooth surface.

Thickness and Weight

Another fact of which you must be aware is that coated papers are heavier than uncoated paper stocks.

For example, a 100# gloss sheet has the same thickness as a 60# uncoated sheet, but has 67% more weight.

Mix Them Up

You can gain the benefits of both types of paper by printing sections of your project with photos and graphics on a coated stock and placing these sections between the regular text “chapters” of your publication.

Unlike conventional printing’s rigid confinement to signatures, digital printing gives you the freedom to mix and match to your heart’s content.

You can place your photos and illustrations exactly in the right spots with your text pages.

Get Expert Help

Finally, remember that neither coated nor uncoated book paper is “better.” The “better” paper is the one best suited to the task at hand.

In view of paper shortages of the past year, some clients have been forced to substitute a similar grade for their preferred stock.

Rather than try to match an old grade as closely as possible, now might be a good time to re-evaluate which of today’s papers is best for you.

Need help? Call the paper experts. Call Copresco (630) 690-2000.