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Print Marketing

Digital Printing 101: Coated Paper vs. Uncoated Paper

There are a variety of paper options for your printing project, some more suited to certain types of projects than others. Though they come by many names and have different looks and colors, most papers can be reduced to two categories: coated and uncoated. If you know the differences between the two, it can go a long way towards ensuring that your printed project looks how you expect.

Coated paper

Glossy, semi-gloss, or matte finished substrates are considered coated paper. Coated paper has an agent added to its surface in order to improve brightness, smoothness, or other printing properties. Rollers help to “polish” the paper as precipitated calcium carbonate, clay, or other coatings are applied to the paper.  It fills in the tiny pits and spaces between the fibers, giving it a smooth, flat surface. This coating can improve the opacity, luster, and color-absorption properties of the paper. Different types and levels of coating are used depending on the desired paper texture. Coated papers are typically divided into light coated, medium coated, high coated, and art papers.

Coated paper has a great effect on the appearance of the printed item. First, it makes the printed material more shiny and bright, which is why it is typically used for brochures, glossy photos, booklets, and more. Second, the coating restricts how the paper absorbs ink, preventing the ink from bleeding and wicking. This is a desirable trait for complex designs or images that must be sharp. Finally, coated paper is more resistant to dirt, moisture, and wear, which will help it to last longer. But keep in mind that this same trait makes coated paper a poor choice if you want to add a message with a pen, pencil or inkjet printer.

Uncoated paper

Uncoated paper does not have a coating to fill in between the fibers. It is generally rougher than coated paper and tends to be more porous, which makes it very absorbent. Sometimes it will be called “bond” or “writing” paper.  Uncoated papers are available in many different textures, colors, weights, and finishes. Images printed on uncoated paper will be softer and less crisp. Not all uncoated papers are the same, as higher quality varieties strike a balance between ink holdout and absorption. Uncoated stocks have a tendency to dry faster to the touch than coated papers.

A large percentage of print work is carried out on uncoated stock.  Uncoated paper is generally used for letterhead, business cards, envelopes, and other printed materials that require a more prestigious look. Some high-end restaurants may print menus on uncoated paper to give them an elegant feel. Additionally, uncoated stocks are easier to write on as the surface accepts the ink more readily than a coated stock, making it perfect for items such as greeting cards.

The Right Paper for Your Project

With the information above in mind, you should be able to narrow down whether you need an uncoated or coated paper for your print project. You can then decide which specific variety of coated or uncoated paper would be best for your needs. If it requires crisp images, you would need to go with a coated paper, but if you want a more textured feel or soft look, uncoated would be the way to go.

Ready to get started with your printing project? Take a look at the online printing products Smartpress has to offer.


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