The Image GroupThe Image Group

By Adam Norman

What's the Difference Between Coated vs. Uncoated Paper?

Looking to enhance your business through print solutions? Choosing the right type of paper can make a strong first impression. Do you know the difference between coated and uncoated paper? Find out which paper is right for you!

Paper Making, Simplified

Let’s start with the basic premise of paper.  For the most part, paper is made by breaking down the cellulose fibers in wood into a watery pulp.  This soupy mixture is then sprayed onto mesh screens, dried out and rolled to make a consistent sheet of paper.  This is uncoated paper and, while it looks smooth to the naked eye, has a bit of a rough, bumpy finish.

Paper Coating

When making coated paper a few extra steps are added to the paper making process.  Once the pulp is dried and rolled, a polymer coating is sprayed onto the paper.  This coating can be made from a number of materials, but is most often made with clay or talc.  The coating is rolled, dried and heated so that it binds to the fibers of the paper.  Pressure from the rollers creates a smooth surface.

Coated vs. Uncoated - A Donut Story

OK, here’s where the donut analogy comes to play.  As you can see, a coated donut has a smooth, shiny finish, while the uncoated donut has a dull, textured finish.  This is like coated and uncoated paper!

So, what’s the difference when it comes to printing?  When ink is applied to uncoated paper it seeps into the fibers of the paper and can spread out a bit. This makes for softer colors and a more muted look.

When paper is coated, the coating creates a barrier between the ink and the paper fibers.  Because the ink sits on the coating and doesn’t seep into the paper fibers it produces sharper images and deeper colors.

Decisions, Decisions...

Uncoated Paper

Uncoated paper is easy to write on and, because the ink absorbs into the paper fibers, is resistant to smudging.  This makes uncoated paper great for letterhead, envelopes, note pads and other printed pieces that you might want to write on.  Uncoated paper is also available in a variety of textured finishes (linen, laid, felt, etc.) and colors which make for nice invitations and other high end presentation pieces.

Uncoated papers are not well suited for image heavy pieces or designs that are bold or bright.

Coated Paper

Because coated paper delivers sharp images and deep colors it is an excellent choice for pieces that have lots of images such as brochures, flyers, catalogs and magazines.  There are a number of coating finishes that can be applied to coated papers (spot UV, dimensional Sculpted UV, etc.) that make it great for high end, visually captivating marketing pieces and invitations.

Ballpoint pens don’t tend to write on coated papers well and can tend to smudge, so avoid using coated papers when writing on them is required.

Dull, Satin, or Gloss?

Coated papers are available in different levels of sheen or gloss, from dull/matte to high gloss. The glossiness of the paper is determined by the amount of coating that is added on to the paper, and the extent that the paper is run through the rollers at the end of manufacturing.  The more coating and rolling, the higher the gloss!

Gloss paper is shinier and makes the colors in your images pop more on the sheet.  Gloss paper is ideal for large images with heavy coverage. Dull or matte papers are easier to read text, so they are perfect for text heavy pieces.

Coatings can also be added to paper after the printing process, to provide additional gloss or to dull the finish, and to add protection to the surface.

Written by David Berland, Director of Print Services.

Interested in learning more about print options? Contact us at The Image Group at [email protected].

What’s the Difference Between Coated vs. Uncoated Paper?