Why Use Coated Paper?

Coated Paper Adds a Glossy, Professional Touch to Publications

Printing machine in a printing shop
Printing at print shop. Westend61/Getty Images

Paper with a clay or polymer coating applied to one or both sides is coated paper. The coating can be dull, gloss, matte or high-gloss (cast coated). Commercial printers typically offer a selection of coated and uncoated papers for use on printing projects. Coated paper produces sharper, brighter images when used in printing and has better reflectivity than uncoated paper. Even the dull and matte coated papers, which are not very shiny, provide a much superior surface for printing than uncoated papers. Coated papers are usually coated on both sides of the sheet, but the coating can be applied to only one side, such as for use with labels.

Coated papers are manufactured at paper mills and should not be confused with paper that is coated at a commercial printing company during the printing process with UV coating or flood varnish, which is applied in-line on a printing press as a job prints or afterward.

Coated Paper Types

Gloss-coated paper is shiny and supports high contrast and a wider color gamut that other types of paper. It is often used for marketing materials and magazines with a lot of color images. Gloss paper lends a "pop" to color images printed on it that doesn't occur on uncoated papers. It can, however, exhibit glare, which makes any text harder to read. 

Dull-coated paper is a better choice when images and text are both important in a print job. The reduction of glare on the dull-coated paper makes the text easy to read, while the coated surface delivers a smooth, high-quality base for image reproduction. 

Matte-coated paper is similar to dull coated. It is a little lighter to the touch and less shiny that matte paper. From a quality standpoint, it is the least premium of the coated stocks, and it is usually the least expensive as a result.

Cast-coated paper is super-shiny paper. The surface is superior for the reproduction of images and is ideal for die cutting. However, the heavy coating tends to crack, so it isn't recommended for any printed piece that must fold. The paper is harder to work with and is considerably more expensive than other coated papers.

Why Use Coated Paper?

Coated paper adds a glossy, professional touch to magazines and similar publications. Coated paper resists dirt and moisture and requires less ink to print because it is not absorbent. Because the ink tends to sit on top of the paper rather than soak into it, the images are sharp. Coated papers are usually heavier that uncoated papers, which adds heft to a print job. 

Because coated paper is smoother and has better ink holdout—is less absorbent—than uncoated paper, it is more suitable for certain types of finishing techniques such as flood or spot varnish or other finish coatings.

The Differences Between Coated and Uncoated Paper

Coated paper can be very shiny or have only a subtle shine depending on the choice of finish.  The coating on many coated papers means you can't write on it with an ink pen, so don't choose it for forms that need to be filled out—use uncoated paper instead. 

Uncoated paper is not as smooth as coated paper, but it is more widely used, even though it is more absorbent and usually requires more ink to print an image. Uncoated papers are the best choice for letterhead, envelopes and forms that need to be printed or written on. Uncoated paper comes in a wider selection of finishes and colors than does coated paper, and in most cases, uncoated paper is less expensive that coated paper. 

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