Paper Coating FAQ

Choosing the right paper stock or coating for your project is important to achieve the desired result. 


What is the difference between Text, Book, Bond, Offset, Cover, Bristol, Index, Tag, and Card paper?
Paper can be grouped into two main grades based on weight and thickness: Text and Cover.

"Text" is a generic name for a variety of lighter, thinner paper stocks that includes Book, Bond, Writing, Ledger, Offset paper. Text paper is flexible, can be easily rolled and folded and is used for printing flyers, handouts, letterheads, book pages, etc. The paper used in ink jet printers would be considered Text.

"Cover" is a generic name for a variety of heavier and thicker paper stocks that includes Bristol, Index, Tag, and Card paper. It is more durable than Text paper. Cover paper is more rigid and must be scored (i.e., dented or creased) before it can be folded. This type of paper is usually smooth, but can have a texture. It can have either a matte or glossy appearance. Cover/Card stock is often used for mass mailed postcards, business cards, playing cards, invitations, program covers, greeting cards, door hangers, catalogue covers, presentation covers, scrapbooking, etc. At its heaviest, Card stock would be similar to material used for a cereal box.

What's the difference between gloss and matte paper?
Paper with a gloss finish is smooth and shiny while matte paper is flat with little or no shine. Gloss stock makes colors look smoother, deeper, richer, with great color-contrast. Photo's and graphics tend to look better on gloss stock, while text heavy documents and artwork are often use matte stock.

Text is more easily read on paper with a matte finish. The softer looking dull surface of matte paper provides color contrast and clarity. Unlike glossy paper, matte stock is more forgiving of fingerprints, smudges and dust.

What is uncoated paper?

uncoated paper
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All paper stocks start out being uncoated. Uncoated paper is porous with an uneven, rougher surface. As a result, uncoated paper is easier to write on as it absorb ink readily and dries to the touch faster. However, the heavier amount of ink uncoated paper absorbs may result in less rub resistance. Uncoated stocks include bonds, offsets, card, and newsprint.

What is coated paper?

coated paper
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After manufacture, the uncoated paper surface may be coated with white clay materials. The clay gives the paper a smooth feel by filling minute valleys in the paper surface. The coating also limits the absorption of inks into the paper. Because the inks stay on the surface of the coating instead of soaking in, the ink looks deeper, sharper and glossier. However, writing and ballpoint pen inks may take longer to dry on coated paper and can smudge more easily. On coated stock, less ink is need to achieve the desired visual richness for text, images and photo's. 

Coatings are offered in a range of reflectivity values including dull, matte, silk, satin or glossy. Reading long areas of text is easier when printed on dull or matt finishes. After printing images on dull or mat stock, a varnish can be applied to the picture areas to add gloss and make the pictures pop.

What's the difference between coated and uncoated paper?

Paper with a coating is smooth and shiny while uncoated paper is flat with little or no shine. Gloss stock makes colors look smoother, deeper, richer, with great color-contrast. Photo's and graphics tend to look better on gloss stock, while text heavy documents and artwork are often use matte stock.

Text is more easily read on paper with a matte finish. The softer looking dull surface of matte paper provides color contrast and clarity. Unlike glossy paper, matte stock is more forgiving of fingerprints, smudges and dust. 

Uncoated paper is very absorbant, and ink dots will tend to spread outwards (i.e., dot gain), leading to a less precise and darker image than when printed on coated stock. A similar effect happens when a paper towel is placed on a spilled drop of coffee. The drop diameter increases and gets a ragged edge as the liquid spreads in the absorbant fibers. This dot gain can be minimized using sophisticated printing techniques, but it can't be eliminated. Coated paper is less absorbant and therefore dot gain is usually not an issue.

What's the difference between coated paper and a coating finish?

A coated paper is produced at the paper mill with a smooth surface and can have a range of reflectivity values including dull, matte, silk, satin or glossy. A coating finish on the other hand is a clear layer applied after the ink is printed on the paper. It is used to enhance the visual appeal of printed graphics or to add durability and protection to the printing.

What is uncoated finishing?

A protective coating or varnish will not be applied to the printed piece.
uncoated paper printed, no coating finish coated paper printed, no coating finish
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Printed paper, no finishing coat.
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Printed coated paper, no finishing coat.

What is coated finishing?

Coating finishes are applied after the ink. They are often used to enhance the appearance of graphics. These coatings also protect the printed surface from scratching, marring, fingerprints and dirt by increasing the rub and scuff resistance. 

Coating finishes improve durability of the printed pieces during shipment through to the end use of items such as postcards, brochures, catalog covers, flyers. Coating finishes can also be used on enhance economy-grade paper by improving gloss and providing a smoother touch.
uncoated paper printed, coating finish coated paper printed, coating finish
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Uncoated paper printed, with coating finish. 
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 Coated paper printed, with coating finish.