Paper finish describes the surface characteristic of a paper. There are a few coated paper finishes: gloss, dull, silk, and matte and more than a dozen uncoated finishes including wove, vellum, felt, laid, and linen. Here are some things to think about when selecting a paper finish:
If the project is text laden an uncoated sheet produces less glare than a coated one, making it easy on the eyes and better for readability. Dot gain is more likely to occur on uncoated papers due to the fact they are more absorbent and porous than coated, causing the dot to spread. With uncoated papers, the harder the surface (like smooth, super smooth, linen) the less dot gain you will experience. Uncoated papers tend to soften the details, this can work to your advantage if your images are less than perfect.
If you’re producing four color images, a coated sheet will offer a nice smooth, hard surface with good ink hold out properties. The finish of a coated paper is determined by the amount of calendaring of the sheet (calendars are big metal drums that “buff” the paper surface) – the more a sheet is calendared the glossier it will be. A gloss finish offers you the hardest surface with a matte finish being the least hard surface when it comes to coated papers. Coated paper allows each dot to print accurately and maintain the original dimensions – dot gain usually falls around 10%-18% on a coated sheet compared to the 20%-30% on an uncoated sheet. When printing on a coated paper, you’ll achieve the finest results of any production technique on a number 1 or premium coated sheet.
Some things to be mindful of when selecting a finish:
• Bindery issues
• Felt vs. wire side of the sheet (generally felt will be smoother) – there can be a big difference on some uncoated papers (think Esse). If you’re not sure ask the printer to run both sides of the sheet to see what you can expect.
• Dot Gain – again if you’re not sure, ask your printer to run a drawdown to test the ink on your paper.
• Coated papers reproduce images in greater detail, especially if it’s a crisp, high quality image.
• Uncoated paper finishes and textures can offer design enhancements.
• Midtones – if printing on uncoated, you may want to open them up to compensate for dot gain. (consult your printer, they’re the expert).
I recommend always checking paper samples to be sure of what you’re getting – it seems like each paper mill uses its own lingo to describe a paper’s finish. If you’re not sure what finish offers you the look and feel you want, consult your paper merchant rep (that’s what we’re here for). For more information on paper finishes, contact our sample studio.