Types Of Paper Finishes


When you order prints you have a choice of paper finish. Essentially there are three finishes to choose from, and these are gloss, silk or uncoated paper.

This guide will explain all three and what they're used for, and how each one actually prints. Each finish has its own characteristics, so it's well worth knowing the difference before you order your prints.


Which paper to choose – gloss, silk or uncoated?

In the world of print, it's no surprise that we deal with paper quite a lot! Paper comes in different weights, known as GSM, but it also comes in different finishes, with the most common being gloss, silk and uncoated. Let's look at the differences between them, and give you an idea of which one to choose.


Gloss paper

Super close up of gloss paper


Gloss paper has a shiny coating which reflects the light. Run your thumb across it and you'll find it has a slightly grippy texture. Gloss paper is most often used for the covers of brochures and magazines, as well as low-cost flyers and mailers. This is because gloss paper tends to reflect the light well, which helps printed colours to appear more vivid and vibrant. However, this also makes gloss less suitable for pages of text, since the reflected light can make it more difficult to read.

Years ago gloss paper was very popular, but these days it doesn't tend to be used for digital and litho printing as much as silk or uncoated paper. It's well worth noting that you can't easily write on gloss paper with a ballpoint pen, since its shiny surface doesn't give enough purchase for the ball to grip.


Silk paper

Super close up of silk paper


A coated paper just like gloss, silk finish is somewhere between a gloss and a matt finish. It has a slight sheen to it, but without the mirror-like shine of full gloss. Run your thumb across it, and it often feels noticeably softer and smoother. Colour-wise, silk gives your prints a nice middle ground between the vibrancy of gloss paper and the easy reading of matt, uncoated paper.

Silk-coated is the most popular type of paper that we print onto. The majority of our posters, leaflets and brochures using coated stock are printed onto high-quality silk paper. Silk, unlike gloss, can be written on with a ballpoint pen – although writing on uncoated paper is still much easier.


Uncoated paper

Super close up of uncoated paper


Uncoated paper lacks the shine of gloss or the smoothness of silk, since there's no additional coating over that matt paper surface. Run your thumb over uncoated paper, and you'll just feel the same texture as regular printer paper. Uncoated paper has a coarser, slightly fluffy feel to it, since you're touching the paper fibres directly. The matt effect of uncoated makes reading and writing much easier, since it's the exact same paper that you'll find in novels, notepads and newspapers.

But uncoated paper doesn't have to feel thin or flimsy. At heavier weights of paper stock it can feel very classy indeed, making it ideal for printed business stationery. With the right design, and using high-quality printing techniques, uncoated paper creates a luxurious matt effect that many people tend to prefer.


Full-coverage print

 

Digital Print

When you print digitally on a paper with full coverage, the paper finish becomes less and less important. This is because you will then be looking at the surface of the print as opposed to the surface of the paper. With digital print all papers are affected the same because the print effectively sits on the surface. Digital print has a silky look to it so is quite acceptable in the majority of cases.

 

Litho print

With litho print the scenario is slightly different when it comes to the uncoated paper. The ink applied to the paper soaks in because there is no coating on the paper. This means that the paper will retain its uncoated feel but because the ink does this the colours are usually a bit more muted - almost a slight 'pastel' effect. That said, many people print litho onto uncoated paper precisely for this reason. The gloss output from litho print is also really the only 'true' gloss print - printed and unprinted areas will both have a glossy appearance.


So what to choose?

Choosing the right paper finish is about choosing the most appropriate finish for your needs. Ask yourself what you need your prints to accomplish, and whether people will need to read it, write on it, or simply look at your images.

If a bright, colourful and attention-grabbing design is your priority, then a gloss finish could be best. Use gloss if you need your prints to attract attention in the brightest possible colours, with a gleaming finish that can naturally draw the eye. It’s perfectly suited to photos and artistic designs, or for any design with bright colours that really need some pop.

If your prints contain mostly images with some text, such as flyers or invitations, then a silk finish is often a better option. It’s a step down from the full shine of gloss paper, but still gives your prints that smooth finishing touch. The majority of our customers prefer to print on silk paper, so if you’re happy to go with what’s popular then silk would generally be the way to go.

If there's more text involved in your prints then matt, uncoated paper will make things easier to read. It’s also the finish to choose if you prefer more rustic or timeless designs, or if you need people to write on your prints to fill in details, or maybe make note of appointments.

If you still aren’t sure which finish to go with, or if your print job just comes down to personal taste, then it might actually help to think about the realms of DIY, and what type of decorating paint you prefer. Are you a gloss, silk or matt kind of painter? These roughly correspond with gloss, silk and uncoated paper finishes respectively, which could make your decision much easier. Or, if you’d prefer some professional advice on your print job, then just click right here to contact our team – we’d be happy to recommend the best paper type for your prints!