One of the questions that we most often encounter is ‘what type of paper is best for my print job. Selecting paper online, while convenient, does not allow you to feel or test its physical properties. Papers with different finishes will each have their own unique visual and physical qualities. That’s why we’ve created this guide to take the guesswork out of paper selection. Our outline will guide you through the different types and styles of paper to ensure your work leaves a lasting impression.
Coated vs Uncoated
First, it’s essential to decide whether a coated or uncoated paper is best for your project.
Coated papers are made with a technique that steams and polishes the paper to give it a sealed surface. The coating can impact a paper’s texture, weight and gloss so that it retains its finish over time. Coated paper is unable to absorb additional ink, resulting in crisper printed images, particularly those with blended or fine details. You cannot write on coated papers, so we do not recommend them for commercial applications. Coated papers are available in various finishes, from matte to super glossy.
Unlike coated papers, uncoated paper is not treated with any surface sealants. This means the paper is more porous and absorbs ink differently, giving a softer, muted effect. As a result, uncoated papers have a more natural feel and absorb ink so that they can be written on. Available in a variety of finishes, uncoated paper can be smooth, textured or woven.
Paper weight refers to its thickness and is measured in grams per square metre (gsm). Standard A4-sized office paper is usually 60 – 100 gsm. Heavier papers (230-350 gsm) are more durable and commonly used by professional artists, designers and photographers.
Opacity refers to the transparency of the paper and how much of the printing will be visible through the back of the paper. Paper’s opacity is defined by its weight and what it’s made of. For example, 100% opaque papers will not show any print on the reverse, compared to 0% opaque papers that are almost transparent.
Brightness refers to how well the paper reflects light. Paper brightness is measured on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most reflective and therefore the brightest. Brightness will affect the contrast between light and dark colours and the readability of print. We recommend photos and artwork are printed with paper brightness in the 90s.
Paper comes in a variety of hues, from warm to natural, and bright white. Warm white papers incorporate creamy shades and are ideal for softer images like watercolours and portraits. Bright white papers use cooler shades of blue and are preferred by photographers who need a sharpness to their images. Mixing warm and cool tones, natural white papers display rich colours and even contrast for those looking for something in-between.
As the name implies, paper finish refers to its texture and reflectiveness.
Matt or matte papers have no sheen or gloss and will never show any optical glare. As a result, matt papers are ideal for display in diffused light, where they exhibit deep, sumptuous colours.
All of these papers have slightly textured surfaces which place them firmly between matt and gloss finishes.
Gloss papers have a shiny, smooth finish that creates prints with high contrast and meticulous detail.
High gloss is the most reflective, with a mirror-like finish. These papers allow for extremely sharp detail but can easily acquire fingerprints if not handled carefully.
Different paper types are available in various sizes, with most styles available in sizes A5 – A0 and also SRA sizes. Please check your selected paper for specific sizes.
Final thoughts on paper finishes
We know there is a lot to take in when it comes to selecting the right paper finish. While we have covered many elements of paper finish, we know you still may have a few burning questions. So our staff is here to help with any questions that may come up. Our team are expert printers with experience printing every kind of project. So get in touch today by phone, live chat, or in person at our London-based studio. Meet the team and discuss how we can make your printing needs a reality.