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Picking the Right Paper Stock: Matte Finish vs Gloss Finish

Orange signs with black text that say Matte and Gloss

Our narrative begins at the Paper Mill

Paper mills manufacture a wide assortment of paper stocks. Some varieties of paper produced at the mill are left uncoated. This allows the paper to retain its natural rough texture. The texture is naturally rough because paper is made of cellulose fibers derived from the wood of trees.

Though some papers are left rough and uncoated, other varieties of paper receive a coating at the mill. The coating fills in some of the paper's natural rough texture. The more coating applied to the paper, the smoother and more reflective the paper becomes.

Paper coatings are made from a variety of substances, including polymers, pigments, and clay. Also, the coatings can be applied to just one side of a sheet or to both sides.

A colorful furniture catalog lying open on a table
A Gloss Finish sharpens printed images and adds vibrancy

Matte paper and Gloss paper are Coated Stocks

Matte paper and Gloss paper are both coated stocks. The difference between the two lies in the amount of coating the paper has received at the mill. Paper that exhibits a Matte finish has received considerably less coating than paper that has a Gloss finish.

Because Matte paper receives less coating, it retains some of its natural rough texture. As a result, the surface of Matte paper does not reflect much light. This is because the rougher texture diffuses light, thereby rendering the paper less reflective. Hence, paper with a Matte finish has minimal shine.

Conversely, Gloss paper receives more coating than Matte paper. As such, the coating fills in most of the paper's natural rough texture. This creates a very smooth surface that reflects light. Thus, paper with a Gloss finish is slicker and shinier than paper with a Matte finish.

Which Finish is right for your Project?

Matte and Gloss finishes are both very popular and each offers unique advantages. Which one to choose for your particular print project will largely depend on the look and feel you are after, as well as the intended usage of the printing.

To help you decide, below is a comparison of the features and benefits provided by these two finish choices…

A person looking through a colorful catalog
A Matte Finish softens printed images and reduces glare

Features and Benefits of Paper with a Matte Coating

Colors appear more subtle and details are softened -

Even though many printed pieces are created to be vibrant and shiny, not all print projects need to share those traits. Some printed pieces need to exhibit a softer and more elegant look. Matte paper gives projects, such as books or brochures, an air of professionalism and sophistication.

Non-reflective surface minimizes glare -

Certain print materials are used in bright environments, such as field guides on a sunny day or workbooks in a well-lit classroom. Needless to say, glare from strong light sources can make text difficult to read. Fortunately, a matte coating reduces distracting glare and allows printed content to be read easily from all angles.

Textured surface improves handing and resists fingerprints -

Paper treated with a matte coating maintains a slight texture that adds a softer, premium feel to printed pieces. The texture of Matte coated paper also adds a slight grip to printed pieces and helps to minimize visible fingerprints. These traits are particularly beneficial for printed pieces that will be subject to frequent handling.

Can be written upon with pen or pencil -

Another nice feature of matte paper is that it can accept handwriting in pen or pencil without smudging. This feature is especially useful for documents that need to allow for handwritten notes or annotations, such as calendars or study guides. Being writable is a clear advantage over gloss paper as attempts to write on a gloss-coated stock will usually result in an incomplete transfer of the writing medium or an unsightly smear.

A colorful fashion catalog lying open on a surface
A Gloss Finish grabs attention, making it ideal for catalogs, magazines, and brochures

Features and Benefits of Paper with a Gloss Coating

Colors appear more vibrant and details stay sharp -

Because a Gloss paper stock receives a heavier coating application than a Matte stock, less ink is able to seep into the paper fibers during the printing process. Since the ink spreads less, the colors remain more saturated. As a result, the colors exhibit more vibrancy. Also, text and other fine details appear sharp and clear.

Smooth and reflective surface adds a nice sheen -

The reflective quality of gloss paper adds a sense of depth to printed images, helping them stand out and grab the viewer's attention. The smooth surface of gloss paper also helps enhance image sharpness and adds to the overall clarity of a printed piece. In addition, many people view the slick finish of gloss paper in a positive light, interpreting it as polished and sleek.

Enhanced durability and dirt resistance -

Even though a Matte coating adds some protection to the underlying substrate, the slicker surface of a gloss coating offers more resistance to dirt and moisture. It is by no means completely dirt proof or waterproof, but it resists stains and moisture better than a matte coating. The increased durability offered by gloss paper helps improve the longevity of printed pieces.

Greater Visual Impact -

Because gloss-coated paper increases the intensity of ink colors and provides an attention-getting sheen, it is ideal for printed pieces that are image heavy. This is why gloss coated stock is so often used for catalogs, brochures, flyers, postcards, book covers, magazines, and other printed pieces that use appealing visuals to attract and maintain attention. Gloss-coated paper has long been the go-to choice for printing used for marketing and promotional purposes.

A person looking through an art book of sculptures
A Matte Finish adds a refined and sophisticated look to printed pieces

Color Vision is ready to assist with your Print Project!

When preparing to have a project professionally printed, one of the first decisions to be made is which type of paper has the properties necessary to achieve your desired outcome.

Fortunately, Gloss and Matte paper stocks come in a variety of thicknesses; including text weights, cover weights, and cardstock. As such, both options are readily available for virtually any printing project.

If you have any questions about which paper type is the best fit for your particular project, Color Vision will be happy to help you select the right paper. Just give us a call at 800-543-6299 to discuss paper options.

If you are looking for a price quote, use our simple Quote Request form to send us your project's specifications and we will email a custom quote to you.

Here's a final thought about Matte and Gloss coatings…

In addition to the Matte and Gloss coatings that are added during the paper manufacturing process, there are also Matte and Gloss coatings that can be applied after the printing press has laid the ink down. These coatings provide an additional layer to amplify the Matte or Gloss effect.

Applied as a top coat, these coatings include varnishes, aqueous coatings, UV coatings, and laminates. Get in touch with Color Vision to learn more about these optional coatings and how they can further enhance the appearance, feel, and durability of your printed pieces.

As always, we look forward to assisting with your next print project!

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