What is the difference between coated and uncoated stock? | Learning Hub | Fineline Print & Web

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In this short tutorial I’d like to demystify the terms Coated and Uncoated Stock so you’ll have a better understanding of how the two different types are used and … the effect it will have on the way your customers interact with print.

Leaving aside the wide variety of textured papers and boards there are two main types you’ll encounter in the UK are:


1: Uncoated

2: Coated. 


It’s impossible to answer which is best because they have widely different uses but before we dive in to look at what those are let’s take a moment to look at the two types and what makes them what they are.


1: Uncoated Paper

In short, uncoated papers are the ones you use for your Letterheads and Compliment Slips, Envelopes and … plain photocopier paper to name just a few.

For the most part, they have a smooth finish and you can write on them with a pencil and fountain pen along with just about any writing instrument.

The papers are porous and absorbent as you’ve probably found to your cost if you’ve ever had a coffee spill on your desk!


2: Coated Paper

In contrast to plain uncoated papers which we’ve just talked about Coated stocks have a very smooth shiny surface to them. 

The coating comes from a thin layer of china clay applied during manufacture.  

If you’ve ever travelled around Cornwall on your holidays you might have come across roads and hedgerows covered in a fine film of white dust: a sure sign that a china clay pit is nearby.

The degree of shine is broadly related to the amount of coating applied as well as the degree of polishing with large hot rollers at the end of the manufacturing process. 


The four main classifications are as follows:

Matte will have the least shine and will appear quite dull in comparison with its other two siblings.

Silk sits in between Matte and Gloss. The surface is very smooth but has a low silky sheen with less glare than a Gloss finish.

Gloss is the next stage up and while there is very little difference to the smoothness of the material the heavier coating and more highly polished surface makes it more reflective.

Mirror Gloss. Whilst you are rarely likely to come across this finish it is worth mentioning in the context of this discussion. Available in board weights only this finish, as the name suggests, has a super high gloss surface and reflects the light just like a mirror.


Apart from the clay coating there is one other aspect of Coated papers and boards which is worth noting and this has to do with their apparent thickness.

For any given weight, coated stocks will feel thinner than their uncoated counterparts. The grammages might be identical but an uncoated sheet will feel appreciably more bulky and more rigid.

And there are two reasons for this.


  • The heavy rolling and polishing that the paper goes through compresses the fibres significantly. And…


  • The paper fibres used in coated stocks are shorter which makes them feel slightly more floppy weight for weight.


So this is definitely worth bearing in mind as you contemplate which type might be best for you.


So, how does this knowledge help you decide which type to use?   That’s what we are going to talk about now.

Typically, Coated papers and boards are used in the production of a variety of promotional products such as leaflets and brochures. And there’s a very good reason for this.

Their shiny, non-porous surface leads to crisp, sharp images with vibrant colours. 

Because coated papers are the go-to stock for the volume market they are produced in large quantities with huge economies of scale. In other words, in relative terms anyway, they are cheap.


Uncoated papers, on the other hand, have a more traditional feel to them. They bring a number of senses in to play as you handle them and let your eyes take in the subtle, muted colours on the page which conjures up all sorts of subliminal messages and … that’s even before you’ve read the message.

Jamie Oliver was one of the first to realise what a difference uncoated paper can make to print when his part cookbooks, part travelogues changed from using coated papers to uncoated to show off the wonderfully evocative photography which accompanies his stories. 

And it’s a smart move because he and his publishers know that any printed piece is not just all about the message. How the reader thinks and feels as they leaf through his books will have a profound effect on the user experience.

And you can tap into this too.

If you want your marketing piece or product information to stand out from the crowd; to tell customers who you are and what you stand for before they’ve even read what you have to say - you’ll be miles ahead of the competition before they’ve even heard the starting gun.

Yes, the cost is likely to be higher and could be 10% to 15% more in some instances but it may just give you the increased effectiveness and return on investment you are looking for.

Conversely, if you are looking for a budget run of mass-produced flyers to promote a local event then a Gloss or Silk paper is probably as far as you’d want to look.


Because of their clay covering Coated stocks require more water and energy to recycle and … yield less recyclable pulp than their Uncoated cousins.


So, there we have it. 

I hope this quick skim through has been helpful and thanks for dropping in,


But before you go …

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