what paper should I choose for my print job? | a holywell guide

Toby Matthews

Creative Designer

what paper should I choose for my print job? | a holywell guide

Paper is at the heart of most of what we do, and one of the first questions we ask customers when they come to us with a print project is what paper they would like print on.


stack of paper

Paper choice, surprisingly, is not something all have considered when they first ask for an estimate for a job and yet it has a very significant bearing on the how the finished printed item will look and be received.

With this in mind, I have put together a short informative Holywell guide to paper.

There are two major different paper types; coated and uncoated paper.

Coated Paper

Coated paper, as the name suggests, is coated with a sealant that reduces the ink absorbency of the paper and also gives the paper other qualities, including varying surface sheen and smoothness. Coated papers generally allow for cleaner/sharper printing, which makes this type of paper ideal for reproducing photos and dynamic colour gradients and blends.

Coated papers fall into three main categories of finish: gloss, silk/satin and matte.

Gloss — Gloss coated paper has the highest sheen of the papers we offer. Colour definition on gloss papers is excellent because of the reduced ink absorption. This choice of paper has become less popular in recent years, however, possibly because it is frequently used for, often poorly designed, junk mail flyers.

Satin/Silk — A satin/silk coating has a less shiny coated finish. This paper is a popular compromise between matte and gloss coated papers. Colours are still vivid and images sharp when printed on this type of paper. It is a popular paper type for leaflet printing and was used, for instance, for the Merton College Passiontide leaflets we designed and printed this year.

Matte — A matte coated paper is a non-glossy, flat looking paper with little sheen. More opaque and with more bulk than gloss and satin paper, matte paper is generally more expensive but is a popular choice for high-end illustrated books. Because it is a coated paper, images are still vibrant and sharp when reproduced on this paper. This paper type was used for the Fabulous Flowers brochure we recently designed and printed, giving the brochure the sophisticated, luxury look and feel the floral designers were looking for.

Uncoated Paper

As the name suggests, uncoated paper stock is not coated with a sealant. It is commonly used for business and wedding stationery as well as in text-only book printing. Despite its increasing popularity for leaflet printing, colour can look dull when printed on this paper and images less sharp. There is a wide range of papers that fall into the uncoated category, common types are wove or smooth, linen and laid.

Laid — Laid paper is created with textured lines on its surface. This finish is most commonly used for stationery.

Linen — This paper has finer and more regular textured lines on the surface than laid paper.

Wove or Smooth — This has a smooth surface and is often used in book text printing.

Coated one side

Most of the papers we use are coated or uncoated on both sides, but there are occasions that call for paper that is coated on one side only, notably in greetings card printing. This is because it is easier to write on uncoated paper. It is possible to write on coated paper but generally the higher the sheen the more difficult it is for the stock to be successfully written on.

Paper weight

Paper weight in the UK is defined in terms of grams per square meter (gsm) and we generally offer weights ranging from 80gsm to 350gsm which covers most usages. Heavier weights can be created by bonding two sheets together giving weights of up to 700gsm for the stiffest of cards.

Generally, the heavier the paper the thicker its bulk, although since bulk is also determined by the density of the fibres in the paper, two papers with the same weight can have different bulks.

  • Book text is generally printed on weights between 80 and 115gsm.
  • Business stationery: 100-120gsm
  • Book covers (jackets): 120-150gsm
  • Book covers (paperbacks): 200gsm
  • Illustrated books on between 120 and 170gsm
  • Marketing leaflets and fliers on 120-170gsm
  • Postcards and greetings cards: 250-350gsm
  • Business cards, invitations: 300-350gsm

Paper opacity

A paper’s opacity depends on a paper’s weight, ingredients and absorbency. A paper’s opacity determines how much printing will show through on the reverse side of a sheet. Generally matte and satin coated papers are more opaque than gloss papers.

Paper colour

We offer printing on a wide range of differently coloured papers. Coloured papers are also commonly used unprinted as the endpapers of casebound (hardback) books.

Sustainability of paper

Paper is one of the few truly sustainable products, it is based on wood, a natural and renewable material. In addition to its inherent sustainability, we also subscribe to the Woodland Trust's Carbon Capture scheme whereby the CO2 produced in the manufacture of the paper we purchase from one of our major suppliers, Premier Papers, is offset by tree planting.

We can also provide recycled paper where requested.

We hope you found this brief guide to paper types useful. If you're still unsure about which paper to specify, please call 01865 242098 or contact us using the button below.

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