Plenty of decisions go into self-publishing a book like choosing the right formatting, binding style, and the number of copies to print. But one of the important choices an author must make is deciding what kind of paper stock to print the project on, since the pages will hold the important content of the book and the reader’s experience with the book will be directly impacted by the paper chosen. Three types of paper are available for self-published books: uncoated paper, matte paper, and gloss paper. So how does an author decide which type of paper stock to choose? Let’s take a deep dive into each type of paper stock to uncover the differences between them and what they are best used for, so you can select the right one for your next print project.
The Reader Experience
The look and feel of a book’s paper will impact how a reader experiences it. But authors may choose a paper for its durability as well. Each type of paper has its own unique characteristics that add to how a book may work for a reader and how well the pages stand up to repeated use is part of that equation, too. The traditional feel of an uncoated paper stock may reflect how an author wants their book to feel in the reader’s hands, but the defining characteristics of matte or gloss papers could ultimately be the right choice for a project for reasons other than simply how the uncoated paper feels to the touch.
Uncoated Paper Stock
This type of paper is the one without any extra additions to the paper itself. Coated papers have one or more layers of surface sealants on them and uncoated do not have any. The sealants make papers smoother, so an uncoated style is rougher and as a result, light is dispersed in different directions. Paper that is uncoated doesn’t produce any glare when exposed to a light source and therefore does not have any sheen to it. Uncoated also is the most porous paper type, so it does not smudge. Bond stock paper is all uncoated and color and black and white copies are all made on an uncoated page. Flyers may also use uncoated due to the large volume of pages usually printed in this situation.
Why Use Uncoated?
- One of the most common reasons uncoated is used is because it doesn’t create a glare on the page or reflect light. When a printed project will have a large volume of text on the pages, then a printer will want to use uncoated to reduce the possibility of making a page unreadable due to the glare or reflections that matte or gloss will undoubtedly cause.
- Another reason that projects will use paper that is uncoated is that it is not likely to smudge. Uncoated is perfect to use on projects like workbooks or art books where a user will want to use a pencil or pen on the pages since this ink or graphite is less likely to smear on uncoated than it is on paper with a matte or gloss finish.
- One other common reason why uncoated paper stock is popular is pricing. Since uncoated doesn’t add anything to the finish of the paper itself, the cost is less than matte or gloss styles. For large projects or books, uncoated is a preferred choice for many due to the reduced printing costs.
Use Uncoated On These
For Cost: flyers or bulk-printed items
For Glare: books
For Texture: embossing, foil stamping, invitations, letterheads, or menus
For Writing On: calendars, cards, coloring books, notepads, stationery, or workbooks
Matte Paper Stock
Matte is a type of paper that has been coated with a sealant to smooth the surface of the paper, changing its look, feel, and usage. Matte is more shiny than uncoated but less than paper with a gloss finish. The light coating smooths out the surface of the paper and so it reflects some light. Matte paper stock will produce a small amount of glare compared to paper that is uncoated. Images printed on pages with a matte finish will also come out looking crisper and clearer than uncoated pages. The more coating that is applied, the more brilliant the colors underneath will appear, so matte and gloss will enhance the look of colors printed on those types of pages. This paper finish will also feel slick and smooth as a result of the light sealant coating, unlike uncoated papers. Matte produces a less porous finish than uncoated and the sealant acts as a barrier to the paper.
Why Use Matte?
- Paper with a matte coating is an excellent barrier. The sealant coating and resultant smoother surface provide some protection for the pages, so the matte finish is often the choice on projects where oils or moisture may come into contact with the pages frequently.
- A matte finish resists wear and tear, so paper with this light surface coating is ideal for use on projects that are handled a lot. Pages with a matte finish are less likely to rip than uncoated and the slick coating means these pages do not pick up as much dirt as uncoated pages may.
- This type of finish on paper is ideal for projects with photos or graphics on the page, since the coating enhances colors. The coating helps to slow ink absorption during the printing process so pictures on a matte page appear more clearly than those on an uncoated one.
Use Matte On These
For Color: brochures, flyers, comic books, or graphic novels
For Durability: brochures, newsletters, pamphlets, or programs
For Glare: short books
Gloss Paper Stock
The paper finish with the thickest coating of sealant is called gloss. Highly reflective, gloss paper stock is shinier than matte paper and produces the most glare of the three types of paper. With a solid coating on the paper, gloss helps to slow the absorption of ink even more than matte paper ,so colors, graphics, and photos appear very rich and sharp underneath. The images are so crisply defined with very little ink bleeding. Fingerprints can appear obvious on gloss paper due to the highly slicked finish and bright lighting can create too strong of glare for it to be easily read or even viewed in some situations.
Why Use Gloss?
- One of the most useful characteristics of gloss is it helps colors to “pop” due to the thicker coating on the paper. Printers love to use gloss for full-color images, because they look fantastic with the small amount of ink bleed and the magnification of the pictures underneath the clear coating on the paper.
- Gloss is perfect for any project that needs high visibility when the shiny, reflective finish won’t diminish the project itself.
Use Gloss On These
For Finish: marketing materials, art projects, photos
For Durability: books and magazines
Printing Your Project
Choosing the right kind of paper for your project can make your self-published works look great and encourage others to enjoy them. Authors and creators that work with printers like Dazzle Printing can talk with experts in the publishing world to make sure they are making the best selection of paper for their projects. Books and projects can be created with a combination of materials, as well, since the paper for the cover and the inside pages have different needs and expectations for their use, durability, and overall appearance. Perfect bound book covers look great with gloss or matte paper while plastic coil and wire-o bound can also use both gloss and matte finishes. For book covers with bright colors or full-color pictures, authors may choose to use a gloss finish to make the colors look as crisp and clear as possible. Gloss covers also create an attractive, eye-catching finish that is ideal for covers as well.
Choosing the right paper for your project is really a function of knowing how your book or project will be used. Considering the readability, glare, colors, and durability of the paper finish can help you pick the right paper finish to make your projects look amazing.