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What's the Difference Between Coated and Uncoated Stock?

You can probably guess that one stock has a coating of some kind and that the other paper doesn't. But, what does that mean in terms of your printing job? What should someone be aware of? Here's the difference.

Uncoated papers have a rough, more natural feel to them. Examples of uncoated stock are newsprint, cheaper catalogs, many recycled papers and most papers available in a local copy shop. These papers tend to be more porous and soak up ink. Depending on the quality of the paper, they can soak up a LOT of ink.

Uncoated stocks are ideal for quick and less-precise printing. They are also ideal for pieces printed for people to write on or read for an extended period of time (so there won't be any glare to irritate a reader's eyes). Uncoated stocks tend to be less expensive than coated papers and are perfect for newspaper and flyer printing.

Coated papers, by contrast, have a smoother finish and are not very porous at all. Ink will, more or less, sit on this type of paper's surface. It will take longer for ink printed on a coated stock to dry. Type and photographs look sharper on coated stocks because the ink doesn't bleed into the paper and blur the halftone screen. Detail is not lost and fine text holds up well. Keep in mind though that some coated stocks are very difficult to write on or to read from. Coated papers also tend to be more expensive than uncoated stocks.

Though coated paper can come in a dull or glossy finish, this shouldn't be confused with a varnish or a plastic lamination. These are separate processes that are added at the end of a job. They can add an extra bit of gloss or durability to a printed piece that regular inks can't provide. Though a lamination can work well with either a coated or uncoated stock (make sure you don't have too much gloss), varnishes are only effective on coated stocks. A varnish will soak into an uncoated stock so one won't be able to tell a varnish has even been applied.

So, if one is looking to print something in a very large quantity that is meant to be written on or read from (books, newspapers, forms, flyers, etc.), an uncoated stock is a viable choice. If one is looking to print a high-impact piece (a brochure, catalog, or mailer), then a coated paper may be the better solution.

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