There are many types of glossy paper available. It’s important to understand some of the differences in order to select the best paper for your print project. Choosing a glossy or coated paper is subjective, although one finish may be better suited for certain projects than the others.
Paper gets its glossiness from an application of clay coating. A white clay compound, called kaolin, is applied to the paper during the manufacturing process. The clay fills in the spaces on the sheet creating a harder, non-porous surface. This surface coating improves the look of the images printed on it since the ink actually sits on top of the sheet rather than absorbing into it. Because of this improved print quality, high-quality print reproductions use glossy or coated stocks rather than uncoated ones.
Magazines typically use coated paper with a glossy finish. Glossy finishes are shiny and also reflect light. Many catalogs, brochures and posters are printed on glossy paper. Photographs are normally printed on a glossy paper for the best image quality.
Matte paper is also a coated stock, but it has a less reflective surface than its glossy counterpart. Because its surface is also clay-coated, ink does not absorb, but instead, “sits” on top of the sheet producing clear printed images. Announcements and newsletters are often printed on matte stocks. Some prefer it over glossy paper since it does not reflect light as readily, making it easier to read. Some paper manufacturers refer to their matte-coated stocks as “silk” or “satin” while other manufactures create a hard-surfaced sheet without clay coating and refer to these by the same names.
The glossiest of all paper is cast-coated. During paper manufacturing, after the clay is applied, the paper is sent through a series of stainless steel rollers. These rollers compress the sheet and create the shine. In the cast-coating process, the sheet is subjected to a hot polished drum and creates the highest shine possible. This is known as calendaring.
Coated papers, whether glossy, matte or cast-coated, are available in both text and cover weights. The most typical coated paper text weight is seventy pound (70#) which is slightly thicker than a standard sheet of office bond. This is the paper weight normally used in magazines. The coated paper cover weights are available in a wide range of thicknesses. Typically, the standard thickness is eighty pound (80#) which is slightly thicker than a standard index card. From there, 100#, 120# and board stock (8-, 10- or 12-point) are available. These heavier weights are ideal for postcards, posters or any product that needs to withstand some wear and tear.
Paper brightness is a measure of its ability to reflect light. Rated on a numeric scale, the brightest papers are designated at a 97 or 98. Papers with a blue white coloration are perceived to be the brightest. Less bright papers are generally rated as 92 and 86 brightness.