How to Choose Paper Finishes for Commercial Print Jobs

How to Choose Paper Finishes for Commercial Print Jobs

Did you know that 72% of people judge your company based on the look and feel of your business cards? In fact, a whopping 39% of them won't even consider doing business with you if they feel your card looks cheap.

And that's just business cards. think about all the other printed material you distribute to clients and prospective customers!

Paper finishes have a big impact on the way your customers perceive a print project. Read on for a detailed guide that takes a look at the various types of paper considerations you need to keep in mind before you go to print.

Coated or Uncoated Paper?

Your first choice is about whether you want your final product to be coated or uncoated.


A coated paper stock is made through a process that steams, presses and polishes the paper. The end product is a paper stock that remains sharp over time.

Coated paper can't absorb new ink. So don't use this for your commercial print jobs that people will need to write on.

Business cards are often printed on coated paper. That gives it a slick, smooth look and feel. You may have tried to write on a coated business card only to find the ink smear all over your fingers.

Check out these 10 business card design tips for beautiful cards.

Coated paper can be glossy or matte. Either way, coated paper is a durable paper that gives your final product a crisp, clean look. Coated paper is typically used in magazine and catalog printing as well as for print jobs that require high-resolution images.


Uncoated paper stock feels more natural in your hand. The finish can be linen, ribbed, smooth, laid or felt. We'll discuss finish later on in this post.

The main difference is that uncoated paper is porous and allows for ink absorption. The final product will be slightly softer. The ink color may look a bit different depending on the type of uncoated paper you select due to the way the paper absorbs ink.

You may want to do a test print to see how the color looks on various types of uncoated paper before you make your choice.

The good thing about this paper is that your customers will be able to take notes and write down information on this type of paper. And, it doesn't reflect light and cause a glare.

Uncoated paper is often used for letterheads or anything that people will read closely.

Paper Finish

the finish of a paper is the next characteristic you need to consider. The finish will affect the texture and how reflective the page is.


Silk or dull finish is a coated finish with a dull finish. Leaves the printed image with more of a matte look.


Glossy paper is shiny and smooth on one or both sides of the sheet. Usually, coated paper has a high gloss finish.


A laid finish occurs when a special roller passes over wet paper to create tiny lines that run up and across the paper.

The effect is discrete and gives a slight texture without being distracting.


Linen finish looks similar to a linen fabric. This texture is achieved by an embossing process at the end of the papermaking process.


Matte finishes are smooth and have no shine or sheen to them. Choose a matte finish is for your commercial print jobs that have a lot of text or need to be high-quality.


Satin is not as glossy as gloss finish but has more of a sheen than you'd find on matte paper.


This finish (sometimes called the calendaring technique) results in a smooth, flat feel when the paper is passed through a set of rollers during paper-making.


The final finish for your paper is woven. This finish has a bit of texture caused by a woven wire circling a roller being passed across the pages. The result is a woven, basket-weave type finish.

Paper Weight

Another key consideration for your commercial print job is the weight of the paper. Almost all finishes are available in multiple weights, but not all weights are available in every finish.

The weight of the paper affects not only your print cost but also your shipping costs if you are mailing your printing. The thicker the paper, the more difficult it can be to work with it. For example, thick paper will resist folding and cause big creases in the paper.

A paper's weight is measured in pounds per 500 sheets of that type of paper. Paperweight ranges from 16 to 140 lbs. However, the highest weighted pages are not used for printing but rather for oil or acrylic painting or drawing.

Cardstock (or cover stock) is a thick, heavy paper that is often used for business cards or display boards.


Another characteristic of paper stock is how see-through the page is. The weight and finish determine the opacity so depending on what you chose in those areas, you won't have a say in the opacity.

If a sheet of paper is 100% opaque, that means that no ink will show through on the other side. On the other hand, 0% opacity means that the paper is translucent.


Another consideration for your next commercial print job is paper brightness.

Brightness is rated on a scale of 1 to 100. The brightest possible is 100. This is a measure of how much light the paper reflects.

Brightness affects both the quality and appearance of what is printed on the page.

The more a paper reflects light, the brighter it appears. the paper that is in your office printer is likely in the 80s on the brightness scale. Photos are often printed on paper that is in the high 90s.

You will want to choose a bright paper stock for jobs that require a sharp, professional look.

Note that brightness is not the same as paper whiteness!

Paper Color

Paper color is the final choice you need to make for your print project. There are various shades within white such as soft white and antique white.

Off-white paper shows less glare and is great for print jobs that will require readers to pay attention to text for an extended period of time.

Of course, there is also a wide range of colors you can choose from. Anything from pastels to neon colors.

Final Thoughts on Paper Finishes

We hope you found this guide on paper finishes helpful in selecting the right paper for your next commercial print job.

Remember, the paper you choose speaks volumes about your organization. Contact us for help choosing the right paper for your needs.

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