Paper Matters Blog
3 Uncoated Paper Myths

There are many uncoated paper myths circling the industry, but the most important thing to keep in mind is what attributes will work to enhance a client’s print design and brand messaging – rather than detract from it.  Knowing how certain papers work with various printing equipment and post-press techniques are just as important. With so many different options, the choice of paper becomes the scapegoat when the print results do not come out as expected.

Print is a sensory experience. There’s no denying that print engages almost all of our senses – yet the tactile quality and the sensory engagement of the medium is often overlooked when designing for print. Clients and end users love print because it provides a way to physically connect with their audience, and uncoated paper provides a highly tactile experience for the recipient. Yet so many opt for the standard gloss coated paper and settle for the option that seems to be “good enough” by the time it comes to the paper they choose for their project.

To demystify these uncoated paper myths, here are the most popular rumors and how you can achieve even better results than its glossier counterpart.

Top 3 Uncoated Paper Myths

Uncoated Paper Myth #1: Images don’t pop off the page with uncoated papers.

While it’s true, coated papers help images pop, but you can achieve the same vivid color and detail reproduction using an uncoated paper and impart a rich, tactile feel to your print design. To achieve this type of result with an uncoated paper, start by choosing a paper with a uniform surface.

Here’s the thing, uncoated papers by nature are porous; they don’t have a coating sealing them like gloss papers do, so the ink is absorbed by the paper. Dot gain is higher on uncoated paper than coated paper. If you account for this in the prepress process, you will avoid muddy images and plugged screens.

Cougar® is a great example of an uncoated paper that can hold a sharp dot and yield clear, crisp print results. Simply put, utilizing a premium uncoated paper, like Cougar or Lynx®Opaque Ultra, when printing images with fine detail is critical.

Uncoated Paper Myth #2: Areas with large solids look blotchy on uncoated papers.

The key to smooth, uniform results when printing large areas of solid ink coverage, especially when rich blacks or metallics are used, lies in the paper’s formation. This is all about how the fibers lay on a sheet of paper.  If you want to see the formation, hold a sheet of paper up to the light. If you see clumps of fibers that look like clouds, the formation is not even.

In fact, I’d go even so far as to say that the mark of great paper is how a rich black or silver metallic solid prints on it. When working on a project featuring areas of heavy solids, always check out print samples first to get an idea of how paper handles heavy solid ink coverage. Samples save both the designer and printer a lot of hassle because it sets the expectations before going to press.

Essentially, keep your eyes peeled for smooth, uncoated paper with a uniform formation (no clumps), because when ink is evenly absorbed, you’ll get smooth, even print results.

This mottled appearance becomes especially noticeable when printing large areas of solids, which can be a problem when printing on uncoated paper because the ink is absorbed into the paper, remember? Don’t worry, it can be avoided.

3 uncoated paper myths

Uncoated Paper Myth #3: Ink rubs off when printing on uncoated papers.
While it’s true that heavy ink coverage on uncoated paper can cause “offsetting” (this is a technical term for when ink rubs off on the sheet next to it), there are ways to prevent it. Ink film thickness or total area coverage (TAC) plays a large part in ink rub by keeping your paper’s TAC to 280% or less. Coatings found on gloss papers may reduce offsetting but until the ink film is dried all the way through the total thickness, you run the risk of smudging under certain conditions.

The Perks of Uncoated Papers
In addition to being highly tactile, uncoated papers offer a whole host of qualities to compliment design solutions:

  • Uncoated papers have a tactile nature which conveys an implied sense of trust, authenticity, environmental friendliness and fiscal responsibility. All of these are very powerful traits in visual communication design and brand messaging.
  • Uncoated papers are pretty readily available across all print platforms such as web offset, sheet-fed offset and digital printing – making them extremely versatile and accessible.
  • Uncoated papers are bulkier than coated papers. This is a nice benefit when you’re looking to add some heft to a brochure with a minimal page count. In many cases, you may even be able to drop down a basis weight without sacrificing print integrity. This is beneficial when you’re operating within a budget. Since paper is bought and sold by its weight, dropping down a basis weight not only saves money on paper costs but additionally, because the finished piece weighs less, it can save money on postal costs as well.

Pound for pound, uncoated papers offer a whole host of design, print and brand solutions. The key is to understand these uncoated paper myths and know when to best use them for effective print communications.

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