Specifying Gloss vs. Dull Stock
When specifying a coated paper stock
for your print job, how do you choose from among the gloss,
dull, and matte sheets available to you?
A good rule of thumb is to choose a
gloss coated stock if your publication relies heavily on
photographs for its design. The gloss coating reflects light
rays directly back to the reader, causing the photos to
appear sharper and of higher contrast. The colors also look
However, the very characteristic of
gloss coated stock that showcases black and white or color
photos makes it less suitable for text. The light rays reflecting
back at the reader tire the eyes. If the reader must absorb
large amounts of text, a dull coated or matte coated sheet
would be more appropriate. The coating on these sheets diffuses
the light. The rays are scattered rather than reflected
directly back at the reader. This optical property of dull
and matte coated sheets reduces eye strain when one is reading
large amounts of copy.
In designing a text-heavy document,
specifying a matte- or dull-coated stock is preferable,
but how should one choose between these two? Matte coating
is less dense than dull coating. It is also slightly less
shiny than dull coated paper and under close scrutiny may
even appear a bit mottled. However, matte stock is usually
less expensive than dull stock.
Paper for Both Photos and Text
What can you do if you need to showcase
photos in your publication but also print large amounts
of text? Given the information listed above concerning optimal
papers for each, how can you serve both needs?
First, consider designing your publication
so that the photos fall together in one signature and the
large blocks of text are positioned in another signature.
Then use a gloss stock for the photo-rich signature and
specify an uncoated stock for the text portion.
Many of you have probably seen an annual
report that uses both kinds of paper. The company prints
the opening photo section on a gloss stock then switches
to an uncoated, or dull or matte coated, paper for the financial
section. At this point of the book, because of the large
amount of text and the small point size of the text in the
financials, the reader appreciates the non-gloss paper stock.
Another solution would be to use varnish
to either accentuate the photo section or mute the paper
in the text-heavy sections. For example, you can specify
a dull paper stock for the entire publication (let's use
the annual report mentioned above as an example). You can
then either varnish the pages of photos at the front of
the annual report (and leave the financials on the base
dull sheet), or you can spot varnish just the photos themselves,
leaving the surrounding paper in its natural, dull-coated
state. Conversely, you can specify the entire annual report
on a gloss sheet and then dull-varnish the text-heavy pages
in the financial section to reduce eye-strain.
What is Cast-coated Stock?
Cast coated stock is super-shiny paper
produced by pressing the paper against a polished metal
drum while the coating is still wet. This paper affords
superior reproduction of photographs, both in terms of color
reproduction and sharp detail. It lends itself to diecutting
and embossing, yet it is very expensive and the coating
may crack when the paper is folded. To minimize cracking,
use only sheets coated on one side, avoid printing over
the fold, and fold with (rather than against) the grain.
Be aware that spirit varnishes can cause cast coated sheets
to yellow. Your printer should do finishing operations and
diecutting off-line with the coated side up to protect the
What are Specialty Papers?
These papers include NCR paper (no
carbon required) for forms; parchment for certificates;
translucent sheets; index and bristol for divider pages,
folders, and tags; synthetic paper made of un-tearable plastic;
and label stock (crack-and-peel and pressure sensitive),
and the like. Each of these is used for a specific purpose.
Most require specific processes (or presses). Not every
printer can work with every one of these specialty papers,
so discuss your goals and the printer's capabilities early
in the process.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]