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How to Print on Uncoated Paper

I personally LOVE uncoated paper stocks. There’s something about the earthiness that appeals to my nature loving side and draws me in. I’m not the only one either it seems with a growing number of devotees, including government departments, tourism and educational institutes. And the good news is, getting a great end result on uncoated paper is not as difficult as it once used to be.

Opera Queensland | Printing on Uncoated Paper

Before recommending an uncoated paper to customers I like to make sure they know exactly what the finished product will look like.

WHAT IS UNCOATED PAPER? Essentially, it’s your photocopy paper. If you take a closer look you can actually see the fibres that make up the sheet. It’s raw and natural, and prints with a flatter and more ‘absorbent’ finish. On the flip side is the glossy or semi gloss finish that many of your brochures and catalogues are printed on. This is called coated paper and, as the name suggests, has a calendared clay coating on both sides of the sheet. It usually gives a more vibrant, glossy print result.


  • Images:  Because the ink has no clay surface to sit on, it tends to sink into and spread out more on an uncoated paper. This isn’t always a bad thing, as long as you’re aware that heavy ink saturation may affect the detail, contrast and highlights of your images.

  • Drying time: No, it’s not an urban myth that printers use to buy more time on deliveries, often uncoated paper stocks take a little longer to dry, especially with heavy ink saturation.

  • Colour matching: Finally, take note of matching your colours. Again, uncoated paper can change the appearance with both CMYK and PMS colours. Check your Pantone book for the uncoated version so you’re clear on what the finished result will look like.

Printing on Uncoated Paper | Opera Queensland

SHOULD I DO ANYTHING TO THE IMAGES? We suggest you keep your image selection as light and open as possible. Printcraft does compensate for uncoated paper stocks when preparing files for print.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT WITH THE FINISHED RESULT? Definitely NOT glossy. In fact as far away from glossy as you can imagine. Expect darker, more saturated images and a more earthy look and feel.

DOES UNCOATED MEAN RECYCLED? Although some uncoated papers ARE recycled, many aren’t. It’s alway best to check with your print or paper partner on the certifications of your particular paper stock. Remember though, if you’re after an eco look and feel, perception is half the battle.

DO I CHOOSE THE SAME PAPER WEIGHT AS A COATED STOCK? This isn’t always necessary. Uncoated papers are much bulkier than glossy stocks because they’re all pulp and not a mixture of pulp and clay. This also gives them the benefit of greater opacity and ultimately less ‘show through’.

DO MY PROOFS REPRESENT THE FINISHED PRODUCT? I won’t speak for all print partners but Printcraft generates proofs on a glossy poster substrate. This does NOT provide an accurate representation of how your images will look on an uncoated paper stock. The best way to check this is on the press.

How to Print on Uncoated Paper

DOES IT SMELL? Think I’m nuts? Stick your head inside a box of catalogues that have just been printed on uncoated paper and you’ll nearly fall over with asphyxiation. The ink soaks in, and so does the smell. At least with today’s soy based inks it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be, but be prepared for a residual smell. So that’s the lowdown on using uncoated paper and some of the considerations to be mindful of. Decide on the paper stock before you start your design. Combined with these pointers you’ll be on your way to getting  the very best print result from this beautiful earthy substrate.

For more information or samples of printing on uncoated paper stocks give us a shout here at Printcraft. We’d love to show you what we’ve got.

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