What is the Difference Between Matte and Glossy Paper?

When you order printing, the difference between matte and glossy paper is “shininess” of the paper. This difference is most apparent when you flip the sheets of paper under the light.

This article looks into the differences between the two paper types to help you make your paper choices when printing. We’ll help you understand the physical differences (by explaining the manufacturing), and how to choose the best paper based on the files you have to print.

The differences in manufacturing matte and glossy paper

The two paper types look and feel different to the touch, but they’re actually manufactured in a very similar manner. Believe it or not, matte paper uses the same chemical coating as gloss paper.

Gloss paper simply has more of the coating applied than matte paper. You can think of matte paper as a “semi-gloss” or a “light gloss”—it has enough of a coating to add thickness and smoothness to the paper, but not enough to reflect paper under the light.

Fun fact: gloss paper is very slightly thinner than matte paper, even though they’re the same weight. For example: if you print booklets on matte and glossy paper, they’ll weigh the same amount on the scale. However, the glossy booklets are denser, and ever-so-slightly thinner.

Factors when choosing between matte and glossy paper for printing

The biggest factor when you choose between matte and glossy paper is the kinds of content that you’re printing. How many photographs, graphic designs/illustrations, and articles of text do you have in your prints?

Matte and gloss paper are coated sheets that appear smooth. Gloss (left) appears smoother and shinier than matte (right).v
Matte and gloss paper are coated sheets that appear smooth. Gloss (left) appears smoother and shinier than matte (right).

Glossy paper is shinier—this makes the color in your images “pop” on the sheet. The extra shine works well on print files with heavy color coverage, especially photographs and big graphics. This effect also gives the color on the prints look like they have higher contrast.

Matte paper has a more muted feel to it. This can be used to great effect in designs with a light or pastel color scheme, and in designs with a great deal of text on it. Because matte paper changes less under the light, they also have more of a “flat” feel than gloss sheets. If the final product is intended to be written on with a ballpoint pen, then matte is the recommended paper type

Final thoughts

Don’t stress! In the end, you can’t really choose the wrong paper for printing. You’re not going to end up in a situation where you regret the choice of the paper. Both paper types carry color very well, and it ends up coming down to subtle preference and nuance.

Call the customer service representatives at Printivity at 1-877-649-5463 and ask for a complimentary paper sample!