What’s the Difference Between Glossy and Matte Paper?

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

Last updated on November 8th, 2022 at 02:33 pm

When you order printing, the difference between matte and glossy paper is the “shininess” of the paper. This difference between glossy and matte is most apparent when you flip the sheets of paper under the light.  While matte paper has a more muted feel, glossy sheets will have a strong sheen that gives it a shiny appearance. Both results are due to their coating and the way they reflect light.

This article looks into the differences between what is matte paper vs. glossy paper to help you make the right choice for your print materials. We’ll help you understand the physical difference between glossy and matte (by explaining the manufacturing), and how to choose the best paper based on the files you have to print.

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The differences in manufacturing matte vs. 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 has more coating applied than matte printing paper.  Matte paper has a semi-gloss finish, produces high quality prints, but lacks the vibrant effects of gloss paper. One of the biggest misconceptions when customers see a matte paper option is that it will be uncoated. Matte paper is a coated paper that produces no glare and is resistant to smudging and imprints left by fingerprints, making it just as durable.

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 glossy paper vs. matte 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 vs glossy 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).

The main difference between glossy and matte is that glossy photo paper is shinier—this makes the color in your image “pop” on the sheet. The glossy finish enhances the color in the photo, creating a more vibrant image. The extra shine works well on print files with heavy color coverage, especially photographs and big graphics. This effect also makes the color on the photo prints look like they have higher contrast. This is a great option for large print materials that feature bright colors and fun graphics.

Matte printing 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. Also, Black & White photos tend to look better printed with a matte finish. 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. Thanks to the texture and more natural feel of matte paper, it can make print materials seem more professional.

Pro Tip: Spiral binding and wire o bound book printing are the ideal binding type if your booklet will be written in. The flexible binding will not break when your arm is resting on the book, which is possible with perfect bound book printing.

Final thoughts

Don’t stress! In the end, you can’t really choose the wrong paper for printing. No matter what, 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 the difference between glossy and matte ends up coming down to subtle preference and nuance.

Call the customer service representatives at Printivity at 1-877-649-5463 and request a complimentary paper sample of every paper coating and thickness!

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