Paper Stock 101: How Paper and Print Work Together

Matthew Feldman is a good friend of Conformer and, as CEO of Millmar Paper, knows a heck of a lot about paper stock, particularly as it relates to print.  He has established himself as a true industry innovator with the clever launch of Xtreme Coated Cover, and we’re thrilled to share his expertise with you.

Conformer:  What are the primary characteristics of paper?

Feldman:  Paper’s four main characteristics are fiber structure, coating, whiteness and brightness.  Superior fiber structure is the most important characteristic because it has the greatest impact on the finished product.  A smooth fiber structure will produce a clean and exact reproduction of the design.  A smooth and even coating will then assist in producing the desired effect of the design.  Whiteness and brightness usually are a measure of how white the unprinted paper is and how light will reflect off of the paper.

Conformer:  How do each of these characteristics play a role in how ink interacts with the paper?

Feldman: Ink will sit up on a coated sheet of paper.  A gloss coating, being the hardest of the coatings, is designed to block the ink from penetrating the paper fibers.  As coatings lessen, like a dull coating or a matte coating, ink will permeate the paper and produce a different print result.  When using a paper with a superior fiber structure, the coating will be applied with a smoother uniformity.  The combination of smooth fiber and even coating on the paper will yield the best print results.

Conformer:  What kind of coatings can be found on paper? How do the coatings play a role in how ink looks when printed on the paper?

Feldman: Coatings can be applied to paper before and after paper is printed.

The coatings that are applied before printing give the consumer a choice of how she wants the design to reproduce.  A gloss coating will provide the most ink-holdout and produce the sharpest image.  It also is highly reflective and gives a printed piece the “bling” effect.  A dull coating or matte coating has less coating applied to the paper and gives the printed image a more subtle and smoother feel.  Ink will penetrate the coating more and produce a softer, yet more alluring, presentation to the design.

Coatings applied after printing are used for a number of reasons.  First and foremost, coatings applied after printing provide protection to the printed piece.  A UV gloss coating also provides additional bling, while a soft-touch aqueous coating can provide additional luxury.  These coatings can cover the entire printed piece, or they can be applied in certain areas.  When applying spot coatings, manufacturers can create unique design elements that draw the eye to branded messaging and provide the marketer with important branding techniques.

This is a meaty topic, isn’t it?  I know I learned something new today.  So stay tuned for Part 2 of my interview with Matt Feldman, which will be posted on Monday.  Click here for Part 2.

Sari McConnell at

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