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Folderprinters > Blog > Professional Grade: Gloss or Matte Paper?

Gloss or Matte Paper?

In a paper conundrum? Here are some points to help you decide.


March 08, 2023

Decisions, decisions.

The choice to go with either gloss coated or matte coated paper can be as simple (or, depending on your philosophy, inconsequential) as “Either one will do.” or a torturous, “I just can’t decide which one to use.”

Whichever paper finish you go with for your custom folders or other printed pieces, it should be safe to say that it would not be fatal to the message or image you want to impart. In most cases, it may just boil down to subjectivity and a matter of personal taste.

Having said all that, there’s something to be said for nuance — in the percieved effects of sheen. It is in this sense that this article will try to shed light on the dichotomy between the two paper finishes, to help determine which one is best suited for your project.


Before delving deeper, it would be best to define paper properties. While there are a multitude of paper characteristics, we’ll concern ourselves only with the two types of coating: matte and gloss. Between those two, the common and operative word is “coating”. Coating is how the papers get their finishing feel and sheen. Hence both paper types fall under the category of coated paper (as opposed to uncoated paper, which is the other major category and an article subject onto itself ).

Just as it in in house walls, fingernails, or automotive body, uncoated is the bare, unpainted state. In the case of paper, the coating is a mixture of materials or a polymer that is applied on its surface, which adds sheen, improved smoothness and reduced absorbency. Keep in mind that the coating application being referred to here is done by the paper manufacturer before it is delivered to a printing company; therefore a distinct process from the post-printing coatings, such as aqueous coating (AQ); varnish; laminates; or ultraviolet coating (UV), that may be offered by most printers.

Within this coated category, you are likely come across the terms C1S and C2S. These refer to the number of sides of the paper that is coated: C1S for "Coated One (1) Side", and correspondingly, C2S for "Coated Two (2) Sides". Consequently, coated paper industrial specifications include the number of sides coated, the finish and weight. As in 'C2S Matte 12pt.' or 'C1S Gloss 14pt.'

With regard to coated paper, the vast majority of commercially printed pieces use C2S, and the most widely available finishes are matte and gloss.

As you might imagine, the difference between matte and gloss is sheen. Gloss, as the term implies is — to a certain extent — shiny and reflective. Conversely, matte (sometimes called 'dull') is, in fact, dull and without shine.

While both finishes are smooth, gloss coated paper can be best characterized as having an ultra-fine-almost-imperceptible grain texture, while matte has a hint of velvety feel to it.

It is important to note that the degree of the main characteristics of the most commonly used and readily available gloss and matte coated paper (shininess and velvety texture, respectively) would be graded as 'medium'; that is to say, gloss is nowhere near glass or porcelain-like, and matte — while having texture — does not run through your fingertips like actual velvet.


So, gloss or matte? Here are a few points that may help in your decision. Within these , you’ll notice that two persistent principles: consistency in visuals, and the highlighting and subduing effect on imagery of the respective finishes.

Gloss and matte can evoke different feelings or perceptions. This is where nuance could come into play.

Because the standard gloss sheet is not overly shiny, it does not come off as ostentatious or garish. Which — along with being the most commonly used finish — always makes it a safe choice. On the other hand matte, beginning with the fact that it is not as commomly used and has a different tactile feel, can instantly elicit a reaction — "This is different from what I usually see." or "This is cool."

Perhaps owing to the aforementioned characteristics along with its ability to produce subdued printed colors, matte can convey a sense of being modern, understated elegance, and seriousness.

Images of folders. Gloss on left and matte on right
Two folders photographed simultaneously to show the difference between gloss and matte. On the left is a gloss coated folder with a very colorful and cheerful design; sheen or reflected light along its left side is clearly noticeable. On the right is a monochromatic design printed on matte paper; notice no sheen.


A good element on which to start your evaluation would be any imagery associated with your organization.

The perfect embodiment and practice of consistency is to use the same paper finish on which most of your exiting marketing materials have been printed.

If your logo is colorful, or metallic or trying to simulate the shine of metal, then gloss would be a good choice, as matte will dull the luster.

The same logic would be applicable to any outdoor signage you may have. If you have prominent or abundant bright lights within your place of business, gloss would be the way to go.

Excellent examples of a product being a deciding factor include mirror or chrome coated items, in which (unless there are other compelling reasons to do so otherwise) gloss would be the obvious choice.

Printing on matte would seem to defeat the purpose of a colorful or vivid design. Gloss would definitely do a better job at making your images pop. At the other end of the color-composition spectrum is a monochromatic layout which is inherently subdued making matte a sensible choice

The service you provide could be a determining factor in your choice. And since gloss and matte can evoke different feelings or perceptions, this is where nuance could come into play.

For example, if you are an auto shop that services mainly vehicles decked out in chrome, matte would be a disconnect. While one that deals with luxury cars could find matte to be in line with their elegant image.

An interior designer specializing in grand, ornately designed (specially if bright and shiny) estates should find gloss coating a fit. Another who is focused on modern, minimally ornate houses would be consisitent in branding by using matte.

Then there is the matter of which asset to feature: product or expertise. Matte — with its seriousness underone — could serve as a good medium to highlight a dental office's credentials, but gloss can better present the final product: bright and shiny teeth.


If you've been wracking your brain about which coated paper finish to use, you are either persnickety or being tactical. Neither of which is a bad thing, especially if the main concern is every little matter to do with the success of your enterprise. We hope that this article has shed light on the issue and given you good points on which to base your choice.

There is one final thing to consider: which one feels right.