Adam France book printed on uncoated paper

Printing a high quality art book using uncoated paper

As a printer of high quality coffee table art books we typically use matte or gloss coated paper

Gloss or matte coated paper is the ideal substrate for optimal print quality of art books. It allows the printer to print a superfine dot that does not soak into the paper.

Coated paper also looks and feels more “expensive” than uncoated paper.

Recently two clients asked specifically for uncoated papers. I advised them that color accuracy would suffer if we use uncoated paper. Because inks soak into the paper, halftone dots spread and deform (this is called dot gain).

Generally, on uncoated paper:

  • The range of color is reduced
  • The brightness is reduced
  • The density range is reduced
  • Highlight and mid-tones get darker, but the shadow areas get lighter.

Why then would an artist want to use uncoated paper for the printing of his or her coffee table art book?

Why would an artist choose uncoated paper for the printing of his or her coffee table book? Uncoated paper offers the advantage of greater legibility, but this is not a major concern in art book printing. Budget-wise, uncoated paper is really not much more affordable than coated paper.

Uncoated paper offers the artist natural, earthy, recyclable and earth-friendly properties

The best color reproduction in an art book is of secondary interest to the clients who choose to print on uncoated paper. They go for a certain “feel” that coated paper does not offer. Even though many coated papers are now FSC certified, it is hard to find post-consumer recycled paper in coated category. There are some beautiful uncoated papers that are 100% recycled. Uncoated paper is also available in off-white shades.

Uncoated papers are available in many shades of whites and finishes

If you are considering printing on uncoated paper, you can request swatches of different surface finishes and color shades. We always try to accommodate your ideas!

Recommendations for printing on uncoated paper

Invest in a wet proof

My first recommendation to clients who express interest in uncoated paper is to invest in a wet proof. You can read more about wet proofing in my previous article here. Comparing your color file printed on uncoated vs coated paper will help you make the correct decision about how to proceed.

Plan your files for optimal color on uncoated paper

Secondly, plan your file preparation correctly for successful printing on uncoated paper. By opening the separation, the actual dot size is decreased and the space surrounding the dot is increased. This can be done in Photoshop → Color Settings → US Sheetfed Uncoated.

Consider printing part of your art book on uncoated and part on coated art paper

Another option may be to print part of the book on uncoated… and part on coated paper! This is what Adam French did. Part of the book features his concepts, notes and sketches – the parts printed on uncoated paper – and part of the book features his finished artwork. Reproductions of the art are printed on coated paper for optimal color reproduction.

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