Gloss or Matt – which is best?

April 19, 2021, by Lisa Saville

We often get asked: “Which is best, matt or gloss?”. There is no correct answer to this question. One should rather ask: “Which is best for ‘my particular job’ – gloss or matt?”. Let’s go through some of the options available and help you make the right decisions for your next project…

Matt or glossy effects can be achieved in various ways depending on the paper you print on, the print device you use plus the finishes you apply afterwards. With laser printing, the difference between matt and gloss paper is marginal if there is high ink coverage, as the nature of toner-based laser printing is quite glossy anyway. With litho printing however, the difference is significant. The reason for this is that the liquid ink used in this process will dry quickly on the surface of gloss coated paper resulting in rich contrasting colours, but it is readily absorbed by matt uncoated paper giving you muted colours and an ultra-matt result.

In order to achieve an ultra-gloss  effect, one can apply either a gloss UV varnish (a film of liquid sprayed over the surface of the print that is cured under UV light), or a gloss lamination (a plastic film applied to the paper with heat). If printing on uncoated paper is not matt enough for you, lamination is also available in a matt finish. Both matt and gloss lamination provide valuable protection for your printed material, making it scuff and splash resistant, however one should be mindful that it is not an environmentally friendly solution as it not recyclable.

Now you know how to achieve these different effects, you need to ask yourself which one is best for your specific project. This is an aesthetic decision and the answer should be based on the nature of your product or service and how your brand should be perceived by your target market. For example, if you are producing earth-friendly; 100% organic skin care products, the matt finish of a recycled card would be a good fit both ethically and aesthetically. Should you wish to showcase high-end jewellery made of shiny precious metal and jewels, a chic gloss finish and possibly even some foil or metallic ink might be better suited to convey the right image.

There is no right or wrong with a matt vs a gloss finish, as long as the aesthetic matches the tone of your brand, the size of your budget and is pleasing to your eye.


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