The Ultimate Guide to the Different Types of Paper for Printing

There are several different types of paper for printing, all of which will impact the look and feel of your final product.

Depending on the paper choice, your prints will vary in composition, design, purpose, thickness and weight. Each option offers bespoke design choices you can utilise in your prints, with certain types of paper offering clear benefits to specific projects.

Throughout this blog post, we’ll explore how to choose the right type of paper for printing so you can enjoy the perfect finish.

Recycled Paper

Recycled paper is a good choice if you’re conscious of your environmental footprint. It’s made from 60% to 100% recycled paper pulp — old paper mixed with water and blended until it breaks down. The individual fibres are bonded together to make fresh paper materials.

However, as paper fibres degrade after being recycled several times, fresh fibres from sustainably managed forests are required to maintain the renewable cycle. That means virgin paper may be the greener choice in some scenarios.

How do you know when to use recycled paper for printing? We’ve covered the topic in detail on our blog — click below to take you to our post.

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Quick Fact: What Makes Paper Sustainable? 

Did you know? Some trees are grown as a crop, and there’s a common misconception that paper companies cut down old-growth forests.

However, it’s important to note that the majority — if not all — of these companies practice sustainable wood harvesting methods.

These practices are designed to ensure no net loss of forest land. When paper is produced using wood from sustainably managed forests, it contributes to the renewable nature of the material.

Matte-Coated and Gloss-Coated Paper

Matte-coated and gloss-coated are two paper types that give varying finishes. Gloss paper has a high shine and is a popular choice for leaflets and flyers as it enhances colours.

Matte paper has a muted surface that subtly and evenly refracts light, reducing glare. It also has a soft, textured feel to it.

Matte-coated paper is popular for creating books and other large copy-based prints. As well as words being easier to read on matte paper, it’s also easier to write on.

Silk-Coated, Soft Touch and Satin Finish Paper

Silk-coated paper is the middle ground between gloss and matte-coated and is an excellent type of paper for printing. It has the smooth feel of glossy paper without the shine. It’s made by binding silk fibres together, creating a luxurious feel for your products.

As magazines are commonly read using electric light, gloss-coated paper can be difficult to read due to the glare caused by its reflectiveness. Silk-coated paper still carries the same premium feel of gloss-coated paper without the glare that makes words hard to read.

Silk-coated paper provides a brilliant ink-to-paper contrast when combined with an LED UV printing process. This type of paper is a luxury item, and you won’t find it used in everyday brochures.

Soft touch or velvet finishes provide a smooth, velvety texture that feels pleasant to touch. If you’re preparing premium packaging or promotional materials, this stock can help to achieve eye-catching results.

Falling between matte and glossy, satin finishes offer a subtle sheen without the high reflectivity of glossy stock. This stock is highly versatile and can be used in various applications.

Bond Paper 

Bond paper is a durable, robust and long-lasting paper type.

As it lacks a coating, it's a great type of paper due to the range of printers it can be used in. Despite this, the lack of coating can leave the paper prone to damage like tears, scuffs and stains.

Quick Fact: How Is Paper Made?

Cellulose fibres are extracted from various natural sources, such as wood and cotton, to make paper.

They’re blended into a pulp with water, flattened and dried, and then cut into sheets. The process varies for paper types, many of which have different properties.


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Uncoated Paper

Similar to bond paper, uncoated paper is typically found in office printers. It has no coating, making it the perfect medium for ink use and absorbency.

When looking to go down the sustainable route, uncoated paper is the way to go. Uncoated paper is the easiest to recycle, keeping the paper cycle going without disruption.

Carbon Balanced Paper

This is where the paper has been evaluated for how much CO2 has been emitted during its production and transportation. It’s a simple and effective way for organisations to reduce the environmental footprints of their printed media.

All the paper types mentioned in this blog post can be carbon balanced. It’s all about choosing a responsible supplier and making conscious decisions about your environmental impact when developing your print materials.

Carbon balancing is performed through techniques such as giving forests a protected status and locking in the carbon that would have eventually been released through burning or destruction. These protected forests continue to absorb carbon from the atmosphere through their growth.


Of all the types of paper for printing, carbon-balanced paper is the greenest choice. By opting for carbon-balanced paper, you’re driving sustainability for your business.

Greener practices afford businesses several perks, including being more attractive to potential customers. In fact, 83% of customers will always choose a brand with a better sustainability record.

Working with B&B Press, you can ensure a positive step towards environmental stewardship. With sustainably-sourced paper, we minimise emissions created from the paper production process to the absolute minimum.

Any unavoidable emissions are then offset through balancing. All manufacturing processes generate emissions, but through the act of balancing, especially in collaboration with the World Land Trust, we ensure your printing is environmentally responsible.

If you want to make a difference, our guide to driving sustainability can help you get started. Get your free copy below.

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A Guide to Paper Weights

Paper weight is often measured in grams per square metre (gsm), measuring paper density. It represents the weight of a one square metre sheet of paper — the higher the gsm, the thicker and heavier the paper.

The weight of paper is often decided by its thickness, but it can also be influenced by other attributes, such as:

  • A high wood fibre content can increase the thickness and weight of paper
  • To achieve certain visual and tactile results, some paper processors include additives to the pulp
  • The type of processing used can affect the density of the paper, with a higher-density pulp creating thinner paper and a lower-density pulp creating thicker paper

Understanding paper weight is important to avoid any issues in the printing process. For example, if you choose a very light paper for leaflets, you can see through the sheet, which ruins the look of the print on both sides.

Let’s break down the different paper weights and their suitability:

  • 90gsm: This is uncoated paper and isn’t subjected to chemical treatments. It’s ideal for large quantities of text, so it’s the perfect type for books, printing documents and headed paper
  • 130gsm: This type is best used with a matte or gloss finish and ages very well, making it ideal for printing posters, magazines, brochures and flyers
  • 170gsm: This weight is used for thin paperboard. It’s a versatile type of paper, available in recycled versions, coated, matte, gloss and even satin. It’s used primarily for catalogues, presentations, certificates and posters
  • 350gsm: This weight type is ideal for business cards, covers and invitation cards as it’s a semi-rigid paperboard
  • 380gsm: One of the heaviest paper types, 380gsm is best used for folders, packaging, rigid book covers, product tags and display covers

With all these types of paper for printing, it's advisable to tap into the knowledge of an expert print provider to ensure you make the right choice.

Prepare for Printing With Insights From Experts 

With deadlines looming and the clock ticking before you launch your next campaign, finding the right type of paper for printing should be high on your list of priorities.

Using the right paper type can transform your final product to leave a lasting impression on your customers.

That’s why we’ve created a brilliant print guide to advise and inspire you through each stage of creating your print.

For more tips on preparing artwork for print, contact an expert printing professional like B&B Press or download our ‘Guide to Creating Brilliant Print’ below.

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Explore the
Best of Green
Printing Tips

You’re probably well aware of the growing importance and demand of eco-friendly products.

Modern technology has made these kinds of items increasingly cheaper to produce and more visually appealing. They’re a great way of lowering your business’ environmental impact - but how exactly do you produce the best kind of print using these methods?

Our checklist will give you the best advice for creating an impactful sustainable print solution.