Let’s talk about coated paper.
There are a lot of different coated papers you can consider when printing your project. Knowing the difference between the grades will help you when deciding the requirements of your project both with quality and price.
When it comes to printing your project, the choice of coated papers can be overwhelming. There are numerous options available, each with its own unique characteristics and advantages. Understanding the differences between the grades will not only help you make an informed decision but also ensure that your project meets both your quality and budget requirements.
Coated papers can be categorized into two main types: woodfree and mechanical. Woodfree papers, also known as freesheets, are made from wood but are devoid of wood content. Through a chemical treatment process, the wood is transformed, releasing lignin and producing pulp that consists predominantly of cellulose. Lignin, which acts as the adhesive holding the cellulose fibers together in trees, contributes to the paper’s opacity but does not enhance its strength and can result in a slightly less white appearance.
On the other hand, mechanical papers, also called ground wood papers, are manufactured by mechanically grinding the wood to create pulp. In mechanical pulps, the lignin remains intact, and the wood retains its original form. This distinction gives mechanical papers their unique characteristics.
Traditionally, coated papers have been classified into different grades, including Premium, #1, #2, #3, #4, and #5. Although the distinctions between these grades have become less defined over the years, there is still a wide range of qualities and prices available. Higher quality papers tend to have a heavier coating, better print surface, and increased brightness, resulting in a higher price point.
Premium and #1 coated papers are predominantly made from freesheets and are typically reserved for high-end projects where exceptional quality is paramount. These papers are commonly used for short-run, high-quality jobs and can deliver cost-effective and impressive results. Due to their quality and run length requirements, Premium and #1 coated papers are mainly printed using sheetfed presses.
The lines between #2, #3, and #4 coated papers become more blurred. #2 papers are typically freesheets, as are most #3 papers, while #4 papers are mostly mechanical, and #5 papers are entirely mechanical. Over the years, #2 and #3 coated freesheet papers have significantly improved in quality and are capable of producing excellent graphics. These grades are often preferred for longer runs due to their lower prices compared to #1 papers. As you progress from #2 to #3 and then to #4, the percentage of web printing tends to increase.
For long-run projects such as magazines, catalogs, and retail inserts, #4 and #5 coated papers are commonly used due to their opacity and affordability. These papers are sometimes referred to as lightweight coated (LC). It is worth noting that #5 coated papers also compete with supercalendered papers (SC). Supercalendered papers are uncoated papers that undergo a polishing process using heavy metal rollers called a “calender,” resulting in a glossy appearance similar to coated papers.
With the variety of options available, it’s no wonder we refer to coated papers as having different flavors. Different mills specialize in different categories, and the presence of imports can impact pricing dynamics across various grades. Ultimately, the prices of coated papers are determined by the interplay between supply and demand, rather than demand or supply alone. In our current market demand is high and supply is low. As we return to our new “normal”, we see the demand for coated papers of all grades stabilizing.
We hope this information helps you make an informed decision when selecting the right coated paper for your project. Should you have any further questions or require assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.