Notebooks 101: Offset vs. Coated Paper

What is Offset Paper?

Offset or offset printing paper is a wood-free paper used in offset lithography for various printed materials. It is compatible with both sheet-fed and web-fed printing machines.

Features of Offset Paper

  • A larger quantity of sizing for moisture resistance
  • ISO brightness over 80%
  • Grammage range of 40-300 gsm
  • Strong surface, minimal shedding, and no curling
  • Good size stability
  • Available in coated and uncoated, smooth, vellum, and patterned textures

Offset Paper Applications and Types

Uncoated offset paper is ideal for offset printing due to its coarse surface, which absorbs printing inks and dampening solutions.

It is commonly used for office supplies, full-color images, illustrations, text, softcovers (paperbacks), and text-based publications, providing a classic appearance for notebook pages in various textures and colors.

However, it is not suitable for high-quality color photos.
Offset Paper printing
White vs. Natural Paper

Types of Uncoated Paper: White vs. Natural Paper

Contrary to popular belief, paper is not always white. The color and brightness of paper depend on the wood pulp bleaching process, while "brightness" refers to the amount of light reflected under typical lighting conditions.

There are two common types of uncoated paper:
  • White Paper: Most common, maximizes readability of black-and-white text
  • Natural Paper: Cream-colored, barely bleached, gentler or traditional tone

Paper Weight Selection for Uncoated Paper

Standard uncoated paperweight notebooks range from 50 to 80 lb. 50 lb uncoated paper is around the same weight as a 20 lb copy paper home sheet. There are several elements to consider when deciding which paper weight is appropriate for your notebook.

50# uncoated

Minimizes spine size and thickness, ideal for 600+ pages

60# uncoated

Perfect balance, most common, sturdy yet flexible

70# uncoated

More opaque, ideal for color-heavy publications

80# uncoated

Suitable for image-heavy, modest-page notebooks, stiffer feel

What is Coated Paper?

Coated or gloss paper has a polymer or mixture of materials to modify its characteristics, such as thickness, surface gloss, smoothness, and ink absorbency. Coated paper types include glossy, semi-gloss, and matte papers, with various coating ingredients like kaolinite, calcium carbonate, bentonite, and talc.

Coated paper features

  • Can be gloss, satin, matte, or dull.
  • Binders like synthetic viscosities or natural organic binders affix the coating.
  • Chemical additives provide water resistance, wet strength, or UV protection.
  • Enhanced brightness, smoothness, and other printing qualities.
After the coating application, the paper is polished with rollers, smoothing the surface by filling microscopic divots and crevices between fibers.
Coated Paper

Type of Coated Papers



High shine, vivid colors, thinner and more transparent



Non-glossy, dull, increased bulk, opacity, and cost



Softer sheen, vibrant colors, glossier than matte but less than gloss



Flat, matte surface, varies between matte and glossy

Single- and Double-sided Coatings

Coated one side means C1S, while coated two sides mean C2S. The coating on C1S paper is applied on only one side. The C2S coating is double-sided. The glossiness usually only occurs on the coated side. Postcards are the most common application for this paper type. It makes the front of the card shiny, while the uncoated back may be used for mailing addresses.


Comparison of Coated and Uncoated Papers



Coated papers

  • Best for solid printing colors or metallic inks, preventing bleed or smear
  • Suitable for surface treatments like varnishes, UV coatings, and foil stamping
  • Difficult to write using a pen
  • Gloss-coated papers can be hard to read with a lot of text
  • Require additional coating to prevent fingerprints and scratches

Uncoated papers

  • Ideal for pressure-based print processes (embossing, debossing, letterpress, foil stamping)
  • Provide an attractive distinction between the sheet's surface and the imprint
  • Great for tactile packaging due to its smooth surface and easy folding
  • Ink absorption may require coatings and varnishes for protection but not for design
  • Choose high-quality uncoated paper with the superior formation



Coated papers

  • Produce clear, sharp results with a high degree of contrast
  • Ideal for photographs with fine detail
  • Common in luxury goods publications and catalogs for a "glossy" or "shiny" appearance
  • Perfect for high-definition printing

Uncoated papers

  • Comfortable to the touch and warmer in appearance
  • Convey honesty, reliability, and purpose
  • Ideal for education, non-profit work, and environmental protection
  • Great for identity systems, notebooks, books, and catalogs


  • Consider weight and thickness when comparing coated and uncoated paper
  • An uncoated sheet may be used instead of a coated one for similar opacity and thickness
  • Less material may need to be shipped or mailed, resulting in cost savings
  • Coated and uncoated papers offer a variety of options at different price points
  • Don't determine paper specifications based on cost alone; consult with printing and paper product factories for affordable, high-quality solutions

Other Factors to Consider

Acid-free paper

  • Traditional paper was made from wood pulp with acidic properties
  • Modern paper is neutral in pH and lasts for 500 years on average
  • Higher-quality acid-free paper, or archival-quality paper, can last 1,000+ years
  • Acid-free cotton pulp is common in higher-grade paper


  • Choose manufacturers who care about the environment and use sustainably harvested paper
  • Look for certifications like Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), Rainforest Alliance, or Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Paper products printing
Jerome Wu

Jerome Wu

About the Author

Jerome Wu, a renowned expert in the stationery field, crafts insightful content for Interwell Stationery. With over a decade of industry experience, Jerome brings a deep understanding of stationery trends and innovation.

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