G is for gloss

Print comes in a variety of finishes and when it comes to choosing one, it’s something to consider carefully. This blog post will give you some pointers so you can get the best effect in all your print products. Not sure whether to go with matte or gloss? Don’t know your spot UV from your foiling? Read on. 

How much gloss?

When someone mentions gloss, satin or matte, you might think of house paint. They’re also terms we use in the world of print. Generally, these are the three paper finishes to choose from, although there are lots of in-between finishes too.

Matte is flat, it has no shine, silk has a gentle sheen and gloss is your 100% full shine. Each finish looks different as it reflects a different amount of light. This means each finish is suited to different print products. 

But which finish is best for what print products? As you’ll know, if you’ve ever painted your ceilings in full gloss paint by mistake, using the wrong finish for the wrong product can look a bit odd. 


The shiny one. The reflective nature of this coated paper finish means the ink sits on the surface of the paper, making images really vivid. That’s why you’ll often find photos printed on gloss – it makes the pictures rich and clear. 

Magazine covers are usually printed on gloss paper  – that’s where the term ‘glossy’ magazines comes from. It’s also a good choice for projects with hero imagery that need to look professional and polished. 

If you’re designing print that people need to be able to write on (like a folder with space for a delegate’s name),  don’t use a gloss finish as it’s difficult to write on. Though in some applications, if you want to be able to write on and then wipe clean, gloss is your go-to.

Glare and bright lights can also be an issue with gloss print, so it’s important to think about the light levels where your print products will be used. 


This finish is less shiny than gloss, but it’s still a coated paper. It’s easier to read than gloss, so the inner pages of magazines are usually printed on silk paper. There’s less shine, but images still appear crisp and vivid. A good choice for brochures, leaflets and direct mail. 

You can write on it, but it’s not ideal. So steer clear if it needs to be written on. 


A matte finish means there’s no coating on the paper. Matte papers are more rustic, natural and have a more textured feel. 

Matte paper stock is the best for writing on, so if you’re ordering personalised stationery like letterheads or compliment slips then it’s the best choice. 

Imagery printed on matte paper won’t look as sharp or vivid as it would on gloss or silk, but if you’re looking for a more muted look, then it’s the best finish to go for. A heavy, matte stock is a fashionable choice right now and feels super-luxurious. 

High-shine finishes 

Super-high gloss can be used to make elements of your design stand out. This print technique is called spot UV printing.

The ‘spot’ part means the finish can be applied to certain areas of a design, making it different to gloss lamination which is applied to the entire page. The ‘UV’ stands for ultraviolet. A varnish is applied, then cured by UV light to create the high-shine finish.

This special effect is both visual and tactile – it’s eye-catching and feels very smooth. We used spot UV for these Weldspares catalogues to emphasise the large W logo and strengthen the branding. 

Foiling is another way to add an accent of shine to your print. We can use any metallic colour to accent your design. Using the foiling technique can make a project look extra special, like these certificates we produced for Family Martial Arts. 

Your choices at Belle

Think about your brand identity when you choose between gloss, silk and matte finishes. Aim for consistency when you’re ordering similar kinds of products – it helps make your brand look and feel cohesive. 

We’ve got countless stocks and finishes to explore. From the super-glossy ‘Tru Card Cast Coated’ to the rustic matte ‘Cairn Eco Kraft’, we’ve got the perfect paper for your project. 

We can send you samples of paper stocks with different finishes, just get in touch. We’re happy to talk through all of the options with you and advise you on what finish is best for your project. 




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