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High-Fidelity Printing on Uncoated Paper

By April 15, 2019No Comments

From the Editor: An increasing number of photographers are also printing their images in books.  While we might know a lot about printing our images, most of us aren’t going to know much about what considerations go into printing books.  Friesens, a sponsor of NANPA’s 2019 Nature Photography Summit, is Canada’s largest printer of hardcover books.  Founded in 1907, Friesens is an employee-owned company that also operates Friesens Press, a self-publishing subsidiary.  In this article, Friesens give us a primer on paper choices and high-fidelity art books.  Their website and blog contain a lot more information.


We continue to see a growing number of high-fidelity art books, photography books, cookbooks, etc., on uncoated papers. While every job is treated with the same care, expertise, and attention to detail, we do know that certain markets/projects and customers have different needs and expectations.

In general, the term “high-fidelity” colour describes a variety of techniques used to make printed pieces look better. If you are willing to spend extra money on special papers and print techniques, we know that your needs, expectations, and requirements are more than just having colour ink on paper.

The use of uncoated stock on high-fidelity work has increased over the years as material and technology have changed. One of the challenges is to get bright, vibrant colour reproduction as traditional ink tends to “dry-back” after printing, meaning it gets absorbed into the stock rather than sitting on the surface as on coated stock. If your desire is to get higher contrast, richer-looking images, there are a couple of important options to consider:

Paper. The type of uncoated paper you select can greatly affect the vibrancy of the images and look of the book. Moving from a # 2-grade uncoated stock to a # 1-grade opaque paper will make a significant difference. The difference between these papers is often in the finish and surface treatment in how they receive the ink. The uncoated # 2-grade stock is often used for single colour and full-colour projects that require pleasing colour and not high-fidelity reproduction. Uncoated #1 paper is commonly used when you want less opacity (show-through from the reverse side) and a surface that will receive ink in such a way that it will have less dry-back.

If you really want to increase brightness, we recommend using a surface treated uncoated paper. These papers are #1 offsets (or opaques) that have a special treatment applied to the surface to reduce the amount of ink absorbing into the paper. Examples of this stock would be Cougar Opaque or Rolland Satin. Using papers such as this will help with reducing dry-back.

Examples of #1 offset paper:

  • Husky Offset
  • Rolland Enviro 100 offset

Examples of #1 offset paper:

  • Rolland Opaque
  • Lynx Opaque
  • Cougar Opaque(has additional surface treatment)
  • Rolland Enviro Satin (has additional surface treatment)

Printing technology. Friesens installed an eight-colour perfecting LED press in 2018. This technology allows for the ink to instantly dry using LED lights as the sheets are running through the press. The ability to print and have sheets come off the press completely dry has been invaluable, as quick turns and challenging designs are common.

We have also found that the vibrancy of the colour on uncoated stock has increased and provided customers with richer-looking images as a result of using our LED print technology. We recently updated our Colour Printing Paper Samples book, which shows the same eight images printing on a variety of coated and uncoated paper, including the two uncoated papers mentioned earlier.