clock - estimated reading time  Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

When considering the print of your book, it’s good to know the difference between the paper types available for book printing. This blog will give you a basic guide to the different kinds of paper and treatments available for the paper you can use in your book.

1. What paper-types can I use for my publication?

There are three main types of paper that you can use to print your book on: white paper, cream paper, and book-cream/groundwood paper. Each are useful for different purposes in printing:

White paper:

  • Best for colour clarity in images
  • Bad for readability of text due to glare
  • Most expensive
  • Higher GSM
  • Retailers associate certain genres printed on white paper with self-published books and are less likely to stock them

Cream paper:

  • Great for readability
  • Not as good for colour clarity
  • Less expensive but still pricey
  • Higher GSM

Book-cream / Groundwood paper:

  • Great for readability
  • Bad for colour clarity
  • Thinnest GSM
  • Inexpensive
  • Trade-novel standard

Back to Contents

2. What does different GSM paper mean for printing?

GSM (Grams per Square Metre), is used to indicate the thickness of materials such as paper.

2.1 A basic guide to GSM

35 – 55 GSM

The thinnest of the more commonly used paper types. Usually used for newspapers.

70 – 90 GSM

A thin paper. Usually used in notebooks and novels.

90 – 100 GSM

The most common paper weight. Used in recreational printers found in offices and homes.

120 – 150 GSM

This paper is most often used for thin flyers, takeaway menus, and movie posters.

200 – 300 GSM

This weight is sturdier than the previous stocks but will still bend. Used often for magazine covers and higher-quality flyers and menus.

350 – 450 GSM

Thick, card-like stock, more difficult to bend. Used for a few different products including greeting cards, business cards, and postcards.

Back to Contents

3. Uncoated paper vs coated paper

Paper can go through a process of coating before it is printed on and bound in a book. As a general rule for most standard trade publications such as novels, uncoated paper is used for the interior pages while coated paper is used for the cover. However, this is not necessarily the best course of action for all publications depending on its contents and intended use.

There are pros and cons to both coated and uncoated paper, of course, and whichever you choose will depend on your personal preferences and what your project needs.

3.1 Uncoated paper

Uncoated paper is just that: uncoated. Unlike coated paper, it does not undergo the process of clay coating. It is best for the interior of text-heavy publications (trade novels, etc.) because it is lighter, and allows for great readability. It comes in two different finishes:

  1. Smooth finish: Smooth and clean paper stock. Allows for best absorption of ink and therefore prints images and text in a high definition. Smooth finish uncoated paper is best for the interior of your book.
  2. Vellum finish: Rougher to the touch than a smooth finish due to the raised paper fibres. This paper finish interferes with ink absorption and therefore does not always give the best image and text definition.

3.2 Coated paper

Paper that has been coated is most commonly used for the covers of paperback books or the interiors of books that are image-heavy (such as photography books, manuals, textbooks, etc.). This is because it allows for a level of image vibrancy and durability that uncoated paper does not. When a paper stock is coated, it means that it has had a clay coating applied during the paper making process. There are three different levels of finishes achieved by clay coating:

  1. Matte finish: This finish is the least coated of the three. It has a non-shiny appearance and a rougher feel to it, which is currently quite trendy. Colour is often subdued on this finish but can still be effectively executed. Matte finishes, however, are more prone to damage from creasing and bending so thus publications made with
  2. Silk / Satin finish: A silk finish has more clay coating than matte, but less than a gloss. As a result, silk finishes have a slight sheen to them without giving off the same glare that a gloss does. This finish allows for good readability and great colour, however it is prone to cracking easily and therefore is not good for books that need to last a long while, such as manuals and training publications.
  3. Gloss finish: With the most coating of the three, a gloss finish achieves the highest shine-factor. This finish is excellent for getting the most contrast in colour and is therefore great for printed images. Gloss finishes are also long-lasting and will keep your publication looking fresher for longer.

Back to Contents

4. Environmentally friendly paper

Environmentally friendly paper usually adds to the overall cost of printing a book. There are more ways to produce a low-impact book other than using recycled paper i.e. the print media. There are a number of printer practices that can reduce the environmental impact.

Environmentally sensitive paper for book printing refers to paper that is produced with a minimal environmental impact. This typically involves using sustainable materials and practices throughout the paper production process. Here are some key elements of environmentally sensitive paper for book printing:

  1. Sustainable Fiber Sources: Environmentally sensitive paper is often made from sustainably sourced fibers. This means that the trees used to make the paper are harvested in a way that promotes forest regeneration and biodiversity. Common sources of sustainable fibers include certified forests, recycled paper, and agricultural residues like straw or hemp.
  2. Recycled Content: Many environmentally sensitive papers contain a percentage of post-consumer recycled content. This means that the paper has been made from materials that have already been used and recycled, reducing the demand for new raw materials.
  3. Chlorine-Free Bleaching: Traditional paper bleaching processes often involve the use of chlorine-based chemicals, which can release harmful by-products into the environment. Environmentally sensitive papers use alternative bleaching methods such as oxygen, ozone, or hydrogen peroxide, which are less harmful.
  4. Reduced Chemical Use: Environmentally sensitive paper production aims to minimize the use of harmful chemicals throughout the process. This includes reducing the use of dyes, coatings, and other additives that can be harmful to the environment.
  5. Energy Efficiency: Environmentally sensitive paper mills often prioritize energy efficiency and use renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power to reduce their carbon footprint.
  6. Water Conservation: Water is a critical resource in paper production, and environmentally sensitive paper mills implement measures to conserve water and reduce pollution of waterways.
  7. Certifications: Look for certifications such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), which indicate that the paper has been produced using sustainable practices.
  8. Eco-Friendly Inks and Coatings: In addition to using environmentally sensitive paper, consider using eco-friendly inks and coatings for printing. These are often made from vegetable-based or soy-based materials and are less harmful to the environment.

By choosing environmentally sensitive paper for book printing, you can reduce your environmental impact and promote sustainable practices in the publishing industry.

What about groundwood?

Groundwood paper, also known as mechanical pulp paper, is made by mechanically grinding wood into pulp. It is often used for newspapers, magazines, and other publications where a lower quality paper is acceptable. While groundwood paper can be more environmentally friendly in some respects, it also has drawbacks compared to other types of paper.

Pros of Groundwood Paper:

  1. Less Energy Intensive: Producing groundwood paper typically requires less energy than producing other types of paper because it doesn’t involve the chemical processes used in making chemical pulp paper.
  2. Lower Carbon Footprint: The energy savings translate into a lower carbon footprint for groundwood paper compared to chemical pulp paper.
  3. Recyclable: Groundwood paper is recyclable, so it can be reused to make new paper products.

Cons of Groundwood Paper:

  1. Lower Quality: Groundwood paper is generally lower in quality than chemical pulp paper. It is not as strong or durable, and it tends to yellow and become brittle over time.
  2. Environmental Impact: While groundwood paper may have a lower carbon footprint, it can have a higher environmental impact in other ways. The mechanical grinding process can produce a significant amount of waste, and the chemicals used to bleach and process the paper can be harmful to the environment.
  3. Not Suitable for Archival Use: Because of its lower quality and tendency to degrade over time, groundwood paper is not suitable for archival use or for documents that need to be preserved for a long time.

In summary, groundwood paper can be more environmentally friendly in terms of energy use and carbon footprint, but it is not as high quality or durable as other types of paper. It is important to consider the specific use case and environmental priorities when choosing paper for printing.

Back to Contents

Most popular blog posts:

Interested in publishing your book but unsure where to start or what is even involved? Tell us about your project and we will post you a copy of our:


The Little Book of
Big Publishing Tips.


In just a quick 8,000 words, this little book will equip you with the knowledge you need to successfully publish your book.

The Little Book of Big Publishing tips goes into the essentials of self-publishing a book, outlining the business and financial side of publishing, legal issues, design, editing, sales and marketing. There's even a section on how to identify a vanity-publishing scam.