Eco Printing – Choosing Your Paper

Recycled stock is better for the environment than plantation forest stock. All the scientific evidence backs this up.
Its only the printing industry that spreads the myth ‘plantation forest is better for the environment than recycled;’
Plantation stock is often cheaper though. However, this is slowly changing, and the more we used recycled the cheaper it will get. But if you do use plantation stock, FSC is the largest & best certification, followed by PEFC.
100% Recycled Uncoated Stock is the best environmental choice.
Its also the only type of recycled stock made in Australia.
The next best choice for the environment is a Coated Recycled Stock
By ‘coated’ it usually means its been clay polished to make it smooth and glossy.
One downside is that the clay coating has to be removed during the recycling process, which takes more energy, and reduces the amount of useful fibre that can be recycled by about 1/3.
The 3rd best choice is FSC certified plantation stock.
Ideally from a print factory who is ‘FSC chain of custody’ certified.
Uncoated stock often makes designs look a bit more fuzzy, because uncoated paper is more absorbent to ink so the ink ‘bleeds’ a little, meaning fine details and lines aren’t as sharp.
Whereas with coated paper the ink sits on top of the paper.
Uncoated stock can also make designs look a bit duller, not only because its more absorbent to ink, but also because the surface is is rough so refracts light more. Whereas coated paper is smooth so bounces more light straight into your eyes, making it look bright.
However, it is possible to negate these effects to a large extent with printing technology and expertise, however it can blow out the cost. If you have money to spend and want to get super technical, see
On the design end, you can do things like add more saturation to colours to compensate for the uncoated stock, so they will be brighter.
Without investing heaps of time and money there will probably always be some difference with uncoated though.
And for some brands this can be an environmental decision but a design sacrifice.
However, if its done well it can be a design choice, which works well for ‘earthy’ brands.
e.g. you can do things like go for ‘inconsistent’ textures (e.g. a mottled green instead of a solid bright green) which fits with the uncoated effect, and adds a nice rustic hand made feel to the artwork.
The overall feel of the paper being slightly rough instead of glossy also communicates a brand message.
Wherever possible, avoid special finished like ‘gloss cello’, ‘foiling’ or ‘spot UV’. These are generally energy intensive, usually contain pollutants, and make products harder to recycle.
P.S. If you’re interested in a more comprehensive overview of eco printing in Australia, this article is magnificent:,-printing–the-environment-i9/