At gawck, we decided to simplify things by using just four terms to describe the finish of any one of our products. Matte, Satin, Light Gloss and High Gloss. We use these terms to describe a scale that ranges from no gloss to very glossy, and have created a simple guide to help determine which to choose in different situations.
For our purposes in large format printing, think of gloss as the amount of light that reflects off the surface of the material you are using. The glossier the material, the more reflection you get off of the surface.
For example, hold a sheet of standard unprinted photocopy paper under a bright light and you’ll see no reflection, no gloss. Do the same with a piece of glass or anything else you normally would have described as ‘glossy’ and you will see a lot of reflection. This amount of reflection comes into play when deciding on the level of gloss to best suit the design and use of your poster, sign or banner.
FOUR LEVELS OF GLOSS
The scale below shows the levels of gloss that relate to the four terms we use at gawck. In each gawck product description, you will find one of the following terms to describe the level of gloss.
Matte: No gloss. Zero shine, zero light reflects off of both the printed and unprinted areas. Has a slightly chalky look across the entire surface.
Satin: No gloss in unprinted areas, a little bit of gloss in printed areas, creating a contrast between the two. A smooth and soft finish.
Light gloss: A small amount of reflection in both printed and unprinted areas. Gives the appearance of having a light coating across the entire surface.
High gloss: Very glossy, a large amount of reflection in both printed and unprinted areas. Almost wet looking or glass-like.
WHAT TO CHOOSE AND WHEN?
Deciding what level of gloss to choose depends on both the use of the item and the desired visual effect. Satin and Light Gloss are by far the most popular and versatile choices. Matte is typically used when an item is text or information heavy, and a high gloss finish is used sparingly for visual effect. If ever in doubt, select a Satin or Light Gloss finish.
Matte: If you have a large amount of text and information, a matte finish is a good choice. It keeps your text legible, particularly in direct sunlight or interiors with bright, direct lighting. Some people purposely choose a matte finish to give artwork a soft, washed, somewhat chalky look, similar to what you would find in a watercolor painting.
Satin: Satin is a very popular finish because it allows you to achieve professional commercial graphics with an upscale or artistic look. It works well with designs dominated by images, by text, or both. The contrast between printed and unprinted areas make it very versatile from a design standpoint. Consider the use of the item, as a satin finish is somewhat susceptible to abrasion and dirt if it will be handled. Excellent for use under spotlights or other direct light applications where even a small amount of gloss will make a design difficult to see.
Light gloss: Light gloss is also a very popular finish as the consistent coated appearance is preferred by many in commercial advertising. It provides a polished look without the mirror effect found in a high gloss finish. It is good for bringing out the vibrancy of rich colours and is excellent for designs dominated by images as opposed to fine text. It is also durable, having the highest degree of abrasion and dirt resistance among the four types of finishes.
High gloss: People are often surprised to learn that a high gloss finish is the least popular option when producing large printed graphics. The reason is that the glare off of a very glossy surface will make text and most artwork difficult to see clearly in most situations. That said, it can indeed create stunning visual effect if it suits your intended purpose. Use it sparingly.
The physical characteristics of different materials we use at gawck makes some inherently more glossy than others. For instance, any unprinted poster paper will look and feel different than an unprinted vinyl banner or decal.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a sample is worth a million, so please feel free to contact us for pre-printed samples of any material you may be considering.