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Printing & Writing Paper

Printing and Writing Paper: What's the Difference?

It is easy to overlook the impact that paper has on our lives. However, everywhere you turn you see a presence of paper. All books, magazines, invitations, flyers, newspaper, and mail are produced on printing and writing paper.

The main difference between printing and writing paper is its composition. The composition is impacted by the fibers and coating compounds used.

The pulp, often referred to as fiber, can be extracted from wood mechanically or chemically. There are several coating options and each produces a different grade of paper. Writing paper is uncoated while printing paper is coated.

There are a wide variety of printing and writing papers, but they are usually classified as one of four main paper grades.

4 Grades of Printing & Writing Papers

Throughout the United States Printing and Writing Paper is divided into 4 main categories:

1. Uncoated Freesheet – [Example: Copy Paper]
2. Uncoated Mechanical – [Example: Newspaper]
3. Coated Freesheet – [Example: Posters]
4. Coated Mechanical – [Example: Magazine]

A large number of printed products demand a type of printing and writing paper. Though there's a standard for paper production, varied production techniques produce distinct differences and paper types.

Paper Production Process

Nearly 1/3 of unprocessed wood harvested in the United States is used to make paper-related products.

The pulp (fiber) from trees used in paper is extracted chemically or mechanically. Higher quality graphic and specialty papers are produced from chemical extraction, while rougher newspaper fibers are produced from mechanical extraction methods.

Then a chlorine derivative is used to further breakdown the fibers and bleach the paper. Really bright papers have been heavily bleached and are denoted by a higher brightness number. A maximum brightness rating of 100 denotes the most vivid, whitest paper.

Paper coating compounds include clay, protein and calcium carbonate, and are added to influence papers performance, weight, and ink absorbency.


Coating and fiber is what differentiates printing and writing paper. The consistency of newspaper and poster paper are vastly different because the production process to create the two vary significantly.

Each printing product requires a specific paper that has unique characteristics. Thus knowledge of and access to the correct paper is essential to producing high-quality printed materials.

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