Separate logos for coated and uncoated papers

I am working with a new contact person at this particular client. The catalog cover is coated, the inside pages are uncoated. After this last run they didn’t like the way their logos looked on the uncoated pages, compared to the way they looked on the coated covers. “Way too dark. Our burgundy looks brown.” They are telling me to change the colors of the inside pages logos to make sure the logos on both types of pages match. These are the same logos, AI files, everything CMYK, just printed on different types of papers.

I told her that really won’t give her the results she is after and it would be better to change the entire book to coated. They won’t do that because it’s beyond their budget.

I’ve never seen a corporate logo pack with separate sets of logos for coated and uncoated papers. Is this a thing?

Did the photos print darker too or just the logo? Was the catalog built with InDesign? Was the logo a placed Illustrator file? Were the color settings for those inside uncoated pages set to uncoated stock (in both Illustrator and InDesign)? Was the uncoated paper white or an ivory or natural color?

Offset printing is always darker on uncoated paper because of dot gain, but if the job was set up correctly, that dot gain should have been compensated for. You’re always going to get some difference in color and appearance between coated and uncoated stock, but if the appropriate settings were made, the difference shouldn’t have been as dramatic as you described.

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Yes, photos a little dark too.


Yes, everything placed

No. In both AI and ID it has been set to US Web Coated. I was operating under the assumption that the distiller settings supplied by the printer would override that when the PDFs were made. So, it should be US Web Uncoated?


I always create a coated version and uncoated version of a logo for this very reason. Some colors, such as yellow, turn orange on uncoated stock. Others may turn to mud.

This is why you must consult a Pantone book (for spot and CMYK) once you’ve finalized colors and come up with the closest visual equivalents on UNcoated stock.

I then list all the colors (Pantone coated, Pantone uncoated, CMYK coated, CMYK uncoated, hex and RGB) in their brand guide and when they should be used.


My distrust might be misplaced, but I’ve never fully trusted distiller to make those kinds of changes. Instead, I’ve always tried to get it done it earlier in the process.

If the photos were also darker, I suppose the pressmen or press could be partially to blame as well. We got a low bid on a job a few years ago for a job big enough to justify a web press. Unfortunately, the company that won the bid was more used to printing phone books than higher-quality printing. The ink density varied all over the place from the beginning of the run to the end. We didn’t use them again.

That’s probably a good idea, but all too often my clients get confused when I send them too many files in different formats and variations. After a year or two, they’ve often lost everything but the one file they can always open — the lower-res JPEG which has proliferated throughout the company as their go-to logo. Aggggghhh!

I’ve figured that if a client is knowledgeable enough to know what vector files are and how to use them properly, they’ll also know how to adjust them for whatever purpose they might have. Day before yesterday, I was talking to a frustrated client (a university department head) who was totally confused by all the logo files I sent her. I finally ended up sending her a set of instructions spelling out the differences between all the file types, what they meant, what applications opened them and what each could be used for.

So many clients — those without their own in-house designers — too often figure that an image is an image and a logo is no different from the images they they shoot with their cameras.

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Yes, so in the brand guide (which could be just a few pages), I spell out the colors, but then I provide them with folders for the different use too:

  • “print” folder with all print-related files
  • “web” folder with web-related files
  • “Word-PowerPoint” folder with files they will use in those programs
  • “vendors” folders with the vector files to send to printers

Each file within those folders is named with coated or uncoated as well.


I have a feeling that you’re dealing with a more sophisticated and higher-caliber of client than I typically work with. Maybe it has something to do with me working in Utah. :slightly_smiling_face:

I doubt that! LOL. Most of mine are nonprofits.

I’ve never had any complaints from clients about it or expressing confusion. But someone who listened to my podcast episode about logo design mistakes commented on the website that their clients were confused when they provided a lot of files. I just make sure to spell out everything and provide the files in the same way that I reference them in the brand guide.

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Quite a large number of our clients have both coated and uncoated spot color callouts and different CMYK callouts corresponding with the Bridge values in the coated and uncoated Bridge books. The problem I have with all that when doing the work I do, in wide format digital, most of the machines and media are profiled to the Pantone Coated numbers, whether it is shiny solvent ink on vinyl banner media or matte dye sub inks on fabrics. That’s for print vendors here in the US. In Europe your mileage on that profiling will vary. I have vendors in the EU who profile their wide matte fabrics to the Uncoated numbers. If you send me a pdf pre-converted to CMYK or with some bizarre uncoated profile applied, you will get whatever plops out the other end of the machine. If you send native files and put the Pantone Coated numbers in there, we can do a machine-specific profile and about 80-85% of the time we can get a fairly spot-on match for your colors and your images are corrected for the media.

That doesn’t help in this instance where it sounds like the catalog may have been printed digitally and maybe the proper profile wasn’t applied. My experience in that area is very limited. I’ve not ever done Job Options through Distiller. Only through loading provided library files using Acrobat.

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This is a thing, yes. Most big corporations have Style Guides where they specify, amongst other things, how the logo is to be printed on different stock, usually specifying Pantone numbers.
We have one client with a very subtle colour in their logo and we have different logo files even for different coated stock.


Another point to consider…

If you’re printing on colored paper, you need to account for the color build of the ink and of the paper. You can find out the equivalent CMYK values of the paper from the printer or paper company. Then you subtract those values from your colors. For example, if the paper is M10 Y20 and you want the ink to be C20 M40 Y20, you should speck the color as C20 (the same) M30 (the difference between the ink color of 40 and the paper color of 10) and then Y0. Because the ink color is Y20 and paper color is Y20 as well, you don’t need to add anything. You can ask the printer for what’s called a drawdown to see how the ink will actually appear on that paper before it gets printed.


If you are going to do that, you unfortunately should invest in a Pantone Bridge for both coated and uncoated in order to get the CMYK builds. In their infinite wisdom, both Adobe and Pantone have decided that, in program, they are going to use lab values to visually replicate spot colors on screen. In doing so, when you convert an onscreen Pantone to CMYK you get a bunch of numbers with decimal points to 2-places. These aren’t necessarily accurate on-press CMYK builds. But then Pantone is not a 100% accurate measuring system either. Any of their books only represent their ink on the two types of paper they have selected to print the books on. Your mileage will vary.

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It looks like everyone has you covered on the art-end of things.

Mojo, if you can fill me on the precise method of printing (as much info as you have)
I can help you (or your client/printer) on the production end of things.

Digital Presses often struggle with course, uncoated media. Either the secondary transfer voltage is insufficient, and not pulling the toner deep enough into the stock, or, the fuser temperature is too low - causing low density spots and washed out color.

The color and ink saturation will never be identical from coated to uncoated, but a skilled pressman/woman should be able to get them to an understandable difference.

Like CreativeBoost mentioned, it may not just be the coating that’s the issue. The cover may have a warmer tone it (Neenah & Mohawk stocks for example) and the inside may have a cool, or blue/white tone (Husky, Finch, Futura)

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Simplest answer is yes, inks appear different on different stocks.
Absolute best advice - talk to the printer first. Don’t be intimidated by doing so. Printing is an art and good printers are proud of a good product.
30 years in prepress, I wish more people would just pick up the phone and talk to the printer. Make sure it’s someone who knows printing - not the sales person or receptionist at the front desk.


Everyone, thank you for your advice.

On the new catalog, prepress allowed me to send alternate versions of the problem pages and she picked out new company colors for uncoated situations based on those proofs. And I gave her an uncoated bridge, which she was very excited to receive.

All the companies I work with are small, so this is the first time I’ve heard about alternate logos for uncoated. The biggest client I’ve worked with is YMCA and they have an 85 page brand guidelines book, and there is nothing about uncoated paper in there. Learn something new every day.

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Company size is irrelevant, BTW. It’s up to the designer to know this about color and adjust as needed.

But not every designer knows this, and we all do learn something new every day. :slight_smile:


Reading through this thread, it almost seems like the consensus is to supply clients with versions of their logo for both coated and uncoated stock. Although, this can be situationally appropriate, I don’t necessarily agree that it should be a standard thing to do.


Most clients are naive about printing, file formats, which format to use for a given purpose, paper stock absorbency, etc. My experience has been that supplying these kinds of clients with too many options for specific purposes they don’t understand has caused a whole lot of client confusion. It’s our job as designers to inform clients about things they need to know, but it’s usually beyond the scope of the job to educate them about the intricacies of print production (something many designers are fuzzy about themselves). Many times, style and usage guides cover much of this, but not all client jobs pay enough to warrant a separate, custom style guide beyond the basics. I’ve learned to quiz clients on what files and instructions might be most appropriate to meet the needs of their specific situation and who will ultimately be working with these files.

I’ve often supplied .ai, .psd, .pdf, .gif or .png, .svg and .jpg formats along with RGB, CMYK, spot color, grayscale and B&W versions (depending on the file format). Since all these files can be confusing, I also include a brief description of what each is for. Even so, within a year, I’m often contacted by someone in the company requesting a “high-resolution” version of the logo since the only version that managed to circulate throughout the company was the JPEG that most everyone could open.

Almost doubling the number of files by including coated and uncoated versions of all the print formats confuses the situation even further.


There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating standard uncoated and coated versions of a logo. Paper stock and press variables within each (especially for uncoated) are too great to consolidate into only two versions. Dot gain differs considerably depending on which uncoated stock is being used. For example, there’s a huge difference in dot gain between recycled newsprint and hard, smooth bond. The differences in dot gain (or its equivalent) between web, sheetfed and digital warrant custom settings for each, as do specific presses and/or inks within each of those categories. Supplying a separate coated and uncoated version of a logo doesn’t adequately address all these variables that are best customized for each job at hand.


Trying to compensate for dot-gain and color-shift possibilities in original source files creates the strong possibility of those compensatory measures getting doubled up during production. For example, let’s say that I, the logo designer, determine that the CMYK separations in a logo needed to be reduced by a certain amount for uncoated paper, so I recolor the logo with those uncoated separation percentages and give it to the client as their uncoated stock logo. A couple of months later, the company’s in-house designer inserts this uncoated logo version into an InDesign document whose color and profile settings are configured to compensate for uncoated stock. The result will be a logo that prints way too light since the adjustments for uncoated stock will have been applied twice.


As already mentioned, companies lacking in print production expertise will be baffled by all this. Companies with good, in-house print production expertise generally don’t need all these different file types anyway, since two or three separate Illustrator files with CMYK, RGB, Pantone, Grayscale and B&W versions, plus a few instructions, might be all that are needed. Companies landing somewhere between these extremes risk getting it right or getting in wrong no matter what, so complicating the situation with uncoated and coated versions of artwork that have a high potential for being misused, could easily the chances for problems.


As I mentioned, I’ve learned to dig a bit when working with clients to find out their level of knowledge, how they will be using the artwork and who will be using that artwork. Every situation is different, and depending on those differences (and budget), I’ll give them the files and instructions most appropriate for the company at hand. In the end, it will be the clients who will be using (or misusing) the artwork. It’s up to me to determine that middle ground that straddles the difference between giving them too much and too little. Overcomplicate the instructions and the options, and, rather than helping, it can increase the chances for less-than-knowledgable clients to make a mess of things.

None of what I’ve mentioned above are deal killers that, on their own, rule out supplying both coated and uncoated versions of logos. As already mentioned, sometimes, it’s totally warranted. Add up all these potential issues, though, and, more often than not, I don’t think it’s advisable for average clients. Keeping things simple, I’ve found, is often better.

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To follow up on what B said,
While I do have many clients that do supply coated or uncoated logos in CMYK, they are the higher end Fortune ~200 type clients with brand standards numbering in the 100s of pages.
Not necessary for the everyday client.

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I didn’t want to say it initially, Since so many other artists/members seem to be creating substrate specific files (i thought perhaps after all these years I had missed something) But i’ve never created multiple files like this, nor, on the print end, ever received such a file either.

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