Starch nanocrystals (SNC) are nanofillers of growing interest for barrier and mechanical improvement of bio-based polymers. However, their potential use as fillers for organic coating material of industrial packaging has never been investigated. In this study, SNC processability in coating is assessed and the final properties of coated papers are measured. Coating colors composed of plasticized starch show higher Brookfield viscosity when filled with SNC even with the addition of water but rod-coating is still possible. These diluted water-based coatings induce paper wetting and surface crackling issues during drying as proved by drying process analysis. However no gelatinization of the SNC is observed whichever the type of drying. SNC compensate some of the water induced loss of mechanical properties of the base paper and decrease the water vapor permeability (WVP) up to 40% compared with the base paper. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2014, 131, 39826.