Paper Selection Tips for Commercial Printing

Rough and worn texture paper.Stock and bond. We're not talking Wall Street.

The paper choice for your commercial printing project can make a significant difference in the look and feel of your final printed piece. When selecting the best paper for a particular project, you’re often faced with an overwhelming number of paper options. So choosing the right paper for a printing job may seem intimidating…but it doesn’t have to be.

When choosing your paper it is important to consider how it will affect every aspect of the finished printed piece. Does it create the image and identity that you desire? How well will it reproduce and affect colors and graphics? Is the paper durable enough for post-printing converting processes such as folding, cutting, binding or embossing? Will it stand up in the mail or through whatever handling is done with the finished piece? What is the effect of your paper choice on your budget? All of these need to be considered when making your paper selection. We can help you through these decision points quickly and efficiently.

Here are some general guidelines:

  • Choose “brighter” papers to produce images with higher contrast. (Note the description of “brightness” below)
  • True white papers print with the most natural looking skin tones.
  • Smooth or coated papers produce sharper images

The following paper characteristics affect the cost and suitability for a given printing project:

Stack of paper. Paper weight The paper weight directly relates to the actual weight of the paper as well as its overall thickness. The thicker the paper material, the heavier it gets. If you choose lighter, thinner paperweights, you can save money but the finished printed piece may appear flimsy and may not have the durability for converting, mailing or other finished piece handling.

The common term referring to paper weight is the basis weight. The basis weight of paper is calculated as the weight in pounds of one ream, or five hundred sheets. Each main grade of paper has a basic size that is used to determine its basis weight. Your printing partner understands the language of paper weights and can guide you through getting the job done.

Other paper weight options are referred to as either Text or Cover stock. Text stock is the lighter weight paper used most frequently for the inside or body of a book, a brochure, general marketing communication pieces, catalogs or manuals. Text weight paper is less expensive than cover weight paper. Cover weight paper is heavier and more durable. It typically is used for book covers, manual covers, postcards, other mailing pieces and any marketing piece requiring greater thickness and durability.

Bond paper was a term originally applied to paper that was used to print bond and stock certificates. Today it is most frequently used for letterheads and envelopes. The most common weights are the 20# and 24#. Both bond and offset weights are often used interchangeably for uncoated papers but have different weight designations because of the way paper weight is calculated. Your printing professional can help you here.

Paper texture

Another important aspect of paper selection is the paper texture. There are rough textures, smooth textures and a multitude of patterned textures that help make a piece look like it was made of something else. You just need to choose the appropriate texture that matches your theme, identity, image and design to make your finished printed project effective.

Coated vs. Uncoated

You will often hear the terms Coated and Uncoated paper in conversations relating to paper selection. Within coated paper selections there are gloss, matte and dull options.

Gloss stock is a coated paper with a shiny or highly reflective appearance. It is most often used in full-color printing to produce sharper and more vivid color photographs, images and graphics. Most brochures are printed on 80# gloss text stock, but 70# and 100# gloss text can be equally good choices depending on your needs.

Comparison of stock types of paper. Matte and dull stocks are coated paper selections that have a flat, unreflective or dull appearance. These types of paper are frequently used to make finished printed pieces more readable—especially when lots of text, type and charts are used. Keeping in mind how the finished printed piece will be used will guide your selection here.

Uncoated paper is the most commonly used stock in commercial printing. You might know it as the paper that you use in your desktop computer printer or paper that you see used in books or manuals. The body or text pages for books are usually printed in black ink on white offset stock. The most commonly used weights offered are 50#, 60# and 70# white offset text. Again, your printing professional can guide you in this selection.

Other Tips on Paper Selection

Paper Color - White is by far the most popular color chosen for printing projects. Not all white paper is the same, however. White can mean many things, running the gamut from soft white to antique white to a cold blue white. Choose the “whiteness” that provides the best appearance and contrast between light and dark images and the whiteness of the paper.

Off-white sheets produce less glare, and are best used for publications that demand long and uninterrupted attention from readers.

Brightness - Technically speaking, the brightness of paper is the percentage of light that the paper reflects. Brightness and color are not the same thing, and brightness and whiteness are not the same thing. Color and whiteness can both be subjective but the brightness of paper is a measurable attribute. Brightness is important because it affects readability. Be careful of high brightness that may cause eyestrain or brightness that is too low and produces a blurring effect.

Opacity - The opacity of paper is the “show through” of paper; how much printing shows through the paper from the other side. High opacity shows less printing on subsequent pages, thus enhancing readability. Opacity increases with the bulk and weight of paper, and is influenced by numerous other factors including paper color, ink color, coatings, chemicals and coverage. Consult your Metzgers printing professional to make sure opacity is optimal for your finished printed piece.

If you have any questions related to paper selection or options available to you, please send our experts an email. We are here so you can get your job done!



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