9 Things You Need to Know About Paper
When it comes down to first impressions, your paper choice can be just as important as your design. Paper can help you bring your marketing piece to life. Whether you’re printing a direct mail piece or publishing your latest magazine, the type of paper matters as it directly affects your printing costs, your mailing rate, and how your product withstands handling. Paper can make all the difference and that is why we’ve pulled together the 9 most frequently asked paper questions to help you make smarter paper choices.
What are the main types of paper?
The two main types of paper are Coated paper and Uncoated paper.
Coated Paper is paper that has been coated by a compound to add certain qualities to the paper including: weight, surface gloss, smoothness or reduced ink absorbency. The coating is comparable to very fine, smooth white clay that fills in the tiny pours and crevices of the paper, and creates a much smoother finish to the page.
When a paper is coated it absorbs less moisture, printing inks sit on the surface, rather than ‘sink in’. While this means it can be slower to dry, it also means a coated paper can give a much more clear, defined and glossy result for your printing. Coated paper can be specified as a “gloss” finish or as a “matte, dull, silk, velvet” finish.
Uncoated Paper, sometimes called “offset” paper, has a rougher finish. Using uncoated paper stocks result in higher absorption of ink, less definition and a less glossy finish. Think of the paper you use for your copier/desktop printer, it is typically a 50 lb. offset “uncoated” sheet.
What is the difference between “Cover” weight and “Book/Text” weight paper?
Book/Text Weight Sheets are thin, flexible sheets similar to ordinary office paper, or the interior pages of a book or magazine. Using the term “book weight” means you want a “coated stock” that is thinner. If you refer to “text weight” means you want an “uncoated stock” in the lighter weight.
Cover Weight Sheets are thicker, sturdier sheets, commonly referred to as card stock. Cover stocks can come in both coated and uncoated options as well.
What types of paper are good for direct mail?
Postcards/Folded Brochures have a greater impact when printed on 80 lb. coated cover, 100 lb. coated cover, 10 pt. cover, or 12 pt. cover. The thickness of the paper helps the piece to withstand increased handling and maintain its appearance throughout the mailing process.
Special note: Postcards need to be minimum thicknesses to meet postal regulations (ex. 4.25 x 6 or smaller needs to be at least 7 points thick (80# gloss cover), larger than 4.25 x 6 needs to be 9 points thick (100# gloss cover).
We recommend printing Catalogs/Booklets (a bound piece saddle stitched or perfect bound) on 60 lb. coated book, 70 lb. coated book, 80 lb. coated book, or 100 lb. coated book. The high quality appearance of printing on coated paper will leave a lasting impression on your recipient.
Special note: If the booklet is a plus cover meaning it has a heavier cover and lighter weight interior pages, we recommend 80 lb. coated/uncoated cover or 100 lb. coated/uncoated cover.
If you are printing Posters, we recommend using an 80 or 100 lb. coated book or heavier stock. This will add substance to your piece while also helping to keep the integrity of your poster in tact as many people handle it.
What types of paper are good for publications? (Or combination of paper?)
We look at printing publications in two ways, self cover or plus cover.
Self Cover Publications tend to be more economical when it comes to printing. Generally, a self cover publication will use a lighter weight paper stock for the entire booklet and can be produced in a single production run. Self cover booklets are perfect for publications that don’t have a long shelf life such as a pricing catalogue or bulletins.
Plus Cover Publications can be a little more expensive as the production requires two runs typically on two different types/weights of paper. The cover is generally produced on a heavier stock than the inside pages, making the publication a little stronger and able to stand up to repeat handling. Plus covers can be used for all publications and can add a touch of sophistication to marketing collateral, magazines, periodicals and other booklets.
Self Cover Popular Paper Choices: 60 lb. matte/gloss book, 70 lb. matte/gloss book, 80 lb. matte/gloss book, 100 lb. matte/gloss book, 60 lb. uncoated text
Plus Cover Popular Paper Choices & Combos: 80 lb. gloss/matte cover with 80 lb. gloss/ matte book; 80 lb. gloss/matte cover with 70 lb. gloss/matte book, 80 lb. gloss/matte book and 60 lb. gloss/matte book
How can I tell what type of paper would work best for my project?
There are several resources you can use to determine the best paper option for your project.
- The first is your Account Executive! They have seen it all and can recommend a practical, cost effective option for you.
- The second resource is our printed sample library. We can send you some ideas of other projects that have been done to get your creative juices flowing. Click Here to request samples from our library.
- The third resource is our paper sample books. Click Here to request a paper sample booklet.
BONUS TIP: It’s always good to think about the end user when picking paper. For example, if your direct mail piece has a form to fill out and return, you do not want to print on a glossy stock! We highly recommend a matte or uncoated stock for any “form”. Ink pens tend to smudge on super glossy paper and become illegible!
Am I limited to certain types of paper if I want to print digitally rather than offset?
Yes. Digital presses such as our HP Indigo work differently than traditional presses. They require “digital compliant” papers that work best with the ink and technology of the equipment. But have no fear! We have most of the same weights and coated/uncoated options for digital as we do with our offset presses on hand. The lightest weight available on the Indigo is: 60 lb. offset (uncoated) or 70 lb. coated (gloss or matte) book. To learn more about offset and digital printing differences, read our offset vs digital printing article.
Are there size limitations with some types of paper?
For a sheetfed printer like Modern Litho, the largest press sheet we run is 28 in x 40 in. We most commonly run: 24 x 36 or 25 x 38. On the digital press, the biggest sheet we can run is 12 in x 18 in. with a maximum image area of 11 x 17.
What are the most common stocks and what would be a “special order”?
Offset/Uncoated Text: 50 lb., 60 lb., 70 lb., 80 lb., 100 lb.
Offset/Uncoated Cover: 80 lb., 100 lb.
Coated (Matte or Gloss) Book: 60 lb., 70 lb., 80 lb., 100 lb.
Coated (Matte or Gloss) Cover: 80 lb., 100 lb.
While we can order and print on most any stock out there, we do not keep stocks outside the range above on hand. Heavier weights and textured papers are always special order.
What are textured papers?
Textured papers have special finishes on them like linen, laid, metallics, foils, translucent, ribbed, woven, etc. These are your high end specialty papers.