Choosing the paper for your print job can be a complicated procedure. You need to pick a stock that is appropriate for the project you are producing. Is it an annual report or a direct mail postcard? Is it being produced on a digital press or on a conventional sheet fed press? Do you have a corporate look that has been established that you need to adhere to? Or is this a one off project? Is there heavy ink coverage? What is the life span of the piece? Lots of questions arise.
Coated vs. Uncoated Paper
About 80 % of all the printing done in the US is done on white coated and uncoated sheets. White can mean a myriad of things, blue-white, bright white, balanced white, warm white, etc. you get the idea. There is a lot to choose from just in the color white. Blue whites are very popular now but they are not as forgiving on flesh tones as the warm whites – if you are creating and printing a cosmetics or fashion brochure with a lot of flesh tones warm white might be the way to go.
Coatings can vary on the printing surface of the sheet, gloss, matte, dull, silk and more. Uncoated papers also have different textures such as smooth, vellum etc. These papers are categorized by quality based on whiteness, brightness and opacity and quantified by grade. A number 1 sheet is a higher quality sheet than a number 3 sheet but it is priced accordingly. Though it is tempting to choose number 1 sheet for every project, does it really need it? Probably for your annual report that will sit on the shelf for years and be an enduring reflection of your brand but probably not for that sale postcard that will be looked at for a few minutes and then discarded.
Printing on Color Stock Paper
There are colored stocks which are often selected when printing 1 and 2 color jobs but they need to be chosen carefully. A red logo on a golden yellow cover stock will likely appear orange. These colored text and cover lines often have a pronounced texture which can positively or negatively affect the way the ink sits on the sheet and the final reproduction of the piece. Yet this type of paper is a great option if your finished design includes embossing, debossing or foil stamping. Finishing procedures that require manipulation and sometimes stretching of paper fibers often benefit from the use of text and cover lines.
Paper Options: Weight vs. Caliper
Paper is also categorized by weight and caliper. The weight and thickness of paper can have a great impact on the look and feel of your project and sometimes unless you plan well, devastating consequences on your postage costs for mailing pieces. Having your printer supply you with paper dummies can help avoid unintended consequences.
Recycled Paper Choices
With the world now looking to be kinder and gentler to the environment, greener and more sustainable, you have paper designations like recycled with pre and post consumer waste , TCF (total chlorine free) paper , Forest Stewardship Council certification (FSC), which is a giant leap beyond simple recycling. FSC represents a commitment by every member to insure the responsible management and replenishment of forests, domestic and foreign and other environmental certifications.
Next Step After Choosing Your Paper
Once you have decided what is important to your project you need to then examine the realities of your selection: cost and availability. For large runs, making orders of paper (having paper manufactured just for that job to avoid waste) might make sense. To best accommodate small jobs sometimes just changing the size of a project by 1/8” can save money by getting more pieces up on that printed sheet. Availability can hamper your schedule. If you choose a paper that is not in stock for example if you are on the East Coast and the mill is in Wisconsin and you need a rapid turnaround.
In a rapidly changing marketplace, to get the best value for your dollar, select your printer early then involve them in your paper selection, asking not necessarily for substitutions but rather for suggestions on the best value, best availability or the most appropriate selection of paper for your project. It might just be as simple as your printer’s house stock or a new introduction in the marketplace.