The right paper for your print project complements the design and function of your piece. Paper selection has great impact on the final product as it provides the tactile feel, texture, weight and ink performance of the stock. It’s part of the first impression package of a printed piece, and your marketing materials.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a paper stock. One thing to ask yourself is whether the piece will be written on, like a note card, or will it be a reading piece, like a brochure? If it’s a piece which will be written on, you’d want to select an uncoated stock. Uncoated stocks have no coatings on the natural fibers, therefore, it’ll absorb the ink easily, creating a beautiful canvas for writing. Be aware if you specify a textured uncoated stock because the texture may interrupt the flow of ink when writing on it. A smooth finish is a good choice for writing. A textured finish is a good choice for invitations or business cards. If you’re printing a brochure or the like, a coated stock would be a good option. Because coated stocks are covered in clay, the design, photos, text and graphics print in sharper detail and with more vibrant color. A coated stock can have various surface finishes such as gloss, dull, matte, silk and more. You can use these finishes to enhance the look of your piece. Another question you can ask is if this piece will require a specialty die. Will this piece be die cut, embossed or foil stamped? If so, you’d want to favor a thicker stock, as it will show the finer details.
Will this piece be mailed? You’d need to make sure the paper you choose meets USPS regulations. We use a minimum of 100# cover stock when we produce mailers for our clients. When selecting a stock for a mailer, keep in mind the weight of the paper may affect postage, depending on the paper weight, size, multiple folded panels, etc.
When ordering printing, specify the weight and finish you’d like. If you don’t know, you can ask the printer you’re working with for recommendations, or you can turn to O’Brien et al., and we can handle the creative, design, printing and production for you. There are generally two paper weight classes: Text and Cover weights. Text weight refers to a thinner, more flexible paper. It’s used for things like brochures, inserts, flyers. Cover weight refers to thicker, more stiff paper. It’s used in materials like postcards, catalog covers, invitations. The weight of the paper refers to how much a ream of 500 sheets of that particular stock weighs. For example, if 500 sheets of text weight stock weighs 80 pounds, the paper is considered an 80# Text stock. If 500 sheets of cover stock weighs 100 pounds, then that stock would be designated a 100# Cover stock. Usually, the higher the weight, the thicker the stock.
Another way to “up” your design is to use coatings. There are numerous coatings out there, and they can be used in multiple combinations to provide artistic flair to your piece, but we’ll touch on the most common ones for right now. Aqueous coating is a gloss or matte coating that lays on top of the paper and protects the ink. Varnish comes in a range of gloss to dull finishes and can protect inks and provide visual interest to your piece when used as a spot varnish. Varnish is a clear ink that acts in the same manner as aqueous coating, but varnishes can be used as a spot effect, meaning it can be used in small areas to create visual excitement versus an overall flood coating like aqueous. UV coating uses ultraviolet light that utilizes a quick dry process. The result is a high-gloss shine. When used as a spot UV varnish, it can highlight specific areas, bringing contrast and color intensity to your piece. Soft-touch coating gives a velvety, warm feel to your print product. It also softens the appearance of the ink colors. This coating is used on business cards or brochure covers and creates tactile interest.
There is so much science and information about paper and printing, and we could go on and on, but our space is limited. The team at O’Brien et al. has many years of printing experience under our belt, and we’re here to help – if you need a paper recommendation or have any questions about printing – even if you don’t print with us, we can still help guide you through your print production process. Our team is dedicated to serving our clients with the best quality work, within budget. We look forward to working with you in the near future.