How to make the right choice of paper for your printing

It’s very important that the right choice of paper, or ‘stock’ as the printing industry terms it, is made that fits the type of print required. So how do you choose – lets start with an explaination of the different types generally available:

Coated paper – Coated paper has a coating applied, almost always made from china clay, which gives it that smooth finish. Most of the coated range is known as ‘art’ paper and is available in matt, silk or gloss finish. You’ll notice that the majority of leaflets and flyers are printed on this type of stock as well as corporate brochures and promotional material.

Uncoated paper – Uncoated paper is overall more porous than coated and like coated stock is available in a bewildering number of products. When litho printed the ink tends to soak in much more giving the feel that the ink is within the paper making colours and images softer and warmer - but the downside is they take much longer to dry.

As the name suggests this type of paper doesn’t have any coating and it feels slightly rougher to the touch than the smooth uncoated material. Typical use is for business stationery where a more modest look and feel is required. Recently, it has been increasingly popular for prestigious brochures and prospectus as it does have a superior quality feel. The basic finishes for uncoated paper are :-

Laid paper – This is a textured premium quality paper with a textured pattern of parallel lines, similar to hand made paper. Generally used for business and corporate stationery.

Wove paper – is a another high quality paper with a uniform surface, not textured like laid paper.

Bond paper – is an economic uncoated wove product that is generally used for basic photocopying.


Paper ‘Weight’ (Thickness)

When ordering print it is normal to specify the thickness of the paper by ‘grams per square metre’. To give you some idea of the range a basic B&W photocopying paper ‘weight’ is 80gsm. A decent letterhead weight is 120gsm – postcards tend to be 350gsm and our business cards are 335gsm.

It’s worth noting that uncoated products tend to ‘bulk up’ slightly more and sometimes the finished product will feel thicker than the gsm specified. On the ‘art’ paper side i.e. coated matt and silk can also feel little bulkier than their GSM spec. and usually more than their gloss cousins.

But the GSM system is a good reliable guide but if in any doubt ask for a sample.


Selecting the right paper for your project

Having explained the difference between the coated and uncoated options which should be chosen for your printing?

For pure vibrancy especially when printing photographs or colour illustrations go for a coated paper. The choice of gloss, silk or matt is a personal one and depends on the ‘aim’ of the finished print. Flat out gloss can be quite over powering but it’s used extensively in the advertising world on flyers etc. Particularly to grab attention. A more thoughtful or artistic product is generally better on silk and matt papers.

Be aware that silk and matt papers printed lithographically usually require a seal (which we do automatically and with no extra charge). It’s always possible to print full colour onto uncoated products but the colours themselves tend to flatten out and dull down a little. Coated paper is not suitable if you need to write on the finished product. Opt for an uncoated stock instead.

Letterheads and compliment are generally printed onto uncoated paper and the normal weight is between 100gsm and 120gsm. There are so many different uncoated products available each one of them will add your own special ‘flavour’ to the finished product. It’s best to pop in and look through our sample books. We can get virtually any product from our selection of paper merchants.

Just one thing to check is that any uncoated ‘stationery’ paper is ok to run through the office laser – these laser printers use a high temperature fuser system so if the paper isn’t rated for laser use avoid.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the most economic, but decent looking, paper is going to be a low quality uncoated paper – this is not always so due to printers like First Colour negotiating special rates for coated stock. Don’t forget however that for most print runs the paper cost is a small percentage of the overall costs which are dominated by labour rates and machine costs.

You’ll need to be aware also that your colour reproduction will differ depending upon the type of paper the ink is printed on. To get exactly the same colour across a range of different documents you may wish to use the same type of stock throughout. For instance, if your letterheads and compliment slips are printed onto an uncoated paper, you will probably want to choose an uncoated board for your business cards.

If possible come in to talk to us about the options and what you are trying to achieve with your printed product in terms of crispness versus warmth, subtlety versus vibrancy and economy versus style. We can help you to select the right mix of paper, ink, finishing and coatings, and other print techniques that can get your print job to do exactly what you want it to.

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