Best Paper Types for Printing

Best Paper Types for Printing

If you’re a graphic designer, small business owner or marketer, it literally pays to know the best paper types for printing. No matter what you’re printing or how great your design is, if you have a bad print job your investment will be wasted. How terrible it would be to spend time and money developing an incredible marketing campaign, only to have it ruined by a poor print job!

The following details why paper matters, what separates great paper from poor paper, and which paper types are best for printing for a variety of projects, so you can design winning print marketing campaigns that look as amazing on paper as they do on your screen.

1 Why paper matters

Choosing the best paper type for your project starts with understanding why paper is such a crucial element. Your customers equate the quality of your marketing with the quality of your products and services, so to have a high-quality print job suggests you have a high-quality business that offers high-quality products, services, and customer support – which influences purchasing decisions.

Imagine receiving two postcards in the mail, each from competing companies yet featuring comparable offers and design. Company A’s postcard is thin and flimsy, the colors are dull and lackluster, and the inks appears scratched. Company B’s postcard is thick and sturdy, the colors are brilliant, and the ink is flawless.

Everything else being equal, which company would you buy from? Most people would choose Company B simply because they sent the superior postcard; a fundamental, yet often subconscious, psychological response to quality marketing materials.

The right paper stock for printing lends itself to a sub-discipline called sensory marketing: understanding how the senses influence perception, which in turn influences buying decisions. When you use the best paper stock for printing your projects, your designs look amazing – even fascinating, delighting customers’ sense of sight – and your marketing materials deliver pleasant tactile sensations that customers equate to quality.

“Hand” refers to how a given paper stock feels, and a paper’s hand makes a statement even before it’s printed: soft and luxurious, sleek and bright, textured or smooth, paper characteristics have psychological influence. In fact, they can even motivate purchases.

In a Harvard Business Review article titled ]]> Please Touch the Merchandise,]]> Lawrence Williams and Joshua Ackerman reported these findings:

  • People who sat in soft chairs versus hard chairs were willing to offer 28 percent more for automobiles. This suggests that people are more susceptible to persuasion when they touch soft objects.
  • Job interviewers believed candidates were more serious when they conducted interviews holding heavy clipboards. This suggests that marketing material weight can make a company seem more attractive or qualified.
  • People who drank water from heavy vessels versus flimsy cups believed the water in the heavy vessels to be of higher quality, even though it wasn’t.

This reinforces the suggestion that customers respond positively to heavy, and negatively to light, flimsy marketing tools.

From these findings, we can surmise that visual enhancement combined with tactile sensations – or hand – make for the perfect paper stock for any given project.

Now, let’s examine what dictates those qualities.

2 Paper qualities

Whether you need a good paper stock for postcards or want to print business cards on unique paper, the best way to choose a great paper stock for your print projects is to first understand the most desirable paper qualities and how they are achieved. These qualities dictate how a paper looks and feels as well as its suitability for a given print job. The following breaks down different paper stock characteristics and what they mean to your final printed materials.

3 How is paper made?

Most paper is made by mixing wood fibers in hot water to create pulp. Other materials can be used, such as recycled paper and other plant-based fibers, but wood is the most common.

Additives, such as dyes and fillers, might be mixed in with the pulp to improve paper properties. Once mixed, the pulp is cleaned and bleached, then spread out over a mesh screen to allow the water to drain. This is usually done on a Fourdrinier machine, which features a moving belt. Once the pulp has dried, the result is a sheet of paper – but the process isn’t finished yet.

Next, the sheet passes through a dandy roll, which can add patterns or watermarks; then, it is pressed between rollers to remove additional water before moving through heated rollers that complete the drying process. Once dried, the paper is rolled onto reels.

Finally, the paper is finished, which can include:
  • Smoothing (pressing it through metal rollers called calenders)
  • Coating
  • Embossing
  • Trimming (cutting it into rolls or sheets)

How a given paper is made determines the characters it features, which in turn determines how it is best used.

That’s a general overview of the papermaking process; each paper manufacturer has its own processes and nuances that make its papers unique. In addition to mass paper production, many people handmake paper and consider it an artform. You can learn more about handmade papers from ]]> The Guild of Papermakers ]]> and , ]]> The International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists ]]> (IAPMA).

Some notable paper manufacturers are:

In addition, ]]> Paper Age ]]> – a trade magazine and newsletter dedicated to the paper industry – offers a ]]> directory of paper manufacturers]]>.

Formation

Formation refers to the distribution of wood fibers and added fillers, and it has the greatest impact on print quality. Uniform fiber distribution is important, and the best papers feature a mix that’s 75 percent hardwood fibers, 25 percent softwood fibers.

Another consideration is the amount of recycled content: some papers are partly made from post-consumer waste; others are comprised of 100 percent post-consumer waste – the ultimate in eco-friendly printing.

Brightness

Brightness refers to the amount of blue light reflected by a given paper stock. It’s measured on the ]]> TAPPI brightness scale,]]> scored from 0 to 100, with 100 being the brightest paper.

As brightness increases, so does:
  • Faithful color reproduction
  • Ink brightness
  • Contrast between printed and non-printed areas

Generally speaking, the brighter the paper stock, the better.

Whiteness
Where brightness refers to blue light, whiteness refers to how the entire spectrum of light is absorbed or reflected by a given paper stock. There are several variations, or grades, of whiteness; and the most popular are:
  • Balanced white:
    Reproduces “true-to-life” images and is good for print jobs featuring illustrations and paintings
  • Warm white:
    Makes images feel warm by absorbing blues and greens, and reflecting reds and oranges, good for print jobs featuring photographs
  • Blue white:
    Commonly used for retail marketing due it is ability to produce “hard,” metallic images; it’s a cooler type of paper stock (since it reflects blues and greens) that’s well-suited to product images and black and white photographs
Grain

Grain refers to the direction wood fibers are aligned with the paper machine. There are two types of grain: long grain and short grain.

  • Long grain paper:
    Fibers run parallel to the long side of the sheet, which makes it easier to turn pages, reduces buckling, and makes the binding stronger
  • Short grain paper:
    Fibers run perpendicular to the long side of the sheet. It’s ideal for pocket folders and saddle-stitched materials because it can be scored against the grain, resulting in greater durability and tear-resistance
Opacity

Opacity refers to the amount of light that can be transmitted through a given paper stock. High opacity lets little light through, while low opacity lets more light through.

Opacity is an important consideration because it enhances brightness, surface and formation. It’s a great choice for projects that require full-color and heavy ink, which is why it’s often used for marketing materials. Though it costs more per pound that normal offset papers, stocks with high opacity reduce total paper and mailing expenses.

Basis weight and thickness

Ever wondered exactly what paper “weight” means? It refers to the weight of 500 sheets of a given paper stock in its basic size. For example, the basic size for cover stock is 20-inch by 26-inch and the basic size for text stock is 25-inch by 38-inch.

Paper thickness is exactly how it sounds – how thick the paper is, as measured by a caliper. Paper thickness is often express as “points,” where every point equals .001 inch. So, if you ask “how thick is 10 point text paper,” you can multiply .001 by 10 to get .010 inch.

Thick paper stocks lend a sense of quality to your marketing materials, and thickness also plays an important role in direct-mail marketing pieces that need to be fed through post office sorting machines.

The more prestigious the piece, the thicker the paper. This doesn't mean your folded brochures should be like cardboard, but adding thickness to your paper can lend credibility and esteem.

Surface

Surface refers to the smoothness of a given paper stock, dictated by how level the fibers are. Smooth, level paper stocks reproduce colors in sharp, vivid detail.

One way to determine surface quality is to shine a light through a sheet of paper. If it’s uniform without a lot of mottling, the paper is likely rather smooth. Another way is to test ink absorption: smooth papers absorb inks better than unsmooth papers.

Paper coating
Paper stocks can be enhanced by coatings. Common paper coatings include:
  • Gloss:
    Gives paper a polished sheen and produces vibrant, crisp images
  • Matte:
    Offers a softer, glare-free sheen that’s perfect for type-heavy pieces
  • Velvet:
    A soft, luxurious coating that feels amazing in the hands
  • Linen:
  • Dull or silk:
    A non-gloss surface that offers superior readability

Your choice of coating can affect the smoothness of your paper, which is measured by the ]]> Sheffield scale ]]> – the lower the number, the smoother the paper.

4The best paper stock for printing

The best paper stocks for printing feature:
  • High opacity, which allows for heavier ink coverage
  • High brightness, which makes inks more vivid
  • High thickness, which offers stability
  • Smooth surface, which quickly absorbs inks and minimizes ink blots and other imperfections

If you’re concerned about shipping costs, you can opt for lighter paper weight, thinner paper stocks, and less opaqueness; but understand you’ll sacrifice print quality to save money at the post office, which might translate to lost sales at the mailbox.

Different types of papers and grades are best for different uses. For example:
The best paper types for printing depend on your project

There are many great paper stocks available, but not every type of paper is best for every project. One paper stock might be perfect for printing catalogs but not so great for printing greeting cards. In addition, you should be cognizant of your brand attributes when selecting paper stocks for corporate identity.

The combination of a paper’s properties dictate how it should be used; so, for example, if you’re printing a brochure you might choose a gloss text paper, since it offers the bright sheen of a glossy coating and the foldability of a text-based thickness. For easy writing, it's best to go with an uncoated or velvet paper stock.

Great paper stocks feel strong and stable, vicariously lending these same attributes to your products and services.

Paper stocks with a gloss finish are well-suited for grabbing attention with a flashy delivery, since the gloss helps colorful designs pop off the page.

Matte stocks are good for lending a subtle appeal, suggesting elegance and exclusivity. Special coatings such as aqueous and UV further enhance printed promotions by adding a layer of brilliance and protection. If you're a green company, look for eco-friendly recycled paper stocks. This can also be very important to your customers.

It's a good idea to know what kind of paper you'll be printing on before you design your projects, so you can tailor your design to match the paper and finish. Sleek, smooth paper might benefit a sleek design; while a soft matte might be great for an elegant theme. Ask your printer for free paper stock samples before you settle on one so you can literally get a feel for what it feels like in your hands.

Of course, you probably want to know the answers to questions such as “what kind of paper are brochures printed on?” and “what is a good paper weight for a flyer?” Use the information provided above with the paper/project matches listed below to identify the best paper stock for printing your next project.

100 lb. Gloss Cover
A thick, premium cover stock with glossy sheen on both sides.
  • Catalog covers
  • Flyers
  • Postcards
  • Posters
80 lb. Recycled Matte Cover
Eco-friendly, thicker matte stock with post-consumer material.
  • Brochures
  • Flyers
100 lb. Gloss Text
A thicker paper weight stock with glossy sheen on both sides.
70 lb. Matte Text
Eco-friendly and lightweight matte text stock with post-consumer material.
  • Brochures
  • Booklet interior pages
  • Comic book interior pages
  • Coloring book interior pages
  • Wall calendars (interior pages)
70 lb. Recycled Matte Text
Eco-friendly, lightweight paper stock with post-consumer material.
13-Point Matte Cover
Subtle, sophisticated paper stock with a matte finish.
  • Brochures
  • Booklet covers
  • Comic book covers
  • Coloring book covers
  • Business cards
  • Catalog covers
  • Flyers
13-Point 100% Recycled Matte Cover
The ultimate eco-friendly paper stock, made entirely out of recycled materials.
  • Brochures
  • Booklet covers
  • Comic book covers
  • Coloring book covers
  • Bookmarks
  • Business cards
  • Wall calendar covers
  • Catalog covers
  • Flyers
  • Greeting cards
  • Postcards
  • Wall calendar covers
  • Posters
80 lb. 100% Recycled Uncoated Text
An uncoated text stock comprised entirely of recycled materials for eco-friendly printing.
  • Brochures
  • Booklet interior pages
  • Comic book interior pages
  • Coloring book interior pages
Brilliant White 80 lb. Linen Text
A bright white, linen textured paper stock comprised of 30% post-consumer material that’s eco-friendly and perfect for full-color applications.
  • Brochures
  • Business cards
  • Letterhead
  • Menus
Natural White 80 lb. Linen Text
A creamy white, linen paper stock that’s smooth to the touch and best-suited for solid color designs.
  • Brochures
  • Business cards
  • Letterhead
  • Menus
15-Point Velvet with Soft Touch Coating
A thick, premium cover stock with a fine, super-smooth finish that lends bold impact; one of the most luxurious and sophisticated paper stocks.
  • Booklet covers
  • Comic book covers
  • Coloring book covers
  • Bookmarks
  • Business cards
  • Catalog covers
  • Flyers
  • Greeting cards
  • Postcards
  • Posters
80 lb. Gloss Text
A lightweight paper stock with a glossy sheen on both sides.
  • Booklet interior pages
  • Comic book interior pages
  • Coloring book interior pages
  • Menus
  •  
16-Point C2S Gloss Cover
A premium, ultra-thick paper stock with a glossy finish on both sides.
  • Bookmarks
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Greeting cards
  • Postcards
  • Posters
14-Point C2S Gloss Cover
Thick, standard weight cover stock with glossy sheen on both sides.
15-Point Velvet Cover Stock
A heavy, distinctive paper with a velvety smooth finish and classic semi-matte look.
  • Bookmarks
  • Business cards
  • Flyers
  • Greeting cards
  • Postcards
  • Posters
14-Point C1S Gloss Cover Stock
Thick, standard weight cover stock with glossy sheen on one side and one side uncoated for printing or writing.
  • Business cards
  • Greeting cards
  • Pocket folders
  • Postcards
  • Posters
Ultra Card Stock
A triple-layered paper stock featuring 120 lb. textured ultra white eggshell on the outside layers and a 50-point (white) or 45-point (colored) inside layer.
14-Point Uncoated Cover Stock
A thick, premium cover stock with an uncoated, matte finish that’s perfect for writing with pencil and ink.
Standard 70 lb. White
High-grade, elegant stationery paper with white wove finish that’s compatible with laser and inkjet printers.
  • Letterhead
  • Memo pads
  • Notepads
Premium 24 lb. Ultra White
A smooth, professional-grade stationery paper that’s compatible with laser and ink jet printers.
  • Letterhead
100 lb. Light Brown Kraft
A high-quality, smooth Kraft paper stock with a rich, tan, repurposed look. Comprised of 30 percent post-consumer material, it’s an eco-friendly option that offers a rustic look. Best for solid color or black-only printing.
  • Menus
100 lb. Gloss Cover with UV Coating
A thick, premium paper stock with a glossy UV coating that makes colors more vibrant and protects your printed piece.
100 lb. Gloss Cover Stock with AQ Coating
A thick, premium paper stock with a glossy aqueous coating. The coating is non-toxic and water-based, and makes colors vibrant while protecting your printed piece.
  • Sales sheets

Note that UV and AQ coatings can be added to many printed materials; both offer protection for your printed pieces and make colors appear more vibrant.

No matter what type of paper stock you choose, it’s important to have your materials printed by a premium printing company. PsPrint, for example, uses state-of-the-art offset and digital printing presses and vivid, eco-friendly, soy-based inks to make your colors pop off the page. The last thing you want to do is ruin your beautiful design with subpar printing, so combine the right paper with premium printing at discount prices to bring your designs to life!