Choosing Your Paper

Begin Each Project with Paper in Mind

When designing your print marketing piece, choosing the right paper is just as important as choosing the right typeface. Paper choice can greatly impact your end product and production cost.

When you begin a project, think through the following:

  1. What is your final product? Is it a book, poster, flyer, business card, etc.?
  2. How durable would you like the piece to be? Do you want the piece to stand up to a few weeks of use or years of use?
  3. What feeling do you want your piece to convey? Should it be viewed as fancy or inexpensive?
  4. What assets will the piece showcase? For example, will it serve to display large photos, or will it be text heavy?
  5. What's your budget? Some selections may be a special-order item and potentially cost more.

Contact customer service to help you choose the right paper weight and finish for your project.

Choosing the Finish of Your Paper

Note the color difference between uncoated on the left and coated on the right. Colors will appear different on uncoated vs coated paper.

Coated paper is coated with a surface sealant. This coating gives that paper a smooth, flat surface that doesn’t absorb as much ink. The result is sharper printing, especially for images, and a glossier appearance of the inks.

Coated stocks are available in a variety of finishes. Here are some common coatings from the most to least shine:

  • Gloss — gloss coated paper has a high sheen. Gloss papers have less bulk and opacity and are typically less expensive than dull & matte paper of equal thickness. Gloss coatings reduce ink absorption, which give the sheet an excellent color definition.
  • Satin/Silk — a satin or silk coating is a less shiny coated finish. It has a lower gloss level than gloss finish, yet a higher gloss level than matte finish. Colors are sharp and vivid.
  • Matte — a matte coated paper is a non-glossy, flat looking paper with very little sheen. Matte papers are more opaque, contain greater bulk, and are higher in cost. The coating still keeps much of the ink from being absorbed by the paper, which produces excellent, vibrant color.
  • Dull — a dull finish coated paper is a smooth surface paper that is low in gloss. Dull coated paper can fall between matte and glossy paper depending on the manufacturer.

Uncoated paper has not been coated with surface sealants. It will have a rougher feel to it and will absorb more ink resulting in a slightly more dull appearance to the color. It’s a good paper for projects that will be written on such as surveys, reply cards, letterhead and envelopes. It is also best for projects that include a lot of text, like a book. Most colored papers fall into this uncoated category.

Below are a few variations in uncoated paper:

  • Wove or Smooth — the most common, this has a very smooth surface.
  • Laid — laid paper is created with textured lines on its surface.
  • Linen — similar to a laid finish, this paper has textured lines on the surface of the sheet, but they are finer and more regular than those that appear on a laid finish stock.

Consider Paper Weight and Thickness

Understanding paperweights can be difficult. The weight of a paper refers to its thickness. It is measured in pounds (ex. 20#) and points (ex. 10 PT). In general, the more a sheet of paper weighs, the thicker it is. A paper’s basis weight is calculated by weighing 500 sheets of the paper cut to its basis size.

Take a look at this chart explaining the different weights of paper and their common uses.

Weight
(lightest to heaviest)
Description
20lb, bond/50lb text Most often found in your everyday copy machine.
24lb bond/60lb text Generally multipurpose paper used in the office printer. Also the most popular business letterhead or stationary weight.
28lb bond/70lb text Perfect weight for brochures and presentations. Excellent for 2-sided printing with minimal show through.
32lb bond/80lb text Perfect weight for brochures and presentations. Excellent for 2-sided printing with minimal show through, while being slightly heavier than the 28lb.
67lb Bristol Often considered the lightest of the cardstocks, great for self mailers with a flexible "soft feel" quick drying surface.
90lb index A durable cardstock with a smooth, hard surface for medium applications.
65lb cover A sturdy stock with a superb "soft feel" fast drying surface. Great for postcards, menus and posters.
110lb index Both 90 and 110lb index are the common weights for tabs, dividers and manila folders. The average weight of an index card for heavier applications.
80lb cover A heavy cardstock, your most conventional business card weight. Available in a wide variety of textures and finishes. This sheet is printed on 80lb cover.
140lb index For super heavy weight applications.
100lb cover A noticeably heavier cardstock often used for flat cards or invitations.