The Keys to Success: Paper Selection

Picking the right paper for your marketing project can make all the difference in creating a strong, lasting impression with your audience. Picking the right paper stock will influence everything from how your images and fold appear on the finished product to how your brand feels in your audiences’ hands. That’s why we always recommend you reach out to your print provider to ensure you’re both on the same page about the intended use for your printed piece.

Several things can impact why you may choose one paper over another including printing process, folding requirements, and beyond. In today’s post, we’ll briefly review the paper characteristics you should be aware of when starting to specify which paper you’d like for your project. Don’t forget though, we are the paper experts and are more than happy to review your project requirements to ensure your paper selection sets you up for success.

Paper Weight – Arguably one of the more confusing aspects of paper is paper weight – used to specify the weight of the paper selected. Paper is typically grouped into two main grades – text weight and cover weight stocks. Text weight paper is thinner and more flexible – perfect for folding and rolling for brochures, flyers, letterhead, and more. Cover weight papers, sometimes referred to as cardstock, is a heavier sheet that resists damage well. It’s commonly used for folders, business cards, booklet or brochure covers, and postcards.

The term “weight” refers to the actual weight of 500 sheets in the paper’s basic size from the mill prior to being cut down to letter or legal size. Where the trick really lies is that each papers “basic size” isn’t the same. So while you have a 70lb text weight paper, it’s certainly not the same as a 70lb cover stock.

One important thing to note when you’re deciding on the weight of the paper you’ll be using – specifically for direct mail pieces. To ensure you save the maximum amount of postage with your mailing, you’ll need to carefully weigh the final piece (including any inserts and envelopes) to ensure you don’t pass your desired postage threshold. Don’t worry – you don’t have to wait until the finished product to test. We’d be happy to provide you with a dummy upfront to ensure your project stays within budget.

Paper Brightness – Brightness refers to the amount of blue light that is reflected on the paper. It is measured on a scale of 0-100, with the highest number reflecting the brightest paper. Your brightest paper isn’t always the best choice for your design project though. Have a lot of faces in your imagery? Selecting a warmer tone will actually help ensure skin tones are replicated more naturally.

Folding Requirements – Have a project that requires folding? You’ll want to make sure your paper stock is thick enough that it doesn’t tear during production, but thin enough to ensure your folds fall exactly where desired. When thicker stocks are necessary (for example on covers or brochures), we help ensure clean folds with scoring. Grain direction also plays a crucial role in the aesthetics of the folded piece.

Printing Process Considerations – Each printing process reproduces imagery slightly different than the others. For example, a toner-based digital project on uncoated paper will produce a small sheen compared to a piece produced on the same uncoated paper with traditional offset. With inkjet production, there are even more items that need to be considered that you can read about here. When we start to talk about wide format stock options – additional considerations like weather requirements, shelf-life and more should be considered as well.

Here at Documation we want to help ensure your printed collateral achieves the appearance, durability and longevity your projects need. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns when specifying the paper for your next printed project.

Documation LLC is a 20-year old commercial printing company with clients all over the Unites States and Canada. We specialize in large volume printing for associations, publishers, and agencies in the direct mail and one-to-one communication market as well. Our staff includes creative designers and list management experts, and our capabilities include print on demand, mailing solutions, high-speed production inkjet printing, and variable data printing.


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