How Your Paper Stock Can Impact Your Next Print Project

By Julia Briggs / 02 Mar 2018


Paper has a personality that readers notice. Readers appreciate the tactile sensation of holding paper in their hands. Everything from the weight to the texture can help better communicate your message. 

To help you choose the optimum paper stock for your print project, we recommend focusing on three points: quality, design, and cost.

Choosing top-quality papers for print projects

If you want to make an excellent first impression with your paper, try to pick one that helps you stand out.

Think about what people do with the paper once it’s in their hands: They may put your menu on the company bulletin board or cut out your coupon. How easy is the paper to pin or cut? Perhaps they’ll staple your concert flier to a telephone pole. Do you want paper that works best outdoors?

Are you sending a direct mail piece? Make sure it stands out in the mailbox. 

Are your prospects environmentally conscious? You’ll probably want a paper that’s easy to recycle.

Do you expect prospects to write on your printed calendar? You’ll need a paper that works best with pencils and pens. 

Quality also can mean durability and flexibility. For instance, if your print project has to be mailed, the paper has to be rugged enough to survive sorting and delivery. And don’t forget the lifetime of your print project: A book that’ll be around for decades needs longer-lasting paper than a catalog that’s out of date in 12 months.

With paper stock, quality isn’t necessarily a Porsche-vs-Chevy decision, where the most expensive variety has the most impact. Rather, quality means choosing the paper that best fits your target audience.

Popular paper stock varieties

  • Uncoated: Basic paper for uses like newspapers and office copy machines. It’s economical and easy to write upon, but may have poor color reproduction.
  • Coated: Hardened surface provides superior reproduction of photographs and complex graphics. It’s best for brochures and magazines but may be too costly for large print runs.
  • Silk: Paper with silk-fiber coating that adds a light, non-reflective sheen.
  • Vellum: Translucent paper often used to create memorable cover sheets.

Matching the paper with your design

Every print-design project is unique. One project is all text, while another has multiple photographs, graphics, headline sizes, and text blocks.

If your print project has color photography and text on both sides of the paper, ink from the photos can bleed through thin paper and obscure text on the back side.

Your paper choice also can affect how well your photos reproduce. Ink-absorbing paper dulls printed photographs, while papers that don’t absorb ink make pictures look bright and vivid.

Paper also can be sharp and reflective (glossy) or soft and muted (matte).

Some designs reproduce best on an offset press. Others require sheet-fed presses or digital printers. You need paper stock that works best on the optimum press.

Decoding Your Designer

Controlling paper costs

Paper can account for 30 percent of a print project’s cost. You have limitless options for creating printed projects with memorable flourishes like embossed lettering, die-cutting, metal stamping, and more. If you’re not careful, though, the cost of paper can rule these options out.

You also have to choose the most economical printing technique. Offset printing works best for large, full-color press runs. Digital printing is better for small print runs under 2,000 copies. (More about offset or digital printing here.)

The size of your press run also can affect your paper choices: A short run of, say, 100 documents could be economical enough to splurge on the most expensive papers, but if you’re printing 50,000 catalogs, you may need a less-pricy paper.

Finally, one of the surest ways to save money on printing is to finish the project on deadline so you’re not paying rush fees.

Paper creates a feeling — use that to your advantage

Paper choice affects how people feel about the message you’re sending.

When you get a thick, creamy, uncoated paper invitation, you’re getting impressions about the event before you even read the text. Compare that feeling to what impression you get when you pick up a flier on cheap copy paper.

At Blue Star Design, our veteran designers got their start on paper. We can help you navigate all these challenges so you never have to worry about choosing the wrong paper option.

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