Among the elements of awesome print designs lie paper choice. Choosing the right paper for your print project can make or break its quality and the impact of its message. The paper stock is much like a company’s brand. If you choose to skimp on quality, your print materials will look cheap and unprofessional.
From the first draft to design and inking, the paper stock has the final say in the overall product presentation. To achieve print perfection, here are tips for choosing the right perfect paper for different print media.
The Deciding Factor
There is a constant battle between paper quality, functionality, and costs. You might find a paper stock which you think suits your project well, but if you decide to use it, production costs will skyrocket. If you choose a cheaper kind, the material will be flimsy and subpar. So in looking for a paper that’s affordable yet high-quality, you need to consider a few factors.
- What is your final product? Depending on the services you offer, it can range from flyers, brochures, business cards, to tarpaulins, etc.
- What kind of feeling do you want your product to give out? Are you going for cheap? Vintage? Fancy? Fun?
- What kind of layout does the product have? Is it going to be a photo spread? Or a plain old textbook? Will it be individual pieces of cardstock?
- Will the paper have exposure to the elements? Or is it for indoor purposes only?
Coated vs. Uncoated Paper
Paper stock comes in two forms: it is either coated or uncoated. This decision is one of the major deal breakers or deal makers for your product. The paper coating is what decides the overall feel of your print, so you must choose wisely.
Coated papers have coating materials such as talc, calcium carbonate, and china clay on both sides. It gives the paper different smoothness variations, whether it’s matte or gloss. Coated paper works best for photographs and any illustration. The paper finish allows the prints to have bright and vivid colors.
Uncoated paper has a rougher, more natural texture and works best for prints which involve a lot of text. It has an absorbent surface that easily soaks up ink and diminishes glare. You can use uncoated paper for stationery, newsletters, newspapers, and other writable products.
There are also other forms of specialty paper coatings and substrates such as UV coating, also known as Soft-Touch coating, aqueous coating, even anti-bacterial coating! You can mix and match different coating techniques to help you achieve the look that you want.
Paper Thickness and Weight
People commonly measure paper weight in two ways: grams per square meter (GSM), or “Basis Weight.” Basis Weight refers to the weight of 500 sheets of paper in its uncut size, usually with the “#” symbol. 24# means “24 pounds per basis ream of 500 sheets.”
On the other hand, thickness dictates how flimsy or stiff a piece of paper stands. The thicker the paper, the more durable it will be. You don’t always have to draw a fine line between the two. You can opt for thicker cover stock and thinner text stock for the insides, depending on your products’ needs.
The thicker paper goes best for embossing, die-cutting, and stamping needs, while more lightweight paper goes well for ordinary prints and is more environment-friendly.
Paper Brightness and Opacity
Paper brightness describes the amount of blue light that a sheet of paper reflects on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the brightest. The brightness of paper affects its readability, color perception, and light contrast. Brighter paper works best for showing vibrant colors while darker papers show muted tones and darker themes.
Opacity determines the amount of light that passes through an object. This factor measures the degree of ghosting that you can see on the reverse side of the paper, its transparency if you will. The higher the opacity, the lesser light will pass through, and vice versa. Opacity is crucial if you are to print on both sides of the paper since it can be distracting and confusing to read.
Before deciding on a paper stock, know the different aspects that you have to consider. Define your final product and its purpose, and the message that you want it to say.
From there, you can weigh your options, but always make sure to choose both form and function, and not one over the other. Choose your paper wisely, and you’ll be surprised at how impactful your print materials can be.