With the advent of everything digital sometimes people forget about the power of the printed word in touch form. Recently I have been fielding a lot of questions about what paper stock to recommend for new print projects in the works. As a printer we love those conversations because that is what we do. There is something unique about holding a printed piece that communicates authenticity. It’s what makes the difference between “Oooh!” and “Oh. The first thing you subconsciously notice about any printed piece is how it feels. That’s why we appreciate when you take the extra time to figure out what paper stock will aid in getting the desired results.
Coated, Uncoated, … Where do I start?
Selecting the proper paper stock helps ensure the finished product looks the way you envision and elicits the response you intend. There are two primary types of stocks to choose from: coated and uncoated. Both have noticeable differences. At a glance, the difference between uncoated and coated paper can be boiled down to look and feel. Uncoated is ideal for being able to be written on, whereas coated paper is not. Think newspapers and letterheads with uncoated paper, and magazines and brochures typically for coated paper.
Uncoated paper is what is commonly bought and used in a home printer (lightweight versions). This type of paper is often perfect for things like letters, greeting cards and where the design is trying to communicate an environmental feel. A tradeoff in using uncoated paper is the ability for color saturation. Does it “pop”? Since uncoated paper is efficient at holding on to the ink, colors tend to appear a little duller and limits the vibrancy. For some applications it is perfect, other not so ideal. Alternatively, coated stocks are less absorbing of color so the ink sits nicely on the surface and makes the colors more vibrant and bright. A side by side comparison certainly helps show these effects.
Gloss Coated Paper
Coated paper stocks have a completely different appeal and are often better suited for things like brochures, catalogs, magazines, pocket folders or even business cards. There are different types of top coatings such as matte, gloss and soft touch (think suede) that each give off a different look and feel. As a general rule most projects rich in color and photography are better served going with a coated stock. As with all things in the end it may come down to personal preferences.
Not only does the finish on the stock make a difference but the thickness is equally important. For multi page brochures oftentimes the cover is printed on a heavy stock and the inside pages are thinner. This technique can create excitement to see what is inside. Catalogs also use this approach. If budget drives the bus then lighter the stock the less the cost. For business cards the mantra is typically, thicker the better. I kind of feel the same way about most printed pieces.
Thickness also affects the possibility of bleed through (when the ink shows through your paper and is visible on the other side). For color rich brochures we recommend at least an 80lb text weight stock for a quality durable result that won’t appear transparent when against light. It is equivalent to a 32lb bond paper.
For things like letterheads, direct mail letters it’s okay to choose a lighter paperweight – we recommend using our 60# Uncoated Text. It’s light, takes ink very well, and is what you’d typically use in your printer at home. One of my favorite sources when trying to compare paper details is http://www.paper-paper.com/weight.html.
See for Yourself
We actually put together a paper swatch booklet of different paper stocks we keep in stock to help show the difference in print quality along with the look and feel between text and cover weights and uncoated, gloss coated and matte coated stocks. Send me a note if you would like to have one for yourself. Just remember, guard it carefully because everyone will want to borrow it (smiling).