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The Art of Choosing the Right Paper

Dori Levine September 14, 2018 Branding & Design

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As any print designer knows, choosing the right paper stock can make or break the final product.

Creatives spend plenty of time making sure to pick the perfect colors and fonts to enhance their designs, which makes sense. However, just as much time needs to be spent choosing the perfect paper. Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of experience with this and are here to help!

Begin each project with paper in mind. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the final product? Is it a brochure, poster, business card?
  2. How durable does the piece need to be? Do you want it to stand up to a few weeks or years of use?
  3. What feeling do you want your product to give the receiver? Should it be fancy & elegant, or simple & pragmatic?
  4. What assets will the piece showcase? For example, will it serve to display large photos, or will it be text heavy?

Got all of your answers? Good. Next, the following points help distinguish between papers, further ensuring the final product will be the best it can be:

  1. Decide on a finish. The decision to use either coated or uncoated paper is probably the one choice that will affect the overall feeling of your product the most. Coated paper is commonly used for image-heavy designs, creating a glossier appearance of the inks. Coated stocks come in three finishes: glossy, dull, and matte. Uncoated paper is commonly used for letterhead and brochures, projects that contain a lot of text. Uncoated stocks are available in a range of textures, colors, weights, and finishes.
  2. Consider paper weight and thickness. The weight of a paper refers to its thickness, in general, the more a sheet weighs, the thicker it is.
  3. Make sure you’ve addressed opacity. Opacity refers to the amount of light transmitted through the paper. A paper’s opacity is affected by fillers, weight, whiteness, and coating.
  4. Don’t forget about brightness. The brightness of a paper can effect readability, the perception of ink color and the contrast between light and dark hues.

Once you’ve selected your dream paper, it may not be over. Things like budget and availability will factor into finalizing a decision. What to do when the logistics are getting in the way? Rely on your printer. They are the experts and can help you figure out more cost-effective or readily available options. They’re often like a secret weapon, coming up with creative solutions to achieve your goals that you may not have thought of on your own.

It’s always worth the time to obtain samples of the paper you’re recommending, in the various weights needed, so everyone can put their hands on the real thing. For projects like brochures, have a paper dummy created. This uses the specified paper and shows how the job will be assembled during production—including size, fold and binding. This ensures everyone is on the same page (get it?). It is something to see and feel, showing how a quality stock compares to a lower caliber option.

Remember, paper is complicated and no two print jobs are exactly alike. Make sure you take all of these points into consideration, and if you’re still having a hard time–consult your favorite printer for help. Good luck with your next print project!



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