It can be hard to find the perfect paper for a printing job and sometimes it's the opposite: the artwork requires a specific type of paper. Whichever is the case one thing is certain, we have to know the basics to make a good decision. In this post we will discuss exactly those, the fundamentals. We won't go into details about all the characteristics of the materials and we won't talk about finishing options, but we will try to give an easy guide to help the selection process.
Uncoated paper is is the best choice for printing a lot of text like books and manuals. Since there is no glaze on its surface, the paper absorbs more ink during printing, images can be a bit dull and faded.
However, the advantage of this type of paper is that it can be easily written on, stamps will dry quicker, and we can easily erase anything we wrote on it with a pencil.
Uncoated paper is cheaper than coated paper especially when we're talking about higher quantities (imagine printing 200,000 copies of a 600 page book for example). Lightweight versions (75 - 120 g / m²) of this paper are suitable for printing cheap leaflets, letterheads, notepads, booklets, and newspapers in one or two colours.
Heavier versions (up to 300 g / m²) can also be used to make packaging materials (eg. wine bottles, card holders) and perfect for loyalty cards.
Let's say we want more vibrant colours and have loads of images in the artwork. This is why we have coated papers. Their surface is 'chalked', smooth (painted), the ink is not absorbed so much in the material, the images will be more sharp, the colours will be more saturated.
There is a setback however: you can't really write on this paper. The ink sits on the coated surface and takes ages to dry - if it ever dries properly before we wipe it off (usually by accident).
We can choose between glossy and matte and there's a version between those two, the satin (or lustre) finish.
Thinner paper of this kind can be used for the inner pages of brochures, catalogs, magazines, books and higher quality flyers. We recommend the medium weights for children books, covers and posters, the heaviest versions can be used for business cards, high quality photo printing and greeting cards.
This is also uncoated paper, the difference is that its surface usually has a rougher, more structured, textured effect. It can include colorants, watermarks, or even shiny particles.
These type of paper is usually very thick and heavy. This is the best quality possible, they are typically used for exclusive publications, menus, invitations and high quality artworks (limited edition prints).
We can say that bond paper also fits in this category. Made from rag pulp this robust material was the choice for important documents, like government bonds (hence the name). Nowadays it's used for luxury products for its high quality finish and feel and it's also very durable.
... and there's the rest
We have to mention kraft paper, that is 100% recycled although it only comes in brown colour.
Speaking about recycling: pulp paper is the green choice. Made from recycled pulp stock it has a rustic feel and a green footprint, perfect for companies who are aware of the environment.
And there's UV coated paper and stickers, canvas, clear film, wallpaper... the list goes on! It's not impossible to mention them all but maybe unnecessary. For everyday print, we covered the basics.