We love paper. Its feel, smell, texture, weight. Selecting the right paper for a print project is an important part of the design of any printed piece. We understand that most designers and print buyers are not experts on paper, nor do they have the time to become one! They, therefore, rely on a good relationship with their printer to make smart paper selections. It can get confusing: matte, glossy, semi-gloss, premium, UV coating, lamination, caliper, grain direction, brightness, opacity. Then there’s all the information about recyclable content, chain of custody and other green concerns. Throw in the chemistry involved when ink or toner hits the paper and you encounter terms like dot gain, absorbency, coating, rasterization. A lot of science lives behind the manufacture of paper and the printing process itself. So how do you begin to choose the right paper for your job in the face of so many choices?
Let’s start with a wide view, by looking at a few manufacturers of quality lines of paper for print. Below are a few of our favorites – papers that are affordable, yet offer top quality performance. They all come in offerings of varied finishes, grades, weights, colors and are optimized for both press and digital printing.
Sappi Flo – an industry standard print paper at an affordable price. High quality and environmentally sustainable. (Sappi also produces a hilarious online video series about the insanity in a local print shop called “Off Register.” Well worth checking out!)
Domtar Cougar – a great environmental choice, Cougar papers offer vibrant color contrast, smoothness and high quality.
Classic from Neenah – the Classic line from Neenah, aptly named, offers best-in-class quality, performance, compatibility and availability. The family includes Classic Crest, Classic Columns, Classic Cotton, Classic Laid and Classic Linen.
Mohawk – fine paper and envelopes, engineered for brilliant color, runability and detailed images.
There are five basic grades of paper: bond, offset or uncoated book, coated book, text, and cover. Within each of these grades are varieties of content, appearance, end use, original purpose, grain direction, finish, opacity, brightness… you get the idea. You have a LOT of choices. And in the realm of specialty papers, there are even more. With your printer’s help, you can narrow down what selection will work best for your project and budget. All major paper manufacturers are happy to supply samples, information and guidance on paper purchases.
In the process of browsing for the right paper, you might get curious about some terms you run across, such as sizing (a solution added to paper pulp to make it less absorbent), brightness (the percentage of a wavelength of blue light that paper reflects), caliper (the thickness of a sheet of paper, measured in 1/1000ths of an inch and referred to as point size), or acid free (paper with no acid, they have a pH higher than 7 and alkaline properties to resist aging). For a great detailed glossary of all things paper, check out the Glatfelter site. They are a global provider of specialty print papers. Or call us. As mentioned earlier… we love paper.