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Choosing the Right Paper Can Be as Simple or as Complicated as You Want

Depending on the job you’re looking to get printed, choosing the right paper can be a walk in the park, or it can be one of the hardest, most complicated decision-making processes that you’ve ever gone through. The reason for this is simple: there are so many available options.

Paper varies by weight, color, coating, and material and each of these variables has a multitude of options within them.

Even a simple project that was maybe meant to be printed on “plain” white paper can have as many as thousands of potential variations. This quick guide should make it easier for you to narrow down the full range of possibilities to a few easy decisions that your printer can help you with in a relatively short span of time.

At the very least, the article will acquaint you with some of the general options that you have before you get to the print shop and have to make a decision while the clock is ticking.

Weight and Brightness of Paper

crisp printing on bright paper portland oregon

Heavier paper usually conveys a sense of quality to whomever is holding it. Because of this, selecting the appropriate weight may be the most important decision you make at the printer. Unfortunately, paper weights may be one of the most complicated subjects on the planet.

Paper is generally measured by weight or by thickness, but there are three separate (at times seemingly contradictory) ways in which this is measured.

Unless you are going to invest serious time in getting to know the paper business and the difference between the U.S. Basis Weights and how they compare to Metric Weight and Points or Mils, your best off talking to your printer about the feel you’d like, so you can actually get your hands on several samples.

Brightness, on the other hand, is relatively simple. The higher the number on either the U.S. or European scale, the brighter the paper will be. The brighter the paper, the stronger the contrast and the crisper the lines of whatever you’re printing.

At times, a bright, high-contrast printing look is what you’ll be shooting for and the brightest paper available within your budget is what you’ll want. For other projects, a less-bright paper will do, as the crispness of the printing is the most important feature of the project.

Colors and Coatings Associated With Paper

choices in paper stock for printingThese days, paper comes in just about every color imaginable. Unfortunately this does not hold true for every weight of paper.

Having a good idea of the color you’re looking for before you get to the printer will help you immeasurably in the selection process. Bonus points for having an actual sample approximating the color you’re looking for.

These days, paper also can come with a wide variety of coatings. Coatings are used to add weight to paper, to produce a glossy surface or a smoother texture, and to increase or reduce the absorbency of the paper.

The coatings range from traditional materials like chalk and clay, to several high-tech polymers and other synthetic materials.

Special Considerations for the Finished Product

choosing paper for your printing project portland oregon

Depending on what you are hoping to accomplish with your print media, the context in which it will be viewed or handled, and what you intend to print upon it, choosing paper can be a difficult and complicated task.

Also, keep in mind that you are free to make further choices regarding the source material for your paper, the paper’s post-consumer or general recycled content, and other properties besides those mentioned above. Additionally, special types of printing like embossing, or raised lettering may limit your options to certain types of papers.

As with all print projects, your local professional print shop is an expert resource standing at the ready to help you in all the decisions you need to make toward the best possible finished product.

[Photo via: Mailing, Sesameletterpress, Perforatedpaperonline, Altagraphics]

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