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Picking the Perfect Paper

June 24, 2016

The Perfect Paper

You’ve created the perfect design for that brochure, newsletter, postcard, or getting-the-band-back-together-because-we’re-on-a-mission-from-God announcement. Great. Now, it’s time to select the right paper to complete the package. Paper selection is a very important element in printed projects; it affects both the cost and visual appeal of the piece you’re creating.

In addition to choosing a specific weight, opacity, and brightness, the finish of your paper plays a big role in the overall appearance and feel of your printed product. Here’s a quick rundown of common finishes and how each effect is achieved:

  • A smooth finish results from paper passing through sets of rollers during the papermaking process.
  • Bond paper is a relatively high-grade paper stock with a rag content ranging from 25 percent to 100 percent.
  • Vellum has a subtle roughness.
  • An embossed finish provides a molded appearance on the paper’s surface.
  • A linen finish resembles linen cloth. (Imagine that.)
  • Cockle is a texture similar to homemade paper.
  • Metallic paper is coated with a thin film containing metal or plastic whose color and gloss simulate metal.
  • Coated paper has a coating applied to give the sheet a better appearance.
  • Cast coated results in an exceptionally glossy coated finish, usually only on one side.

Now that you know a bit about finishes, let’s use that knowledge to help you pick the perfect paper for your project. (Try saying that five times fast.) These selections are sure to please, no matter how divine or ordinary your mission may be..

Paper Type Characteristics Finish Type of Project
Bond Comes in a range of pastels, neutrals, matching envelopes, and matching cover weights Smooth, cockle Fliers (like that mission-critical announcement), forms, copies
Writing paper Comes in a range of colors and flocking options that match envelopes, plus cover and text weights Smooth, linen, vellum, cockle, etc. Stationery
Uncoated book Comes in a range of colors and is thicker and more opaque than bond or writing papers Smooth Direct mail, newsletters, catalogs
Text Comes in a range of colors and flocking options that match envelopes, plus cover and text weights Smooth, linen, vellum, cockle, etc. Letterhead, annual reports, brochures
Coated book Matching cover weights limited to cream and white, although specialty lines exist in a range of colors Dull, gloss, matte, cast-coated Magazines, catalogs, direct mail
Cover Heavier and more durable counter-part to coordinate with text, book, and writing papers Smooth, linen, vellum, gloss, matte Business cards, report covers, brochures, tickets, postcards, pocket folders, greeting cards
Index/Bristol Comes in a range of colors and finishes Coated, vellum, smooth Postcards, file folders, tickets
Translucent vellum Semitransparent stock comes in a range of colors and weights plus matching envelopes Smooth, grooved See through envelopes and overlays
Newsprint Inexpensive, light-weight, white/manila only Vellum Newspapers, tabloids
Label Comes in gummed, pressure sensitive, and self-adhesive backing and in a range of colors Smooth (uncoated), matte, glossy, cast coated
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