One of the most misunderstood parts of the printing process is perhaps the most fundamental of all: the paper. It seems that only through trial and error companies eventually decide which stock is better suited to their branding. The journey to reach that point is often littered with expense mistakes that have caused many a marketing campaign harm. However, it’s unfair to say this was a problem that solely exists on the part of the customers. The onus rests just as heavily on printers to advise new and existing customers on the paper options available for a particular printed job.

Too often a printer will take a specification and order to print as read, without understanding what the client is trying to achieve. The full range of available stock is too extensive to cover in their entirety in one blog. Instead, are cover a few basic pointers that will help you understand what paper to choose for your print run.

Decide on Paper Aesthetics

So you have your amazing design finished and print ready and an eager client base to engage with. What you need to do now is print the material for distribution. Take one step back for a moment and ask yourself the following:

  • What is the printed material being used for?
  • As part of a direct mail campaign where thickness (gsm) and weight is important for postal costs? For display outside, which will need coating from adverse weather conditions?
  • What product or service are you promoting?
  • Does it need a shiny gloss finish, or something more subdued to suit the product and the audience?
  • Does it need to be environmentally friendly?
  • Is this part of the company’s philosophy, and does it fit in with the overall branding and audience expectation?
  • Do you require perforation or special finishes?
  • Perforation, lamination, embossing or spot UV all require a particular thickness to work.

Ask For Paper Samples!

An easy way to get an idea of how each type of paper looks and feels is requesting samples from your printer. This is standard practice within the industry and any printer worth their salt should have a wide ranging batch at the ready to send out to prospective or existing clients.

Paper Options

Coated and uncoated paper are the two main types that are available. This is where you will want to think about the look and feel of the material. Each one is typically used for a specific type of printing.

For example, coated paper is ideal for brochures, leaflets, promotional postcards and any item that is not written onto. The coating creates sharper images and more intense colour to come through. The three main coatings are gloss, silk and matt and the paper, coated on one, or both sides.

Matt and Silk Paper

The images on matt and silk paper rest on top of the paper, rather than absorbed, as is the case for uncoated stock. Most companies selling a service will choose this option, as it is not too flashy or showy. Using matt or silk also allows the opportunity for lamination, which adds a further layer of thickness and professional glean. This is why 9 out of 10 business cards have a laminated finish applied to them.  Coated stock prevents any smudging or blurring of the ink once it has dried, protecting the design and imagery forever.

Gloss paper adds a real gleam to the page, reflecting off the light to add a three dimensional texture. Companies that are selling products, tend to choose this paper to bring their products to life on the page. Because sealer varnish is not needed, it dries quicker than matt and silk and is ideal for jobs required in an extremely short space of time.

Uncoated Stock

Uncoated paper is exactly what it says on the tin – there is no coating! The paper is able to absorb ink much more easily and has no glare on the surface. The easiest example is to think of office printer paper, which has a slightly rougher texture to it. Most commonly, uncoated stock is used for company print like compliment slips and letterheads. But it is also used on flyers, envelopes and postcards that need to be written onto.

Time is often of the essence too, meaning quick decisions are made that may not meet the ideal criteria. In the shortest terms, coated paper is the best option to use for urgent jobs that simply cannot be delayed. This is quite simply because of the drying time involved once it has left the press. Mostly this is due to the amount of ink used on uncoated stock. This is especially true if you want to achieve image resolution close to which you would see on coated stock.

However, there is only so far you take this and ultimately, the two papers will not produce an identical finish. Uncoated stock is usually more popular with charities and not-for-profit organisations who are more wary of the environmental impact.

There are trends and cycles of popularity when it comes to the type of paper being used in particular sectors and industries. Remember, request a sample pack from your supplier so you get a first-hand idea of the paper before committing. Never worry about asking questions, as a printer is able to advise and guide you towards creating a finished job you will be totally happy with.

Here is a short summary of different paper types.

Simply fill in the form below or call us on 0330 010 3368 or email us on for advise on paper types, it suitability for your use and for samples, we will be only to happy to help. 

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