How to Choose the Right Paper for Your Printing Project

Tue Jun , 2018

The choice of paper is one of the most important aspects of printing. The quality, feeling and overall visual appeal of your printed materials largely depend on the type of paper you select. However, that doesn’t mean choosing the highest quality and most expensive sheet of paper will make your printed materials stand out. Rather, you should look for the most appropriate sheet for your printing needs.


Printing Paper

There are several categories of paper available. But, you need to examine which type of paper is suitable for you according to the kind of final copy you want. For that, you must consider important factors such as weight, thickness, opacity and coating of the paper.

To make the selection easier for you, we have written this blog post on how to choose the right paper for your printing project. Let’s have a look.

  • Thickness and Weight

The weight of a paper refers to its thickness. In short, the heavier the sheet of paper, the thicker it is. It is measured in thousands of an inch, referred to as points. For example, if a sheet of paper weighs 14pt, it is equal to a thickness of 0.014 inches. Sometimes, the paper is also measures in GSM or grams per square meter. You can go through this paperweight chart to understand it.

When choosing the right paper weight, consider the ink coverage, printing job and use of the final copy. For instance, if you’re printing a direct mail, the weight of the printed material plays a significant role. If the paper is heavy, you have to pay extra postage costs. Also, if you’re using heavy ink coverage, you need a thicker paper so that both sides are printed uniformly without ruining the quality.

Thicker paper is considered as an ideal choice for die-cutting, embossing and foil stamping. It is a costly, yet durable option for printed materials such as business cards, postcards and brochure covers. On the contrary, thinner paper is an inexpensive and eco-friendly choice, ideal for inner pages of a book or an average printer paper.

  • Opacity

Paper opacity refers to the amount of light that passes through the paper. A sheet of paper with 100% opacity means no light is transmitted through it such as cardstock whereas a sheet of paper with a lower percentage of opacity means more light is transmitted such as tracing paper. It is an important aspect as it determines how much printing will be visible from the flip side of a sheet. If you’re working on a project that requires print on both sides of the paper such as printing booklets and brochures, then choose a higher percentage of opacity to avoid seeing one side of the print on the other side. However, if you want the printed material to be placed in front of a light source to look like an illuminated poster, then a lower percentage is suitable.

  • Coating

The coating is a significant aspect that affects the overall feeling of your final copy. Coated paper is a preferred option because it gives a smooth finish to the printed piece, unlike uncoated paper that feels rough and absorbs more ink. A coating or a surface sealant on the paper is generally one of three types, varnish, UV and aqueous. Varnish is spot-applied, UV is cured with an ultraviolet light and aqueous is a water-based coating applied to the entire piece.

Varnish is an excellent choice for adding an artistic effect by highlighting a specific part of the printed piece with gloss, silk or matte finish. It is used to highlight a logo, a call-to-action or an image. It can also be applied over the entire piece to give a noticeably less glossy finish. UV coating gives a shining appearance to the printed material by using ultraviolet light that quickly dries the coating, making it a hard, yet shiny piece. It is an ideal choice to print sharper images with brighter colours. If you want to print high-gloss pages, then UV coated paper is the right option. However, it is a bad option for printed pieces that need to be folded because the coating may crack when folded. Yet another option is the aqueous coating which offers gloss or matte finish with protection to the printed pieces. It makes the print waterproof without compromising on the appearance and shine. This coating is suitable for postcards.

When selecting the right paper for your printing project, start by deciding your final product. The kind of print quality, feel and appearance you want and the purpose of your printed material plays a crucial role in your decision making. Consider the thickness, weight, opacity and coating of the paper and evaluate which one matches your requirements.