Paper (stock) differs in terms of colour, texture, and weight. Other important terms include coating (generally glossy or matte), opacity (ability to provide or prevent the transmission of light), and brightness (light-reflecting quality). When planning a print job, you may choose a standard, readily available, in-house stock, or you can request a unique paper that will add to the effectiveness of your printed piece.
Not all paper is white! It is very much your option to choose a paper that is of a particular colour, whether for creative or other reasons. In one respect, choosing paper that is not white is like saving an ink that would otherwise be printed onto the page. For example, instead of printing a bright orange ink background with black artwork, the latter could be printed onto a bright orange stock.
Other, sometimes subtler choices can influence the look of your design, such as:
Classic, natural tone (faintly yellow or tan) to mute the overall look of the page
Smooth paper is actually one of the more modern types available, whereas historical paper types tended to show more of the fibres or weave from the technique used to make the paper — hailing back to the ancient art of woven papyrus. Today, a wide variety of textures is available, including some that emulate historical types. The latter may be used to imbue a printed piece with a classic formality or a unique tactile quality and/or may be chosen for the effect the texture has on the appearance of what is printed on it.
In some cases, texture can be created by how the paper is formulated, such as with visible fibres.
Photographs generally print best on a smooth finish
Text and line art reproduces well on textured finishes (e.g. vellum, laid)
Specialty paper costs more than standard paper — the benefits of the stock choice should justify the expense, based on the print job in question
The texture of a paper may be defined or affected by a coating or finish, such as you often see in glossy magazines or conversely with matte (non-glossy) business cards. The smoothness of the paper can be embellished to the point of shiny. Depending on personal preference, this can give a print piece a bold or modern finish. It can also influence how clear the print is and how the piece would stand out next to another design.
The thickness or density of a certain paper determines its weight, a term that applies both to literally how heavy the paper feels (due to its density) and as a printing term to classify and identify these variations. There is the measured weight of a type of paper, typically by ream, which may be noted in pounds (#), density (grams per square meter or gsm), and others. The paper weight may also be expressed in terms of the physical sheet thickness (often in points).
Here is a look at the main grades of paper and their typical weights.
Bond — this quite common grade of paper gets used for documents, letterhead, etc. and is readily available in a variety of brightnesses. Weights tend to be quite light, starting around 20 lb and increasing to upwards of 40 lb.
Text — this type of stock is offered in a panorama of colours and textures and is suitable for a huge variety of print jobs and purposes. Weights are much like bond.
Offset — this paper is designed for performance with printing presses, as opposed to (though often usable in) copiers or digital machines. They must withstand the water, pressure, and speed that a press subjects them to. The available weights are comparable to bond but go much heavier (60 lb, 70 lb, 80 lb, and greater).
Coated — this stock is designed for a vibrancy often desired for brochures and some types of publications (booklets, magazines) and for its added durability and colour retention. Coated weights tend to be heavier in the 60-110 lb range.
Cover — this heavyweight stock is designed for rigidity, often called for with, appropriately, covers (such as on documents). Also, typically used for business cards, postcards, etc., cover stocks come in a broad array of weights, let alone
Opacity — this refers to how translucent the paper is, i.e. how much you are able to see through it. A 2-sided document should generally use paper that is more opaque (less see-through) than a 1-sided document. Stock with slight or obvious transparency can be used for interesting effect, such as an attractive cover sheet on a stapled document that allows the document title on the second page to show through subtly.
Brightness — paper manufacturers offer a variety of brightnesses with not only their standard, white stock but also colour and other choices. Depending on your application and preference, you can choose a duller or more intense white/hue.
Grain — most paper is made of fibres that are aligned in the structure of the sheet, and the direction they lay is the paper’s grain. This is usually of greater importance to a printer than the print customer. In particular, it can have an impact on how the sheet folds — an important consideration with such items as brochures.
Source — increasingly, paper is made available from recycled material. Newsprint has long been recycled, and increasingly, there are quality stocks derived or made entirely from post-consumer paper material.
Special Purpose — uniquely formulated or designed paper suits a particular purpose, such as NCR, metallic finishes, preprinted with illustrations or photographs, and more.
The combinations of