THE 411 ON PAPER: How to Choose the Right One for Your Print Communications

Paper is the foundation of your print communications. At EarthColor, we partner with you in choosing the right paper to demonstrate your brand value and enhance your marketing message – striking the right balance of appearance, weight, purpose, longevity, and cost-effectiveness.

The first step is to understand the purpose and goals of your print communications and its intended life span. Is it a direct mail piece (DM) that has to withstand the rigor of mailing to deliver its message? Does it require strong color and powerful graphics to catch consumer attention in an instant or be discarded? Is it a sales brochure designed with dramatic color and decorative finishes to showcase and sell your products to clients? Does it strike the right balance of quality, value and innovation? Or is it an annual report that must be informative, substantial and visually engaging? Does it have the quality and production values for the long term?

Once you know the purpose and life span of your print project, you can begin the process of paper selection. Key factors to consider are: size; type and weight; grade, brightness and opacity; finishes; environmental impact; and special paper and decorative enhancements. We’ll work with you in choosing the best combination of factors to fit your parameters of quality, purpose, appearance, and cost.

Size: The size of your paper will be determined by the printing process, press width and print layout of your project. EarthColor has digital printing as well as sheet-fed and web-fed offset printing capabilities. Our design and production teams will determine the best and most efficient print layout for your project, factoring in the number and sizes of pieces to identify the correct paper size and quantity to fit your budget. And often, we will offer suggestions that will make better use of stock available, such as changing final trim size or changing page counts.

Grade, Brightness and Opacity: Each type of paper is available in standard and premium grades with varying degrees of opacity and brightness (white, blue-white, soft-white, etc.). A No. 1 sheet will have the greatest degree of brightness and opacity but will be more expensive than a No. 2 sheet with a slightly lower degree of both.

Weight: Paper stock is available in text and cover weights.

  • Text-weight papers are used for the inside of brochures, self-cover brochures, reports and catalogs as well as in newsletters, folders, sales flyers, and price sheets. The thickness of text paper is generally related to the basis weight but is also affected by finishes or textures. The higher the basis weight, the thicker the paper will be. Most text papers used in printing range from 70# -100# basis; however, lighter or heavier sheets are available.
  • Cover-weight papers are heavier than text and are often used for the covers of high-end brochures, catalogs, annual reports, and DM collateral such as post cards. Covers range from 65# -130 # basis weight and up, depending on the project. Sometimes a paperboard substrate like SBS (solid-bleached sulfate) is used, usually coated one side or both, especially for covers, report folders and DM components. Cover stock can be measured in pounds or in caliper points (the thickness of the sheet measured by a micrometer). The higher the point value, the thicker the paper will be.

Finish: Paper is available in several types or finishes.

  • Uncoated papers have no sheen and produce print and photographic images that are flat. These papers are easy to read, easy to write on (without ink smudges), and are available in various degrees of white and in colors. Uncoated papers are used for low-end communications or can be used for high-end projects.
  • Matte-coated papers have a protective coating with a soft, smooth appearance. They are used for brochures, newsletters, catalog interior pages, and other collateral.
  • Dull-coated papers (dull, satin, velvet, or silk) have coatings that are slightly buffed to produce a soft, smooth, sophisticated finish. Photographs and colors appear stronger and more vibrant. These papers are used in 4-color brochures, catalogs, DM pieces, and flyers.
  • Glossy-coated papers are given a high-gloss coating which is buffed to create a strong sheen, resulting in high-color and photographic reproduction. Glossy-coated papers are great for catalogs, high-end brochures, sell sheets, report covers, DM post cards, and other marketing collateral.
  • Recycled Content and Sustainability: EarthColor provides a wide range of papers that are certified to international forest management standards, specifically FSC®, SFI® and PEFC™. They are also elemental chlorine free, carbon managed and climate-balanced. We provide you with a choice of virgin paper content, partially recycled or 100% recycled content. Since each choice will produce the color and graphic impact you want, we encourage you to select paper with some or all recycled content. To further improve our environmental impact, we print using vegetable or soy-based inks and a variety of coatings with little or no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or HAPS (hazardous air pollutants).

Special Papers and Enhancements: There are many opportunities to embellish your print communications with new and innovative paper choices.

  • Specialty papers that resemble paint canvases, hand-made textured papers, and fiber-dyed color papers offer new creative possibilities. Although these papers are more expensive, they provide unique options for new product introductions, annual reports and special marketing promotions.
  • New, eco-friendly papers offer another innovative choice, like our own branded Earth•Aware® paper with 10% recycled content and the revolutionary Step Forward™ paper made of 60% wheat-straw waste and 40% FSC-certified wood fiber
  • Enhancements to any project printed on standard papers with the addition of embossing, foil stamping, metallic inks, and a myriad of decorative finishes.
  • EarthColor also has the capability to print on synthetic papers or vinyls if your printing needs require them.

To learn more about how we can help you find the right paper for your next print communications, contact us today.

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