Essential Knowledge - Paper/Coating
Choosing the right paper for your printing project can make a huge impact on the final product. From final presentation to cost, paper stock is the core of your printed piece. Here are some tips for picking the right paper for different types of printed materials.
The primary features that you need to know about when ordering standard printing papers are weight, finish and shininess. In most cases, weight corresponds to thickness and stiffness. The higher the weight the thicker and stiffer the paper. Text stocks are regular paper and cover stocks are like thin cardboard
- Are you going to use a detailed die-cut? If you're going with a detailed cut, usually a thicker paper will show finer details better. Thinner papers tend to lose the details or have frayed edges where they're cut.
- Is the product going to be mailed? If you're going to mail the piece, keep the weight down because you'll pay more per each piece if certain weight limits are exceeded.
- Where will you store it until you use it? If you think the paper might be exposed to extreme temperatures, rain or dampness then you should use a paper that is resistant to these things.
- Will you want to write on the paper? Nothing beats uncoated paper when it comes to writing, so in most cases, don't use a coated, glossy, or heavily textured paper.
- Will the paper be out in the elements? If the paper might get wet, pick a type with built-in water resistance or apply a supplemental coating.
- Do you need the paper perforated? Thin, stiff paper works best for perforation.
When you're talking about weight and thickness of paper, you can understand the difference with the terms cover and text stock. Cover stock is thicker paper that is often used as covers for books. Like paperback or softcover books, greeting cards, and the like. Text stock is the paper you're used to seeing in desktop printers. Thinner, looser and more flexible, it is used as the paper inside of a book.
Cover stock and text stock really have nothing to do with books although they use those terms. Cover stock is great for postcards, bookmarks, hang-tags, and anything that needs stiff, heavy paper. Text stock can be made into brochures, flyers, mailers and notepads.
Business cards are great examples of different paper thicknesses. Most business cards are printed on 12 or 14pt cover stock, while extra thick cards are printed on 18pt or 24pt (or thicker) stock.
Other products usually printed on thick papers include hang tags, door hangers, bookmarks, packaging, and table tents.
Coated paper has been covered with a hardened clay material so that it will better display text and images with sharper detail and denser color. The coating can be a non-shiny matte, dull, gloss and cast coated (a mirror-finish high gloss), spanning the range from non to super glossy. Paper can be coated on one or both sides. Paper coated on one side is often used for low-cost postcards. Coated paper is more difficult to write on, especially with pencils or ballpoint pens. Coated paper is great for:
- a product that you won't be writing on
Aqueous CoatingAqueous coating is a high-gloss or matte coating that offers excellent protection for printed pieces. It is added on top of the ink on coated paper stock and is often used on postcards, making them basically waterproof. Aqueous coating is water based, making it environmentally friendly. If you want to wrap your piece in the printing equivalent of armor, aqueous coating is for you. It is available at no cost on any product available in coated stocks.
UV CoatingUV coating uses ultraviolet light to quickly dry the coating, hardening it to a brilliant shine. UV coating blows all other coatings away when it comes to gloss, but is so hard it may crack when folded. UV coating is not a good idea for a piece that will be folded, scored, foil stamped or embossed.
It can be applied in small areas, termed spot UV, creating brilliant highlights on your piece. The high gloss has the effect of making colors appear even more vibrant and kinetic. If you want very high-gloss pieces with colors that explode off the page, UV coating is for you.
A matte coating is still a coating on your paper. It may look matte, but it will resist smudges; and printing, especially images, will look sharper and more vibrant. Matte coated paper is usually ok to write on, but lacks the tactile feel of uncoated paper. Uncoated stock is naked paper - it's perfect for writing.
Uncoated paper has a non-glare surface and is absorbent. It has nothing covering the natural fibers and easily soaks up ink. Uncoated paper can be textured, for example, a linen finish, but it can also be very smooth, like printer or copy paper. Uncoated paper is the easiest to write on. Uncoated paper is generally used for things like:
- stationery and standard envelopes
- inexpensive flyers
- a final product you can write on