What Type Of Paper Should You Use?

21st July, 2009

Paper is generally made from pulp manufactured from the wood harvested from fast growing fir trees (although some papers are made from cotton fibres or even grass).

In the UK paper is sold in metric sizes and by weight expressed as gsm (grammes per square metre). This helps to give an indication of the feel of the paper but papers of the same weight will not always feel the same thickness. This is due to the paper making process which can effect the thickness and density of the paper even though the weight remains constant.

To measure thickness of paper you need to talk of microns (1 micron = 1 millionth of a metre) but this is usually reserved for describing materials over 200gsm. To confuse matters further paper that is over 200gsm is often referred to as board and board is usually made by bonding two sheets of paper together.

When printing larger jobs the paper element can be up to 50% of the total cost of the job so it is important that the paper selected is the right one. At Nexus we have nearly 20 years experience in getting this right for our clients.

There are many types of paper and board on the market today, sold under a variety of brand names. However they will all fall into one of the main categories detailed below:

Uncoated Stock

These are base papers that undergo very lttle treatment after manufacture and would include bond, laser and general purpose papers designed for printing your stationery and business forms etc.

Bond papers cover a wide range of papers from the paper you use for photocopying & laser printing (which we can also supply by the ream) up to brand name papers like Conqueror.

Coated Stock

Coated paper undergoes additional treatment after it has been made and has a coating added to the surface which is then ironed to give a smooth surface.

Coated papers fall into three main types; Gloss and Matt, Silk.

Gloss (aka Art) - this paper was originally designed to show photographic images at their best because the surface of the paper is designed to reflect light. Gloss paper is not very good at being written on so is best avoided for reply cards or data capture exercises.

Silk - goes through a similar process to gloss but the result is a silky finish.

Matt - this paper is treated to produce a matt finish.

Silk and Matt stocks have a microscopic landscape of peaks and valleys which are designed to deflect the light. This is to make it easy to read large areas of text.

When printing with Matt or Silk stock it is often essential to apply an additional seal to the printed image as the peaks of the surface of the paper can break away during the production process. This can cause the inks to rub across the unprinted area of the sheet or transfer to other parts (set off).

You can create stunning effects by applying additional finishing techniques such as Spot UV.

As a general rule if your print job is 4 colours on both sides then it is advisable to print on a stock heavier than 130gsm otherwise the print on the reverse could show through.

Cast Coated Stock

This paper has a high gloss finish usually to just one side and is often used to print postcards.

Carbonless Copy or NCR Paper

NCR paper works in a fairly simple way. It consists of sheets of paper that are coated on the bottom and/or the top with micro-encapsulated ink and/or a reactive clay.

NCR paper is used in multipart sets where information written on the top sheet is automatically copied to the other sheets in the set. Simply put the back of the first sheet is coated with micro-encapsulated ink. The top of the next sheet is coated with a clay that quickly reacts with the ink to form a permanent mark.

When someone writes on the sheets, the pressure from the point of the pen causes the micro-capsules to break and spill their ink. Since the capsules are so minute, the print transferred is very accurate.

Recycled Stock

This type of paper is very much in vogue and usually costs more than traditional virgin paper. Available in various % levels of recycledness and in gloss and matt finishes, recycled stock tends to feel softer and does not have the strength of its virgin counterpart. Recycled paper often lacks the whiteness of virgin stock too.

Laser Compatible Paper

If the printed item is going to used with a laser printer or some high speed machines like those with mailing houses you should look to use this stock.

Digital Stock

Not something you usually have to worry about as if you are having your job printed digitally then it is likely you won't be given a choice other than weight. Digital printing process uses far greater amounts of toner or ink and uses heat to set it . To cope with this the paper needs a much higher moisture content to conventional paper, as a consequence it is more expensive too.

It might seem like a complicated set of choices when it comes to paper but when you have the years of experience that we have then it becomes simple. Next time you have a print job why not talk to us first and we'll advise the best route to take.

Jason Edge

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