Weighing Your Paper Options

September 25, 2009

Image via Flickr user Playingwithbrushes.

Paper is one of the most important aspects to any printing job. Working with a great printer is the first step to ensuring you get the right paper product for your project. Yet there are some questions about paper that your printer can't answer for you. Selecting the right paper is not just about cost and printing or folding feasibility. The right paper selection can contribute to the overall success of your promotional piece. Here are the two main decisions that you want to pay special attention to: Weight: Heavier or lighter stock? The weight of paper stock refers to the thickness of the paper. When it comes to paper weight selection, its best to keep solutions simple. To start, ask yourself how do you want to use each piece of paper for your project? For example, if you are working on a mailing, you could select a heavier stock for the brochure, to make it a focal point and stand out from the rest of the mailing's elements, such as the letter or envelope. Some marketers reserve the heavier stock for the reply or order device, sending a subliminal message to the recipient that, "this piece of paper is important, hold on to it." If you are promoting a high-end product or service, and use a heavier stock throughout the promotion, it will give prospects the feeling it is expensive and luxurious. If your goal is to simply communicate low prices, than a lighter stock will suit your purpose. Finish: Matte or gloss? Paper finish refers to how the paper is treated and the resulting texture of the paper. There are all kinds of special finishes out there for varying prices, but the two most common types are matte and gloss finishes. Think about choosing paint for your home, matte and gloss paper options work in much the same way. The matte is more flat or dull and not reflective and the gloss has a sheen and is reflective. Both treatments absorb the ink from the print job equally well, but from a creative angle, there are pros and cons for both treatments. In most cases, the nature of your project will make the decision between matte and gloss easy. If you are doing a postcard you may want to consider using a gloss treatment on the picture side and a matte treatment on the address side. A glossy paper can really make four-color promotions pop, but watch out for fingerprints as well as images and text that are hard to see under fluorescent or bright lights. A matte finish can make black-and-white photography or design look more sophisticated, but it can also leave a piece looking dull and ordinary. If you're not sure which to use, ask for your printer's opinion, and he or she will be ready with ideas, having seen so many other clients face the same decision.

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The PsPrint Blog is a resource for graphic designers, freelancers, small business owners and fans of print marketing. You'll find helpful techniques on printing everything there is to print, including business cards, postcards, brochures, stickers, invitations, greeting cards, door hangers, magnets and more. The PsPrint Blog shares creative ways to improve your design and layout skills, and useful tips for marketing your business in any medium. We also like to have a little fun, sharing design inspiration and spotlighting some our favorite customers' printed pieces in our "Hot Off the Press" series.