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Choosing the Right Paper for Your Project

The finish of a printed paper project is just as important as the design and layout – if not more.

Paper is a 3D medium that can be touched and felt. It provides tactile feedback and can silently convey a wide variety of messages, meanings, and feelings.

The texture, look, and feel of a piece of paper can make or break the overall project. This effect is magnified ten-fold when there is an absence of color in the project. It comes down to just the design and the finish.

While there are many different types of paper that can be printed on, we’re going to focus on the process of choosing the right paper for your project.

The Design

When you begin a project, there are a few factors that you should take into consideration when it comes to choosing a paper type:

  • How durable should the paper be?
  • What emotions and feelings do you want to convey?
  • What are you having printed? Business cards, catalogs, white papers, or posters?
  • Will the project be photo-intensive or text-heavy?

Coated vs. Uncoated

The next step in the paper selection process is determining if you want to go with coated or uncoated paper. Coated paper has a surface sealant applied to it at the time of manufacture. This gives it a flat, smooth surface which restricts ink from being absorbed into it. The end result is sharp printing (images especially). The inks also have a glossier appearance.

A coated paper also comes in 3 different finishes:

  1. Matte – Gives off a non-glossy flat look. Very little sheen is given off. A piece of matte paper is bulkier and opaque.
  2. Gloss – This finish is often seen in magazines. It has a high sheen and is glossy.
  3. Dull – The surface of the paper is smooth and has a low-gloss look and feel.

Uncoated is a type of paper that has not been coated with surface sealants. It has a rough look and feel to it and will absorb more ink than coated paper. Uncoated paper is very similar to newspapers or stationary letters. Due to its ink absorption properties, it’s ideal for writing on.

Opacity and Brightness

Brightness refers to the amount of light that is reflected off the paper.  It’s usually on a scale of 1 to 100 (1 being the dullest and 100 being the brightest). The average piece of paper will reflect anywhere from 60 to 90 percent of light. The brightness can affect the readability, contrast, and individual perception of the color of the ink.

Opacity is how much light is able to pass through an individual sheet of paper. If a piece of paper has 100 percent opacity, it means that zero light will pass through it. Varying the levels of opacity will result in more or less printing being able to be seen on the flip side of a sheet that’s been printed.

Thickness and Weight

Finally, the weight of a paper will need to be taken into consideration. The weight is a measurement of how thick a piece of paper is. Weight is expressed in pounds and points.  The general rule of thumb is that the higher the weight of a piece of paper, the thicker it will be.

Paper weight can be somewhat complicated and if you’re looking to make a certain impact or impression, it’s best to ask the experts at AlphaGraphics for their opinion on which weight and points would work best for what you’re trying to achieve.

Printing Experts in Raleigh

To learn more about how AlphaGraphics of Downtown Raleigh can produce and design your next project, you may email us, request a quote or call us at (919) 832-2828. We are your local custom printing company in Raleigh, NC.

Mike Linden

Posted by Mike Linden

Mike Linden is the Vice President of Operations at AlphaGraphics of Downtown Raleigh. He focuses on client relationships, daily operations, business development and digital marketing initiatives. Mike joined the firm in 2008.

Mike is a graduate of the University of North Carolina where he earned a degree in Economics.