Part 3 of How to Choose the Right Paper

Every designer’s notebook should include our top 10 suggestions for finding the proper paper for their projects.

We explored paper planning in Parts 1 and 2 of this post, as well as identifying the personality of your project and evaluating the finish, colour, brightness, weight, and composition of the paper you may use. In Part 3, we’ll look at three more factors to think about while making your decision.

The Printing Methodology

If your budget allows for speciality printing techniques like embossing, foil stamping, letterpress, and so on, ensure sure your paper is up to the task. Examine printed examples. They are available; all you have to do is request them.

As digital printing becomes more common, be careful not to use a digital sheet on an offset press or vice versa. Digital printing sheets are designed to work well in high-heat, low-moisture environments, such as those found in a digital printer or press. Offset papers are designed to work with liquid inks at low temperatures.

Many mills now provide digital side lines for their established grades, and more are constantly being introduced, ranging from white sheets to metallic papers that run smoothly on digital presses.

Using the correct paper for the printing method, whether digital, offset, or specialised, eliminates one variable in print production that might create issues — and we don’t have time for issues.

Distribution and End-Use

Is the piece going to be mailed, mass mailed, or hand-delivered to a select group of prospects?

We talked about mail-outs before, so keep an eye on the total weight and, when picking reply or post cards, make sure the paper is made to the calliper specifications.

If you’re designing stationery, keep in mind that letterheads will almost always be produced on laser or ink jet printers, so make sure the paper you choose is suitable for this purpose. Many mills provide laser-compatible versions of their textured sheets dubbed Light, as in a light form of cockle, or Imaging, as in imagine that appears like lay, when it comes to embossed finishes. The unique texture will still be visible on this paper, but it will be less embossed, making it appropriate for use in laser/ink jet printers.

If the paper isn’t labelled for laser usage, buy a few sample sheets and put it to the test. Toner has a propensity to wipe off readily on textured sheets, especially when contacting the imprinted copy.

Choose a paper with sturdiness and durability for instructional or reference materials that will last a long time. When it comes to tabs, synthetic sheets, for example, have shown to be a superb alternative to index stock.

If you hand out a piece in person, you’re free to go — no postal limitations, no weight restrictions — well, almost none. Is it likely that the person distributing the work or the recipient will wish to write notes on it? Keep an eye out for coated gloss papers or varnishes in this scenario. Your prospects will be upset if only a few pens can write well on them.

In situations when there is a lot of handling and you are concerned about fingerprints, a coating or varnish is the way to go.


It has occurred to each and every one of us. On a beer budget, we have champagne taste. Paper accounts for around 30% of the total cost of a print production. That is a significant proportion, and one that you should investigate more if you are on a tight budget.

There are other methods to “save money” on paper by “cutting corners,” but this would require a separate article. If you’re interested, go through our old Paper Suggestions section for money-saving paper tips.

If those suggestions aren’t cutting it for you and your budget still won’t allow for the paper you want, chat to your printer or speck rep about lower-cost options.

If you’re specking a coated white sheet, check your grades to see what the best sheet one grade below has to offer.


Allow for some lead time if you were told in the initial phases of your project that the paper you have specified will be sent from Wisconsin and you are located in sunny California. You’ll be well-prepared, so this won’t be a problem for you.

When it comes to a paper’s availability, we hear a lot of dissatisfaction, and the word “mill item” comes up a lot. Be mindful that a mill item on one merchant’s floor may be easily available on the next merchant’s floor.

Coated or uncoated white paper is used in around 80% of print operations in the United States. This is what sells the most, and it’s what you’ll find in almost every merchant’s warehouse.

Due to the current economic climate, retailers and printers are attempting to hold less inventory in order to reduce their financial risk. Mills maintain warehouses around the country and ensure that they are constantly well stocked, allowing you to receive your paper in days rather than weeks.

Certain quantities of specialised papers, particularly those created overseas, are held in warehouses in the United States, but if you want a higher quantity, they will notify you promptly if more lead time is required. If necessary, mills like as Gmund in Germany and Thibierge & Comar in France are known to airfreight your paper to the United States.

Consider using your printer’s house sheets if you’re in a hurry and want to be versatile with your paper selection. Because printers buy in quantity, they are widely accessible and typically come at a reasonable price.

Your printer is, in most situations, your closest buddy, and you should have a solid working relationship with him or her. However, every now and again, we learn of someone who attempts to avoid asking for a certain paper from more than one shopkeeper.

Rob expressed his disappointment at the news that Strathmore would no longer produce the Elements line in light grey. This grade is still available from Strathmore, but the printer’s preferred merchant stopped carrying it on the floor, so he just informed Rob, “They don’t produce this any longer.”

I warned you at the outset that specking paper is complicated, but recent economic changes have exacerbated the problem of paper supply, which we shall examine in the coming weeks.

We hope this article has highlighted many of the factors to consider when selecting the best paper for your projects. Choosing your next paper should be a snap if you remember our advice.