How to choose the best paper to print on

Posted Monday January 30th, 2017

know which paper to print onPaper is made from a renewable material – wood! It is recyclable, comes in different weights and colours. Admired for its feel and surface, paper often has a characteristic pleasant smell too.

But what sort to use and ask for when printing?

There are several ways to categorise a paper

1. By finish or coating. There are two broad distinctions – uncoated and coated. Paper can be gloss, matt or silk coated. Silk is halfway between gloss and matt.

2. Paper weight. The weight of 1 square metre of paper in grams described as gsm (grams per square metre). An A0 sheet of paper is exactly 1 square metre so this weighs the same as its gsm weight.

3. Paper thickness – paper thickness measured in microns (1/1000 of a mm). Thick paper is important for packaging items. Thick paper or board is important for instance on business cards too.

4. Paper colour – paper depends for its whiteness on the whiteness of the paper pulp. Bleaching pulp whitens it. Paper accepts dyes very well – this creates coloured or tinted paper.
Coloured paper affects printing. White paper provides the highlight area for a picture.

5. Paper pulp is from new or recycled paper pulp. Used paper is mixed with water and produces a recycled paper pulp. Recycled pulp is de-inked with soaps and by skimming.

How paper is made

It may be useful to look at how paper is made and the differences.

Making paper - chose which paper to print onPaper comes from wood fibres. Fibre is macerated to produce a pulp of wood. The hard woody parts are soaked in a strong alkali which dissolves the wood or lignin. The resulting pulp is known as wood-free.

This cellulose fibrous pulp is the basis of the paper. It is mixed with 50 times its volume of water and mixed and this is poured onto a continuous mesh belt. The water streams out and the resulting wet web of paper is transferred to rollers for drying.

At this stage, the paper is all fibre. There are choices at this stage that can be made about what type of paper is to be produced.

Paper from this web of pure paper is called un-coated paper. It is used for writing paper or for forms. Un-coated paper works well for printing of brochures and leaflets. It produces a natural un-coated finish.

The other option is to coat the paper. Many papers have a coating applied during the paper making process. This is a coating of china clay and whiteners applied to one or both sides. Rollers press the coating onto the surface of the paper. They dry it and polish using hot polished metal rollers. This process is calendaring.

The extent of polishing determines the type of coating. No polishing for a matt finish. Some polishing ends with silk papers. Extreme polishing produces a gloss art finish.

Choose a paper to print on

With the above information it is now time to choose a paper:

For writing papers and stationery choose uncoated. 100 -120gsm for letters & compliment slips. 350 – 400gsm for business cards.

Uncoated paper gives brochures and leaflets a pleasant matt finish. Ideal for a moody, less bright finish. Cover weight 300gsm and text 150gsm (as mentioned above you get more bulk for the weight on uncoated)

For coated papers then choose from gloss, silk or matt. Weights usually 300 – 350gsm for covers and 170gsm text.

You have now selected the paper type and weight.

Now you know which paper to print on, get in touch with us for help with the next stage:

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