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How to Choose the Right Printing Paper

Many people consider the type of paper to be used as an afterthought in the printing process. This can be a costly mistake. The wrong type of paper can ruin an otherwise well-designed project. Conversely, choosing the appropriate paper can add enormous value to your finished product. Here are a few characteristics to consider when choosing a type of paper.

Uncoated vs. Coated - Most of the paper you see and handle on a daily basis is uncoated. The most common type of coated paper is paper that has a glossy look and feel; this is also the smoothest form of coated paper. Choosing between coated and uncoated paper depends on the type of document you are creating. Magazines look best when they are printed on coated paper. If you are printing a catalog, you will want to use coated paper for the cover and uncoated paper for all the inside pages. If you are creating a flyer and are on a relatively tight budget, you will want to use uncoated paper.

Brightness and Whiteness - These two attributes affect the readability of a document. Brightness refers to the amount of light a sheet reflects and is expressed as a percentage. For reference, a crisp, white sheet of paper has a brightness of more than 90 percent. Whiteness is the term for the color of the reflected light on the paper. It will be either yellow-white or blue-white, or, in other terms, warm vs. cool. Too much light can make a document hard to read. Not enough light can make it hard to see the images on the page.

Color - Choosing the right color paper is vital, because each different color paper stock with change the color of the ink that is printed on the page. Also, colored stock is more expensive than plain, white paper.

Opacity - This refers how easy it is to see-through to the other side of the sheet. If a sheet has a high opacity, this means that what is printed on the opposite side of the page you are viewing won’t be visible. Opacity is measured on a scale of 1 to 100, with most sheets falling between 80 and 90.

Weight - This doesn’t refer to the weight of a single sheet, but rather a batch of 500 sheets, or a “ream.” Consult your printer if you are unsure about the ideal weight of paper for your specific project.

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