Choosing the best paper for your project and needs includes
finding the one that:
- Is most likely to perform to your requirements
- Includes the environmental attributes most important to you
and/or those required by legislation or policy
- Conveys the "look" and impression you desire
- Is available in time
- Is accessible through distribution channels convenient to you
- Meets your cost expectation
IDENTITY, OR COMMUNICATION, PAPERS: LETTERHEAD, BUSINESS CARDS,
MATCHING ENVELOPES, NOTE PAPER
- Remember to include a notification in your design about the
environmental attributes of the papers you choose. Including a
notation such as, "Printed on recycled paper with 100% postconsumer
content, processed chlorine free" or "Printed on 100% kenaf,"
or "Printed on 50% recycled and 50% tree free fibers," educates
others about how terrific these papers can look, dismantling misperceptions.
Letterhead and Note Paper
- Are you going to have this printed in a printshop?
A 70# Text paper is a common choice and provides a wide array
of options. You can choose bright clean whites, offwhite, beautiful
colors, and designer features, with many kinds of finishes for
added effect. Some sheets are speckled, others are clean. There
is an abundance of recycled content choices, often with high
postconsumer content, as well as many unique and exciting tree-free
papers. Several are PCF or TCF. Some have partial or 100% cotton
content, including one that's organic.
Prices within this paper category vary, depending on content,
quality and features, no matter whether the paper is virgin
or environmental. For example, paper with cotton content is
usually higher-priced. Virgin and environmental paper prices
are very competitive and sometimes recycled sheets even are
This is an excellent opportunity to choose a tree free paper,
or one that combines two or more environmental attributes such
as recycled, tree free and chlorine free.
You might also want to consider a tree free Opaque or Offset
paper. Opaque and Offset grades aren't fancy, as Text papers
are, but they give you another opportunity to choose a tree
free paper at a price very competitive with what you can expect
to pay for letterhead.
For large-volume printing, your printshop will probably buy
the paper in large, parent-size sheets (e.g. 17.5 x 22.5, 23
x 35) to fit his/her particular printing press. Your letterhead
will be duplicated to fill up the sheet; then, after printing,
the printer will cut the large sheet into 8-1/2 x 11 sizes.
Smaller runs will probably be done on paper already cut to size.
Ask for a supply of blank second sheets, too. These can be
cut along with the printed letterhead from the same paper supply.
- Will your letterhead be used often in your office printer
Consider a Writing/Script paper. Most Text and Cover lines
include this option, so there is almost as wide array of beautiful
papers available as in Text and Cover.
A 24# Writing/Script sheet will convey a substantial and sophisticated
impression of your company or organization. In many cases, a
20# sheet will be perfectly acceptable, and bring the added
benefit of using less fiber, thereby saving trees if there is
some virgin fiber in the paper.
Writing/Script papers have a smoother finish than Text papers,
and are intended to be more compatible with laser printers and
As with Text papers, this is a good opportunity to use tree
free papers or those with very high or combined environmental
All Writing/Script papers come in cut-sizes, so you can easily
print your letterhead out from your computer and/or get second
sheets. Most also come in web rolls, for large-volume orders,
and either format can be pre-printed at a printshop.
- Do you intend to print your letterhead out from a computer
Choose Writing/Script paper, which has a smooth finish more
compatible with office printers and copiers. See the response
above for tips on choosing the paper.
Some government offices print their letterhead directly onto
copier or bond paper. An advantage is that you don't have to
remember to change paper each time you're planning to print
on letterhead. But letterhead on Writing/Script paper will look
more impressive than on copy paper.
If your letterhead is for a company or organization that wants
to convey an image of financial and professional success, Writing/Script
or Text papers are a better choice. But governments and some
organizations find it prudent to convey the message that they
are using funds as carefully as possible. In that case, copy/bond
paper can be a good option.
The paper merchant that sells Text or Writing/Script paper either
to you or to your printer usually also has matching envelopes.
If you have your letterhead printed, your printer should be able
to arrange for matching envelopes, too. You may even want these
to be pre-printed with your address as well.
National envelope distributors, or paper merchants with good
envelope stocking programs, are typical sources. While your printer
will provide envelopes in most cases, there may be times you want
to buy an additional quantity.
Retail paper stores (see the article and list for buying in small
quantities) often have matching envelopes for popular letterhead
papers, for pick-up, delivery, or mail-order.
If you're buying in a very large quantity, you may want an envelope
converting company to buy paper that matches your letterhead and
make it into envelopes for you. Sometimes it is cheaper and more
efficient for them to preprint the envelope on the paper first,
then die-cut it and assemble it into its form.
An 80# Cover (C80) paper is the most common choice. Lower weights
(such as 65# Cover) may not be stiff enough and higher weights
may be too thick, although some businesses prefer to use a double-thick
weight (listed as DC in our guides). "Double Thick"
refers to two text-weight papers laminated together to form a
slightly thicker card sheet.
Cover papers offer the same wide array of options as Text papers,
and are cost-competitive with virgin papers.
This presents an excellent opportunity to use high-attribute
environmental papers that may to be more expensive in other grades.
Consider a tree free paper, or 100% postconsumer, or one that
combines as many environmental attributes as possible.
If your business card includes pictures or 4-color graphics,
you may want to choose a Coated #1, #2, or #3 paper in an 80#
Cover (C80) weight.
For a fancy brochure, 70-80# Text papers are common choices.
If you want the brochure to be both fancy and rather stiff, you
might want to choose a 65-80# Cover paper. Talk with your printer
first, though, about whether a heavier paper will fold acceptably
for your project.
If you're using 4-color graphics or photographs, you might want
to choose a Coated #2 or #3 paper. But many 4-color designs work
beautifully on uncoated paper, too. Uncoated papers are a more
environmental choice because they yield a higher percentage of
fiber for recycling. Not only do coated papers yield less fiber
for the same weight (and therefore are rejected by many mills
for recycling), but the clay coating also creates a greater amount
of sludge that must be disposed of.
If you want a simple, non-fancy brochure, you might choose a
colored Offset paper if you're having it printed at a printshop,
or a colored Copy/Bond paper if you're producing it with a copier
or office printer.
A simple, basic flyer can be printed on Offset or copied on a
A fancy flyer could be printed on either a 70# Text sheet or
a 20# Writing/Script sheet.
If the flyer needs more durability, consider a 65-80# Cover sheet.
MAGAZINES AND CATALOGS
- Do you want to print on coated or uncoated paper?
Uncoated papers are likely to be less expensive than most coated
papers, except for very large volumes.
Coated paper is most vibrant for 4-color processes, but uncoated
papers can be very effective, too, especially when the project
lay-out is well-designed and geared toward the strengths of the
particular paper you've chosen. Uncoated papers are a more environmental
choice because they yield a higher percentage of fiber for recycling.
Not only do coated papers yield less fiber for the same weight
(and therefore are rejected by many mills for recycling), but
the clay coating also creates a greater amount of sludge that
must be disposed of.
Uncoated papers are preferable for black-and-white pictures and
for heavy text.
- If you've decided to print on coated paper, which grade is
Is it high volume, printed frequently (more than once a month),
or low budget? You might want to go for Coated #4 if your project
meets any of these criteria, or Coated #5 if money is a critical
deciding factor and/or your project involves mass marketing. In
either case, you would either have your printer provide the appropriate
paper, or contact a mill that makes it to find out how to gain
access to its distribution.
If your magazine or catalog is not as high volume as mass marketing,
or you are appealing to an audience for whom a more elegant look
is important, you'll want to choose a Coated #2 or #3 paper.
Usually the front and back covers are printed on a Cover weight
of the same paper.
- If you've decided to print on uncoated paper, which grade
Most magazines on uncoated paper are printed on Offset papers,
Some magazine publishers print on Opaque paper. Compared to the
same weight in Offset, Opaque papers cost more, but you can use
a lighter weight Opaque paper because it has higher opacity and
therefore will allow less show-through than a comparable weight
in Offset. This can make costs comparable, and lower postage costs
for the lighter weight paper can make it the most economical choice.
Because lower weight papers incorporate less fiber than higher
weight papers, it also can be a good environmental choice.
Front and back covers may be printed on a Cover weight of the
same paper, or they may be a Cover weight of a Coated paper.
BOOKS AND MANUALS
Hardbound books are usually printed on an uncoated Book Offset
grade, specified to the ppi necessary to ensure that the finished
pages will fit exactly into the book spine that has been designed.
Mass marketed softcover books are often printed on uncoated mechanical (groundwood) grade.
But many softcover books, especially those that appeal to relatively
affluent topics such as travel and computers, are printed on the
higher-grade Opaque papers, also specified for ppi. In fact, Halopaque,
one popular Opaque paper that was originally developed for printing
computer manuals, was named after the computer Hal in the movie
Coffee-table books and art books are likely to be printed on
Coated #1 paper.