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Annual Report Business Cards Direct Mail Letterhead Matching Envelopes
Books Catalogs Flyers Magazines Note Paper
Brochures Copy Paper Information Report Manuals Posters


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



  • 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 less expensive.

    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 or copier?

    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 photocopiers.

    As with Text papers, this is a good opportunity to use tree free papers or those with very high or combined environmental advantages.

    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 template?

    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.

Matching Envelopes

    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.

Business Cards

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 Copy/Bond paper.

    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.


  • 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 best?

    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 is best?
  • Most magazines on uncoated paper are printed on Offset papers, frequently 50-70#.

    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.


    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 "2001."

    Coffee-table books and art books are likely to be printed on Coated #1 paper.

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