choosing the right paper

Coated or uncoated paper? Laid, bond or wove? What about paper size and weight? There are thousands of products to choose from and making mistakes will be expensive. Understand the terminology and choose the right paper for your business.

coated paper
This has a smooth finish because it has a coating (usually china clay) and is available in gloss, silk (or satin) or matt. It is used for leaflets, glossy brochures etc and are sometimes called ‘art’ paper.

uncoated paper
Because it doesn’t have a coating it is less smooth and therefore is suitable for laser printing and photocopying. Premium quality uncoated paper is used for business stationery, but it can also be used for brochures etc. Available in a range of finishes.

laid paper
Premium quality paper with textured pattern or parallel lines. Often used for business stationery.

wove paper
This premium quality paper has a smooth surface and is mostly used for business stationery.

bond paper
This is usually cheap uncoated wove paper and is used for photocopiers and faxes.

paper thickness
Thickness of paper is specified by its weight in grams per square metre (GM or GSM). Low grade photocopier paper is around 80gsm; letterheads 100-120gsm with good quality letterhead around 120gsm. Business cards are around 350gsm and flyers around 300gsm-350gsm.

Some papers seem thicker or bulkier than others, despite being the same weight. Uncoated papers are bulkier than coated and matt and silk coated papers are bulkier than gloss. Card, which is known as “board”, is often measured in microns (one micron is 1,000th of a millimetre.

how do I select the right paper?
Generally letterheads, compliment slips etc are printed on uncoated paper at 100gsm. 120gsm is classier but more expensive Remember to get inkjet or laser compatible paper if you are going to print your own stationery. Consider using the same stock throughout ie if you go for uncoated, make sure letterheads, businesses cards and compliment slips are all uncoated. This will help maintain a unified look across your range, and help with marketing later on.

If you want to create full colour documents with photographs and illustrations use a coated paper for vibrant colour. Gloss paper will produce vibrant colour reproduction, but use silk or matt if you prefer.

what are the main paper sizes for my stationery?
The most common system of paper sizes in Europe is the ISO standard. The A series sizes (which includes A4 - the size of a standard letterhead) are:
A0 - 841 x 1189mm
A1 - 594 x 841mm
A2 - 420 x 594mm
A3 - 297 x 420mm
A4 - 210 x 297mm
A5 - 148 x 210mm
A6 - 105 x 148mm

Printed leaflets are often one third of A4 (sometimes called 'DL,’ which is the associated envelope). Standard compliments slip are this size i.e. 210x99mm

Other paper sizes you may hear are the SRA paper sizes used by commercial printing companies. These are slightly larger than the A series to provide room for grip, trim and bleed. Sizes are:
SRA0 - 900 x 1280mm
SRA1 - 640 x 900mm
SRA2 - 450 x 640mm
SRA3 - 320 x 450mm
SRA4 - 225 x 320mm

and finally…
Your printer will stock a range of paper so take your time and get samples. If you want a particular brand not stocked by the printer it can be ordered. A good printer will take time to advise you and help you get the right paper for your business. It is worth building a relationship with a printer you like and can rely on, even if this does not match the cheapest price you can get on the internet. On the other hand, remain vigilant, check prices remain competitive and be prepared to change if necessary.


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