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A Complete Guide to Choosing the Best Paper Stocks

We pulled together a list defining the different paper stock terms you may encounter when working in print marketing.

By

Compu-Mail

Posted

September 25, 2017

Part of a series seeking to uncover unfamiliar terms in the world of print.

When creating a printed marketing piece, the paper stock you select is perhaps equally important as the design itself. But with all the different types of paper stocks out there to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?

Given that print is such a highly tactile medium, it all depends on the way you want the finished product to look – and feel (meaning it also depends on the varnish, laminate, or other final coating that will be applied at the end of the printing process).

Great design needs the right paper stock and finish. Think about it: Would you want to read a textbook printed on a glossy, shiny paper? Or look at a high quality image on a dull, non-gloss surface? Probably not.

To help you get started on designing printed marketing pieces with paper stocks and finishes in mind, we pulled together a list defining the different paper stock terms you may encounter when working in print marketing.

Paper Stocks: Glossary

  • Coated Stock: Paper whose surface, prior to printing, has been applied with a coating that produces a glossy or silky finish. This type of stock is often shiny, and produces a glare when held up to the light.
  • Cover Stock: This thick type of stock is more durable than normal paper or text stock. It is typically used on the cover of a bound book.
  • Dull Coated Stock: While glossier than matte coated surfaces, dull coated surfaces have soft, smooth, low-gloss finishes.
  • Gloss Coated Stock: The opposite of matte, gloss coated surfaces are shiny and best used to display images and to make designs pop.
  • House Stock: Your printer’s preferred stock. House stock is typically ordered in bulk and stored in inventory to reduce material costs.
  • Linen Stock: One of the more elegant stocks, linen has a distinctly subtle rough (but not coarse) textured feel. Linen is great for high-end invitations.
  • Matte Coated Stock: Also referred to as flat, matte coated surfaces are not glossy or shiny. Matte stocks are best suited for reading materials, as their low-gloss nature makes it easier and less distracting to read the message.
  • Newsprint: Thin, inexpensive paper made from wood pulp.
  • Soft Touch: Technically a finish, soft touch is a coating that makes the paper stock feel velvety to the touch. Soft touch is very tactile and makes long lasting impressions on those feeling them.
  • Text Stock: This type of stock is lighter than cover stock, making it best suited for the inside pages of a bound book. The most commonly used text stock is 80# text.
  • Uncoated Stock: Paper whose surface, prior to printing, has not been applied with any coating. Uncoated paper is duller and feels slightly rougher than coated paper. There is no glare when held up to the light.
  • Weight: Paper weight refers to the relative thickness of a piece of paper. The heavier the paper, the thicker and more durable it is. (Check out this handy conversion chart)

If you’re having trouble deciding between a certain stock or finish, check with your printer for samples and swatch books for a more accurate tactile comparison. And don’t forget to ask for a hard proof before sending the whole job through the press, to make sure you’ve achieved the desired effect.

Things To Consider When Choosing the Right Paper Stock for Printing

Great design needs the right paper stock and finish. Think about it: Would you want to read a textbook printed on glossy, shiny paper? Or look at a high-quality image on a dull, non-gloss surface? Probably not. Here we’ve elaborated 5 key things that need to be considered while choosing the best paper stock for your print marketing. 

  1. Pick the Right Paper: Coated vs Uncoated 

Picking the right paper for printing is essential. There are two paper stock types available in the market: coated and uncoated. Let’s talk about them in detail. 

Coated Paper Stock 

As the name suggests, coated paper is covered with a hardened clay material so that it will have a better display of text and images with sharper detail and denser color when held up to the light. Coated paper is great for brochures, catalogs, postcards, packaging, etc. The coated paper stock comes in a variety. Some of them are:

  • Dull Coated Stock: While glossier than matte-coated surfaces, dull-coated surfaces have soft, smooth, low-gloss finishes.
  • Gloss-Coated Stock: The opposite of matte, gloss-coated surfaces are shiny and best used to display images and to make designs pop.
  • Matte-Coated Stock: Also referred to as flat, matte-coated surfaces are not glossy or shiny. Matte stocks are best suited for reading materials, as their low-gloss nature makes it easier and less distracting to read the message.

Uncoated Paper Stock

Paper whose surface, prior to printing, has not been applied with any coating. Uncoated paper is duller and feels slightly rougher than coated paper. There is no glare when held up to the light.

Besides the coated and uncoated paper stock, there are some specialty coatings available to change the paper stock texture that helps your print stand out, which are: 

UV Coating: High Gloss Print

This is a very glossy, shiny liquid paper coating that gets hardened when exposed to ultraviolet rays. It makes the printed piece eye-catching, making it best suited for postcards, hand-out sheets, business cards, catalogs, etc. 

Aqueous Coating: High Gloss or Matt Print 

The Aqueous coating is a clear, fast-drying water-based coating that offers top-notch protection to printed pieces like postcards, catalogs etc. Being water-based, it is environmentally friendly and deters dirt and fingerprints from the printing process. 

Soft-touch Coating: Velvety Texture Print

The Soft-touch coating is better than UV or Aqueous coatings as it dries faster and is non-yellowing as well as eco-friendly. 

Varnish Coating: Gloss, Satin or Matte Finish 

Varnish Coating is a clear ink that usually gives paper stock, a glossy or matte finish which is applied on the press but is slightly heavier than others. Using spot varnish, you can highlight specific elements on the printed piece such as logo, design, etc.

  1. Paper Thickness & Weight

Paper thickness (density) is measured in GSM (grams per square meter) or points (pt) whereas paper is weighed in stacks of 500 sheets. 

A point is equal to .001 inches, meaning paper that is 30pt is 0.03 inches thick. Similarly, If 500 sheets of text or cover stock weigh 80 pounds, the paper is called “80# text.” The below image is the representation of the paper weight and thickness. 

Paper stock sizes/Paper Stock thickness chart


When talking about paper thickness and weight, it's important to know the difference between cover stock and text stock. (refer to the glossary above).

Cover stock (65 LB to 140 LB) is a great paper stock for postcards, bookmarks, and anything that needs stiff paper. Text stock is perfect for brochures, flyers, mailers, notepads, etc. 

  1. Paper Brightness & Opacity 

The brightness and opacity of the paper affect the readability as well as the overall representation of the print. 

Paper Brightness:

The paper brightness is measured using a blue light on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the brightest. Choosing the right contrast between dark and light hues can affect readability.  In general, the brighter paper stock makes the color pop and displays ink colors vibrantly and accurately, making it best suited for high-end quality print advertising.

Paper Opacity:

Measuring the transparency or opacity of the printing paper becomes essential when you’re printing on both sides of the paper. In case you end up choosing the inappropriate opacity of the paper stock, the content on the print can become unsightly, distracting and hard to read. 

If you’re still having trouble deciding between a certain stock or finish, check with your printer for samples and swatch books for a more accurate tactile comparison. And don’t forget to ask for hard proof before sending the whole job through the press, to make sure you’ve achieved the desired effect.

‍Key Takeaways on Paper Stocks

  • Choose your paper stock early. Great design is nothing without the right paper stock and finish. It all depends on the way you want the finished product to look – and feel.
  • Thickly coated paper stock is the best paper stock for printing postcards and brochures. If you are using paper stock for brochures, add a layer of UV or AQ coating for extra protection and durability.  
  • Choose the thickness, finish as well as coating based on your campaign budget as all these factors will determine the paper stock prices. 
  • If you or your customers need to write on your business cards, appointment cards, booklets, or postcards, uncoated paper stock or paper stock that’s coated on one side only

Can be your best option. 

  • Run proofs. Make sure that your paper stock and finish work together to achieve the desired effect.

In a nutshell, you must find a balance between your budget and presentation, and lend an impression of quality to maximize your ROI. 


Still having trouble choosing the type of paper stock? Ask for samples. Print is a highly tactile medium. Deciding between two (or more) stocks gets easier when you can feel them for yourself. You can also connect with us for advice — we’re happy to help! 

Get started today with premium printed marketing at discount prices! <CTA>


FAQs

Q. Which is best paper stock?

Paper stock can have a huge impact on your marketing campaign. The time and effort that goes in designing can be wasted if the right paper stock is not chosen. The message holds paramount importance in deciding the best-suited paper stock for you. 

We don’t blame you - With so many paper stock and finishing options available in the market, choosing the right paper stock can be confusing. So, to ensure you get the best paper stock for printing, connect with the experts!

Q. What are the types of paper stock for printing?

The most common paper stock types are coated and uncoated. Coated paper stocks are great for brochures, catalogs, postcards, etc. Whereas uncoated paper stocks are often used for business cards, letterheads, invitations, etc.

Apart from these two coatings, there are some specialty coatings like UV, Aqueous, soft tough, varnish, etc., available in the market. 

Q. Is paper stock the same as cardstock?

For Novices and industry professionals, the terms cover stock, and card stock are analogous and are frequently interchanged. Word card stock usually refers to heavyweight paper that is much thicker than paper stock, which makes it ideal for business cards, postcards, etc.

Q. What is paper stock used for?

Paper stock comes in a variety. They can have either a glossy or matte appearance. They are often used for print marketing pieces like brochures, catalogs, postcards, scrapbooking, flyers, etc. 

Top Takeaways on Paper Stocks

  • Choose your paper stock early. Great design is nothing without the right paper stock and finish. It all depends on the way you want the finished product to look – and feel.
  • Ask for samples. Print is a highly tactile medium. Deciding between two (or more) stocks is easier when you can feel them for yourself.
  • Run proofs. Make sure that your paper stock and finish work together to achieve the desired effect.

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