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A Guide to the Best Paper Stocks: Meaning, Types, Uses

Explore the world of paper stocks: From understanding its significance to identifying the right type for your needs, we have covered everything in our guide.

Selecting the right paper stock is crucial for the success of any printing project. Whether you are creating business cards, brochures, invitations, or packaging, the type of paper you choose can significantly impact the final result. Choosing the best paper stocks for your printing projects involves considering various factors. Begin by understanding your project’s purpose, printing method, and budget. Explore different types of paper stocks, each offering unique textures and finishes. Consider the weight and thickness of the paper to ensure durability and quality. Evaluate the color, brightness, and environmental impact of the paper options available. Finally, choose a paper stock that aligns with your project’s requirements, enhances your design, and leaves a lasting impression on your audience.

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

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).

Types of Paper stocks
Different types of paper stocks
Types of Paper Stocks

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

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • House Stock: Your printer’s preferred stock. House stock is 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.
  • 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.
  • Weight: Paper weight refers to the relative thickness of a piece of paper. The heavier the paper, the thicker and more durable it is.

What is Paper Stock?

Paper stock is the type and quality of paper used for printing projects. It includes weight, thickness, finish, texture, and color characteristics. Choosing the right paper stock is essential for achieving the desired look and durability of the final product. Common types of paper stock include:

  • Coated and uncoated papers
  • Cardstock
  • Specialty papers like textured or recycled options
  • Various weights and thicknesses

The selection of paper stock depends on factors such as the project’s purpose, printing method, desired aesthetic, and budget considerations. Whether for business cards, brochures, invitations, or other printed materials, selecting and understanding the meaning of paper stock is crucial for achieving optimal results in any printing project.

Types of Paper Stock for Printing

There are several types of paper stock commonly used in printing projects:

1. Coated Paper

This paper has a coating applied to one or both sides, offering a smooth, glossy finish that enhances color vibrancy and detail. It’s commonly used for brochures, catalogs, and flyers.

2. Uncoated Paper

Uncoated paper has a more natural and textured feel. Due to its writability, it is often chosen for stationery, letterheads, and envelopes.

3. Cardstock

Cardstock is also known as cover stock, which is thicker and more durable than standard printing paper. It is commonly used for business cards, postcards, invitations, and packaging materials.

4. Textured Paper

Textured paper adds a tactile element to printed materials, with surfaces ranging from smooth to heavily textured. Common textures include linen, felt, and laid finishes, often chosen for high-end stationery and specialty invitations.

5. Recycled Paper

Made from sustainable sources, recycled paper is an eco-friendly option that’s gaining popularity. It is available in various weights and finishes, suitable for a wide range of printing projects.

6. Specialty Paper

Specialty papers include options like metallic, translucent, and handmade papers, each offering unique visual and textural qualities. They are often used for premium packaging and artistic projects.

By understanding the characteristics of different paper stocks, you can choose the most suitable option to enhance your printed materials’ visual appeal and effectiveness.

Things To Consider When Choosing the Best 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 printing paper 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 help your print stand out, which are:

UV Coating: High Gloss Print

This is a glossy, shiny, liquid paper coating that hardens when exposed to ultraviolet rays. It makes the printed piece eye-catching and 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. Water-based, it is environmentally friendly and deters dirt and fingerprints from printing.

Soft-touch Coating: Velvety Texture Print

The soft-touch coating is better than UV or aqueous coatings as it dries faster, is non-yellowing, and is eco-friendly.

Varnish Coating: Gloss, Satin or Matte Finish

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

  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 image below is a representation of the paper’s weight and thickness.

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 paper’s brightness and opacity affect the readability and overall representation of the print

Paper Brightness:

The paper brightness is measured using a paper brightness chart with 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. The brighter paper stock makes the color pop and displays ink colors vibrantly and accurately, making it best suited for high-end print advertising.

Paper Opacity:

Measuring the printing paper’s transparency or opacity becomes essential when printing on both sides of the paper. If you choose 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 and this will also help you in maintaining data security of your direct mail campaigns.

Paper Stock Brightness
Opacity Chart
Paper Stock Brightness & Opacity Chart

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.

You must balance 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!


Q. Which is best paper stock?

A. The best paper stock depends on the specific requirements of your project. The factors include the intended use, budget, printing method, and desired finish. Common options of paper stock include coated or uncoated paper, cardstock, specialty papers like textured or recycled options, and various weights and thicknesses.

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

A: The most common paper stock types are coated and uncoated. Coated paper stocks are great for brochures, catalogs, postcards, etc. In comparison, 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?

A: For marketers 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?

A: 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.

Q: What is paperboard stock?

A: Paperboard stock, often simply referred to as paperboard, is a thick, durable, and versatile type of paper commonly used for packaging, signage, and other applications requiring durability. It’s thicker than standard paper but thinner than cardboard, offering versatility and strength for various printed materials. Paperboard stock comes in different weights and finishes to suit specific needs and preferences.