The different types of paper for printing

The different types of paper for printing: an in depth look

Posted in: Guides

When you commission a print job, it’s likely that how it looks is uppermost in your mind. This is why it is important to look at the different types of paper for printing. After all, you want it to appeal to your target audience.

At Galloways, it’s not just the artwork of your marketing material that is important. Our belief is that design encompasses everything from the initial concept to the very paper it’s printed on.

With a number of different finishing options, we’d like to explain a little more about the different types of paper for printing and when – and why – we recommend their use.

Paper, plainly

To make paper, cellulose fibers are extracted from natural sources, such as wood and cotton. These fibers are blended into a pulp with water, flattened, dried, and then cut into sheets. There are variations for different types of paper and many have different properties. But every type of paper has a weight, a processing type and finish.

Paperweight vs Paper thickness

Many people confuse paper weight with paper thickness. Paperweight is measured in GSM whereas paper thickness is measured in Micron.

Technically defined, paper weight, or grammage, is “the weight of a sheet of paper with a surface area of one square metre”, or in simple terms, grams per square metre, hence the abbreviation to GSM.

Whereas, a Micron (short for micrometer) refers to the thickness. One micron is one-millionth of a meter.

It is possible to use two papers at a weight of 160gsm that are very different. One paper might be thick parchment stock, containing air and bulk. The other might be calendared, which involves compressing the paper with high-pressure rollers. Both are classified as 160gsm paper stock but look and feel very different.

Weight and thickness affect the paper’s texture, and level of opaqueness. Generally, the heavier the paper, the more luxurious it will look and feel. However, it can be affected by other influences. The thickness and weight of paper can be increased with a higher wood fibre content; the type of processing used can affect paper density; and some paper processors use additives in the pulp to achieve different paper results.

Copier paper is found at the lower weight, around 60 GSM, envelopes and company-headed paper at 90-120 GSM. Business cards fall within the “board” end of the spectrum at around 400-450GSM. Posters are somewhere in the middle at about 170-200 GSM.

Printing Methods and Processes

The three main processing types in printing are offset lithographic printing, digital printing, and screen printing. The finish refers to the extra operations performed on the print product after the ink has been applied. The finishing operation can be carried out before the printing comes off the printing press (inline), although many are performed offline, when the product comes off the press.

There are several different types of paper for printing

Matte Coated and Gloss Coated Paper

Matte coated and gloss coated paper, like their paint counterparts, are descriptive names that need little explanation.

Glossy paper has a very high shine and feels smooth and tactile. Its reflective ability makes colour vivid and pop with vibrancy, making it the popular paper for leaflets and flyers, as well as magazine and brochure covers. Its smooth finish is also perfect for photography, because it allows for sharp image reproduction. Like other gloss surfaces, it can be prone to finger marks, however.

Matte paper is its opposite number, offering a soft, muted surface that reduces glare by subtly refracting light. It feels soft, and slightly textured to the touch, which means it’s easy to write on, unlike gloss. You would use matte coated paper for books and large copy-based print. It is ideal for displays in strong natural light conditions as well as a good choice for printed products in difficult dim lighting.

Silk Coated Paper

Silk coated paper is the middle ground, between gloss and matte coated papers. By binding silk fibres together, means it delivers the best of both worlds. It has a smooth, luxurious feel without shine, so is excellent for magazines and products in difficult light conditions.

Uncoated Paper

You would use uncoated paper to write on and non-commercial printing. Coated papers have a top coat of a protective polymer, which seals the ink, and provides some resistance against damage like stains and tears. That’s why writing on them is difficult, as the polymer repels the ink you use. Choosing uncoated paper allows ink to sink into the paper, although the lack of coating means it is less durable.

Carbon-balanced Paper

Sustainability needn’t cost the earth. For those businesses choosing printing products, using carbon balanced paper directly helps care for our planet, and allows you to offset carbon emissions from your office paper.

Unavoidable carbon emissions from the production and distribution of paper can be offset through the use of carbon balanced paper.  This funds the protection of forests around the world.

By choosing carbon balanced paper, you are demonstrating your commitment to make a positive impact on climate change and helping to address a critical threat to our living planet. You are becoming part of the solution.

Watermarked Paper

Watermarking is a popular way of representing quality service and forgery protection. Watermarked paper contains an identifying image that is only visible in certain lights by impressing a water-coated seal or stamp onto paper during the manufacturing process. In 1826, John Marshall invented the dandy roll, and revolutionised watermarking we see today.

Watermarks can be embossed, laid, or hammered in to the paper. Whichever watermarking process, the result is a premium print material that exudes class.

More than paper-thin Experience

That’s a lot of information, and it can be difficult to navigate the different types of paper for printing. That’s why we recommend you make use of the knowledge of an experienced print provider.

The Galloways family has been providing print services to the people of Manchester, and beyond, since 1870. Our friendly team hasn’t been here quite that long, but they are print and media specialists. Call us today on 01625 870000.

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