Paper is a complex and multi-faceted medium to work with. It’s no wonder that so many people are unfamiliar with the most basic types of paper. When placing an order with your printer, start at the end: What is your project going to be used for?
Traditionally, post cards, invitations and high-end brochures go on thicker stock while sales sheets, catalogs and hand-outs mostly to lighter, thinner papers. From there it’s good to know if you want a skinny paper, glossy or a matte paper, uncoated or dull coated.
At the very beginning of the ordering process communicate your desires with your printer. It can help to break down what you want into thick or thin, glossy or matte.
Coated paper has a finish on one or both sides; this can be dull, silk or gloss card stock or cover. To further complicate matters card stock can be coated on 2 sides (c2s) or only coated on one (c1s). Cover paper and card stock can be the same thickness and similar finishes, but the difference between them is that generally cover stock is a finer, smoother brighter version of card stock and more expensive.
Uncoated paper has as many variations as coated paper with smooth, vellum and felt options available in off-white, natural and warm white. The main difference between coated and uncoated varieties is how the ink is absorbed into the sheet. On coated paper the ink sits on top of the sheet and gives your printed product a vibrant finish. Most printed material is printed on coated paper.
Uncoated paper is used for letterhead, forms and material on which you will need to write. Many people prefer the look and feel of uncoated paper. Uncoated paper absorbs ink into the sheet producing a softer, dull look. The choice is entirely yours to make.
From there you have the option to go green by using paper that is manufactured from recycled paper. As the demand for more sustainable options increases paper mills are offering many papers that contain at least 10% recycled content. Many mills now have 30-100% recycled content products available. There are also a few green organizations that certify paper as being cut from managed forests versus clear cutting. Leading the way is the Forest Stewardship Council™.
In order to use the FSC® logo, showing that your paper has been produced in an environmentally-friendly manner, the product must have flowed through the FSC “chain-of-custody.” This process takes material from an FSC certified forest to a paper mill, merchant, and finally the printer, all who have followed FSC chain-of-custody certification policies.
By specifying coated vs. uncoated and matte vs. dull finishes, you will be able to get the paper you want. Your local printer will be able to send you stock samples if you need more help making decisions.