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Paper Matters: Commerical Printing Paper Selection Tips and Guidelines

Paper Selection Tips

You may not think that paper choice for your printing project doesn’t make a difference. In actuality, choosing the correct paper can make quite the difference. Your paper choice can significantly affect the look and feel of your finished product. However, often people are faced with an overwhelming number of paper products to choose from. That’s why choosing the right paper can be very confusing for many. There are hundreds of options available, and that can make it difficult to select the option you need.

Do you need assistance in choosing the correct paper for your print project? If so, check out our paper selection tips and guidelines. These are the questions and thoughts you should keep in mind the next time you are choosing paper for your project.


  • Ask to see swatch books so you can touch and feel the available variations.
  • For sharper images, choose coated or smooth papers.
  • If you want your images to appear welcoming and soft, use warm white papers.
  • It’s true; paper will yellow with age. However, acid-free papers don’t yellow as much as other papers.
  • If you want to produce high contrast images, choose brighter papers.
  • For the most natural-looking skin tones, choose true white papers.
  • Use high gloss paper for vivid colors and whiter whites.
  • To portray the feelings of quality and luxuriousness, use ultra thick paper to leave a lasting impression.
  • If you want to have an elegant and lavish effect, use metallic paper for a touch of sophistication.
  • White paper is usually cheaper than colored paper. But coated paper is not always more expensive than uncoated papers.
  • In regards to weight, the standard weight of a piece of paper is 20-24#. The standard weight for most business cards is 80-100#, and the standard for most posters is 24-28#.
  • Post-processing can and will affect the type of paper you can use.
  • Ask your local printing service for help. Due to experience, printers often have valuable insight, can recommend paper choices, and let you know what options are available. Asking for help can help you have a better end product, and possibly save some money.

Guidelines/Questions to Keep in Mind:

  • Will your project feature an illustration or have a colored background that will go across the whole paper? If you happen to have a color or design that will print to the edge of the paper, known as a full bleed, this will affect the type of paper you can use.
  • The choice of paper you use will reflect on your business’ character and persona. Also, the texture, weight, color, and how the paper folds and bends all reflect a personality. This reflection needs to match the ideals of the company or brand.
  • Do you want people to have the ability to write on the paper? If you are creating business cards, you want a potential contact to make notes, and most do this right on the business card. If you want people to be able to write on your finished product, use a non-coated stock. Another option would be to have a paper that has one coated side, and one non-coated side.
  • Think about the end usage of the project. Is this a business card, a postcard, or a stationery product? Do you need this print to be durable, or disposable because it is a flyer for a one-day event? Depending on the nature of your product, and what you intend for people to do with it needs to be considered when you are picking out the paper for your project.
  • Considering using recycled, environmentally-friendly paper. Using recycled and sustainable papers can say a lot about your company and its ideologies. Remember to include a notification stating the environmental attributes of your chosen paper.
  • Have a budget and keep your cost in mind throughout the process. You may have to shop around, make some sacrifices or rethink your strategy to meet your budget. Remember, your paper can average around 30% of your print project cost. So if you have a beer budget, stay away from the champagne.
  • Is the paper you want in stock, and if not, how long until it is received? Keep in mind your time limit, if you have one. Coated or white uncoated paper is usually the paper of choice for the majority of the print jobs, so those are almost always in stock. However, specialty papers might need to be specially ordered. Also, certain paper types are manufactured overseas, so make sure you keep your time limit in mind.
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