Common Papers for Common Printing Jobs

25 Aug

Last week’s blog, Paper Stocks for Printing, talked about some of the factors to consider when discussing paper stocks with your printer. I suspect, however, that many of you thought, “But I still don’t know what kind of paper to use,” after reading it. Hopefully this article will help.  We’ll discuss common types of printing jobs and papers frequently used for these jobs. Keep in mind, however, that paper choices are to a large degree a matter of preference. You may have a specific look or feel that you want for a job and, if so, these suggestions may not be good choices for you.

Business Stationery

We talked about various grades of stock last week. Letterhead and letters are usually printed on a grade called bond (also called writing). These papers come in a variety of colors, weights, and finishes. The most common weight for letterhead is 24#, but bond also frequently comes in 20# (typical copy paper), and 28#. Business cards are usually printed on a cover stock in order to provide the thickness and rigidity necessary for repeated handling. Color choices are many, and 80# or 100# cover weight stocks are good choices for business cards.


In order to meet postal regulations, postcards must be a caliper of at least 7 pt. thick. Most stocks of that thickness will fall into the cover grade. Postcards are printed in a variety of sizes and color configurations. The color configuration will most likely determine the type of paper used. If the postcard is to be printed in color on both sides of the sheet, you may want to look at a sheet which is coated on both sides such as an 80# coated cover. If the postcard has color printing on one side, and black printing on the other side, a more economical option may be a Coated 1 Side (C1s) option such as 8 pt. C1s or 10 pt. C1s.


Most brochures are printed in 4-color process and are designed to be eye-catching. For this reason, coated stocks work great for brochures. Images and photographs print sharper and more colorfully on coated stocks than on other kinds of stocks. Common weights of stock for brochures are 70#, 80# and, occasionally, 100# text. It’s important to keep grain in mind as most brochures fold, so ask your printer to figure the paper so that the folds are with the grain and not against it. Highly calendared offset stocks such as Hammermill and other digitally-based types of stock also work well for brochures.

Books & Booklets

Books and Booklets can be broken down into cover and body stocks. Once again, color configuration is the biggest factor in deciding on  paper stocks for these projects. For covers printed in color, cover stocks are usually either coated one side or coated both sides depending on whether the color is only on the outside of the cover or if it is on both the outside and the inside. Weights for cover stocks are usually in the 80# or 100# range. Simpler covers containing text or black and white images are often printed on a colored cover stock in order to make the cover more appealing.

The body of the book is usually printed on either offset or coated text weight stocks. While coated stocks are great for images and color, the paper is usually heavier and the sheen may make reading a lot of text less desirable. Books for reading are usually printed on offset stock.

Grain is also an important consideration when choosing stocks for books and booklets. Both the cover and the body should be printed on paper with a grain which runs parallel to the binding edge. This not only creates a more durable binding but makes for a nicer looking piece.

Hopefully this helps narrow down the choices a little when you consider which papers to use. Even with these suggestions, there are still a lot of brands, colors and finishes to choose from. All printers have swatch books so don’t hesitate to ask to see samples of a variety of selections. It’s important to let your printer know your primary considerations, however, such as grain, budget,and suitableness for mailing so that they can point you to the right stocks for the piece.


2 Responses to “Common Papers for Common Printing Jobs”

  1. Otis March 15, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    It’s funny how just by reading an article like this one you learn things that you never thought of, there is a all science behind printing and paper, it’s good to know and learn new things.
    I must say that in my opinion with the advent of computers and tablets and what we could call “digital reading” paper printing will slowly die down, and in my opinion this is a good thing because as we all know we must shift towards a greener way of doing things, what’s your opinion on that?
    Anyhow, thanks for the teachings today.
    Kind Regards,

  2. MEDIASCOPE, INC March 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Thanks, Otis. Printing is definitely changing but the jury is still out as to what exactly that means. For sure, the days of printing hundreds of thousands of pieces for inventory are gone. We have seen, however, an increase in printing which uses variable data to personalize the content to the reader. It is an exciting blend of print and marketing.

    Personally, I’m curious to see what happens to the printed book market. So far, most people still prefer reading from a book over reading from a screen. I wonder what will happen over time.

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