Understanding Paper Stocks for 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 as important as the design itself. But with all of the 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).

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 Stock Terms to Know

  • Coated Stock: Paper whose surface, prior to printing, has been applied with a coating that produces a glossy or silky finish. This type of stock is often shiny, and produces a glare when held up to the light.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • House Stock: Your printer’s preferred stock. House stock is typically 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Uncoated 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.
  • Weight: Paper weight refers to the relative thickness of a piece of paper. The heavier the paper, the thicker and more durable it is. (Check out this handy conversion chart)

If you’re 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 a hard proof before sending the whole job through the press, to make sure you’ve achieved the desired effect.

Top 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.
  • Ask for samples. Print is a highly tactile medium. Deciding between two (or more) stocks is easier when you can feel them for yourself.
  • Run proofs. Make sure that your paper stock and finish work together to achieve the desired effect.

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About Compu-Mail

Compu-Mail (www.compu-mail.com) provides end-to-end direct marketing and business printing services to companies across the U.S. and Canada. Headquartered in Grand Island, NY, Compu-Mail services include direct mail, email marketing, data driven marketing with database management, statement rendering, variable imaging, and digital retargeting. Compu-Mail can be reached at 800.255.0670 or marketing@compu-mail.com.
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