Imagine the scenario: You’ve got a custom poster print campaign all lined up and your design looks great. You’ve studied your target audience and where you want to distribute your flyers and hang up your posters to bring in the most customers. You’re getting good feedback from the people you’ve showed the posters to and now it’s time to make a few hundred copies and get your event or business’s name out there. So what kind of paper do you want to print on? Should you use a gloss finish or a matte finish? Blue back paper or non blue back paper? Recycled or non-recycled? What about offset or non-offset? All of these factors and more can play a big part to whether your business gets noticed or not. The most expensive option isn’t always the best one either. Knowing some of the differences and what kind of effect each possibility will create for your posters and campaigns is the best way to know which type of paper and what paper quality is right for your ad campaign.
Choosing the right type of paper and finish can be difficult but it tells your potential clients about your business and attention to detail. It’s a good idea to decide early about paper quality for your campaign because you can create entirely different looks and feels with different types of paper and finishes. If you choose the type of paper you want first you can also maximize the time and effort you put into other parts of the design and planning process. Posters are cheap to make. Have you ever seen posters recently hung up around town that just fall apart after one night of weather? Customers notice this too. Flimsy posters that fall apart after a few days reflect on what your business thinks about quality. Bulk poster printing has become so inexpensive that you don’t have to worry about sacrificing quality for quantity anymore if you know what kind of paper you really need.
Coated finish? Or uncoated finish?
A coated finish vs an uncoated finish can be what makes or breaks your print media design because of how big the effect is for the viewer. For reference, you probably have some uncoated paper laying around your house; uncoated finishes can be like what you see on book pages (not the cover), newspaper pages, the normal paper in your printer. This type of paper seems a bit basic and bland but it can give you the desired effect you’re going for and can often save you money with bulk flyer printing. Coated paper on the other hand is used often for glossy magazine covers, photography paper, posters that you have hanging in your room or office. Uncoated paper has a rougher and more papery feel to it while coated paper can reflect light and seem almost like the paper is waxy or like plastic. The simple difference in feel happens because of the paper quality; with uncoated finishes, the inks get absorbed by the paper. Sometimes, this can seem like the traditional option but it is also a smarter option if your poster, flyer, or print media has a lot of text that you want the viewer to see and read clearly. With coated finishes, the inks stay on top of the paper and only get absorbed lightly. The ink then is concentrated all on the top layer closest to the eye and can be better for bright colors to attract the viewers eyes.
Gloss or matte finish?
Gloss or matte finish applies to coated finishes which is to say that uncoated finishes cannot have gloss or matte finishes. Matte paper is much smoother and less shiny than glossy paper. In poster printing, a matte finish would be best when you don’t really have too many necessary vibrant colors or if the feel you are going for in your design isn’t very “flashy”. Glossy finishes are usually found on paper that needs a lot of vibrant colors to catch the eyes of the viewer (think movie posters) or if you have an image that needs to be very high quality to make sure all your colors stand out. A good example of a glossy finish on one side with an uncoated finish on the other is postcards. On one side, you have a great image but it can be difficult to write on. On the other side there’s blank space with an uncoated finish. Try rubbing your fingers on the different sides of a postcard to see the difference between a glossy and uncoated finish.
Paper thickness(12pt vs 14pt vs 16pt vs 18pt etc…)
When deciding on paper quality, businesses are often asked for what pt they would like. Think of pt as paper thickness. 20pt is thicker than 12 pt. In simple terms, the numbers mean how many hundredths of an inch the paper is thick; 10pt is 10 hundredths of an inch thick, or .01 inches thick. 20pt is .02 inches thick or twice as thick as 10pt paper. If you have a stack of business cards you’ve collected you can tell which cards are thicker and which are thinner. The ones with lower pt are flimsier and thinner than the higher pt cards. If you are printing your own business cards, think about how you want people to see your business. Someone in the arts might be able to get by with low pt business cards but often an engineer or consultant wants to transmit that they are reliable and responsible. Brochures can also be printed on different pt’s and give similar feels to potential customers.
Weight of paper
Paper is usually weighed per 500 uncut sheets. So if 500 uncut sheets of paper weigh 100 pounds, then the paper is called a 100 lb stock, if 500 uncut sheets weigh 50 lbs, then the paper is called a 50 lb stock. It seems easy but weight of paper gets more complicated when you factor in its paper type. There are three common types of paper stock: bond, text (also known as offset or book) and cover. An uncut sheet of text stock paper is 25×38 inches. This is the size the paper weight relies on. Let’s say we have 500 uncut sheets of text stock paper that weighs 80 lbs and we want to cut it down to 18×24. It will still be labeled as 80 lb paper, even though you now have 1,000 sheets in smaller sizes. As another example, the calculation base for cover paper is 20×26 inches; assuming that 500 sheets of this size weighs 100 lbs, we’d call this paper a 100 lbs cover stock, no matter what size our final print product has. Because of the different base sizes used for the calculation and naming, we’re experiencing odd situations like a 100 lbs. cover stock paper being much heavier and thicker than a 140 lbs. text stock paper. Paper weight can be confusing and we have to know about the size of the uncut paper to make the right calculation. Feel free to contact us with any questions about weight and we’d love to help you and your business.
Stock (cover vs text)
Another thing you’ll often see next to the weight is the word “cover” or “text” and this refers to the stock. Cover stock refers to paper used on covers, which is thicker, and text stock would be thinner and easier to fold, similar to how it is easier to fold the pages of a book as opposed to the cover. So when deciding on paper, don’t be confused if you see “120 lb text stock”, it just means that that paper weighs 120 lbs per 500 sheets and is easier to fold and carry around than cover stock would be. Most bulk poster printing is done on X lb text paper. A good example of a poster that is done of X lb cover paper would be if you have any posters hanging in your house that are unusually thick, almost like cardboard, and difficult to fold.
Blue back or non-blue back posters?
When ordering bulk posters, businesses are often asked if they would like “blue back poster paper”. Like the name says, blue back posters have blue on the backside of them. Sometimes, a company will put a lot of resources and time into creating the perfectly designed poster but when they put them up, what is behind the poster often seeps through and the viewer is now looking at the new poster and the poster that was there before it was. The blue back poster is a special printing paper that on the backside has an opaque blue color that prevents the image behind it to seep through. Blue back posters are made especially for the outdoors where they will have to deal with the elements while non-blue back posters and all other stocks are suitable for indoor use only. Posters with blue backs last longer, look better, and get your message across more clearly. It’s now become a standard for many companies to use blue back posters because of the small investment that can avoid future headaches.
Questions to ask yourself about paper quality
There are other factors that affect image quality and cost beyond paper quality and type. Take a look at one of the most important features when it comes to printing cheap posters and flyers in our article about the differences between offset and digital printing. If you have a great design and still need some guidance in deciding on paper type, you can always contact us anytime with questions.