We know paper specs can be confusing. It’s okay to admit it. Choosing the right paper for your print job is important. It will affect the look-and-feel of your piece, how much it will cost, and how long it will take to produce. In this month’s email, we thought we’d tackle some often misunderstood paper terminology.

Basis weight vs. caliper:

Basis weightA paper’s basis weight is a measure of it’s density. It is expressed in pounds and is derived from the weight of a ream, usually 500 sheets. Depending on the type of paper (e.g. bond, text, cover) the sheet size being measured will differ. 80# text is the weight of 500 sheets trimmed to 25″ x 38″. By contrast, a paper’s caliper is a measurement of its thickness. In the US, caliper is usually measured in “mils” wherein 1 mil = 0.001 inch. Caliper is important to the post office and the packaging industry.

Coated vs. uncoated:

Coated vs. UncoatedWe regularly hear customers spec a matte stock when what they really want is an uncoated sheet. All papers start out uncoated with visible fibers and texture. Dull, matte, silk, velvet, and gloss sheets are then covered with a clay coating that fills the voids between the fibers. It is then buffed and polished to achieve the desired finish. Inks will “hold out” better on a coated sheet (meaning they sit on top of the coating rather than soaking into the fiber) providing for crisper images and brighter hues.

Surface / texture:

In the uncoated paper realm, there are a quite a few options for texture – smooth and vellum finishes being the most popular. You may also see linen, laid, stipple, felt, eggshell, and cockle to name just a few. The smoother and harder the finish, the closer it will perform to a coated sheet on press.

A note on mill orders:

Check with us to see about special substrate availablityWe order our paper from 4 or 5 different wholesalers. It is important to remember that a paper’s price and availability are determined by it’s popularity. The less commonly used papers are likely to be more expensive and may not be stocked locally. Before you spec that super-cool purple paper with the stipple finish for the rush job, you might check to see if it is a mill order item. If it is, it may be a week or two out. You may also be required to order a minimum quantity.

If you ever have any paper questions or would like samples for an upcoming project, please give us a call!