Choosing the Right Paper

Choosing the right paper stock and printing method are important steps in ensuring maximum effectiveness of printed materials. A well-designed and well-written piece can lose its impact if printed on the wrong paper.

The first step in choosing the best paper is to determine the use of the document.

  • Will it be handled often or passed around to multiple people?
  • Will the piece have a long usage period/shelf life?
  • Will the printing have heavy ink coverage?
  • Is it important that the photos appear rich and detailed?

The weight, finish, color, brightness and quality of the paper will be important considerations.

Weight: Text, writing and cover weight papers are classified by finish as well as weight. For our purposes here, there are three weight classifications for paper: writing, text and cover. Writing papers are generally reserved for letterhead and other stationery. Both text and cover come in several weights within the classifications. The designer or print vendor can help determine what is the appropriate weight for the piece being printed. 

Finish: There are literally hundreds of finishes available from paper manufacturers. They generally fall into two categories: coated and uncoated.

Coated paper has a surface coating allowing maximum coverage of ink and holdout in the printing process. Most brochures and documents with large areas of color or high-quality photos/images are printed on coated paper. Coated paper can be either coated on one side only (C1S) or coated on both sides (C2S). Coated sheets are available in a variety of finishes such as silk, dull, matte and gloss among others. Writing with pen or ink on a coated paper can cause problems so it is best to choose uncoated stock on the side that will require writing. For example: if you are printing a postcard and you would like the recipient to fill in information on one side and mail it back, you will want to choose C1S stock – meaning it is coated only on one side. That way the writing can be done on the uncoated side of the sheet of paper.

Uncoated paper is sometimes referred to as offset. These are produced with no surface coating. They can have a variety of surface textures such as smooth, vellum, laid, linen, felt, etc. Uncoated paper provides a great deal of flexibility and variation in the look and feel of a document.

Laser-compatible paper refers to stocks that have very low moisture content allowing sheets to run through an office laser printer without curling or otherwise affecting the quality. Generally, writing papers are laser-compatible. When choosing laser paper it is also important to print with laser-compatible inks. When starting a project, let the designer know that the final printed materials will be running through a laser printer.

There is a vast amount of information available regarding paper and printing. Marketing and Creative Services can assist and provide other resources in order to make the right choices for the project.

Paper Sizes
Paper comes in all sizes. Below is a list of the most commonly used sizes
Name (size in inches)
Monarch  (7-1/4 x 10-1/2)
Executive  (5-1/2  x 8-1/2)
Statement  (4-1/4 x 5-1/2)
Letter  (8-1/2 x 11)
Legal  (8-1/2 x 14)
Ledger  (11 x 17)

Envelope Sizes (partial list of the most common envelopes)

Commercial/Office
Name  (Size)
6-1/4  (3-1/2" x 6")
6-3/4  (3-5/8" x 6-1/2")
7-3/4  (3-7/8" x 7-1/2")
8  (3-7/8" x 7-1/2")
8-5/8  (3-5/8" x 8-5/8")
9  (3-7/8" x 8-7/8")
10*  (4-1/8" x 9-1/2")
11  (4-1/2" x 10-3/8")
12  (4-3/4" x 11")
14  (5" x 11-1/2")
* #10 envelope is your standard envelope for a folder 8-1/2 x 11 letter.

Announcement
Name  Size
A-2  (4-3/8" x 5-3/4")
A-4   (4-3/4" x 6-1/2")
A-7   (5-1/4" x 7-1/4")
A-8   (5-1/2" x 8-1/8")
A-10   (6" x 9-1/2")
Slim   (3-7/8" x 8-7/8")

Booklet
Name   (Size)
3   (4-3/4" x 6-1/2")
5   (5-1/2" x 8-1/2")
6   (5-3/4" x 8-7/8")
6-1/2   (6" x 9")
7   (6-1/4" x 9-5/8")
7-1/2   (7-1/2" x 10-1/2")
9   (8-3/4" x 11-1/2")
9-1/2   (9" x 12")
10   (9-1/2" x 12-5/8")
13   (10" x 13")

Catalog
Name   (Size)
1   (6" x 9")
1-3/4   (6-1/2" x 9-1/2")
2   (6-1/2" x 10")
3   (7" x 10")
6   (7-1/2" x 10-1/2")
7   (8" x 11")
8   (8-1/4" x 11-1/4")
9-1/2   (8-1/2" x 10-1/2")
9-3/4   (8-3/4" x 11-1/4")
10-1/2   (9" x 12")
12-1/2   (9-1/2" x 12-1/2")
13-1/2   (10" x 13")
14-1/4   (11-1/4" x 14-1/4")
14-1/2   (11-1/2" x 14-1/2")

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 Last Modified 2/27/12