Rock, Paper, Scissors

Leave nothing to chance when choosing the right paper for the job.

Paper is many things to many people. And, for those tasked with paper-buying decisions, matching the right paper to the right job requires both big-picture vision and an eye for the smallest detail.

“The end buyer has no idea what goes into producing their product,” says Ray Holzschuh, a global estimator at The F.P. Horak Company in Bay City, Michigan, who helps customers navigate the countless finishing, paper type, and paper weight decisions of any given print job.

From thickness for mailing specs and proper grain direction for folding to newer finishing treatments that can encapsulate smell into a varnish, Holzschuh says, “I try to assault all of their (an end customer’s) senses: the touch, the look, the feel, and the smell,” when making paper recommendations that fit within a budget.

Paper, after all, has the unique ability to influence people’s perceptions long before a single word is printed. Take, for example, book publishing.

“Publishers make decisions first and foremost based on the value the consumer sees in the book, which is why the whole book publishing line of papers is about bulk, is about thickness,” says Karen Ehman, a key account manager with Glatfelter. And, the converse can also be true. Wordy books go on thinner paper so as not to intimidate readers with their size.

For any final product, making the right paper choice is one decision best not left to chance.

13 Things to Consider When Picking Paper

  1. What is the end use?
  2. For how long would you like it to be used? 
  3. What printing process are you using? 
  4. What is the quantity?
  5. Do you require recycled or FSC-certified paper?
  6. What color do you need? If white, what shade?
  7. Will the same paper be needed for multiple projects over time?
  8. Do you have images or heavy ink coverage?
  9. Do you need to protect with a coating? 
  10. Do you require special effects or special finishing?
  11. Will the weight of the paper impact postage or shipping costs?
  12. Can you get matching off-the-shelf envelopes, or do you need to convert them if needed?
  13. Do you have time in your schedule for specialty paper, or to wait for a mill item if necessary?

Source: “A Few Quick Tips for Choosing the Best Paper for Your Printing,”