The Wild, Wacky World of … PAPER! 

I won’t call this article EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PAPER BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK, because a humble article is no place to discuss everything there is to know about paper. That would take a book. Or an encyclopedia.

Paper can be described by its characteristics.

First, there is weight. This is usually expressed either as gsms (grams per square meter) or pounds. On any ream-wrapped paper, you will normally find both measurements.

Second, paper is described by its grade. Some different grades include bond, text, cover, coated, offset and label.

Third, white paper has a particular brightness, normally measured on a 100 scale, with the higher number meaning the paper is brighter (the more light it reflects).

Fourth, paper has a “grain,” or the direction in which most of its fibers lie. You can test grain direction by folding…if you get a smooth fold, then THAT is the direction of the grain.

Fifth, paper has an opacity level, or how much “show through” there is when printing on both sides of a sheet. Normally, the heavier the paper, the more opaque it is.

The type of paper you select for a job depends on several factors. What is the purpose of the piece? Will it mail, and thus need a specific weight required by the post office? Will it be handed out and thus be subject to fingerprints? Is there a suggested paper to use by your corporate marketing department? Is there a mandate to use recycled paper? How long does your piece need to last? What is the budget for the piece? Will the piece fold, or have any other type of finishing? How large is the piece? How quickly is the piece needed?

Paper has a heart and soul, you’d do well to remember that when working with paper. At our Baltimore Printing Shop, we have a saying: BE ONE WITH THE PAPER.

If you respect the paper, it will do what you want (and you may get fewer paper cuts!).

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By: Paula Fargo

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