Paper Choices Can Make Or Break Your Budget And Quality In Commercial Printing
Choosing the right paper is essential to controlling your costs as well as the final outcome of your magazine, book or catalog. If you consider that on an average web printing press, paper can be fifty percent of your cost. With respect to impact choosing the right paper will also have an effect on the end user. Let’s take a look at how these all come into play and hopefully you will be able to make the wisest choices possible whether you are printing magazines or posters.
With magazine printing weight becomes a very important item. This is primarily due to the fact that magazine printing costs are very much driven by paper costs and as paper is approximately one half of the cost of printing magazines, this is a cost you would want to control. Paper weights at the biggest presses can run as low as 32# text weight, but you better be prepared to run huge quantities as your magazine printer will not be willing to buy truckloads of paper for anything less. Occasionally you may find some of the mid-sized web printers having access to 36-38#, but that still is not the norm. The lightest coated papers that web printing presses usually stock are 40# text, but more frequently 45#. Another reason for considering lighter stocks are the postage costs when you print a magazine for mailing, as the cost of postage will vary depending on the weight of the finished product. Also , if you desire a separate cover, which is not economical, but can be used for effect, such as perfect binding or adding UV, I usually recommend 100# text rather than going with the more costly cover weights.
The other factor in deciding on which stock is the understanding your magazine readership. In other words if your niche is similar to Tiffany, you may want to appear more luxurious and utilize heavier weights, starting with 70# text. You may also want to consider dull coated vs. gloss for an effect, especially if you are “hitting” the images with a gloss varnish. Uncoated stocks are generally not used, unless again for effect, although I prefer dull coated due to the similar look yet the crisper images due to its coating which allows the ink to sit on top, for a richer magazine look.
The paper stocks in book printing are somewhat limited in that if it is a standard commercial soft cover book, the usual is 50# or 60# uncoated offset. A nice money savings idea is the 45# alt offset, which is the highest grade of recycled newsprint in that it looks exceptionally similar to standard offset book printing paper stocks. Most of the better book printers will not use regular newsprint due to demand and the extra dust it causes on the book printing press. Text books may require a heavier stock due to the continual usage and 70# is fairly standard. When you move up to 80# you will find little if any available on rolls for web printing which is the printing press of choice and economics for printing books.
Color book printing on the other hand, assuming it has a lot of image content, does better with the coated stocks as similar to magazines and the usual weights for usage and economics would be 60, 70 or 80# coated stock and the final choice will be based on usage and cost as you buy paper by the pound.
Catalog printing produces a product that usually is utilized like a text book, over and over as a reference guide unless you are sending one out via direct mail marketing in order to prospect for new business, where you may want lighter weights due to postage, the repeated usage via thumbing through the catalog calls for paper stock that will hold up to the wear over time and the recommended stock would be 70 or 80# as opposed to a direct mail one where your catalog printer may recommend 60# due to the postage again. Another factor as with a magazine is how luxurious is your widget? You would go up in weight for that luxury feel, but if you are selling “tchotchkes”, as my grandmother would say (cheap stuff), you may be better served with a 40 or 45# coated or even a 45# alt offset. I will add here that all coated stocks from 70# and up are usually a grade three and up, being brighter and more opaque, while the 40-45# usually come with ground wood, which would be grades 4 or 5 depending on more or less of it.
Most posters are usually done by a poster printer with a sheet fed press as very few web printers have a “sheeter”, which can trim the roll at its end in and not fold the poster inline as if it were a press signature for a book or magazine. This also can allow for heavier stocks as a sheet fed printing press can run heavier stocks and have more choices including the high end colored papers that do not come in rolls for web printing. The one thing about a poster is that it is large, so I never recommend thinner stocks as they can tear with handling or crease when rolling the posters. I suggest you always ask you poster printer for 100# gloss or dull text weight stock as it will allow you to handle the poster with less chance of damage.
Calendar printers will offer you choices based on usage. Some calendars will be written on by the end user a lot so that a dull text is best for calendar printing for that type of use as it is easier to write on. Most calendar printing utilizes gloss text and what is important to know here is that if a self calendar, where all pages are printed as one 28 page form on the same paper stock, once hanging a single page needs to be able to support the weight of the entire calendar. Therefore it is considered standard to utilize 100# coated text and not anything lighter as it will rip through the nail that the calendar hangs on. If you require a heavier separate cover, you can use the 100# coated or heavier cover weights and then drop the inside weight for your calendar to 70 or 80# coated paper.
Presentation folders will almost always run on a sheet fed press and you can choose from coated to offset uncoated stocks including many of the fancier custom papers from Neenah or Strathmore for whatever effect you seek. The one guiding factor in presentation folder printing is weight, as you will want something sturdy, especially if you are printing presentation folders with “capacity” pockets and spine. These are pocket folders that have a double die score and usually allow for a minimum of an eighth of an inch in the depth of the pocket rather than just being folded up and glued from the bottom as it allows you to stuff in more items. A good minimum for a regular folder is 12 pt, but if capacity I would recommend 14.
To summarize, paper can make or break your commercial printing project. It can make it look luxurious or pedestrian. It can make your magazine printing costs excessive or affordable, so the knowledge of what are both appropriate for commercial printing, your wallet and the end user is an important issue to deal with. It can make all of the difference whether you have a successful project or not.
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