Home > Help


Choose the Right Paper & Ink

Choosing the Right Paper

Paper grade defines paper in terms of its use. Each grade serves a purpose, usually suggested by its grade name. Below are some of the most common classifications of printing papers.

  • Bond papers are commonly used for letters and business forms. They have surfaces which accept ink readily from a pen or typewriter and can be easily erased.
  • Coated papers are used when high printing quality is desired because of its greater surface smoothness and uniform ink receptivity. There are many kinds: cast coated, gloss coated, dull coated, machine coated, coated one- and two-sides, etc.
  • Texture papers are noted for their interesting textures and attractive colors. They enjoy frequent use for announcements, booklets and brochures.
  • Offset papers are considered the most economical printing papers. Offset papers may be used for directories, newsletters, books, direct mail pieces with only a few photographs, and other printing products requiring average quality.
  • Cover papers complement coated and text papers in heavier weights and matching colors for use as covers on booklets, etc. Papers are also made for cover purposes only. Many special surface textures are available. Special characteristics of cover pages include dimensional stability, durability, uniform printing surface, good scoring, folding, embossing and die-cutting qualities. It is a useful rule of thumb that cover stock of the same basis weight as text paper has about twice the thickness.
  • Index papers have two outstanding characteristics—stiffness and receptivity to writing ink. Index is commonly used whenever an inexpensive stiff paper is required.
  • Tag is a heavy utility sheet. Tag board is sometimes tinted and colored on one or both sides. Tag stock has good bending or folding qualities, and a surface adaptable to printing, stamping, or writing.
  • Bristol is one of the board grades, with a softer surface than index or tag, making it ideal for high-speed folding, embossing, or stamping. It is very receptive to ink and has good snap and resilience.

If your printing project includes envelopes, there are many styles to choose from.

  • Commercial envelopes are used for business correspondence, either surface or airmail, and are available in all standard sizes.
  • Window envelopes are used primarily for statements, dividends and invoices. The window saves time and prevents an element of error by eliminating typing of an extra address. Window envelopes are made in all sizes and styles, from many types of paper.
  • Self-Sealing envelops have latex adhesive on upper and lower flaps that seal instantly without moisture when the flaps come together. These envelopes are a time saver in handling.
  • Booklet, Open-Side envelopes are ideal for direct mail. A concealed seam lends itself to overall printing in front and back.
  • Baronial envelopes are a more formal open-side envelope with a deep, pointed flap. They are often used for invitations, greeting cards, announcements, etc.
  • Clasp envelopes are sturdy and widely used for mailing bulky papers. Metal clasps are smooth and burrless. This type of envelope may be opened and closed many times.
  • Open-End envelopes are used for mailing catalogs, reports, booklets and magazines. Wide seams and heavy gummed flaps ensure maximum protection under rough handling conditions.


Choosing the Right Ink

Choosing the right ink combinations can have a dramatic effect on your finished product. Use this handy ink guide to help you make the correct ink selection.

  • Black ink, as you might expect, is the most common and least expensive ink.
  • Spot colors and tints are printed with premixed inks. You can choose from among thousands of different spot-color inks. A spot color printed at 100% is a solid color and has no dot pattern. A tint is a lightened spot or process color and is created by printing smaller halftone dots of the base color.
  • Process colors are reproduced by printing overlapping dots (halftone screens) of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) inks. Since CMYK inks are translucent, they absorb some colors and reflect others. To create blue, for example, you combine cyan dots and magenta dots. Your eyes merge the cyan and magenta dots to perceive the color blue. Process (CMYK) printing gives us the ability to simulate photographic images using just four basic ink colors.
  • Metallic inks use metallic powders to give a pleasing metallic luster. Metallic inks can often add an extra sparkle or touch of class to your printing project.
  • Magnetic inks were developed to increase the speed and efficiency of handling bank checks. These inks are made with pigments which can be magnetized after printing, and the printed characters are later “recognized” by electronic reading equipment.
  • Fluorescent inks are naturally bright inks. They are used for jobs of a semi-permanent nature, such as labeling, packaging and direct mail.
  • Varnish is used as a coating over printing to protect the printing and increase gloss.

Here are some guidelines for specifying colors.

Use spot colors when

  • You need three or fewer colors and you will not be reproducing process-color photographs.
  • You want the limited color variety you get from one or two-spot colors and tints of those colors.
  • You want to print varnishes or special inks, such as metallic or fluorescent spot inks.
  • You want to print logos or other graphic elements that require precise color matching.

Use process colors when

  • You need more than three colors in your design. In general, printing with process inks costs less than printing with three or more spot inks.
  • You want to reproduce scanned color photographs or color artwork that can only be reproduced with process colors.