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The designer’s guide to choosing the right paper stock

choosing the right paper stock

Don't sell your work short with unsuitable stock - here's our 10-point guide to picking perfect paper.

You can create the most beautifully designed piece of work but it it's printed on lavatory paper then your time and effort will be wasted. Okay, that's quite an extreme example but you get the point - your printed product suffers if you don't pay particular attention to paper stock. So here is a bunch of tips that will help you on your way.

01. Use your senses

Paper stock is the most tactile thing you have in your arsenal to communicate your design and create personality. Paper stock is something you can feel and even smell, and that can help amplify your message.

02. Sample books

Keep sample books around; try to order as many samples as possible. All too often they are lost, but they are so useful to have around for when you’re talking about an idea. It can really help to be able to look through a selection and find a reference for what you’ve got in mind.

03. Consult your printer

Ask your printer for advice early on – they know what works and they want the job to go well. They can often flag up particular behavioural aspects of specific stock (for example, if it doesn’t work well with foil or behaves in a particular way when ink goes onto it) and might be able to recommend something that’s similar, but cheaper.

04. Early research

Do your research before going ahead with production. Run tests in the studio and check that your chosen stock actually works at the right size and colour, as you’ll often find that looking at a small swatch can be quite different to what you see when you get a big sheet in.

05. Convince clients

If you’re relying on using a particular choice of stock, it’s better to engage the client sooner rather than later. If they buy into it, it makes everything easier and the whole process much simpler. If it’s not essential and more of a nicety, it might be the first thing the client pushes back on.

06. Build relationships

Get to know paper companies and their products. When you’re working to meet your client’s needs and budget, it helps if you have a good connection with paper companies and know if there are cheaper papers out there that will do the trick.

07. Informed choice

From a client’s perspective, the design isn’t necessarily going to change if it goes on cheaper stock – it still looks the same. So if you believe the client should invest in more expensive stock, you need to be clear about the benefits to convince them.

08. Eco issues

There are lots of mixed messages regarding recycled stock and green considerations. Post-consumer waste is the best way to go, as you’re not using a lot of transport or chemicals. People also get upset by seeing paper used excessively or pointlessly, and it can reflect negatively on your clients if their paper choice seems exuberant.

09. Appropriate weight

Different weights communicate different messages. Does the design need to feel thick or thin? Consider what the weight says about it, and think about its intended purpose: a letterhead needs to run through a printer, while thicker stock can make a business card seem more expensive.

10. Value of print

People often find it cheaper and more environmentally friendly to do things in a digital format. However, remember the value of print: the right paper stock can really deliver a message. Be mindful of these factors when using print and consider how the end user will perceive it.

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