Stationery Basics: Paper

You’ve got a great design in mind for your next stationery project. But have you thought about which paper complements your design the most? We’ve broken down the basics of what to consider when choosing paper.

Weight:

Understanding the different terminology for paper weights can be confusing. We’ve broken down the complexities of paper weight to the essentials.

Before explaining the math behind paper weights, it is important to understand the difference between text and cover (or paper stock and card stock). Text paper is the run-of-the-mill paper you use for everyday printing, like letterheads and brochures. Cover, on the other hand, is a mixture of fibers and fillers that is much thicker than paper. If you are looking to print business cards, post cards, invitations, birth announcements, or personal stationery, look for cover.

In the US, paper weight – both text and cover – is measured by pounds. This weight has nothing to do with the individual sheet of paper but is the measurement of a ream, or 500 sheets, of that particular paper. Here comes the confusing part. This weight has nothing to do with thickness of paper. So a 80 lb text paper would not be anywhere near as thick as an 80 lb cover paper.

Another way to measure cover, or card stock, is to get the points of the paper. As opposed to weights, points measure the thickness of the paper and refer to the thickness of the sheet in thousandths of an inch. For example, a 10 pt. card is 0.010 inches thick.

So which numbers should you look for? As a general rule, for social event stationery, we suggest looking at weights of 80 – 110 lbs or 10 – 14 pt. thickness. If you are using a letterpress to print your stationery, you can go up to 130 lbs or 16 pt. thickness. The best way to determine paper weight is to ask your designer or paper store for paper swatches  to get a sense of actual paper thickness.

Finish:

There are many different types of paper finishes which can impact the design of your stationery. For example, a highly textured paper may make motifs stand out but it can also make small fonts hard to read.  Here are some common types of paper finishes:

  • Smooth: Possibly, the most common type of finish. A smooth paper will have a very clean look and feel.
  • Felt: A soft, felt-like texture that holds ink really well.
  • Cotton: Cotton paper is considered one of the most elegant papers. The card stock is usually thick and has a fabric-like texture to it. Great for using with letterpress printing.
  • Linen: Linen papers feel light in weight and have a pattern similar to linen fabric.

Eco-friendly:

If you are anything like us, then you would want to make sure that your stationery is as green as can be.  When looking for eco-friendly papers, you can choose recycled or FSC-certified. Recycled paper is made from some quantity of discarded paper that is repurposed again. The actual amounts of discarded paper in recycled paper can vary anywhere from 10 to 100 percent. However, there is no authority verifying the actual amounts of waste content in recycled paper.

FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council, an organization that sets strict standards  to assure that forests are managed responsibly. Any paper that is FSC-certified means that the paper was produced in a sustainable way  by protecting the habitat, preventing pollution, planting more trees, and protecting communities indigenous to the forest.

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