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The Art of Paper Selection

The Art of Paper Selection

The paper you choose for your project defines the overall experience of your printed piece. Selecting the right paper can make the difference between an ordinary result or an extraordinary experience with your brand. It is even recommended that you choose the paper before you start the design process because different types of paper will require the design to be altered for best results.

Selecting the right paper can mean the difference between an ordinary result or an extraordinary experience with your brand.

The decisions you make are based on what result you are looking for. Working with uncoated stocks can create an effect that has warmth. The texture, reminiscent of handmade paper, diffuses the inks to create an effect that has a natural feel. According to Mohawks Paper Basics Guide, “Paper plays into the overall look of a piece. It can be slick or silky, loud or understated. It can have eye-popping gloss or an honest, authentic appeal.”

Slick and smoothly coated papers offer a different message to the end user. Working with blue-white shades and superb brightness create contrast, illuminate highlights and emphasize reflections. This means incredible vibrancy and color renditions that make artwork and photography the center of attention. Check out Sappi’s HannoArt.

Here are some of the qualities of paper to consider in your selection process:

Texture or Finish

Different paper finishes can fall into two basic categories: smooth or textured. There are different smooth finishes and there are different textured finishes, each with their own unique production methods and ideal uses. In recent years we have seen the rise of designers selecting both vellum and translucent finishes. Vellums have a strong tactile feel and offer great versatility in print design. The elegance of a translucent finish can add a quality of mystique to a printed piece like no other finish.

Touch has the power to shift the brain into deeper levels of engagement. Sappi has done some exclusive studies that show the true value of touch and texture in print media. Check out this video for more information.

Many Shades of White

White is by far the most popular color chosen for printing projects. Not all white paper is the same, however. White can mean many things, running the gamut from soft white to antique white to a cold blue-white. Choose the “whiteness” that provides the best appearance and contrast between light and dark images and the whiteness of the paper. Off-white sheets produce less glare and are best used for publications that demand long and uninterrupted attention from readers.


The opacity of paper is the “show through” of paper; how much printing shows through from the other side. High opacity shows less printing on subsequent pages, thus enhancing readability. Opacity increases with the bulk and weight of paper and is influenced by numerous other factors including paper color, ink color, coatings, chemicals, and coverage.


The brightness of paper is the percentage of light that the paper reflects. Brightness and color are not the same things, and brightness and whiteness are not the same things. Color and whiteness can both be subjective, but the brightness of paper is a measurable attribute. Brightness is important because it affects readability. Be careful of high brightness that may cause eyestrain or brightness that is too low and produces a blurring effect.


Mixing and matching with paper color has never been so accessible; the varieties, shades, and hues are endless. Color is powerful and can create impact or subtly, variety or repetition, loud or soft flavors. The variety of color in printing can make any design refreshing and relevant. To amp up your inspiration, check out Mohawk’s Maker Quarterly.

Sandy Alexander has experts ready to assist you with the selection of paper for all projects. Your salesperson will work with you to provide samples of any papers that are the perfect selection for your project. If you would like to see some fantastic samples of the best in printing, make an appointment to visit our samples showroom. You will be inspired by the best in the industry. To set up your tour, contact Gene Palecco at gpalecco@sandyinc.com or call our main line at 973-470-8100.