Printing Paper Selection

Selecting the right paper stock for your next print job

When you’re having something printed, the choice of paper is critically important (and something a certain Cheshire-based printer will be delighted to help you with). It matters because the right paper can add a new dimension to a great print job, whereas getting it wrong can undermine all the thought and effort you’ve put into the project.

It’s tempting to believe that you don’t even notice the paper when looking at a piece of print. In truth everyone notices, even if it’s only on a subliminal level. Think about picking up an upmarket fashion magazine or a prestige car brochure, then switching to a flyer that just fell out of a free newspaper. Quite a difference! So here’s a quick guide to how the principal kinds of printing paper vary.

Weigh up the weight options

Paper weights are measured in gsm (grams per square metre) and different weights have very different qualities. Nothing conveys luxury and prestige more successfully than a high quality heavy paper, but a lightweight stock may be more practical for a basic leaflet or flyer. Lightness is also important for items that are being sent through the post, because weight pushes up the price of postage. Here’s a quick guide to the different weights and their uses:
• 600gsm is thick card, often chosen to give invitations and business cards a prestige feel
• 300 to 400gsm is used for most business cards and high-end flyers
• 250 to 280gsm would be chosen for a mid-market magazine cover
• 150 to 170gsm is a typical promotional poster or leaflet
• 100gsm is the weight you’d expect for the pages inside a mid-market magazine
• 80 to 100gsm is the standard weight for regular copier or printer paper, and also for stationery items such as letterheads, compliments slips and commercial envelopes.


The fact that upmarket publications are often known as “glossy magazines” tells you how important the finish can be. The main options are coated and uncoated. Coated papers can be:
• Gloss – with a shiny finish that enhances the brightness and vividness of printed colours, gloss is often chosen when photography, illustrations or graphics are the star of the show
• Silk – a softer satin finish that’s ideal for designs that feature both text and images
• Matt – with no sheen and a flat look that brings its own kind of prestige feel.


Uncoated papers have a soft feel and the lack of coating allows the paper to absorb ink, so colours are visibly different – subtler and more understated. Uncoated papers are often used for stationery and are easier to write on.


Another increasingly popular paper option is natural. Not only uncoated but also untreated, natural paper is off-white rather than pure white, creating an ‘organic’ feel that can be perfect for companies with an image built around natural ingredients or craft skills.


Many companies are conveying messages about working sustainably and looking after the planet nowadays, so they need to choose paper that complements this, which means recycled paper. This is made from 100% used paper, which not only saves trees but is also manufactured using less energy and water.

Start by talking to the experts

At Spiral, here in Macclesfield, we have a wealth of expertise and experience when it comes to matching paper stock to the design and purpose of the items we’re printing. We’ll be delighted to let you see different options before choosing. Browsing through paper samples is one of the most enjoyable aspects of working with an expert printer. And feel free to have a good feel. Paper and print are wonderfully tactile, so always examine paper samples with your hands as well as your eyes.