Paper Choices, Mohawk Paper Co.
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Inkjet Paper rating chart
Paper Glossary of Terms
Paper Terms
Art Paper Glossary of Terms
Spec’ing Paper Tips
Buying Paper Tips
Spec’ing Paper
Paper Specs
Mohawk Papers — The Paper Mill
LCI Paper
Neenah Paper Co.
Neenah Cabinet (Download this APP to order Free Samples)
How to Use Neenah Cabinet
Illustrating with Cut Paper

ISO Paper Sizes


Choosing Paper

Every paper used in your printed projects conveys a message. But are your materials saying what you want them to say?

That’s a question that every designer should consider. Since paper creates a tactile experience that your audience interacts with, it has the power to evoke emotions and trigger memories, making your project much more memorable. In fact, a designer’s choice of paper can make or break the finished product.

To select the best paper for any job, you need to tell your paper supplier exactly what you expect the paper to do. Ned Heidenreich of Stora Enso, maker of magazine and publishing papers, fine papers and packaging stock, calls this identifying your objectives.

“Ask, Who is your audience?” Heidenreich advises. “How many images are there? How much copy do you have? What are you trying to convey? There’s a tactile quality. There’s a stiffness or a lack of it. These factors are subconscious, but they all give you an impression that’s very important.”

See more at: howdesign

  • color
  • size
  • grade—defined in terms of its use (bond, coated, text, cover, book, offset, index, label, tag, bristol, newsprint, lightweight)
  • weight—Basis Weight based upon a ream (500 sheets)/lb.
  • surface (coated—gloss, dull, matte—or uncoated)
  • texture (smooth or vellum, wove, laid, linen, felt)
  • finish—relative smoothness (antique, eggshell, vellum, machine finish—MF)
  • thickness (caliper) expresses in number of pages per inch—ppi) (PPI is Pixels per Inch)
  • % recycled material/content, % post-consumer waste
  • archival (acid-free and alkaline)
  • brightness
  • opacity (show through) printing on front and back or on one side only
  • absorbancy (amount of dot gain)
  • ink holdout
  • tooth

Other Considerations:                                              

  • are there any half-tone images
  • what is the size and amount of text material
  • what form of binding (perfect, saddle, lie-flat, side stitched, case bound,
    spiral bound)
  • what method of printing (lithography, screen printing, flexography, stochastic, xerography, relief printing, intaglio, gravure, engraving) other printing techniques (varnish, die-cuts, embossing, foil stamping)
  • grain direction (should run parallel to the printing cylinders
    not perpendicular to them
  • for best results, less stretch and even ink coverage any folding should be done
    “with the grain”)
  • strength (resistance to tearing)
  • stretch (distortion under tension)
  • dot gain (The inked half-tone dot actually grows in size as the ink “bleeds” out into the absorbent paper’s surface. Can cause half-tones to muddy-up loosing detail in shadows and midtones
  • ISO—International Paper Sizes—sheet paper sizes based upon a proportional rectangle whose sides have a ratio of 1: the square root of 2. The three ISO series are designated A, B, C. Series A is general printed matter. B Series is for posters, wall charts, etc.  C Series is for envelopes.
  • Paper Basis Weight is calculated by the Ream (500 sheets)/lb. Sometimes Basis Weight is converted to M Weight or the weight of 1,000 sheets rather than 500. For convenience, a fixed size is assigned to each type or grade of paper (for book grades, for instance, the size is 25 x 38 inches), and the weight corresponds to how much 500 sheets of that fixed size would weigh. Thus, paper stock is “70 pound” if 500 sheets 25 x 38 inches weigh 70 pounds. Pamphlets and brochures are printed on 50-to-100 pound text paper. Covers are usually 65 to 80 pound. (the basic sheet size for cover stock is 20 x 26, not 25 x 38, and therefore 80-pound cover stock is considerably heavier than 80-pound text paper.
  • Brightness is the amount of reflected light. Generally speaking, for printing half-tones you want a bright white sheet which improves the contrast range and makes photo reproduction better.  In general, coated finishes—which may range from dull to very glossy—have a greater affinity for printing inks, greater smoothness, higher opacity, and better ink holdout than uncoated papers, therefore better half-tone reproduction. Coated papers are available coated on one side only. As smoothness decreases solids and half-tones get sandy and rough in appearance but type is      relatively unaffected. The terms “calendered” and “super-calendared” are used to describe an exceptionally hard, smooth and printable finish.
  • Type is most easily read on a soft (yellowish) white paper, while process colors reproduce most accurately on a neutral white paper


7 Questions to Consider

Before you select any paper, you should articulate to your paper supplier every job that the paper needs to perform. Here are some of the most important considerations:

1. How much bright color and sharp detail do you need? Very smooth, glossy paper gives the best color and maintains the sharpest dots. Rougher paper absorbs more ink and scatters more light, reducing both brightness and detail.
2. How important is color fidelity? Blue-white paper gives great color fidelity except for warm-toned subjects such as skin tones. Cream-white paper does best with warm tones but can never produce the pure whites needed for snow or cloud pictures.
3. How much gloss do you want? A glossy finish adds brightness to images but is hard on the eyes. A matte finish is easy on the eyes but grays the colors. Also, ink tends to rub off easily.
4. How dense is the ink coverage? Heavy ink coverage requires papers with a lot of opacity so you won’t get show-through. Free sheets are not as opaque as groundwood sheets. Lighter-weight sheets are less opaque than heavier basis weights.
5. How much bulk do you need? If you need a certain thickness, for example, to meet postal requirements, consider spec’ing by caliper in either coated or uncoated paper.
6. How much folding strength do you need? Coated stock can crack when folded, and it can tear more easily than uncoated paper.
7. How stiff do you want your paper to be? Board stock is milled to preserve stiffness and caliper; fine paper stock is milled to preserve smoothness and basis weight.

– See more at:


How To Buy Paper

Mohawk Paper Mills produces high quality papers for commercial and digital printing.

These papers are specified by graphic designers and printers for a wide range of

projects, including annual reports, invitations, posters, brochures, and direct mail.

The paper supply channel is fairly simple, but many people can influence the

final paper specification. By understanding your role in the process you will receive

better service from your sales reps and retain more control over your specifications.

From mill to printer: the short story

Mohawk manufactures over 1,000 different stock items. These represent various

combinations of color, grade, basis weight, finish, and size. Our paper is stored in

three warehouses for quick service: upstate New York, Atlanta, Georgia, and Reno,


Mohawk sells its paper to distributors (merchants) in North America, Europe, Asia,

South American, and Australia. A merchant typically stocks their warehouse with a

wide selection of papers from a variety of mills and sells to printers.

From a paper perspective, jobs come into the printer in two ways:

The paper is either specified by the graphic designer or end-user. In this instance the

printer calls two or three merchants to get competitive prices on the selected paper,

so they can include the paper price in their printing quote. A printer often asks for

pricing on an alternate stock if they feel it offers better value for their customer. They

then present both options to their client.

Alternately, the printer may be asked by the designer to recommend a stock. In this

case the printer chooses from papers they have experience with, calls merchants for

pricing and passes the information on to their customers. Papers chosen by reputable

printers will provide acceptable results, but may be somewhat generic. If you want to

differentiate your message it’s wise to learn about papers and specify them to the

printer. You’ll also be in a better position to evaluate alternatives presented by

printers and merchant sales representatives.

Merchant representatives

For large jobs, your local merchant is the best resource for paper information. There

are two basic types of merchant representatives. Merchant sales representatives call

on printers. They provide samples, recommendations, pricing, and handle delivery


Merchant specification representatives (spec reps) call on graphic designers, end

users, and ad agencies. They provide mill samples, swatchbooks, dummies and

envelope information. They also provide commercially printed samples to help

evaluate a paper’s performance. The spec rep has a grasp of the big picture and may

recommend alternative papers that will print better or save money. When consulted

early in the planning stages of a project, the spec rep can help the designer choose

appropriate papers, saving time once the project goes to the printer. It should be

noted that while spec reps provide a valuable resource to the designer, their service

is costly to the merchant. It’s therefore important for design firms, who have been

aided by spec reps and merchant sample departments, to specify the merchant along

with the paper to the printer.

Mill representatives

Quality paper mills like Mohawk also have their own sales and specification

represenatives in the field. The mill sales rep calls on merchants and printers, while

the mill spec rep calls on designers and end users. They work as a team with the

local merchant.

Specifying the details

The process begins by choosing a stock, finish and color. You then decide upon a

basis weight. Start by feeling the samples in the swatchbook. A complete range of

basis weights is usually shown. Double check the chart in the swatchbook to make

sure the color comes in the basis weight you prefer.

It’s important to be as specific as possible. Ask your merchant for plain paper

samples or dummies of the paper you’ve chosen. Dummies are a complete bound

version of your project with no printing. They show how papers look next to each

other and make it easier for the designer and end-user to imagine the finished piece.

Once you’ve specified the product, color, basis weight, and merchant, your printer will

decide on sheet size and grain direction as part of their estimating process. The

printer then gets a price quote on the paper from the merchant and includes the

price of paper on the overall printing quote.

For very small jobs

Today many paper merchants operate their own retail stores, selling reams of copy

paper along with high quality digital and offset printing papers. Often located near

their warehouse, but sometimes found in business districts of major cities, these

merchant paper stores offer a larger selection of high quality papers than office



If you need envelope information, your merchant is the best place to start. They can

help you decide on envelope paper stock and size, and determine the pricing and

delivery details with the envelope supplier. Envelope specification and postal

requirement information are available in Mohawk’s Paper Basics.

For more information and samples, please call your local merchant or

Mohawk at 1 800 the mill.

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