Paper Variables

Brightness, whiteness, weight, opacity, size…who knew there were so many factors to consider when choosing a paper? Here are the basic variables to keep in mind:

  • Quality: Paper quality is given as a number, Number 1 being the highest quality and Number 5 the lowest. Newsprint is an example of a Number 5 sheet. Only the highest quality projects, such as fine art posters, use a Number 1 sheet. HOP does most printing on Number 2, and some Number 3 sheets.
  • Opacity: The amount of light that passes through a sheet of paper. This is related in part to the weight (or thickness) of paper.
  • Weight: Paper weight is measured by the ream (500 sheets), in the paper’s basic size. For example, copy paper’s basic size might be 8 1/2″ x 11″, while paper used to make business cards is 20″ x 26″. A 65 lb. cover stock, for example, which might be used for business cards, has the same thickness as 120 lb. text stock, which might be used for the pages of a brochure.
  • Finish: A gloss finish offers the ultimate in reproduction detail, while dull and matte finishes make reading large quantities of text easier.
  • Texture: How rough or smooth a paper is, and what pattern you can see on the surface. A laid finish is a traditional finish of wire marks embossed onto the surface, linen and silk finishes are fabric-like, and there are many others.
  • Color: Specifically, hue and brightness, as well as whether the color is uniform across the page or includes flecks, or other non-uniform elements.
  • Brightness: The amount of light (given as a percentage) that a sheet of paper reflects. More reflection will make copy crisper and give photos and illustrations more “snap” and impact.

The ins-and-outs of color printing are second nature to us, but not so for many of our clients. This color printing primer will help you determine which method will work best for your project.

Process Color

Process color is printed using four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black–that blend when they hit the paper to create “full color.” By precisely controlling the proportions of each color, we can generate millions of different shades.

Spot Color

Spot color is a single, pre-mixed color of ink, often used to print words or images in specific areas on the page. Spot color can guarantee a more precise color match (to accurately reproduce your logo in your corporate color, for example), and costs less than printing the same color using four colors on a four-color press.

Five-Color Printing

Five-color printing can mean one of three things:

  • Adding spot color to a four-color piece, so photographs print in full color and a logo or other symbol prints in the exact color.
  • Adding an extra “hit” of color (often white) under a photograph for more impact.
  • Adding a varnish. This glossy, or matte, coating on top of the ink protects from fingerprints, scuffing, and wears; adds richness and depth to photographs; and improves readability of text. A varnish can be flood (covering an entire panel) or spot (applied to a portion of a panel). Often, a spot varnish costs more than flood varnish, because it’s trickier to apply and requires more steps in pre-press.
  • Adding an Aqueous Coating offers you the option to incorporate unique finishes such as a Soft Touch Feel or Strike Through Effect.